Sunday, September 1, 2019

Illustrated Moby Dick a collectors resource

I never established a close relationship to Melville's Moby Dick.  I recall reading the tale while in high school (many years ago) but the experience was mixed for me and I never internalized the content.  Just not right for me.  After years of wandering rare book fairs and stores it became obvious to me that illustrated Moby Dick is a focus of many book lovers and serious collectors and yet I remain without any copy in my library.  I preferred Bartelby, The Scrivener: A Wall Street Story (1853) by Melville

I'm sharing a recently published article from Apollo Magazine (The International Art Magazine) that offers a primer on artists of well known and often targeted by collectors, editions of Moby Dick and related products (plates with designs after Rockwell Kent for example).  From my wanderings of book fairs and shops I have viewed and handled most of the editions mentioned and if I ever decided to add an example to my library I would probably target Barry Moser's effort over Rockwell Kent's.  The article from Apollo is a must read for anyone who is interested in collecting illustrated editions of Moby Dick.

21 AUGUST 2019

Moby Dick Transcendent (1930), Rockwell Kent, illustration for the Lakeside Press edition of Moby-Dick.
Moby Dick Transcendent (1930), Rockwell Kent, illustration for the Lakeside Press edition of Moby-Dick. Rights courtesy of Plattsburgh State Art Museum, State University of New York, USA, Rockwell Kent Collection, Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton. All rights reserved

Moby Dick Publication History:

United Kingdom
Herman Melville, The Whale (in three volumes), Richard Bentley, London,  October 18, 1851. First English Edition

United States
Herman Melville, Moby Dick; or, The Whale. Harper & Brothers, New York, November 14, 1851. First American Edition

Illustrators and editions mentioned in the article include:

Moby Dick or the White Whale. Herman Melville,. Boston.  The Page Company Publishing. C 1892.  Four black and white Illustrations by A. Burnham Shute.  1st Illustrated Edition

Moby Dick, or, The Whale.  Herman Melville, New York, Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1899. 4 Black and White Illustrations by I.W. Tabor

Moby Dick or The Whale.  Herman Melville, New York.  Dodd, Mead and Company. 1922. Mead Schaeffer illustrations, 12 in color.  1st Color illustration edition.

Moby Dick, Herman Melville, New York.  J.H. Sears and Company. Inc. 1928 Illustrations John D. Whiting 

Cover of Lakeside Press Edition Volume 1
Rockwell Kent illustration (woodblock)

Moby Dick, Herman Melville.  Chicago, Lakeside Press. 1930.  Illustrations Rockwell Kent.  Published in an edition of 1000 copies in three volumes housed in an aluminum box. (Random House released a one volume trade edition with the Rockwell Kent illustrations in 1930)

There are lovely and affordable trade editions of Moby Dick with the Rockwell Kent illustrations.  Most notable are the early Random House editions and the more recent Folio Society editions, a Limited Edition of the original Lakeside Press publication and a Collector Edition ($115.00 US) edition.  

Classics Illustrated 

1942 Classics Illustrated Cover
Illustrations by Louis Zansky

A 1951 Classics Illustrated edition is mentioned in the article, but there is some ambiguity associated with the 1951 Classics Illustrated edition as it is a variant of the original 1947 publication.  A check of the website suggests that the 1947 is the original edition.  Further mystery arise when visiting, archival sites, which should serve to lessen ambiguity, but tend to just enhance ambiguity.  The Smithsonian Institutes, National Museum of American History details the evolution of the Classics Illustrated publications but introduced further confusion as they state that the original edition was published in 1942! 

1942 Edition 

Moby Dick or the Whale, Herman Melville, San Francisco, Arion Press, 1979.  Illustrations by Barry Moser

Moby Dick or the Whale. Herman Melville. Trade Edition, Berkeley, CA, The University of California Press. 1981.

Woodcut Illustration by Barry Moser
Someday, I will, at least, add a first printing of the UC Press trade edition to my library.  

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