DescriptionHerman Melville. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851. First U. S. edition (first published in three volumes in London as The Whale). Twelvemo (7.375 x 4.875 inches; 188 x 124 mm.). xxiii, [1, blank], 634, [1, "Epilogue"], [1, blank], [6, publisher's advertisements], [2, blank] pages. BAL first binding of publisher's drab purple-brown "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 (with very little of the typical glue staining). Double flyleaves at front and back. The binding is rubbed, faded in places, and with a few stains; slightly skewed and a little shaken; corners bumped, with boards exposed; small portion of lower edge of rear cover damaged, with loss to cloth and to a sliver of board; spine faded, with the gilt rubbed; small dark stain at head of spine; a few additional tiny dark stains on spine and along joints; cloth fraying at spine extremities, with a few chips and tiny tears; short tear to rear joint at head of spine, with cloth lifting; top edge dust-soiled; a few scuffs and scratch marks to the edges, causing dings or nicks to the edges of a few leaves. Moderate foxing and browning, as usual; a few mostly marginal stains or smudges; a few leaves with creasing in the text, sometimes affecting several letters (no loss); a few corners lightly creased or folded; faint semi-circular creasing in the outer margin through most of the book; tiny tear to upper corner of pages 459/460. A very good copy, apparently totally unsophisticated.
BAL 13664. Grolier, 100 American, 60 (describing the first English edition).
"The English edition, The Whale, Bentley, London, 3 vols....was published October 18 against the American November 19. [It] was set up from Harper proof-sheets, which were edited to some extent by Bentley, without Melville's knowledge. The editing consisted of toning down profanity and some alleged irreverent references; also, the 'Epilogue' was omitted, which caused at least one English review to comment on the impossibility of a first-person narrative, when everyone on the Pequod was killed by the white whale's attack...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).
"[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).
"This book was expurgated for publication in England, the American text containing thirty-five passages not included in Bentley's edition" (Sadleir, Excursions in Victorian Bibliography, p. 339). Most significantly, the English edition did not include the "Epilogue," in which Ishmael recounts how he survived and was rescued, and which appears here in the American edition for the first time: "The drama's done. Why then here does any one step forth?-Because one did survive the wreck...On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan."
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