It may have been a whole week since my last post, but the discovery I made today has made the whole week of dry reading worth it. In fact, what I discovered today at Good Books in the Woods made this entire series of Literary Journal Mondays worth it.
Today I found The Black Cat.
Tucked away, just two hardbound volumes (collections of the actual magazine), hidden in the Literary Journal room.
It was a beautiful, thrilling moment, opening the jacket to a random page and finding this:
“The Black Cat” is a short story by Edgar Allen Poe, originally published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1843 – it was a horror piece about a murderer similar to The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s no wonder that in 1895, a literary journal called The Black Cat was born, dedicating itself to short stories of an “unusual nature.” Of course, I don’t know for sure that the founders of The Black Cat were referencing Poe, but I can’t help but jump to that conclusion. It’s something I would do.
The original magazine covers varied from month to month, like most magazine covers do, but they all have a spunky contemporary Gothic look that I imagine was hard for people to pass up. The publication ran until 1922 and featured some surprising contributors. Rupert Hughes, Susan Glaspell, Ellis Parker Butler, Alice Hegan Rice, Holman Day, Rex Stout, O. Henry, Charles Edward Barns, and Octavus Roy Cohen all made appearances in the journal. For Jack London collectors it has become a bit of marvelous legend, as London attributed his “A Thousand Deaths” story being printed there to saving his life. They paid him when no one else would, and when he really needed the cash. London is quoted having said, “literally and literarily I was saved.”
It is so coveted by collectors that the original edition featuring London sells at auction for more than the above hardbound books go for in antiquities stores.
Were I a millionaire, I would not hesitate to buy them all up. Standing in the store today I remembered Nicholas Basbaines’ A Gentle Madness as I salivated over the two collectibles on the shelf. This is true beauty, I thought, this in my hand.
I read Jack London’s contribution, it is only a few pages, then continued to snap photos as I carefully turned the pages, my eyes thirsty for old fonts and typesetting.