First Edition "Moby-Dick" in a Contemporary Binding
MELVILLE, Herman. 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 5/8 x 5 inches; 181 x 127 mm). xxiii, [1, blank], 634, [1, “Epilogue”], [1, blank], [6, ads], [2, blank] pp.

Contemporary half green morocco over marbled boards. Spine decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt. Marbled endpapers. All edges marbled. Outer hinges and head and tail of the spine with some tidy repairs. Light previous owner’s inkstamp on first blank, and neat previous owner’s inscription on rear blank. Minor foxing to preliminaries. Some rubbing and light wear to binding. Evidence of bookplate removal to front free endpaper. Overall, a very good copy in a contemporary binding.

“[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?” (Grolier, 100 American).

“The publishers used as their text Melville’s original manuscript. The Whale, as issued in London, was set from New York sheets, with Melville’s alterations” (BAL).

“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).

BAL 13664. Grolier, 100 American, 60.

HBS # 68042 $18,500