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  • A whale of a tale... Copy of Herman Melville's Moby Dick brings $74,500
  • Post author
    Will Davison
  • Aofwhale

A whale of a tale... Copy of Herman Melville's Moby Dick brings $74,500

Last week (June 17), Sotheby's held a major sale of Fine Books and Manuscripts with one huge beast leading the literary section.
Extract from the 1956 film adaptation

This was a first American edition of Moby Dick. The epic tale of life aboard ship under Captain Ahab, who holds an all consuming desire to revenge himself upon a vast sperm whale known as Moby Dick, is regarded as a classic of American Romanticism.

The copy is a first binding, with a blind-stamped circular publisher's device stamped on covers. This edition contains thirty-five passages and the 'Epilogue' omitted from the preceding English edition.

It was owned by a witness to his publishing contract for The Whale (the alternative title for Moby Dick).

Hermann Melville Moby Dick
Herman Melville's great work: Moby Dick

The J R Morewood referred to as one of the two witnesses is (unquestionably) the John Rowland Morewood (1821- 1903), who, with his wife Sarah (1824-1863), became neighbours and close friends of Herman Melville.

Melville used the couple's library and later, in 1874, the Morewood's eldest son, William, married Herman Melville's niece Maria Gansevoort Melville, daughter of his deceased brother Allen.

Back in September 1851, weeks before Melville signed the publishing contract, he wrote a letter to Sarah Morewood, and half-jokingly warned his friend about his forthcoming novel:

"Don't you buy it [Moby-Dick] - don't you read it, when it does come out, because it is by no means the sort of book for you. It is not a piece of fine feminine Spitalfields silk - but is of the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships' cables & hausers.

"A polor wind blows through it, & birds of prey hover over it."

The edition, surprising well-preserved despite being blasted by polar winds, sold for $74,500 ahead of a $30,000-50,000 listing.


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  • Post author
    Will Davison
  • Aofwhale