Overview, Publication and Influence

The Gold-Bug was originally published in two installments, on June 21 and 28, 1843, as the grand prize winner of a writing contest held by The Philadelphia Dollar. Poe was paid $100 for winning, probably the highest sum received for any of his works.
Received by public acclaim, The Gold-Bug appealed to readers at the time interested in cryptology and in the budding genre of detective fiction, the same people who which Poe intentionally wrote the story for (see Poe’s Inspiration and Motive).

People were enthralled by the tale of Legrand and treasure and bugs and dangling skulls, so much so that Poe became a household name – one of the first celebrity writers. Hundreds crowded at his lectures after the Gold-Bug was published, and hundreds more were turned away. A year after its original publication, Poe estimated his story had been reprinted 300,000 times. In such high demand was the story that it was published into several languages, including French and Russian, before Poe’s death in 1849.

The range of The Gold-Bug‘s influence is remarkable. First and foremost, it shouldn’t shock anyone that Poe has inspired writers, none more notable than Robert Lewis Stevenson, who admitted honing themes of The Gold-Bug when crafting his landmark Treasure Island. But Poe’s tale of treasure has touched more than just authors. For instance, American cryptologist William F. Friedman, who decoded Japaneese sequences during WWII, confessed that he became interested in the field only after reading The Gold-Bug as a youngster. The story has also been adapted for film, television and theatre.

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