Very Good. Item #6038
New York: Redfield, 1856-1857. Later Printings of Vols I-III, with apparent First Printing of Vol IV.
Octavos (7.5" x 5"); Vol I - Tales (1857): lv, 483pp, portrait frontis with tissue guard; Vol II - Poems and Tales (1857): xxvi, 495pp; Vol III - The Literati (1857): iv, -607pp; Vol IV - Arthur Gordon Pym, &c (1856): [xii], -447pp + ads pp. 1-4, 7-10. [Vols I-II later prints of BAL 16158; Vol III later of BAL 16159, Vol IV BAL 16161] BAL binding H in purple cloth with gilt-stamped bust of Athena and raven and 5-rule frame to front and back board. Vols I-III with blue-coated endpapers speckled in red and blue, with Vol IV in plain yellow endpapers.
Spines of first three vols quite faded, with fourth much less so. All volumes nudged at spine ends, with occasional bumps to corners. Spine a bit rolled on first volume. Front hinge cracked on second volume, but binding is secure. Contemporary ownership inscription on flyleaf of second volume. Light to occasionally moderate foxing to pages throughout, with a handful of scattered marginal brackets / checks in pencil. Books open easily to a few gatherings here and there, but bindings are sound.
The first complete edition of Poe's works, with publication commencing the year after his mysterious death. The first two volumes appeared first in 1850, with the third and fourth separately in 1856. (It appears our original owner was a latecomer to the game, snagging the fourth volume when first released along with later printings of the first three to complete the set.) The set was edited by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who began his pseudonymously-published obituary in the New York Tribune "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." Griswold went on to become a regular assassin of Poe's character, all the while claiming Poe had appointed him as his literary executor. No evidence ever appeared to prove as much, which did not stop Griswold from keeping the profits from the sales of the set along with the manuscript materials sent to him by the author's mother-in-law, and only paying in return six sets of the initial two volumes. As Griswold admitted in a 1849 letter to poet Sarah Helen Whitman two months after the obituary's publication, "I was not his friend, nor was he mine."