MACY, Obed (1762-1844). The History of Nantucket; being a Compendious Account of the First Settlement of the Island by the English, together with the Rise and Progress of the Whale Fishery. Boston: Hilliard, Gray and Co., 1835.

"Melville's copy of the primary history of Nantucket, a work he quotes repeatedly in Moby-Dick ... it was evidently presented to him when he visited the island for the first time in July, 1852, in company with his father-in-law, Judge Lemuel Shaw" (Reese). It is inscribed on the title-page, presumably by Thomas Macy: "Herman Melville from his friend Thos. Macy / 7 1/m 1852," i.e. the 7th of January, 1852 (a Quaker convention of dating). The volume is annotated with several pencil emphasis marks and a few words. There is also a period newspaper clipping pasted to the lower inside cover giving an analysis of shipping fatalities for the year 1850. Melville probably used this book in working on his aborted novel about life on Nantucket (ibid). Melville's penciled markings in the text occur in six places: (1) At pages 46-47 he brackets a table showing the numbers of Indians who died of an epidemic in 1764; calculates the number of survivors; writes in the number and the word "left" in the margin; (2) On page 64 a check appears in the margin opposite an account of a small-pox infection; (3) On page 120, opposite a table of Nantucket's population in 1784, two checks have been made alongside the tally for "widows ... 202"; (4) In the last chapter, Macy prints several "specimens of our island poesy," one example being "A Looking-Glass for the Times by Peter Folger"; opposite page 287, Melville has noted in a penciled footnote that Folger was "the maternal grandfather of Benjamin Franklin"; (5) At the top of the first page of the terminal publishers' catalogue, Melville has made a check mark of no apparent significance.

Thomas Macy was one of Obed Macy's sons and had procured other valuable source books for Melville on the history of Nantucket via Lemuel Shaw and/or T.G. Coffin. The scholar Merton Sealts speculated that Thomas Macy gave this volume to Melville in exchange for a copy of Moby-Dick (p. 69). Sealts 345.

Octavo. Frontispiece map of Nantucket by William Coffin; lithographed plate of a sperm whale. 8 pp publishers' advertisements at end. (Few minor foxmarks, including to plates.) Original cloth (very neatly rebacked with original spine laid down). Custom quarter morocco box. Provenance: Herman Melville (inscription recording a gift from the author's son, dated 1852) – Anna Scott Chambliss of Nantucket (bookplate covering an earlier bookplate) – Christie's New York, 19 December 1986, lot 133 (sold to William Reese, according to his catalogue, this volume was the first item in his Melville collection).

Exhibited: "A Herman Melville Collection ... on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his death, from the collection of William S. Reese," Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, 1991, no. 16.
Sale Room Notice
The inscription on the title-page is not in the hand of or signed by Herman Melville.
Brought to you by

Related Articles

Sorry, we are unable to display this content. Please check your connection.

More from
The Herman Melville Collection of William S. Reese
Place your bid Condition report

A Christie's specialist may contact you to discuss this lot or to notify you if the condition changes prior to the sale.

I confirm that I have read this Important Notice regarding Condition Reports and agree to its terms. View Condition Report