The True First Edition of Moby DickHerman Melville. The Whale. London: Richard Bentley, 1851.
The true first edition of Moby Dick, preceding the New York edition by about four weeks. Only 500 copies were printed. Three twelvemo volumes. viii, 312; iv, 303, [1, blank]; iv, 328 pages.
Contemporary half purple-black calf over marbled boards. Spines decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt. Marbled edges. Neat repair to inner margin of half-title of Volume I. A fine and attractive copy of this American classic. Housed together in a blue cloth chemise and quarter dark blue morocco slipcase.
"[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). Bentley set the type for his three-decker from the New York (Harper) proof sheets, making a few non-authorial textual changes along the way that he judged improvements. The Harper edition "front matter" here forms an Appendix and Melville's Epilogue is dropped.
BAL 13663. Grolier, 100 American, 60. Sadleir 1685 ("one of the rarest of three-deckers").
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