Moby Dick, or The Whale

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In early 1841 at the age of 21, Herman Melville shipped out on a voyage to the Pacific Ocean aboard the Massachusetts whaler Acushnet, which he deserted in the Marquesa Islands after only 18 months. He then served briefly on the Australian whaler Lucy Ann; the Nantucket whaler Charles & Henry, and in the US Navy. His whaleship experience supplied the background for his sixth and most famous novel, Moby-Dick, or the Whale, published in 1851. The first American edition of Moby-Dick of 2,915 copies did not sell well at $1.50 and only netted Melville lifetime earnings of $556.37.
Although he continued to write poetry and fiction, Melville supported himself as a New York City customs inspector for 19 years before dying in 1891 at the age of 72. It was not until the 1920s that Melville achieved recognition as one of the icons of American literature. This 1930 edition of Moby Dick, published by Random House and illustrated by Rockwell Kent, introduced Melville to thousands of Americans.
Date made
Melville, Herman
Kent, Rockwell
Random House, Inc.
Place Made
United States: New York, New York
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 22.098 cm x 11.43 cm x 11.684 cm; 8 11/16 in x 4 1/2 in x 4 5/8 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Elizabeth and Helen Jennings
related event
The Emergence of Modern America
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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