Friday, November 6, 2015

The Gaping Maw of the Sea

Image of boats attacking whales, 1836
With a big-budget movie coming out next month "based on the incredible true story that inspired Moby-Dick," and with our own Moby-Dick exhibit coming down later this month, we had to take a look at our first edition of the Narrative of the Essex (New York: W. B. Gilley, 1821). What a title page! It says it all, and with the hyperbole of a movie trailer:
Title page of Narrative of the Essex
Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing  Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, of Nantucket; which was attacked and finally destroyed by a large Spermaceti-Whale, in the Pacific Ocean; with and account of the Unparalleled Sufferings of the Captain and Crew during a space of ninety-three days at sea, in open boats, in the years 1819 & 1820. By Owen Chase, of Nantucket, first mate of said vessel.
That's a mouthful, but not as bad as what the crew had to resort to (spoiler alert: they eat each other!).

The image above is from a more sedate book on whaling, also used by Melville as source material: Thomas Beale's The Natural History of the Sperm Whale (London: John Van Voorst, 1836).

To see the Narrative of the Essex ask for Melville G530.E7 1821; the Natural History of the Sperm Whale is Melville QL737.C4B4. Moby-Dick, or, the Plurality of the Whale will be on display here in Rauner Library through November 15th.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

Guy Fawkes accordion bookThe Fifth of November is once again upon us, with the catchy rhyme reminding us of Guy Fawkes' treason (or heroism?!). As with most historical events, there are the serious renditions, and then there are the comic. Here are two of my favorites.

Illustrated by Percy Cruikshank, Guy Faux: A Squib* mocks Guy himself, figuring him with wiggly legs and a pointy goatee. It's also an accordion book.

Guy Fawkes burlesque*For those of us who grew up with Harry Potter, a squib isn't only the child of wizard parents who doesn't have magical abilities, but also a small stick of dynamite.

A burlesque version of the story from 1866 contains horrible pun after horrible pun. Guy Fawkes survives by proclaiming to the King that he was just about to throw a party:
"Now can you doubt 
I'd be the better for a light blow-out?
And that was all I meant--not blowing up,
I vos preparing for some friends to sup--"

The barrels are filled with beer, oysters, and gunpowder ... tea.

For the play, ask for Williams/Watson PL4976 while the accordion book is Sine Illus C783magu.