Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex, of Nantucket; Which was Attacked and Finally Destroyed by a Large Spermaceti-Whale.
W.B. Gilley, ( 1821), NY
First edition of what is probably the most important American whaling narrative. It is the text which inspired Melville’s “Moby Dick,” and on which Philbrick’s best-seller “In the Heart of the Sea” was based. On November 20, 1819, in the Pacific, the whale ship Essex was rammed in the fore-chains by a large sperm whale. While the crew watched aghast from their whaleboats the whale charged again. This time the ships bow was completely stove in and the ship went over on her beam ends. The crew saved what food and water they could and set out for South America in three boats. Of the twenty-one men who began the voyage, only eight survived. In all three boats the survivors resorted to cannibalism. In 1841 Herman Melville, who was then whaling on the Acushnet, gammed with Owen Chases son. The lad told him the story of the Essex, and gave Melville a copy of this edition of his father’s book. Melville later used the incident as the climax of his great novel. Hill notes that, The voyage of the two boats that were picked up off South America was twice as long as that of Bligh in the launch of the Bounty. He calls it An extremely rare book. Hill 281. Huntress p. 110-111. Forster 17. Jenkins p. 89. Sabin 12189. First edition, in original tan cloth over paper covered boards. Front inner hinge cracked, sewing loose but holding. Water stain on outer margin of first twenty pages. Scattered light foxing throughout. The image accompanying this description may not look like much to you, but this is the only copy I’ve ever seen, and probably the only copy to have come on the market in this generation, with its ORIGINAL BINDING COMPLETELY INTACT.. All copies that I know of are rebacked or rebound.