Melville's Marginalia Online is a virtual archive of books owned and borrowed by American author Herman Melville (1819-1891). Select "Policies" for our editorial guidelines, and "Browse Volumes" to view the site's new virtual format.

Newly Published



Special Section on "Melville's Hand" in Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies

Under the editorship of Samuel Otter and Brian Yothers and the auspices of the Johns Hopkins University Press and the Melville Society, Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies has featured a special section on "Melville's Hand" in its June 2015 issue (17.2). Focused on erased marginalia recovered at Melville's Marginalia Online, the special section features essays authored or co-written by Dawn Coleman, Dennis C. Marnon, Peter Norberg, Steven Olsen-Smith, and Joshua Preminger. Special thanks to Mr. William Reese, the New York Public Library, and Princeton University Library for the access and digital services that made these discoveries possible. Subscribe to Leviathan at the web site of the Johns Hopkins University Press.

Also at JHUP's web site, MMO General Editor Steven Olsen-Smith discusses the project's connection to Leviathan, Melville's reading and source use, and forthcoming technical upgrades in a podcast produced by Brian Shea, Public Relations and Advertising Coordinator for JHUP's journal division. The interview can be listened to online at the podcast page of the site, or downloaded to a local directory through the link here.

Online Catalog now linked to Harvard University Library and Princeton University Library Digital Repositories

The Online Catalog of Books and Documents Owned, Borrowed, and Consulted by Herman Melville now includes links to external digital copies of marked and annotated books in Harvard University Library's Page Delivery Service and in the Princeton University Digital Library. Digital copies currently available include Melville's copies of The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser (No. 483a) and The Poetical Works of John Milton (No. 358b). Library call numbers for these and other volumes (displayed in the location fields of the Online Catalog entries) will remain linked to the repositories until fully edited versions are published at Melville's Marginalia Online. For an inclusive listing, select "Return only entries with links to digital copies" in the Online Catalog's search interface.

Humanities Program Grant Awarded by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation

Melville's Marginalia Online has been awarded a grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. The grant will support search functionality and XML markup aimed at bringing the site into compliance with standards set by the Text Encoding Initiative. See the public announcement at this link for more details.

New Melville Association Copy: Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition

Melville's ownership of the multi-volume Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition (1845) is documented by the surviving entry "1 Wilkes U.S. Exploring Expedition 6 Vols Sheep" in the list of book purchases he made through his publishers Wiley and Putnam in 1847 (see Sealts No. 532 in the Online Catalog). An unprecedented undertaking by the United States Navy when the voyage was carried out from 1838 to 1842, the U. S. Exploring Expedition commanded by Charles Wilkes overlapped chronologically with Melville's own experiences as a sailor, deserter, and beach-comber in the South Seas. Scholars have demonstrated Melville's reliance on the Narrative for subject matter in Omoo (1847), Mardi (1849), and Moby-Dick (1851), yet none of the volumes owned by Melville had turned up by 1948, when Merton M. Sealts first published his "Check-List of Books Owned and Borrowed" by Melville, and the set has remained classified by Melville's Marginalia Online as "not known to survive".

Now brought to the attention of the project is an extant leather-bound set of the Narrative with the half-title inscription, "Thomas Melville from Herman Melville May 1860 Pittsfield" (Vol. 1), as illustrated here courtesy of the present owner, who wishes to remain anonymous. This set consists of Vols. 1 through 5 and lacks the supplementary atlas of maps that constitutes the work's 6th volume. The set does not appear to be marked or annotated, and it bears no obvious signs of prior ownership by Melville such as an earlier-dated autograph, though it is possible the one displayed here pre-dates the rest of the presentation inscription—Melville having adapted his original owner's inscription so as to sign the set over to his brother in a seamless fashion. Volumes 2-5 contain no marks of ownership.

Whether or not these turn out to be volumes Melville acquired in 1847 and consulted during the composition of his own writings, the presentation inscription offers new light on a significant episode of Melville's life. In late April or early May 1860, having recently given up on prospects of earning his living as a lecturer, Melville decided to join his brother aboard the merchant ship Meteor, a clipper ship captained by Thomas, on a voyage around the world projected to traverse seas navigated earlier by the Expedition (Parker, Herman Melville 2:416). Following years of declining health and financial duress on Melville's part, his gift hints of the anticipation both brothers felt about the upcoming voyage. It is an open question whether the set was meant to be brought along on the voyage or if Thomas left them at Melville's home in Pittsfield, or elsewhere. If the volumes were brought aboard the Meteor, they remained there after Herman disembarked at San Francisco, the ship having received orders from its owner to reroute for an unexceptional voyage back around Cape Horn to England. Melville returned home a solitary passenger via steamship and the Panama isthmus, feeling "not at all benefitted by the Voyage" (Leyda, Melville Log 2:628). The history of the set following Thomas's death in 1886 is unknown until recovery by its present owner, who purchased it some years ago at an antique store—neither buyer nor seller at the time having been aware of its association with Herman Melville.

Lost Melville Association Copy Recovered: The Sonnets of Europe

Unlocated for decades following the death of its former owner, Herman Melville's marked copy of Samuel Waddington's The Sonnets of Europe (Sealts No. 539) has been tracked down and recovered by Dennis C. Marnon, Administrative Officer of Houghton Library and Bibliographical Editor at Melville's Marginalia Online. The discovery is described by Marnon at the Houghton Library Blog.

Source Study on Melville and the Bible Published

Jonathan A. Cook's Inscrutable Malice: Theodicy, Eschatology, and the Biblical Sources of Moby-Dick is newly published by Northern Illinois University Press and described at the author's web site.

New Melville Association Copy: English Synonymes Explained

Houghton Library has acquired Herman Melville's autographed copy of George Crabb's English Synonymes Explained (Sealts No. 162.1 in the "Online Catalog"). Undocumented before it emerged for sale in fall 2012, the copy was among volumes sold by Elizabeth Melville to the Brooklyn book dealer A. F. Farnell, whose shop label is displayed on the volume's rear pastedown. The copy is signed, "H[. ]Melville New York. 1848," and is one of only 9 acquisitions known to survive that date to the first 3 years of Melville's professional career as an author (from 1846 to 1848, compared to twice that many titles known to survive from 1849 alone). Marginalia in the copy verify Melville's use of Crabb's book, which was likely acquired by him as a ready reference source and aid to composition. The recovery of Melville's personal copy makes George Crabb's English Synonymes Explained an obligatory resource for the study of Melville's language and diction.

Melville's Marginalia Online has gone Virtual

Melville's Marginalia Online is now a digital photographic archive thanks to the generosity and cooperation of multiple institutions, collectors, and organizations—including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities, the Berkshire Athenaeum, Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center, Villanova University's Digital Library, the New York Society Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mr. William Reese, of the William Reese Company. Sign up on Facebook and Twitter to receive updates about newly published digital editions and technical upgrades, including enhanced navigation features and the project's forthcoming search tool.

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