Description

    The First American Edition of Moby-Dick

    Herman Melville. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851.

    First American edition (first published in three volumes in London under title: 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.

    Unfortunately, the binding on this copy has been severely damaged. Portions of the spine have gone missing, including some of the gilt lettering, the covers show considerable wear, and the front hinge is cracked between the front flyleaves. There are two short tears to the inner blank margin of leaves 1/6 and 1/7 (pp. 11/12 and 13/14) at the stitching, a tiny tear to the upper edge of leaves 1/12-2/5 (pp. 23/24-33/34), a small piece torn from the lower blank corner of leaf 12/6 (pp. 275/276), and a tiny tear to the lower edge of leaves 17/3 and 17/4 (pp. 389/390 and 391/392). The text shows the usual foxing, but is otherwise clean, and as a result, this copy would be a perfect candidate for rebinding. With a pencilled signature, dated "Decr 2nd 51," at the head of the fly-title.

    "[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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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    3rd-4th Tuesday-Wednesday
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