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Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Moby Dick

by Herman Melville (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
19,84430682 (3.84)6 / 1027
  1. 131
    The Sea Wolf by Jack London (wvlibrarydude)
  2. 110
    In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (jseger9000)
    jseger9000: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex tells the true story that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick.
  3. 80
    Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad (_eskarina)
  4. 50
    Leviathan or, The Whale by Philip Hoare (chrisharpe, John_Vaughan)
  5. 50
    The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (caflores)
  6. 41
    Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (John_Vaughan)
  7. 20
    The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (caflores)
  8. 31
    Railsea by China Miéville (Longshanks)
    Longshanks: An imaginative, affectionate pastiche of the novel's themes, imagery, and characters.
  9. 31
    Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana (knownever)
    knownever: A more enjoyable, shorter, and less allegorical story of sailing life, although there aren't any whales. The author of this one kind of looks down on whalers. All together a more jaunty sea tale.
  10. 32
    The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays by Albert Camus (WilfGehlen)
    WilfGehlen: Camus was greatly influenced by Melville and in The Myth of Sisyphus mentions Moby-Dick as a truly absurd work. Reading Moby-Dick with Camus' absurd in mind gives a deeper, and very different insight than provided by the usual emphasis on Ahab's quest for revenge.… (more)
  11. 43
    Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (ecleirs24, AriadneAranea)
    ecleirs24: Cause this novel is based upon a passage from Mobi Dick......
  12. 21
    The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (GaryPatella)
    GaryPatella: Compared to Moby Dick, The Confidence Man is a much lighter read. But after ploughing through Moby Dick, this may be a welcome change. It is not as profound, but you also don't have to struggle through any of it. This is worth reading.
  13. 21
    Genoa: A Telling of Wonders by Paul Metcalf (rickyrickyricky)
    rickyrickyricky: Melville's heir struggles to close his relationship to his preceding literary genius. Click the link above, read what you can, and get yourself hooked on one of the most critically-adored yet criminally-underread novels written in a century defined by self-analysis and experimentation.… (more)
  14. 22
    Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (caflores)
    caflores: Para amantes del lenguaje náutico y de las descripciones detalladas.
  15. 11
    Oil! by Upton Sinclair (edwinbcn)
  16. 22
    Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (ateolf)
  17. 33
    Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham (JGKC)
  18. 11
    The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky (John_Vaughan)
  19. 11
    The Nautical Chart by Arturo Pérez-Reverte (Ronoc)
  20. 14
    Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (ateolf)

(see all 23 recommendations)


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English (274)  German (9)  Dutch (7)  Spanish (5)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (2)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (306)
Showing 1-5 of 274 (next | show all)
As an Arion Press subscriber, it would be disingenuous to claim that I did not wish that my subscription had begun in 1979 when the press’ leviathan edition of Moby Dick was published. Alas, I was but a senior in high school, and that would have required a literary patron that simply didn’t exist even had I known that Arion Press existed. My subscription started 30 years later, and even though I have had the fortune to fill in a favorite back catalog Arion book here and there, the chances of ever owning their edition of Moby Dick are less than Ahab’s chance of catching the white whale. I was resigned to the trade edition until I lucked upon a copy of the California Deluxe Edition (CDE).

In his Note on the California Edition, James D. Hart, the director of The Bancroft Library, calls the Arion Press edition “the most majestic presentation of America’s most monumental novel.” He continues to explain that the intent of the California Edition was to reach a far larger audience than the Arion Press edition ever could by reducing the scale, thus taking the book “off the lectern for display and puts it in the hands of readers.” Obviously that reduction was accompanied by a reduction in price from the $1000 published price for the original and by opening up the edition run from the 250 done by the Arion Press. Where the AP edition was 15 by 10 inches, the California Deluxe edition is 14 by 9.75 inches, and the trade edition is 10 by 7 inches. While the Deluxe edition text is printed in black and blue like the original, the trade is all black. The paper used for the CDE is not mentioned but is quite nice. I found a reference that mentioned it being “75-pound beautifully textured paper” but have no idea if that is correct or not. Obviously it does not compare to the special Barcham Green handmade of the original (see my review of the AP Melville’s Selected Poems, which uses the same paper). The paper is scaled back further for affordability in the trade edition.

My first read of Moby Dick was maybe 15 years ago in the Easton Press edition. At the time, early in my evolution towards a fine press book lover, the Easton Press treatment WAS fine press to me. So I know I enjoyed the physical book during that read. That book disappeared with many of my books in a nasty divorce (she knew where to stick the proverbial harpoon), leaving me Moby Dick-less for eight years until I bought the AP trade edition, then the CDE a few years later. But I seem to remember being annoyed by all the whaling support material and wanting the story to keep moving. This time I found myself enjoying the whole of the novel much more, maybe because in a re-read I did not feel the urgency of needing to know what happens next. I also picked up on more of the allusions and wisdom in the novel.

Ishmael would have been an interesting old salt to talk to in a sea-side tavern, that’s for sure. Melville, as Ishmael, even seems a bit prescient about his fate as an author. At one point, Ishmael muses:

“For small erections may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity. God keep me from ever completing anything. This whole book is but a draught—nay, but the draught of a draught. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!”

He is talking about his own book on whaling but could easily be talking about Moby Dick. The lackluster public reception of the novel and his later fiction kept the author in financial straights and practically forgotten by his death. It was not until 30 years or so after his death that his reputation as a writer was firmly set in the western canon. Eduardo Galeano in his Memories of Fire trilogy, which I’m currently reading, sums up the popular response to the novel when published as follows:

“The bearded sailor is a writer without readers. Four years ago he published the story of a captain who pursues a white whale through the seas of the universe, bloodthirsty harpoon in pursuit of Evil, and no one paid it much attention.

In these times of euphoria, in these North American lands in full expansion, Herman Melville’s voice sings out of tune. His books are mistrustful of Civilization, which attributes to the savage the role of Demon and forces him to play it—as Captain Ahab does with Moby dick in the immensity of the ocean. His books reject the only and obligatory Truth that certain men, believing themselves chosen, impose on the others. His books have doubts about Vice and Virtue, shadows of the same nothingness, and teach that the sun is the only lamp worthy of confidence.”

Maybe Melville was prescient about the reception of his writings during his lifetime when he has Ishmael state “I try all things; I achieve what I can.”

Much of the novel is spent teaching us about the fearsome power and majesty of the sea. To venture forth onto its bosum is to realize how insignificant man really is. Melville write

“…however baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very impressions, man has lost that sense of the full awfulness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.“


“Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half know life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return.”

As one sits on a calm ocean rowing far from the whale ship, the sea even starts to lull one into a sense of safety and security as if on a grassy plain, where even Ahab can wax philosophical about it:

“Oh, grassy glades! Oh, ever vernal endless landscapes in the soul; in ye,–though long parched by the dead drought of the earthly life—in ye, men yet may roll, like young horses in new morning clover, and for some few fleeting moments, feel the cool dew of the life immortal on them. Would to God these blessed calms would last. But the mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause:–through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then skepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? In what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.”

It’s a whole different story when you happen to be dumped from a boat and out of sight of any of you colleagues, as Pip finds out. He’s never the same after they come back to find him and fish him out.

“He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason; man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God.”

Aside from the epic story of man against nature, whether it is man’s nature, a whale, or the sea itself, there is so much wisdom and intelligence in Melville’s writing. There is darkness in Ahab, Fedallah, and many of the characters as well as in whaling itself. There is also much light in Ishmael’s observations and thoughts as the novel develops. In some ways he seems to be a conscience for the Pequod, reinforced by Starbuck, Queequeg, and little Pip. All Moby Dick 18together, the crew gives the Pequod a complex human nature of it’s own, torn by the forces of dark and light as it pursues it goal to its eventual doom. Winner: Moby Dick.

This is definitely a novel I will return to again and again directly through rereading and indirectly through other books like Melville Press’ Cetus and Matt Kish’s Moby Dick in Pictures. It has also sent me searching out other prose and poetry of Melville that I was never aware of when Moby Dick’s spout first appeared on my horizon.

AVAILABILITY: This California Deluxe Edition is limited to 750 copies. Printed in 1981, two years after the landmark Arion Press edition (of 250), and long since sold out. Occasionally available on the secondary market, where I found my copy. The trade edition is available directly from Arion Press and possibly from other booksellers.

For the complete book review, including images of the physical book, visit my blog The Whole Book Experience at http://www.thewholebookexperience.com/
1 vote jveezer | Sep 14, 2014 |
Wrong edition. I've read a couple over the years. The full version kind of sucks because the middle third or so was just plain boring. Probably realistic, but I don't want to be a whaler. Later I read an edited version & found it much more palatable. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
This book was 607 pages of epicness. There were a few dry chapters here and there, but altogether a well-plotted and very detailed story. I loved the chapter on cetology very much and anyone who is into that type of marine biology would benefit from that; the history of whaling that is discussed with killing and selling isn't forced. ( )
  writercity | Aug 13, 2014 |
Did you know this thing was funny? Like maybe even absurdist? Certainly satirical. Is Herman Melville playing a joke on us?

Did he have an editor? Did editors exist in the 1840s?

Was Moby Dick the Call Of Duty of its time? In that it imbued an alternately boring and terrifying job with mythical significance for the purpose of seducing young men into supporting the socio-political structures that require it?
  knownever | Jul 31, 2014 |
Everything you could ever possibly want to know about whales and a depressing gothic-like story that absorbs you. Oh, I know, it's an allegory... Just read it and enjoy - if you can avoid the frustration in pausing to learn about whales. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (163 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Melville, HermanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adler, Mortimer J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beaver, Harold LowtherEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Agostino, NemiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delbanco, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fadiman, CliftonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jendis, MatthiasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kent, RockwellIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moser, BarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Muller, FrankNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mummendey, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pavese, CesareTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quirk, TomCommentarysecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rathjen, FriedhelmTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, BoardmanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaeffer, MeadIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, J.M.W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walcutt, Charles ChildEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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There Leviathan, Hugest of living creatures, in the deep / Stretch'd like a promontory sleeps or swims, / And seems a moving land; and at his gills / Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea. PARADISE LOST
In token

of my admiration for his genius,

This Book is Inscribed


Nathaniel Hawthorne.
First words
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. ...from Chapter 1 : Loomings
"If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."
All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event--in the living act, the undoubted deed--there, some unknown but still reasoning thing put forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough.
To the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine adaptations or abridged editions of Moby Dick with unabridged versions. Versions aimed at children are normally abridged editions and should not be combined here. Also, books ABOUT Moby Dick (such as study guides) should not be combined with the unabridged nor the abridged novel. Please keep such books as an independent work.
The Penguin Classics 150th Anniversary Ed (ISBN 0142000086) is not abridged, although that word has appeared in some user's data.
Norton Critical editions, Longman Critical editions and other scholarly editions should not be combined with the unabridged novel. The scholarly-type editions contain much additional material so they should be considered as separate works.
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1851 : Moby-Dick published

On this day in 1851, Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the
voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, is published by Harper & Brothers
in New York. Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American
literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in
fiction: "Call me Ishmael." Initially, though, the book about Captain
Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.

Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819 and as a young man
spent time in the merchant marines, the U.S. Navy and on a whaling
ship in the South Seas. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee,
a romantic adventure based on his experiences in Polynesia. The book
was a success and a sequel, Omoo, was published in 1847. Three more
novels followed, with mixed critical and commercial results.
Melville's sixth book, Moby-Dick, was first published in October 1951
in London, in three volumes titled The Whale, and then in the U.S. a
month later. Melville had promised his publisher an adventure story
similar to his popular earlier works, but instead, Moby-Dick was a
tragic epic, influenced in part by Melville's friend and Pittsfield,
Massachusetts, neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose novels include The
Scarlet Letter.

After Moby-Dick's disappointing reception, Melville continued to
produce novels, short stories (Bartleby) and poetry, but writing
wasn't paying the bills so in 1865 he returned to New York to work as
a customs inspector, a job he held for 20 years.

Melville died in 1891, largely forgotten by the literary world. By the
1920s, scholars had rediscovered his work, particularly Moby-Dick,
which would eventually become a staple of high school reading lists
across the United States. Billy Budd, Melville's final novel, was
published in 1924, 33 years after his death.

*Note: Information provided by History.com
Haiku summary
Call me Ishmael.
Score: Whale 1, Ahab 0.
I alone returned.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142437247, Paperback)

Over a century and a half after its publication, Moby-Dick still stands as an indisputable literary classic. It is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopedia of whaling lore and legend, Moby-Dick is a haunting, mesmerizing, and important social commentary populated with several of the most unforgettable and enduring characters in literature. Written with wonderfully redemptive humor, Moby-Dick is a profound and timeless inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.

@greatwhitetale Call me Ishmael. You could call me something else if you want, but since that’s my name, it would make sense to call me Ishmael.

Captain obsessed with finding a whale called Moby Dick. Sounds like the meanest VD ever, if you ask me. Sorry. Old joke. Couldn’t resist.

From Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:50 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Moby-Dick] is an 1851 novel by Herman Melville. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod, commanded by Captain Ahab. Ishmael soon learns that Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby Dick, a white whale of tremendous size and ferocity. Comparatively few whaleships know of Moby Dick, and fewer yet have encountered him. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off his leg. Ahab intends to take revenge. -- Wikipedia.… (more)

» see all 56 descriptions

Legacy Library: Herman Melville

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Penguin Australia

Four editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0142437247, 0142000086, 0143105957, 0141198958

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