The anniversary came and went, and it even fell on a day we had lecture, and yet we failed to acknowledge the event: on November 14, 1851, the first single volume Moby-Dick, or the Whale was published in New York by Harper and Brothers (now HarperCollins).
Happy 160th birthday, Moby-Dick.
And with that, we leave the white whale (but does the white whale ever leave us?), destined for the pages of Billy Budd, Melville’s final and unfinished book, which remained unpublished until the author’s first biographer discovered the manuscript among Melville’s archives in 1919 and saw it through to publication five years later.
But I am reluctant to leave Moby-Dick behind. I love that book. Anyone who reads it should love it, if only because they read it, if only because they entered into it and made it through, exhausted, but alive and better for it.
So check out this compelling illustration by artist Tom Neely (http://www.iwilldestroyyounews.blogspot.com/), which depicts the novel’s conclusion and shows, upon close inspection, Ahab being dragged to his death, tethered to the monster he obsessed over by the rope of the very harpoon he created and cast into the beast. Queequeg is similarly shown about halfway down on the right hand side; other unique crew of the Pequod appear as well. Ishmael clings to Queequeg’s coffin at the top left of the image; behind him, and only just, the tip of the Rachel appears, destined to save him.
The image at the very top of this post is by Mark Weaver, and is available on his Flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/markweaver/page5/).