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Lot #584
Herman Melville

Moby Dick author sends a manuscript that offers a scathing image of the collapse of the American Revolutionary hopes of common citizens

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Moby Dick author sends a manuscript that offers a scathing image of the collapse of the American Revolutionary hopes of common citizens

Nineteenth-century American author (1819–1891) who takes a place among the most influential figures in the history of literature. Though his body of work includes such distinguished efforts as Typee, Billy Budd, and the story “Bartleby the Scrivener,” it was his 1851 magnum opus, Moby-Dick, that would come to occupy a singular position among the greatest works ever produced in the English language. Scarce ALS signed “H. Melville,” one faintly lined page, 4.75 x 7.5, August 16 [no year; circa 1854]. Melville writes from Pittsfield [Massachusetts] to his publisher, G. P. Putnam. In full: “Yours received the other day—would have been acknowledged ere this, but for my wishing to send you the M.S. for reply. No inconvenience, I hope, has resulted. So, Toby has been to see you.” After signing, Melville adds a postscript: “Herewith you have from p. 102 to p. 156 inclusive of I[srael] P[otter].” Very faint, nearly imperceptible mailing folds (one just touching signature), and a few tiny spots (completely trivial and mentioned only for strictest accuracy), otherwise very fine, virtually pristine condition.

Israel Potter: His Fifty Years in Exile, Melville’s only historical novel, was based on the Revolutionary War hero (1744–1826) who was captured and later spent years in exile as an impoverished British resident. In the exploits of this touchingly optimistic soldier, Melville offers a scathing image of the collapse of revolutionary hopes. Putnam paid Melville by the page for serial rights to the story, with the original publication and subsequent printing earning the the author a tidy sum for the period. The purpose of the submission of the pages referenced here, in fact, was to secure the next payment from his publisher. Potter’s story appeared in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine between July 1854 and March 1855, and was later presented in book form later that month. Melville’s reference to “Toby” may well be Richard Tobias “Toby” Greene, a friend and companion to Melville during his youthful adventures at sea and immortalized in the author’s first book, Typee. A simply stunning example of this most elusive and desirable of American literary figures—gorgeously penned, perfectly preserved, and as fresh as the day it came from the author’s pen! Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RRAuction COA.

Auction Info

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  • Dates: #356 - Ended April 14, 2010