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MELVILLE, Herman.

Moby-Dick;...

or, The Whale.

Availability: In stock

Published: New York Harper & Brothers, 1851

Stock Code: 132384

£30,000
OR On display in Exhibit

Notes

First US edition, first issue binding (BAL's "A" state), a superb association copy of the American masterpiece in its complete form; Charles Warren Stoddard's copy, inscribed by him on the front free endpaper, "Charles Warren Stoddard Waihee Maui H. May 84". The tightly-knit literary and geographical connections between Melville, Stoddard, and the book's subject matter itself are all manifested here, making it arguably the best association copy to appear on the market in recent decades.
Charmed by the escapist portrait of the South Sea Islands painted by Melville and a few of his contemporaries, and seeking to improve his health, the American writer Charles Warren Stoddard (1843-1909) visited Hawaii and Tahiti for the first time in 1864, aged twenty-one, and made four further extended trips during his lifetime. "In several ways, this trip to Hawaii was a turning point, destined, as Stoddard put it, 'to influence the whole current of my life'" (Austen, pp. 26-7). His subsequent letters, verse, and travelogues are infused with his enthusiasm for the South Seas culture, and his South-Sea Idylls (Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1873) references Melville several times: "A moist cloud, far up the mountain, hung above a serene and sacred haunt, and under its shelter was hidden a deep valley, whose secret has been carried to the ends of the earth; for Herman Melville has plucked out the heart of its mystery, and beautiful and barbarous Typee lies naked and forsaken" (p. 314).
Stoddard was particularly enamoured of the sexual freedoms which he associated with the region, and which allowed him to live an openly homosexual lifestyle. From his home city of San Francisco in late 1866 "Stoddard sent Melville his newly published Poems along with news that in Hawaii he had found no traces of Melville. A homosexual who had written even more fervently to Whitman, Stoddard had been excited by Typee, finding Kory-Kory so stimulating that he wrote a story celebrating the sort of male friendships to which Melville had more than once alluded. From the poems Stoddard sent, Melville may have sensed no homosexual undercurrent, and the extant draft of his reply in January 1867 is noncommittal" (Parker, vol. 2, p. 28). Melville's response reads: "Dear Sir: I have read with much pleasure the printed Verses you sent me, and, among others, was quite struck with the little effusion entitled 'Cherries & Grapes'. I do not wonder that you found no traces of me at the Hawaiian Islands. Yours Very Truly, H. Melville" (Horth, p. 399).
Stoddard travelled to Honolulu again in March 1884 but, restless and depressed by a failing romance, he sailed for Waihee, Maui in early May, where he stayed until July. Visiting family on the island - his now-ailing sister had married a rich Maui planter's son - did not shake the writer from his bleak mood, and he spent his time idly, eschewing travel to stay mostly indoors "where he could play the piano, drink some claret, borrow a few books, and chat with 'Sister' if she were well enough to sit up He did try to do a little writing while he was on Maui but other than that, almost nothing" (Austen, p. 102). It was in this melancholic state that Stoddard inscribed the present copy of Moby-Dick, one of the works that had so attracted him to South Seas life to begin with, by an author who - for him - was inextricably linked to Hawaii.
From very early on Stoddard had been something of an evangelist for Melville's writings. Meeting Robert Louis Stevenson in San Francisco in 1879, he presented him with copies of Typee and Omoo and encouraged him to make his own South Seas journey, which Stevenson finally undertook in 1888, spending the last few years of his life in Samoa, where he died in 1894. In 1909, the year of Stoddard's death, Stevenson remarked in a magazine article that "there are but two writers who have touched the South Seas with any genius, both Americans: Melville and Charles Warren Stoddard" (Brawley & Dixon, p. 49).
Moby-Dick was originally issued in London earlier the same year, set from the New York sheets and titled The Whale. The US edition was the first to appear under the familiar title, and contains some thirty-five passages and the epilogue omitted from the English edition. It 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) - it is estimated that only about sixty copies survived. The present copy is in the first binding, BAL's "A" state in purple-brown, with brown-orange endpapers and the publisher's device stamped centrally on the sides. Copies in first bindings also appear in black, blue, grey, green, red, and slate (no priority stated, as Sadleir notes on p. 221).

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Description

Octavo. Original purple-brown cloth, spine lettered in gilt with decorative band in gilt at head and tail, covers blocked in blind with thick single-line border and central publisher's life-buoy device, brown-orange coated endpapers. Housed in a red morocco slipcase and chemise.

Condition

Complete with six pages of publisher's advertisements at rear. Joints and inner hinges very sensitively repaired and strengthened; boards somewhat scuffed and marked; first gathering discreetly resewn; some foxing as usual, short paper repair to fore edge of dedication leaf, pp. 432-3 browned at top of gutter from inlaid piece of paper. Overall a good, stable copy in the highly uncommon original cloth, the gilt titles still bright.

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