Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Rare Herman Melville Autograph Quotation Signed in full "Herman Melville," one page, 3.75" x 2.25" card. "--Honey is sweet, but the Bee stings.-/Herman Melville/New York, March 8, 1882." This proverb has been variously attributed to the Dutch, English, and French.

    Herman Melville's epic novel, Moby Dick, was published in 1851, but it brought neither acclaim nor financial reward. In 1863, Melville and his wife moved into the home of his brother, Allan, at 104 East 26th Street in Manhattan. Seeking employment to support his family, he unsuccessfully sought a consular appointment in 1861. In 1866, Melville was hired as Deputy Inspector of Customs at the Port of New York. He held this job for 19 years. Just 12 days before writing this quotation for, no doubt, an admirer, on February 24, 1882, Melville's daughter Frances gave birth to his first grandchild, Eleanor Melville Thomas, in Orange, New Jersey.

    At the time of his death in 1891, Herman Melville was a forgotten man. The September 29, 1891 edition of The New York Times had a small notice on page eight headed "Obituary Notes." Melville's was the eighth of eleven listed: "Herman Melville died yesterday at his residence, 104 East Twenty-sixth Street, this city, of heart failure, aged seventy-two. He was the author of 'Typee,' 'Omoo,' 'Mobie Dick,' and other seafaring tales, written in earlier years. He leaves a wife and two daughters, Mrs. M.B. Thomas and Miss Melville." Three days later, the Times began a lengthy editorial thusly, "There has died and been buried in this city, during the current week, at an advanced age, a man who is so little known, even by name, to the generation now in the vigor of life that only one newspaper contained an obituary account of him, and this was but of three or four lines..." It continued with a glowing tribute to Melville, this time correctly spelling Omov and Moby Dick. The editorial recalled that "when a visiting British writer a few years ago inquired at a gathering in New-York of distinctly literary Americans what had become of Herman Melville, not only was there not one among them who was able to tell him, but there was scarcely one among them who had ever heard of the man..."

    Because he was not remembered by many, his letters were not retained by those with whom he corresponded, except family. His autograph, especially signed in full, is of the utmost rarity in any form. The card signed here with one of his favorite proverbs has been double-matted with a bust image of Melville and ornately framed under glass to 15" x 21". It would be an exceptional addition to a literary collection.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,748

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 October 21 Manuscripts Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    You reach a customer base that is in many ways completely unknown to the major auction houses, and your marketing to this base is as professional as one could hope for. As I continue to wind down my holdings.
    Michael Z.,
    Hawthorne, NY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search