May I introduce you to my copy of Moby-Dick.
I found this hard-cover beauty at Half-Price Books. It was on the shelf but without a price tag.
I asked the helpful employees in the “Sell to Us” section of the store for assistance in finding a price. After some computer scouring, the worker said, “$9.99.”
$9.99? Rats. I think the average I’ve spent on a WEM novel is about $2. I showed my husband the book and lamented that I should probably put it back on the shelf and instead go with the $1 copy I’d found in paperback. When he saw the inside of the book, he insisted I buy it.
Can you read the small print in the photo above? It says, “Nineteenth Century Whaling Prints from the collection of The Kendall Whaling Museum.” There is an intro to the illustrations and an annotated list that includes information about Melville, whaling, and the book. The lithographs are lovely. Go ahead and click on it. I’ll wait.
Willard Thorp wrote the Annotated List of Illustrations comments. Here’s what he had to say about Plate IV:
There can be no picture of the Pequod, since she existed first in Melville’s imagination and thereafter in the minds of his readers. But we must perforce show a typical whaler so that the pictures to follow may be the more clearly understood. Here she is, rigged much as was Melville’s ship the Acushnet. The Pequod was no such sparkling beauty. As Melville describes her in chapter 16 (“The Ship”) she is ancient and worn and grotesquely fitted out, a counterpart to her “fighting” Quaker owners and Ahab, her mad captain.
Here’s another plate.
When the captain gave the order for the chase to begin, the whaleboats, three on the larboard quarter, waist, and bow, and one on the starboard for the captain, were swiftly lowered and the crews, of six men each, jumped into the boats. The mate manned the steering-oar in the stern; in the prow the harpooneer was prepared to hurl his death-dealing iron. Melville describes the Pequod’s first lowering in chapter 48.
I am smitten with my hardback book. Am I taking notes in it? Yes, indeedy. The lithograph prints have come loose from the spine, but I don’t mind. The book has gilded-edges and creamy ivory pages that are just waiting for my favorite pen. I hope that the story of The Whale brings me as much satistfaction as this thirty-year old book is.