Landmark Books in All Fields
ItemID: #104410
Cost: $950.00

Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter

Herman Melville

“ONE OF THE FEW SURVIVORS WHO FOUGHT AND BLED FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE”: VERY SCARCE FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, OF THE LIFE AND REMARKABLE ADVENTURES OF ISRAEL R. POTTER, 1824, THE FAMED INSPIRATION FOR MELVILLE’S 1855 NOVEL, ISRAEL POTTER

(TRUMBULL, Henry) (POTTER, Israel). Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, (A Native of Cranston, Rhode-Island.) Who Was a Soldier in the American Revolution. Providence: Printed by Henry Trumbull, 1824. Small octavo (4-1/2 by 7 inches), contemporary half brown sheep, original marbled paper boards; pp. 108. $950.

First edition, first issue, of the "remarkable story" of Revolutionary soldier Israel Potter, who fought at Bunker Hill, was taken prisoner, escaped in England and survived years of exile, the inspiration for the 1855 novel by Melville, with woodcut-engraved frontispiece.

The Life and Remarkable Adventures of Israel R. Potter, a Revolutionary soldier who fought at Bunker Hill and became a prisoner of war, is perhaps most famous as the inspiration for Herman Melville's 1855 novel, Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile. Here Potter "tells the remarkable story of how he left America at the age of 31 and suffered through an extraordinary number of adventures… of his work as a hired laborer, farmer, chain bearer, hunter, trapper, Indian trader, merchant sailor, courier, spy, carpenter and beggar. This itinerant life of shifting identities appealed to Melville" (Critical Companion to Herman Melville, 104). Potter told his story to writer Henry Trumbull on his return to America after his escape in England and years of exile, and this fascinating work was published by Trumbull in 1824. Melville, who shared a birth date with Potter, would recall the first sparks of his interest in Potter's story when he picked up "'a tattered copy… forlornly published on sleazy gray paper' and read it several years before he wrote his own version of Potter's life" (Dillingham, Melville's Later Novels, 245). First issue, with Henry Trumbull in the title page imprint; errata list (108). Howes T371. Sabin 97200. Shoemaker 17676. Faint early owner signature. Small trace of early clipping to rear free endpaper.

Interior generally fresh with light scattered foxing, occasional marginal dampstaining, slight edge-wear, rubbing to boards. An extremely good copy, very scarce in original boards.

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