The First American Edition of Moby-DickHerman Melville. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851.
First American edition (first published in three volumes in London as The Whale). Twelvemo (7.4375 x 4.9375 inches; 189 x 125 mm.). xxiii, [1, blank], 634, [1, "Epilogue"], [1, blank], [6, ads], [2, blank] pp.
BAL first binding of publisher's red "A" cloth (morocco-grain cloth). Covers stamped in blind with a heavy rule frame and publisher's circular device at center, spine decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt. Original brown-orange coated endpapers. Double flyleaves at front and back.
Expertly rebacked, with most of the original spine laid down (perished portion includes some of the gilt spine lettering). The front hinge has been repaired. There is a tiny tear to the upper edge of leaves 1/12-2/5 (pages 23-34), a small piece torn from the lower blank corner of leaf 12/6 (pages 275-276), and a tiny tear to the lower edge of leaves 17/3 and 17/4 (pages 389-392). The text shows the usual foxing, but is otherwise clean. With a penciled signature, dated "Decr 2nd 51," at the head of the fly-title. A solid and sturdy, expertly restored copy of the first American edition fit for any lover of Ahab and his dreaded "hump like a snow hill."
"[Melville's] great book, Moby Dick, was a complete practical failure, misunderstood by the critics and ignored by the public; and in 1853 the Harpers' fire destroyed the plates of all of his books and most of the copies remaining in stock [only about sixty copies survived the fire]...Melville's permanent fame must always rest on the great prose epic of Moby Dick, a book that has no equal in American literature for variety and splendor of style and for depth of feeling" (D.A.B. XII, pp. 522-526).
"Moby Dick is the great conundrum-book. Is it a profound allegory with the white whale the embodiment of moral evil, or merely the finest story of the sea ever written? Whichever it is, now rediscovered, it stirs and stimulates each succeeding generation, whether reading it for pleasure or with a scalpel. Within its pages can be found the sound and scents, the very flavor, of the maritime life of our whaling ancestors" (Grolier, 100 American).
BAL 13664. Grolier, 100 American, 60.
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