On the Water

Moby Dick, or The Whale

In early 1841 at the age of 21, Herman Melville shipped out on a voyage to the Pacific Ocean aboard the Massachusetts whaler Acushnet, which he deserted in the Marquesa Islands after only 18 months. He then served briefly on the Australian whaler Lucy Ann; the Nantucket whaler Charles & Henry, and in the US Navy. His whaleship experience supplied the background for his sixth and most famous novel, Moby-Dick, or the Whale, published in 1851. The first American edition of Moby-Dick of 2,915 copies did not sell well at $1.50 and only netted Melville lifetime earnings of $556.37.

Although he continued to write poetry and fiction, Melville supported himself as a New York City customs inspector for 19 years before dying in 1891 at the age of 72. It was not until the 1920s that Melville achieved recognition as one of the icons of American literature. This 1930 edition of Moby Dick, published by Random House and illustrated by Rockwell Kent, introduced Melville to thousands of Americans.

ID Number:
2007.0071.1
Author:
Melville, Herman
Illustrator:
Kent, Rockwell
Publisher:
Random House
Place Made:
New York
Material:
paper
Date:
1930
Dimensions:
8 7/10 x 4 1/2 x 4 3/5 in.; 22.098 x 11.43 x 11.684 cm
Source:
Gift of Elizabeth and Helen Jennings

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