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by Melville, Herman (novel); Kent, Rockwell (illustrations)

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  • Hardcover
  • first
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Stephenson, Virginia, United States
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About This Item

New York: Random House, 1930. First Edition Thus. First trade edition of Melville's novel illustrated by Rockwell Kent, following the three-volume Lakeside Press edition published the same year. One of the most iconic illustrated books of the 20th century, and a highpoint of Art Deco design and typography. A superior copy of a book that is almost always found well-worn. Tanselle, A Checklist of Editions of Moby Dick (1922-1951), No.18. Thick octavo (18.5cm); black cloth, with titling and decorations stamped in silver on spine and front cover; dustjacket; xxxii,822,[8]pp; illus. Tipped onto the front endpaper is a drypoint illustration of a whaling ship at sea (measuring 5.25" x 6 6/8"), signed "Albert V. Sielke 30" in plate, and "A.V. Sielke 30" in pencil directly below. Base of spine gently nudged, else a fresh, Fine copy, with the decorative elements entirely unrubbed. Dustjacket shows some trivial wear, three tiny tears, and minute loss to upper corner tips, else a bright, fresh, copy, without toning or loss of color; Near Fine.


Melville's classic was first published in England as three volumes titled The Whale in October 1851. Slow sales of Melville's previously books convinced Publisher L. Richard Bentley to reduce the printing to only 500 copies, and of that, only 300 sold in the first 4 months. The remaining unbound sheets were bound in a cheaper casing in 1852, and in 1853 there were still enough remaining sheets to again bind into an even cheaper edition. Melville changed the title to Moby Dick a month later, November 1851, when the American Version was published in one volume by Harper & Brothers in NY. Of the 2,951 copies printed, 125 were review copies. About 1,500 sold in 11 days, but then sales slowed to less than 300 the next year. After two years copies of the first edition were still available, and almost 300 were destroyed in the 1853 fire of Harper's warehouse. Most of the first editions have orange end-papers, although there are 2 known volumes with rare white-endpapers. Because of Nineteenth-century printing practices, and the time-lapse between when the first-editions were published and Melville became collectible, oxidized paper, bumped and chipped spines, and brittle wrappers are all common for even the most expensive and collectible of these books, which can sell from $35,000 to $100,000. Also, expect heavy wear and maybe even minor repair. Another collectible edition is the 1930 first edition illustrated by Rockwell Kent, a three-volume set published by the Lakeside Press with acetate dust jackets in an aluminum slipcase. These range in value from $9,000 to $11,000. A total of 3,215 copies of Moby-Dick were sold during Melville's life (he died in 1891). Today, Moby-Dick is considered one of the greatest American novels. -

Read More: Identifying first editions of MOBY DICK, OR THE WHALE


On Mar 9 2016, a reader said:
Why would this be 600 since the original was in 1851?

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Captain Ahab's Rare Books US (US)
Bookseller's Inventory #
Melville, Herman (novel); Kent, Rockwell (illustrations)
Book Condition
Quantity Available
First Edition Thus
Random House
Place of Publication
New York
Date Published

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Captain Ahab's Rare Books

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About the Seller

Captain Ahab's Rare Books

Seller rating:
This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers.
Biblio member since 2010
Stephenson, Virginia

About Captain Ahab's Rare Books

Founded in 2010, Captain Ahab's Rare Books specializes in first editions of literature, genre fiction, film-related books and ephemera, zines, manuscript and archival material.


Some terminology that may be used in this description includes:

A book in fine condition exhibits no flaws. A fine condition book closely approaches As New condition, but may lack the...
Another of the terms referring to page or book size, octavo refers to a standard printer's sheet folded four times, producing...
Full page illustration or photograph. Plates are printed separately from the text of the book, and bound in at production. I.e.,...
"Cloth-bound" generally refers to a hardcover book with cloth covering the outside of the book covers. The cloth is stretched...
First Edition
In book collecting, the first edition is the earliest published form of a book. A book may have more than one first edition in...
The outer portion of a book which covers the actual binding. The spine usually faces outward when a book is placed on a shelf....

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