Melville Electronic Library

A Critical Archive

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Books

Melville published nine book-length volumes of prose, including his travel narrative Typee and tragic masterpiece Moby-Dick, a volume of short stories, and four volumes of poetry, including the two-volume Clarel. He also published numerous works in magazines, from his youthful “Fragments from a Writing Desk,” several reviews, and uncollected stories and sketches, appearing in various periodicals.

Because no International copyright law existed until after his death, a writer’s published works on one side of the Atlantic were subject to piracies on the other, unless the writer could secure copyrights in both the US and Britain at roughly the same time.  Like other writers, Melville made such arrangements to protect his royalties.  His books were distributed through major publishers on both sides of the Atlantic: among them were Wiley, Harper, and Putnam in the US; Murray and Bentley in Britain. In the process, books such as Typee and Moby-Dick were heavily altered in one transatlantic edition or the other, either by editors or Melville himself. In addition, Melville altered the texts of his books even late in life.

Illustrated editions of his works emerged slowly at first in the 1890s and then rapidly in the twentieth century, especially with Typee and Moby-Dick.  Abridged and translated editions as well as children’s versions have proliferated into the twenty-first century.  A collection consisting of single instances of each edition and printing of all Melville works would fill a roomful of shelving.

Moby Dick book spine Books Collected In the Works
  • Typee (British and American editions, the American Revised Edition (1846), and the 1892 edition
  • Billy Budd (20th-century posthumous editions: Weaver, Freeman, Hayford & Sealts.)