A Whaler’s Tale, 1800s

On the Water - Exhibition Theme: Songs & Stories


Gift of Elizabeth and Helen Jennings

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A Whaler’s Tale, 1800s

In early 1841, at age 21, Herman Melville shipped out on a voyage to the Pacific Ocean aboard the whaler Acushnet. He deserted in the Marquesas Islands after only 18 months and then served briefly on other ships. His time at sea supplied the background for his novel Moby-Dick, or The Whale, published in 1851.

The first American edition of Moby-Dick sold poorly and netted Melville only $556.37. In the 1920s, however, the book’s reputation began to rise. Illustrated by American artist Rockwell Kent, this 1930 edition of Moby-Dick introduced whaling to thousands of Americans.