Herman Melville (1819-1891) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet whose name had almost been completely extinguished from the annals of Western literature when he died in 1891. Although his first three books had garnered favorable reviews and popularity, including the bestselling Typee, his work fell out of favor by the mid-19th century, as did his popularity. When he died in 1891, he was almost completely forgotten..
Then came the "Melville Revival," which took place in the early 20th century as his work began to be recognized once again. At the forefront of the revival was the book that is now considered a classic around the globe, and one of the greatest American novels ever written: Moby Dick.
Americans today still read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick en masse. Ostensibly, the novel is about Captain Ahab hunting a whale named Moby Dick, with a sailor named Ishmael narrating the story. However, throughout the novel Ishmael speculates upon concepts such as good and evil, society and religion. By the time the novel ends, readers realize that the novel’s plot and characters (including the whale itself) are comprised of metaphors and allegories that Melville leaves for the reader to determine for himself.
Herman Melville’s novel about a whaling party hunting a giant sperm whale was based on several historical events in the 19th century. One of them was the hunting of a giant albino sperm whale named Mocha Dick throughout the 1830s, but the novel more closely resembles the notorious voyage of the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts.
While whaling in the Pacific, the Essex was rammed and sank by a sperm whale, and its sailors were cast adrift. It took over 90 days for the survivors to be rescued, at which point they had resorted to desperate survival measures, including cannibalizing their deceased crew members.
One of the survivors, First Mate Owen Chase, wrote an account of the disaster which was published in 1821. Chase’s son was a shipmate on a sailing expedition with young Herman Melville, who read Owen Chase’s account and drew upon the Essex’s fate for the end of Moby Dick.
This edition of Moby Dick is specially formatted with a Table of Contents and includes dozens of images of the story.