Friday, January 22, 2010

The Whiteness of the Whale

A title page for "The Whale" by Herman Melville.After decades of searching, Special Collections has finally acquired one of the holy grails of nineteenth-century American Literature, the first edition of Herman Melville's Moby Dick published in London as The Whale (London: R. Clay for Richard Bentley, 1851). This edition completes our superb Melville collection assembled by two alumni of the College that includes the first American edition and the second London edition.

The irony of the difficulty of the hunt for this elusive edition is not lost on us, but no library staff lost any limbs in the process.

This acquisition opens up many teaching possibilities with the Melville collection. The first London edition was rife with errors including the deletion of 35 passages, it lacked the all-important epilogue where Ishmael lives to tell the tale, and relegated Melville’s "Etymology" and "Extracts" to an appendix. All of these errors were corrected in the first American edition that came out one month later but were perpetuated by the 1853 London edition issued from the 1851 sheets. Taken together, the three editions show how different markets were responding to very different texts while providing an example of how the format of a text effects its reception.

A three-volume set of "The Whale" in marbled boards.In 1941 a collection of twenty-nine English and American editions of the works of Herman Melville was presented by George Matthew Adams 1931 in memory of his father, the Rev. George Matthew Adams. The original gift included a fine copy of the American first edition of Moby Dick (1851), into which is bound a letter by Melville dated "Pittsfield Dec 14th 1853." Also provided by Mr. Adams were works of biographical and critical importance. The collection totaled nearly two hundred books, pamphlets, and other printed items before the 1991 gift by William S. Clark 1942 of over two hundred and thirty American and foreign editions of Moby Dick, representing over thirty languages, plus nearly seventy related items.

Go to Rauner and ask for Melville PS2384.M62 1851

1 comment :

  1. I support Moby Dick and Goerge Matthew Adams.

    Excellent Blog.