The Big Read 2011: Edgar Allen Poe

Maybe you’ve noticed a few more black birds around town lately? Don’t worry. These chaps are well behaved, quiet, clean and liable to be welcome perching on the table tops and service counters in many of your local haunts. And you can easily tell them from their crow counterparts by the lovely yellow sticker attached, saying, “Read It & Pass It On!”

If you’ve already noticed them, then welcome to a month of murder, macabre and melancholy as the Wabash Valley explores “The Best of Poe” during the Vigo County Public Library’s Big Read. If you haven’t, get to the library, or your favorite downtown business, and find yourself one of these free books and a brochure of the month’s events!

As part of the festivities, the Swope is currently presenting the beautiful – and eerie – Federico Castellon (1914-1971) lithographs from the first edition illustrated copy of Poe’s Masque of the Red Death (1975.39.01-16). These lithographs, produced in 1968, were drawn on stone by the artist and printed under his supervision at the atelier, or workshop, of Edmund & Jacques Desjobert in Paris, France. The following year, the lithographs and their compliment of letterpress text became the first book published by Aquarius Press in Baltimore, Maryland as a limited edition run of 500.

When asked about his choice of The Mask of the Red Death as a book to illustrate, the Spanish-American artist said, “I picked it because a lot of my work is devoted to this kind of questioning of what the hell is it all about and to me that was typical of the philosophy that Poe seemed to project. That we try to pose whatever we want, do whatever we want, everything, and therefore the whole game… Poe depresses me enormously in the sense that his compositions are basically lonely people all the time, rarely puts two people together. He has of course very often but a great bulk of them are alone and he impresses me with the uniqueness of an individual, this kind of floating and trying to find a niche that really isn’t there. You have to function within what is there, but none of them is a comfortable niche for anybody.” (source)

We hope you are able to visit with us and enjoy this special exhibition.  New lithographs will be revealed throughout the month, displayed prominently in the Museum lobby beside Diana. And if you’re wanting additional fun, bring your copy of The Best of Poe along! Masque of the Red Death may be found on page 63.

Oh! Have you already missed a few pages? Well..we certainly can’t have that. So, even though the experience may not be as nice as seeing the work in person, we will be posting images, like the one below, on the blog throughout the month and into April as well. Stay tuned, and look for the tag of “Big Read 2011!”


Federico Castillon
The Mask of the Red Death, 1968, 1975.39
Artwork © The Estate Federico Castellon; Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY


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