or, The Whale.New York, Harper & Brothers, 1851 Stock Code: 137462
NotesFirst US edition of Melville's greatest work, in the first issue binding (BAL's "A" state). The US edition was the first to appear under the familiar title, and contains some 35 passages and the epilogue omitted from the English edition.
Now universally acclaimed, at the time the novel was a "complete practical failure, misunderstood by the critics and ignored by the public; and in 1853 the Harpers' fire destroyed the plates of all his books and most of the copies remaining in stock" (DAB, vol. 12, p. 523). The present copy is in the first binding, BAL's "A" state in grey, with orange endpapers and the publisher's device stamped centrally on the sides. Copies in first issue bindings appear in purple, black, blue, grey, green, red, and slate (no priority stated, as Sadleir notes on p. 221).Moby-Dick was originally issued in London earlier the same year, set from the New York sheets and titled The Whale.
Octavo. Original brown cloth, spine lettered in gilt with decorative band in gilt at head and foot, covers blocked in blind with central publisher's life-buoy device, orange endpapers. Housed in a black quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Complete with six pages of publisher's advertisements at rear. Faint early pencil signature of Mrs L. G. Thomson to front free endpaper and title page; morocco bookplate of Paul Francis Webster (Academy Award-winning American lyricist, 1907-1984; his sale, Sotheby's New York, 24 April 1985, lot 64). Light fraying to spine ends, corners just slightly worn and bumped, contents somewhat foxed. A fine copy, sound and unrestored, in the highly uncommon original cloth.
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