FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF MELVILLE’S OMOO
MELVILLE, Herman. Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847. Octavo, original gilt-stamped gray cloth, marbled endpapers. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6000.
Preferred first American edition of Melville’s fictionalized account of his experiences in the Society Islands.
Along with Typee, his previous novel, Omoo is a product of Melville’s four-year sojourn as a sailor in the Pacific, a time and place that proved to be fertile for his literary imagination. In October 1844, “having completed his education in what he later termed the only Harvard and Yale that were open to him, he returned home to begin fashioning novels from his experiences, and to enter literary society in New York and Boston” (Hart, 485). Both Typee and Omoo were instant successes, marking Melville’s early career with both respect and fame. Omoo displays “one of the characteristics of his mature style… a powerful portrayal of images from different times and places… For all the jocoseness of attitude, for all the comicality of the events he described: a unique sensibility was emerging” (Parker, 454). This preferred first American edition was set from Melville’s manuscript and published in early May 1847. Given 19th-century copyright law and attempts to avoid piracy, the first English edition was issued, as usual, several weeks before. The London issue, however, was set not from manuscript but from proofs of the American edition: therefore it is one step removed from this more valued first American issue. With tipped-in frontispiece map, “Round-Robin” illustration (page 104) and both sets of advertisements at rear. BAL 13656. Wright I: 1861. Hill 1138.
Text with only scattered patches of faint foxing, rubbing to extremities. An extremely good copy.