Boston Public Library

At the Central Library

Poe LetterPurloined Letters: Literary Correspondence and its Unintended Recipients

Central Library, Copley Square (Special Collections Lobby)
October 17, 2014 to April 30, 2015
Monday–Friday: 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

What happens when a letter reaches an unintended recipient? For writer Edgar Allan Poe, the letter has been purloined: diverted from its original destination and “stolen” by an unexpected reader. This exhibition features an array of rare and important purloined letters from the Boston Public Library’s collection, including handwritten missives from such notable figures as the incarcerated Oscar Wilde, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sister Elizabeth, and mural artist Edwin Austin Abbey. It also showcases writers who composed experimental works in epistolary modes—including Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula—and explores prefaces and letters to the reader in early printed books such as Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.

This exhibition is a collaboration between graduate students and faculty of the Department of English, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and the BPL’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Department.