First American Edition of Melville's MasterpieceHerman 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 drab purple-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. Double flyleaves at front and back. Some moderate scattered foxing or browning, as usual. Covers rather worn with rubbed extremities. Minor moisture spot to front cover with cloth nicks. Shelf wear to edges with exposed boards at bumped corners and near joints. Spine sunned with slight fraying at ends and along the joints at outer bottom edges. A few darkened areas along spine and joint edge at rear board and small spot at center tail. Cloth at the spine tail possibly expertly reinforced. Endpapers rather browned with hinges strong. Chemised in a quarter blue morocco over blue cloth case with gilt spine titles and five raised bands. Shelf wear and age to case. A lovely copy of Melville's greatest achievement, and arguably the greatest novel 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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