The Philosophy of Animal Magnetism, Together with the System of Manipulating Adopted to Produce Ecstasy and Somnambulism—The Effects and the Rationale. By a Gentleman of Philadelphia. Animal Magnetism, Optimistic Attributions, Edgar Allan Poe, alleged author.

The Philosophy of Animal Magnetism, Together with the System of Manipulating Adopted to Produce Ecstasy and Somnambulism—The Effects and the Rationale. By a Gentleman of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia: Printed and Published by Merrihew & Gunn, 1837. First edition. 12mo, original rose linen spine, printed drab boards, 84 pages. Boards soiled and spotted and the edges rubbed; spine split nearly the length of the joint and front board loose; some light foxing throughout; a good, sound copy only. Item #19474

Poe enthusiast Joseph Jackson was fresh off his triumphant 1920 attribution to Poe of the uncommon pseudonymous anti-Dickens English Notes (Boston, 1842) by “Quarles Quickens,” when, in Jackson’s own words, “the publicity given that discovery set a good many booksellers delving for copies. One Philadelphia bookseller, who had not been fortunate enough to uncover a copy . . . did run across an anonymous little book, which seemed to him to have a Poesque touch, although he could not exactly explain why he was thus impressed. He had no knowledge of the copy which came into his possession, but when I was looking over his stock, he handed it to me with the remark: ‘This looks as if it was written by Poe.’ “ From this characteristic bookseller remark—a certain offhand optimism cloaked in the guise of expertise, with enough of the tradesman’s modesty to serve as a disclaimer and nothing so vulgar here as the mention of a profit—there of course soon swelled a moderate bubble for this title. In the foreword to the newly-attributed edition of the Philosophy of Animal Magnetism (Philadelphia, 1928) which inevitably followed, Jackson makes a show of professing a suitably demure initial skepticism before launching into a series of confident assertions regarding Poe’s identity as the author—Poe must have visited Philadelphia in 1837, as he had nothing else much better to do; the address of the printers in Carter’s Alley puts them on the same block as the editor Samuel Atkinson, which “would suggest that Poe had called on Atkinson and that the latter had referred him to the printers as likely to publish the book;” the use of italics and small capitals for emphasis is particularly characteristic of Poe (“It is true that his publishers in later years dispensed with the use of small capitals, but the printers of ‘Animal Magnetism,’ Merrihew and Gunn, Philadelphia, were a new firm, and did not remain long in business. They evidently followed the author’s copy literally”); the appearance of the word “Literati” in the dedication to the receptive mind inevitably suggests Poe, etc. etc. Jackson’s case was sufficiently convincing to collector J. K. Lilly that Lilly reportedly paid $2500 for a copy of the first edition of The Philosophy of Animal Magnetism and—given the well-known difficulties of proving a negative, allied to the book trade’s understandable reluctance to give up a profitable attribution—later bibliographers have seemed equivocal about showing Jackson’s claims the door. BAL vol. 7, page 150 notes, “Jackson attributes this piece . . . to Poe” (thus leaving outside the Poe canon), while bibliographer of animal magnetism Adam Crabtree remarks, “Although there is no general agreement on the matter, this book has been attributed to Edgar Allan Poe.” Scribner in 1941 offered a copy of the first edition for the then-substantial sum of $175 under the fig leaf of “Attributed by some authorities to the pen of Poe.” Only Merle Johnson seems to have had sufficient temerity to note (as early as 1936) that this title “is now definitely established as not the work of Poe.” All this having been said, still an interesting early American work on the subject, including instructions on how to induce magnetic somnambulism. Crabtree 385.

Price: $650.00