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.

Friday, February 25, 2011

...when Leviathan is the text - 3

Weird, but usable... (3rd in the search for the ideal edition for an MDM)

From out of the dark past comes a strange edition of M-D, thanks to an inter-library loan system that thinks one edition of M-D is the same as another. (I requested the Norton edition, dagnabbit!)

Here's a quick run-down on an edition of Moby-Dick from Spencer Press. There's no copyright on it, but its four-page history of book collecting is dated 1936. The spine shows "World's Greatest Literature" and the volume number, 17. Reading the aforementioned history, we're told that this is a series of 20 books "which would form the cornerstone of a fine home library for people of discriminating taste; ...[books] that would tend to broaden the vision and develop the inner resources of the reader..." You know the spiel.

The book is about 5.25" x 8.25" x 1.5", and weighs 18.4 ounces (on the Post Office scale); 462 pages. The cover boards are not thick, but they are rigid; the binding, sewn. The paper is slightly rough with a faint yellow color, looking like what you would find in an old, cheap paperback. There's no declaration of acid-free paper, but this library copy shows no yellowing around the edges after what could be 70 years. The margins and gutters are almost too narrow, the bottom margin especially. The rough paper, together with the sub-optimal printing that varies from faint to blotchy (see "Fedallah" in the photo below), give this one a whiff of cheapness, of books that were meant to be bought by the yard.

There is a table of contents, and Melville's footnotes appear, but no Etymology or Extracts. There is one illustration opposite the title page. Strangely, the Table of Contents breaks the chapters into Volume I, Volume II, and Volume III; perhaps following the original 1851 English edition which was in three volumes. Also following that first English edition (as described in A Note on the Text in my Penguin paperback) is the non-appearance(!) of Chapter 25, Postscript. Knights and Squires appears here as Ch. 25, and the mis-numbering continues to the end. This could cause confusion if you were to find yourself at the podium announcing "Chapter 53, The Town-Ho's Story" when the rest of the world has it as Chap. 54.

In sum, if you run into this edition at an estate sale, it could be pressed into service. The binding is very nice, and the contents are pared down for Marathon use; a little too pared-down, as Etymology, Extracts, and one of the chapters are missing. The search must continue...

1 comment:

  1. I am grateful that Gansevoort has undertaken this task. I expect to purchase the edition that he decides upon and I never would have had enough time to do this research myself. Good on ya!