New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851. First American edition. 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 custom pale green silk folding case. 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 (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.
First US edition, in the first issue binding (BAL's "A" state). 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. As he finished writing Moby-Dick, Melville confided to Nathaniel Hawthorne that, "I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as the lamb." This wicked book was mostly ignored upon publication, but since the early decades of the twentieth century, Moby-Dick has been reevaluated and claimed as one of the greatest novels ever written in English. It is a work that has challenged readers with its arcane knowledge of the whaling industry but rewarded those same readers with meditations on the best and worst of humanity: greed and power, friendship and sympathy, violence and rebirth, devotion and loneliness.
BAL 13664; Grolier American 60; Sadleir, Excursions in Victorian Bibliography, p. 229. Fine (Item #3174)