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AUCTION 17

VOYAGES & TRAVELS
WITH AN EMPHASIS ON CAPTAIN COOK

Lot 70

70. MELVILLE, Herman. Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas.... London: John Murray, 1847. xiii [1 blank], 321 [1] pp., text illustration (map opposite title page). 12mo, contemporary three-quarter brown polished calf over marbled boards, red gilt-lettered spine label, spine gilt-decorated, all edges marbled with matching marbled endpapers. Spine faded and rubbed, some abrasions to leather, light shelf wear, text block slightly cracked (pp. 224-225). Interior very good. With printed armorial book plate of Joan Emlyn on front pastedown and embossed blind-stamp of bookseller Kelly & Slater of Manchester.

     First edition, preceding the first American edition by almost one month; this copy conforms to BAL's state "A" (no priority known), with the signature mark "P" on p. 209 "Present and perfectly formed"; it does not, however, have the ads. BAL 13655.Forbes, Hawaiian National Bibliography 1661. Hill I, p. 196. Hill II:1137. O’Reilly-Reitman 7116.

     This is Melville's second novel, conveying his experiences after escaping the Marquesas in 1842, and typeset in England from proofs of the subsequent U.S. edition. A sequel to Typee, the work sent a shudder through some quarters, especially because of its unconventional criticisms of missionaries, a tact in keeping with Melville’s desire to describe native life after it had been altered by contact with the outside world. In Chapter 54 entitled “Some Account of the Wild Cattle in Polynesia,” Melville reviews the success or failure in various islands of the goats, sheep, and bullocks that Vancouver distributed on his voyages. He notes that in Hawaii the animals are now fairly numerous after the arrival about 1835 from California of a group of “Spanish” vaqueros. In certain instances his treatment of this subject is anthropomorphic. In his discussion of why sheep did not thrive, he remarks: “The pair left were an ill assorted couple, perhaps; separated in disgust and died without issue” (p. 209).

     The novel was widely influential and even persuaded Robert Louis Stevenson to visit the South Seas. The novel contains a few passing references to Captain Cook. ($500-1,000)

 

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