Mysteries & Puzzles

A Chapter on Autography

Edgar Allan Poe, "A Chapter on Autography." Southern Literary Messenger, February 1836.

"A Few Words on Secret Writing"

Edgar Allan Poe, "A Few Words on Secret Writing." Graham's Magazine, July 1841 (composite image).

Cover of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine/The Casket/Graham's Magazine, with "The Man of the Crowd"

Cover of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine / The Casket / Graham's Magazine (transitional issue), December 1840. Contains Edgar Allan Poe, "The Man of the Crowd."

Original artwork for "MS. Found in a Bottle" illustration

Harry Clarke, "MS. Found in a Bottle" illustration. Pen and ink drawing, 1919.

First page of "Murders in the Rue Morgue"

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Graham's Magazine, April 1841.

First page of "Murders in the Rue Morgue"

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. Philadelphia: William H. Graham, 1843.


Edgar Allan Poe, Tales. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. Contains all three Dupin stories, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Mystery of Marie Roget," and "The Purloined Letter."

First page of "The Gold Bug"

Edgar Allan Poe, "The Gold Bug," illustrated by Bradbury Thompson. Tales. West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co., 1964.

Poe is often credited with “inventing” detective fiction—but what does this mean? These objects offer insight into the genesis of a genre, from Poe’s enthusiasm for codes and riddles to the creation of his detective heroes C. Auguste Dupin and William Legrand, the prototypes for such beloved successors as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

“A Chapter on Autography” and “A Few Words on Secret Writing” are treatises on decipherment, techniques that Poe studied in the years before he wrote his first tale of “ratiocination.” In “MS. Found in a Bottle” and “A Man of the Crowd,” stories about mysterious pursuits, Poe was figuring out how to build a plot around a modern quest.

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the first of the trio of tales focused on Poe’s iconic “analyst” Dupin, was followed by “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” a true-crime story, and “The Purloined Letter,” about a royal intrigue. In 1843, he won $100 for “The Gold-Bug,” a tale about a treasure hunt that incorporated cryptographic clues—probably the most money Poe ever made from a single work.

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Mysteries & Puzzles