First American Edition of Moby Dick
Herman Melville. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New
York: Harper & Brothers, 1851. First American edition. Octavo.
xxiii, [1, blank], 634, [1, "Epilogue"], [1, blank], [6, ads], [4,
blank] pages. BAL first binding of publisher's brown "A" 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 orange coated endpapers. BAL calls for double
flyleaves at front and back, and while the rear flyleaves are
present, this copy has only one flyleaf at the front (and its
gutter is cracked), so it appears that the leaf was lost at some
point. Binding somewhat worn, some loss at spine extremities, some
dampstaining, and soiling, text is foxed, there is a tear at the
top of page 97 (not affecting text), lower corner of page 205 is
missing, text creased in a few places, text a bit shaken, the final
fifth of the text and the rear endleaves are dampstained, the final
blank leaf is missing its upper half. Still, a good,
unsophisticated copy of Melville's greatest achievement, and
arguably one of the greatest novels in American literature.
"[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" (Dictionary of American Biography 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?" (Grolier, 100 American). BAL 13664. Grolier, 100 American, 60.
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