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MERCIER, Henry James, & William Gallop.

Life in a Man-of-War, or Scenes in Old Ironsides during her Cruise in the Pacific By a Fore-Top-Man.

Philadelphia: Lydia E. Bailey, 1841 Stock Code: 121255
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Source for White Jacket

First edition, uncommon, decidedly so in the original cloth. Mercier shipped aboard the "Constitution" on her 1839 cruise to the Pacific coast of South America. "This lively, well-written narrative presents a detailed view of life before the mast, both the daily details and the unusual moments, including the effects of running out of whiskey (cologne was substituted!)" (Lefkowicz quoted in Moebs).

Mercier's account was a key source for Melville's White Jacket, Melville acknowledging the debt in one of the prefaces to the UK edition (Sealts, Melville's Reading, p.198) The "Constitution" had a library aboard, which Melville used for the basis of his description of the library on the Neversink; "One of the scenes depicted had to do with the joyous opening day of a purchased library of 300 or 400 volumes aboard 'Old Ironsides' in 1839. The books in the library had already been numbered and their titles noted in a catalog 'which was forcibly dragged' from one eager sailor to another in their efforts to make selections". (Skallerup, Books Afloat and Ashore, p. 92.)

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Octavo. Original dark brown vertically ribbed cloth, title gilt to the spine together with three-master and crossed anchors devices, elaborate scrolled foliate designs in blind to the boards.


Ownership inscription of Adrian Barber dated 1842 to the title page. A little rubbed, some skilful restoration head and tail of the spine, and to the hinges, light browning and foxing throughout, variable marginal damp-staining throughout, remains attractive and overall very good.


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