“NO EQUAL IN AMERICAN LITERATURE”: FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF MOBY-DICK IN SCARCE ORIGINAL CLOTH
MELVILLE, Herman. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. New York: Harper & Brothers; London: Richard Bentley, 1851. Octavo, original stamped green cloth, orange-brown endpapers. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
First American edition, in scarce lovely unrestored original cloth, of Melville’s rare classic.
Arguably the greatest single work in American literature, Moby-Dick was initially “a complete practical failure, misunderstood by the critics and ignored by the public; and in 1853 the Harper’s fire destroyed the plates of all his books and most of the copies remaining in stock (only about 60 copies of Moby-Dick survived the fire)… [Nevertheless,] 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” (DAB). This American edition contains 35 passages and the Epilogue omitted from the English edition (The Whale, published in October of the same year; the first American edition appeared in December). Complete with six pages of advertisements at the end, covers blind-stamped with heavy rule frame and publisher’s circular device at center. This title was issued in a variety of cloth colors and endpapers, no priority given. Without rear free endpaper. This copy with double flyleaves at front and triple flyleaves at rear. BAL 13664. Bookplate (partially effaced; corresponding offsetting to front free endpaper), ink shelf numbers and manuscript notations indicating this copy’s former residence in Chicago’s venerable Newberry Library. “The Library was founded as a public library by a bequest of Walter Loomis Newberry, a businessman and prominent citizen, who had been an active book collector, founder of the Young Men’s Library Association and president of the Chicago Historical Society before his death in 1868. When he drew up his will, Mr. Newberry created a codicil should his daughters die without issue. Since Chicago had no public library at the time, he determined that in such an instance a public library should be established in the northern section of the city” (Newberry Library).
Scattered light foxing, as often, more to first leaves. Closed tear to third rear flyleaf. Cloth exceptionally nice, far better than usual, gilt bright, with light rubbing, corners lightly worn. An extremely good copy in scarce original cloth of an incomparable American masterpiece, very rarely seen in such nice condition.