New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855. MOBY-DICK; or the WHALE
Publisher: Harper & Brothers New York
Date: 1855 short run of 250 copies.
Moby-Dick 1855, xxiii, , 634,  pp. (8vo) 19 x 12.5 cm (7½ x 5") original blind-stamped Black cloth, spine lettered in gilt. Second printing / Edition. Preceded by the first edition 1851. Later editions in 1863 and 1871, runs of 277 copies.
Sympathetically restored binding using original cloth of the correct age and pattern for repairs, original yellow surface paper ends of the period. A very nice copy of a rare printing.
Whilst traveling and low on funds due to lack of popularity in his writings, Melville had Harper run a small print of the 1855 printing, and numerous monthly renderings of prose and verse. In 1862 he was broke and returned to New York as a tax inspector basically re-starting his career as a writer. Re-printing The Whale in 1863.
Melville had a modest revival of popularity in England when readers rediscovered his novels in the late nineteenth century. A series of poems inspired by his early experiences at sea, with prose head notes, were published in two collections for his relatives and friends, each with a print run of 25 copies.
Some chapters of Moby-Dick are no more than two pages in standard editions, and an extreme example is Chapter 122, consisting of a single paragraph of 36 words. The skillful handling of chapters in Moby-Dick is one of the most fully developed Melville-ian signatures, and is a measure of his masterly writing style.
The first printing by Harper's in 1851 numbered 2915 copies, approximately 300 copies were destroyed in a warehouse fire in 1853 and as late as 1854 copies of the first edition were still available from the publisher. This second printing of 250 copies was issued in 1855. A very scarce early issue. BAL 13664 (for first printing) Tanselle Thomas 1976 Newberry Library (for all printings). Item #298
Price (USD): $12,500.00