First American Edition of Moby Dick Heading to Auction
Swann Galleries will hold a diverse auction of 19th and 20th century literature on Thursday, June 19th. The top lot of the sale is a first American edition (1851) of Moby Dick in a first state binding, with an estimate at $18,000 - $25,000. The first American edition followed the first British edition by one month, containing 35 passages emitted from the British edition as well as an epilogue. This copy also has the extremely rare white endpapers, which are present on only a handful of known copies.
In 1851, Moby Dick was a near total failure, poorly received by critics and the general public, and launching a slow decline of Melville's previously promising literary career. It wasn't until the 1920s, some 30 years after Melville's death, that the book's modern reputation as an American classic began to assert itself.
Melville's American publisher, Harpers', suffered a fire in 1853 that destroyed the plates for Moby Dick as well as most of its backstock. The rarity of the first American edition was increased as a result.
Other highlights of Swann's auction include:
- A second impression of the first edition of Ulysses (1 of 2,000 copies) and a signed first edition of Finnegan's Wake.
- Signed first editions of Flannery O'Connor's two novels as well as her primary collection of stories.
- An unrestored first American edition of Winnie-the-Pooh (1 of 200 copies).
- A first edition signed of Down the Fairway by golf legend Bobby Jones (1 of 200 copies).
- A run of Rex Stout first editions in excellent condition.
The auction will take place on Thursday, June 19th at 1:30 P.M. (EST).
[Image courtesy of Swann Galleries]