Illustrations that made Edgar Allan Poe’s stories even more horrifying
May 10, 2012 4:31 PM   Subscribe

In 1919, everyone wanted a copy of the deluxe edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, but not because it was bound in vellum with real gold lettering. It was because of these grim and gorgeous illustrations by Harry Clarke, which added an extra dose of horror to Poe's already terrifying tales. Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which collects many of Poe's most enduring horror stories, including "The Masque Of The Red Death," "The Pit And The Pendulum," "The Telltale Heart," and "The Fall Of The House Of Usher," was actually first collected and published in 1908, nearly 60 years after Poe's death. This edition was published by George Harrap & Co., and included 24-full page illustrations by Clarke. Even though the volume cost five guineas (somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 US), it was much in demand and made Clarke's reputation as an illustrator. It's easy to see why, with these gorgeous renditions of often gruesome subjects. See all 24 illustrations here.
posted by Lou Stuells (36 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. I can't wait to check these out. Also, I feel Clarke's modern-day equivalent is Stephen Gammell, the illustrator of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
posted by duvatney at 4:37 PM on May 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

I wish the future comes from featured the ability to readily display in my browser.
posted by darth_tedious at 4:38 PM on May 10, 2012

Hot tamale these are great
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 4:41 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read The Black Cat again only last night, so this is good timing to get me to read the whole lot through again.
posted by Jehan at 4:42 PM on May 10, 2012

Barnes & Noble has two editions with the Clarke plates available-- their own in-house leather bound edition for $18 and this edition from Chartwell Books, for $13.48. I picked up the latter because of its larger page size (and the fact that I already own a leather-bound edition of all of Poe's prose & poems).
posted by KingEdRa at 5:05 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Got my copy at the Pleasant Ridge, MI book sale in '66 for a buck. It's gorgeous (though a much later printing, 1933). One of my treasures, for sure. There are a few 4-color illustrations, tipped-on, which are somehow much more decadent than the pen 'n ink drawing, like #2 here.

(As much as I love Clarke and his 'Beardsley-on-better-drugs' style, Franklin Booth is still my favorite.)
posted by Bron at 5:11 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've wanted many times over the years to make a post about Clarke's illustrations of that book, but never could find good enough links!

Clarke was actually most famed for his stained glass.
posted by winna at 5:12 PM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I actually have a copy of this I inherited from my grandmother. It's a bit damaged but it's one of my favorite things.
I came to Clarke also through his glasswork (see here), but that guy was a multi-talented genius.
posted by princelyfox at 5:21 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

That Orangutan is Amazing.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:47 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow. Pretty clearly a fan of Psilocybe cubensis as well as Poe, from the intricate patterns repeated across pretty much every available surface.
posted by scalefree at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2012

I have a "Franklin Library" edition of this book which actually looks really nice, and seems to have prints of these same illustrations (didn't verify that they're all there). Not sure how it compares to the edition this post is about, but, it's not bad, and I picked it up at a used bookstore for, I don't know what, but cheap (less than $20) I'm sure.

This is an example of the one I have:

I do realize that a real book collector would likely scoff and sniff at my copy, but, it reads just the same.
posted by smcameron at 5:50 PM on May 10, 2012

If any of you folks are itching for the real deal, you can grab a copy off of abebooks for less than 10k!

posted by clockbound at 6:00 PM on May 10, 2012

Oh man I'd totally forgotten them, but looking at those illustrations, I'm 10 again, reading a 4 AM under the covers because I'm supposed to be asleep.
posted by cmoj at 6:00 PM on May 10, 2012

oh my god, these are soooo great. Thank you!
posted by mwhybark at 6:15 PM on May 10, 2012

That last link doesn't work if you're blocking Javascript.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:20 PM on May 10, 2012

Wow... the 'buried alive' one is parTICularly effective, I thought. Brr.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:42 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

these are amazing, I'm going to have to get that

The illustrations remind me of another illustrated book that I have - it's this old-hacked up paperback of an early Michael Crichton book, The Eaters of the Dead. the illustrations by Ian Miller are so amazing, and I can't find them anywhere to link to. The beautiful chapter headers are here, but there are a bunch of full-page drawings throughout the book that are just as wonderfully creepy as the Poe ones, this could be one of them. (Looking at his website, all of his stuff is pretty awesome)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:37 PM on May 10, 2012

Clarke really does justice to Poe's bleak vision. And helps illustrate -- more effectively than anything I've ever seen, other than maybe the films of Roger Corman -- why Poe is (even with all the sadly posthumous appreciations and laurels) probably still the most underacknowledged and underappreciated American writer.
posted by blucevalo at 7:45 PM on May 10, 2012

Wow. These are truly amazing.

