A Few Observations on the Natural History of the Sperm Whale,

BEALE Thomas (1835.)

£5500.00  [First Edition]

A FOUNDATION DOCUMENT FOR MELVILLE

First edition. 5 woodcut illustrations to text. 8vo. Original printed terracotta wrappers, pale dampstaining to rear wrapper, spine and lower right corner chipped. [vii], 8-56, [2 subscribers]pp. London, Effingham Wilson,

"English surgeon and naturalist, Beale went on a whaling voyage to the Pacific in 1831-32, first aboard the Kent, and then in the Sarah and Elizabeth. In 1835 he published a scientific account of the sperm whale, and in 1839, at the request of his publisher, expanded the volume to include details of his voyage and produce what is now regarded as a whaling classic" (Howgego). The voyage took him past Tierra del Fuego into the Pacific where he stopped at Tahiti, Hawaii (twice), the Ladrones, New Guinea, and the Caroline Islands.

 

In the preface, Beale remarks that "the substance of the following pages is clearly extracted from a log book, in which, for the sole purpose of amusing myself, I noted, daily, the most interesting objects presented to my notice during the course of the voyage." There are references to New Zealand, New South Wales, the Galapagos, and elsewhere. The rear section includes a digest of the parts of the Pacific and America where the greatest number of whales could be found.

 

Unsurprisingly, this was an immensely important work for Melville, whose heavily annotated copy survives at the Houghton library (Harvard). Beale's pamphlet "contains the closest evidence available to the lost manuscript of Moby-Dick ... " and whose significance "to the composition of Moby-Dick surpasses that of any other source book from which Melville is known to have drawn" (Olsen-Smith).

 

Ferguson, 1889; Forbes, 1137n; Howgego II, B20; Sabin, 4108; Spence, 104; Olsen Smith, S., "Introduction to Melville's Marginalia in Thomas Beale's The Natural History of the Sperm Whale" at http://melvillesmarginalia.org/ ... accessed 9 June 2021.

Stock Code: 243513

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