The Athenaeum’s Charge Book

A day after his successful lecture at Howard’s Hall on December 20, Poe checked out a book at the Athenaeum titled Stanley: Or, Recollections of a Man of the World by Horace Binney Wallace. Although Poe didn’t have a membership at the Athenaeum, he was able to borrow the book using the membership of Thomas Davis, a friend of Whitman’s through whom she also checked books out from the Athenaeum. The charge book is now kept among the special collections, where Poe’s elegant signature can be seen next to this transaction.

On the same page as Poe’s signature, you’ll find Whitman’s a number of times. She even checked out the same book that Poe did about two months after their romance came to an abrupt end. This gives us a bit of insight into Whitman, that even though her relationship with Poe was over, she still longed to be close to him in any way that she could—even by reading the same materials as him.

The photos here were taken during the “Ravenous: The Enduring Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe” exhibit (February 1 – April 30, 2019) at the Athenaeum. The charge book was on display along with the actual books that Poe and Whitman had checked out.

If you’re interested in viewing the charge book yourself, contact the Athenaeum to schedule an appointment. All phone numbers and emails can be found at: