A Very Bright Copy, in the Original Cloth, of Melville's MardiHerman Melville. Mardi: And A Voyage Thither. In Two Volumes. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1849.
First American edition, published on April 14, 1849 (the first English edition was published in three volumes on March 16, 1849, by Richard Bentley in London). Two twelvemo volumes (7.375 x 5inches; 188 x 127 mm.). xii, -365, [5, blank] (the final blank leaf used as lining for the terminal endpaper); [v]-xii, -387, [1, blank], [8, publisher's advertisements] pages (correct collation).
Original brown morocco-grain ("A") cloth. Covers decoratively paneled in blind with central "H & B" monogram, spines decoratively stamped in blind (with a blindstamped rule one-eighth inch from the top of spine) and lettered in gilt, with publisher's device in gilt at foot. Original yellow coated endpapers. Minimal fading to the spines; minor rubbing to the corners and spine extremities, with the cloth fraying a bit at the corners, with a few tiny chips at the spine ends, and with a tiny piece of cloth missing at the head of the spine Volume II. The gilt on the spines is a little dulled. Endpapers with a considerable amount of glue show-through, as is common with Harper's publications of the period; edges lightly foxed; top edge a little dust soiled. The text is very slightly browned at the edges and there is some very light foxing. In Volume I, leaves G2 (pages 147/148) and G3 (pages 149/150) are poorly opened at the top edge and leaves H2 (pages 147/148) and H3 (pages 173/174) are poorly opened at the upper gutter. In Volume II, leaves B5 (pages 33/34) and B6 (pages 35/36) are poorly opened at the upper edge. Despite these flaws, this is an excellent and very bright copy, totally unrestored. With the leather bookplate of John Stuart Groves on the front pastedown of each volume and the early ink signature of Thomas R. Atkinson M.D. on the front free endpaper of each volume. The two volumes are chemised together in a quarter red morocco book-backed slipcase with spines lettered in gilt with four raised bands.
"The work is a compound of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels, seasoned throughout with German metaphysics of the most transcendental school. The great questions of natural religion, necessity, free-will, and so on...are treated with much ingenuity, and frequently with a richness of imagination which disguises the triteness of the leading ideas. Politics take their share of the work--not often well, sometimes most absurdly illustrated. The habits of modern society come in for an occasional fling. But the great merit of the work is its fanciful descriptions of nature amid all her variations. Some of the cleverest, even the most brilliant, passages occur when the author fairly gives himself up to his own singular and quaint contemplations of nature...Altogether we regard this as a remarkable book. When a man essays a continual series of lofty flights, some of his tumbles will be sufficiently absurd; but we must not be thus hindered from admiring his success when he achieves it" (Review in the London Atlas, March 24 1849, in Hugh H. Hetherington, Melville's Reviewers: British and American, 1846-1891 (Chapel Hill: 1961), page 102).
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