THE RARE BOOK AND
MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
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Treasures


77 Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849
Daguerreotype portrait
Pratt's Gallery, Richmond, Va., 4 x 3 inches, September 1849
William Pratt opened the Virginia Sky Light Daguerrean Gallery in Richmond in 1846, seven years after the daguerreotype was introduced into the United States. Pratt related to the St. Louis writer Thomas Dimmock the history of this portrait: the poet had never fulfilled a promise he had once made to pose for Pratt until writer and photographer encountered one another on the street in front of the latter's shop in mid-September 1849. Poe, arguing that he was not suitably dressed, was coaxed upstairs and photographed. The image shows a man, as disheveled as he claimed to be, with a haggard face which betrays the steep decline in his emotional and physical condition; the poet died in Baltimore three weeks later. The enterprising Pratt held a patent on a daguerreotype coloring process, used to impart the faint flesh tone to Poe's face and hand.
Bequest of Mrs. Alexander McMillen Welch

Collections and Treasures