White Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War.London: Richard Bentley, 1850 Stock Code: 138349
NotesFirst edition, first issue, of Melville's emblematic fifth novel, which did much to influence the congressional prohibition of naval flogging in September 1850. Copies of the first issue are notably rare in any state, and exceptionally so with the original cloth in such a fine state of preservation.
The British edition, preceding its American counterpart by some two months, was printed in an edition of 1,000 copies. Despite encouraging reviews, by 1852 it had sold less than 400 copies. The remainder of the edition was reissued with a new title page dated 1853.
"Mr. Melville has performed an excellent service in revealing... the indescribable abominations of the naval life, reeking with the rankest corruption, cruelty, and blood. He writes without ill-temper, or prejudice, with no distempered, sentimental philanthropy, but vividly portraying scenes of which he was the constant witness... It is not often that an observer of his shrewdness and penetration is admitted behind the scenes, and still less often that the results of personal experience are presented in such high-wrought pictures" (George Ripley, in New York Tribune, April 5 1850).
2 volumes, octavo. Original blue cloth, spines lettered in gilt, front covers with square-rigged ship decoration in blind, rear covers with anchor in blind, yellow endpapers and pastedowns with publisher's advertisements. Housed in a dark blue quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
A few faint marks, minor cockling, and a couple of hints of wear to cloth, minor patches of abrasion to pastedowns, contents generally clean. A noted rarity in unrestored, fresh condition, this an exceptional copy.
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