Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley

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The Black Cat.

Halloween approaches, as if you needed reminding. In honour of that event it’s Poe Week here at {feuilleton}, and we’ll be skating through some favourite depictions of stories and poems by the Boston genius.

Aubrey Beardsley’s four Poe illustrations were commissioned by Herbert S. Stone and Company, Chicago, in 1894 as embellishment for a multi-volume collection of the author’s works. The Black Cat is justifiably the most reproduced of these. The other drawings are fine in themselves but not very successful illustrations of Poe’s tales. Aubrey wasn’t really suited to this kind of horror atmosphere; looking at his ear-ringed orangutan and the spotless furnishings surrounding it you’d never guess the scene of murderous simian frenzy which lies at the heart of the story.

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The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Herbert Stone’s company had begun publishing The Chap-Book in the same year, a witty American equivalent of British periodicals like The Yellow Book, and Beardsley’s work was featured in the early issues. Looking through some of these at the Internet Archive I was surprised to see the following illustration in a short appraisal of Beardsley’s art. If this is by the artist, as the credit implies, it’s a drawing I haven’t seen in any books of his work. If anyone can confirm this is a genuine Aubrey then please leave a comment. The other Poe illustrations follow.

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From The Chap-Book, May 15th, 1894.
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