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    Author Herman Melville Requests the Rights to Publish His Newest Novel in the United Kingdom

    Herman Melville Letter of Attorney Signed "Herman Melville." Three partially-printed, integral pages, 8.25" x 10", New York City, January 30, 1847. Just months after the release of his first novel, the semi-autobiographical Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life, published in February 1846, author Herman Melville (1819-1891) began work on its sequel, Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas. Wanting to release the new book in the United Kingdom, Melville enlisted the assistance of John R. Brodhead (1814-1873), a Pennsylvania-born attorney and historical scholar then working as the "Secretary of the Legation of the United States of America at London," giving him power of attorney to navigate the proper British channels. The letter of attorney reads, in part:

    "Know all Men by these presents, That I Herman Melville of the City of New York State of New York . . . have made, constituted, and appointed . . . John Romeyn Brodhead Esquire . . . my true and lawful Attorney for me and in my name, place, and stead, to bargain, sell and dispose of the copy right or right to take out a copyright for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, of a certain book of which I am the author entitled 'Omoo', a narrative of adventures in the South Seas' &c, and the right to publish and dispose of the said book in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to such person or persons for such sum or sums of money as he shall see fit, or otherwise to dispose of the proof sheets of the said work with the right of publication in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to such person or persons for such sum or sums of money as he may see fit and also for me and in my name and as my act to sign, seal Execute and deliver such deed or conveyance for the sale thereof as my said attorney shall think fit and Expedient giving and granting unto my said Attorney full power and authority to do and perform all and every act and thing whatsoever requisite and necessary to be done, in and about the premises, as fully to all intents and purposes as I myself might or could do if personally present ; with full power of substitution and revocation, hereby ratifying and confirming all that my said Attorney or his substitute shall lawfully do or cause to be done by virtue hereof."

    Melville has placed his bold signature directly below. Countersigned by his brother, Allan Melville, as a witness. The document is notarized on the first page by John T. Irving (the brother of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle author, Washington Irving) certifying "that on the day of the date hereof, before me personally came and appeared Herman Melville, the constituent named in the within Letter of Attorney."

    Affixed to the first page is a second document, also dated January 30, 1847, signed by Anthony Barclay, "Her Britannic Majesty's Consul for the State of New-York," certifying that "John T. Irving Esquire before whom the annexed Power of Attorney has been acknowledged (by Herman Melville.) and who hath attested the same under his hand and Seal of Office, is a Notary Public in and for the State of New York, and as such to attest Deeds and other Instruments."

    Brodhead was successful in gaining the rights to publish in the U.K. and Omoo was published in London in March 1847, with release in the U.S. following two months later. Both Typee and Omoo were based on Melville's experiences among the Typee natives on the island of Nuku Hiva in the South Pacific and his subsequent imprisonment on the island of Tahiti for taking part in a mutiny aboard an Australian whaling vessel. During his lifetime, Typee was his most popular novel. It was not until the twentieth century that Moby Dick supplanted Typee as the pinnacle of Melville's literary career.

    Smoothed folds with areas of very light foxing. The document has been carefully affixed to a backing border (allowing the reader to physically see the final page, which is blank) to an overall size of 8.5" x 10.5".


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
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