I grew up with the Rackham illustrations, which are nothing to sneeze at either. Poe's work just cries out for crazy visual interpretations.
posted by phooky at 7:56 PM on May 10, 2012

These illustrations are part of the reason I went into pen and ink art.

posted by The Whelk at 8:24 PM on May 10, 2012

The illustration for Berenice (one of Poe's more gruesome but apparently lesser-known tales) is perfect. Everybody go read that one, right now.
posted by Gator at 8:32 PM on May 10, 2012

These are great, but for high weirdness I still prefer Sidney Sime. He illustrated a lot of the Dunsany stories that heavily influenced Lovecraft in his youth.
posted by 23 at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2012

I am definitely showing this to my sister later. She's a diehard Poe fan.
posted by thetoken at 9:57 PM on May 10, 2012

The buried alive one is some terrifying shit for real.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:12 PM on May 10, 2012

Great, I now have wallpaper that will ensure my kids leave my pc alone
posted by mattoxic at 12:46 AM on May 11, 2012

I have a really nice Faust that Clarke illustrated. It's equally disturbing and beautiful.
posted by steef at 3:55 AM on May 11, 2012

You can see some of his beautiful stained glass work for free at the Hugh Lane Museum in Dublin, or online here.
posted by tiny crocodile at 5:13 AM on May 11, 2012


the 2nd picture from the top - (the one with the headless woman lying amidst garbage on the street) - what story is this?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 5:24 AM on May 11, 2012

Wow ! I'm sure he has influenced Andreas. Thanks !
posted by nicolin at 8:11 AM on May 11, 2012

headless woman lying amidst garbage on the street

I'm guessing Murders in the Rue Morgue; Madame L. was decapitated and tossed out the window.
posted by Gator at 8:15 AM on May 11, 2012

Hat tip to Clarke for the beautiful work. But as for feeling the horror, I can't; they make me grin. Actually, Poe himself makes me grin (so does Baudelaire; Huysmans makes me LOL) so I may just be twisted that way. But specifically for this kind of, uh, black illo I think Edward Gorey stuck in an additional mood-lightening knife. Clarke's technique? Knockout! Content, though? Makes me think of The Curious Sofa and I twirl my moustachios and cackle. (Gorey has had somewhat the same effect on Beardsley for me also.)
posted by jfuller at 8:24 AM on May 11, 2012

These look very cool, but kind of Nightmare-Before-Christmas-ish to me. Cartoony.

What scared me reading Poe was reading Poe.* With his help, my imagination created much more frightening images than Clarke's. I could hear that heart pumping, louder and louder... sometimes 1,000 words say infinitely more than a picture ever could.

*I don't know how I feel about Jon Cusack as Poe. (I am sure I will enjoy watching that movie several times before deciding though.)
posted by headnsouth at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2012

These are superb! Thanks.

(why is it so hard/many times impossible to get Gawker sites to open? At the least, I have to go through 5 or 6 reloads and "connection reset" errors to get their pages to load. Nothing in their source code looks too weird. What gives? It's really annoying.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2012

headless woman lying amidst garbage on the street

This illustration is for the story "The Man of the Crowd." The caption is "It was the most noisome quarter of London." (And I confess to having no idea what the story is about, as I've never read it...)
posted by Bron at 6:39 AM on May 12, 2012

Ha, clockbound - That prompted me to look into my families own copy that i used to cart around as a kid, turns out it was one a batch of 170 signed by Harry Clarke himself. Going to start treating it better...
posted by Raff at 4:04 AM on May 13, 2012

« Older The Use Of Aslan Or Morpheus Is Cheating   |   O Wobbly Ball Of Science Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments