The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Monday, March 7, 2011

...when Leviathan is the text - 4

A quick post on another widely-available (used) edition of M-D that ultimately fails the criteria... (4th in the search for the ideal edition for an MDM)

Along the lines of the Spenser Press, Encyclop√¶dia Britannica has its own shelf-filler offering called "Great Books of the Western World." The 1978 printing of the original 1952 edition measures about 6.25" x 9.5", and is 7/8" thick with 420 pages. The cover is plain, showing simply "Melville," the Britannica logo, and "48" (the series volume number) gilt-embossed on the spine. Rigid boards, smooth, cream-colored paper; show-through about at its acceptable limit. Also at its limit is the line-spacing—the descenders are a hair's breadth from the ascenders of the following line. (In the photo, just above the ruler, see how the p in "up" collides with the d of "god" below it.) The font size is on the stingy side, as are the gutters. There's no note as to acid-free paper, but this 33-year-old library copy shows no yellowing.

The table of contents, Extracts, Etymology, and Melville's footnotes are there, right and proper. Other than that, it's stripped for marathoning—no illustrations, and only two pages of biography. Even Melville's inscription to Hawthorne is gone. (That's going a page too far!)

It weighs in at 21.4 ounces (nearly a half-pound lighter than the Modern Library edition). The result is a usable edition that is not too large or heavy to hold.

Its failing is the same fatal flaw of the Modern Library edition: glued binding. Britannica's edition might live with this shortcoming longer than the Mod. Lib. because, having about half as many pages, there's less mass stressing the glue when it's opened to a middle chapter. When you're finishing Chapter LX, "All men are enveloped in whale lines. All are born with halters round their necks...," Britannica's glue is holding together two blocks of 210 pages. In the Mod. Lib. edition, the glue has to couple two wads of 400-plus pages. (Yes, Mod. Lib.'s pages are thinner/lighter, but they're not half the weight of Britannica's.)

So, this is an M-D that's stripped for the long haul, but requires careful handling. If you come across a cheap copy whose binding is not split, it might serve for a few MDMs. Better editions ahead...

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to the better editions. I was beginning to think there weren't any.

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