Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Can I Republish "The Raven"? Evermore!

Dear Rich: I wanted to make an illustrated book out of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven as a gift to my son. I recently changed career paths and am now studying graphic art and am wondering if I could publish and sell the book as opposed to just keeping it for personal use. I see his work is in the public domain.
You are correct that Poe's The Raven -- first published in the U.S. in 1845 -- is in the public domain. You are free to  modify, illustrate, translate, publish, animate, or even rap to Poe's fresh rhymes. You can claim copyright in any original, non-trivial contributions you add to the poem and you are also free to price the work as you wish (though $9 might be "poetic justice" as that's what Poe was paid for the poem - approximately $250 in today's dollars). If you provide illustrations, you'll also be joining a remarkable group of illustrators including Gustave DorĂ©, John Tenniel, Harry Clarke, John Rea Neill, Edouard Manet, Lorenzo Matteotti (who collaborated with Lou Reed), and Gahan Wilson.
left: Edouard Manet, center John Rea Neill, right: John Tenniel