First American edition of White-Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War by Herman Melville.
Octavo, vii, , 10-465pp. Finely bound in three-quarter navy blue morocco, blue cloth boards. Five raised bands with gilt embellishments, title in gilt on spine. Thin gilt trim to boards, top edge gilt. Marbled endpapers. Solid text block, light wear to hinges, faint foxing to edges, near fine. Previous ownership inscription in pencil on pages 9 and 241. A first issue, with the quote from “Good Sea Captain” preceding the author’s note, the author’s note dated “New York March, 1850,” signature “Q*” on page 36, and signature “T” not marked on page 433pp. (BAL 13662)
Herman Melville (1819-1891) wrote White-Jacket based on his experience as a seaman aboard the frigate USS United States from 1843 to 1844. It is considered Melville’s most political work, primarily due to his description of and commentary on flogging as punishment in the navy. The book joined an ongoing legal discussion of the practice, and Melville’s detailed narrative in Chapter 33 added to public outrage. The book was released in the United States in March of 1850, and by September 28th an Act was approved by Congress stating: “Provided, That flogging in the navy, and on board vessels of commerce, be, and the same is hereby, abolished from and after the passage of this act.” White-Jacket was published one year before Moby Dick, Melville’s novel that was initially a commercial failure, but is now considered a vital piece of American literature.