MELVILLE FAMILY – KEARSLEY, George (1758-1791) and Catharine Kearsley (1741-1809). Kearsleys Strangers Guide, or Companion Through London and Westminster, and the Country Round. London: C. and G. Kearsley [n.d].

The Melville family copy of this guide to London, signed first by his father Allan, and then by Herman. A wonderful artifact that calls to mind a chapter in Redburn, where the protagonist finds that his father's guidebook to Liverpool is quite out of date. In part:

"In short, when I considered that my own father had used this very guide-book, and that thereby it had been thoroughly tested, and its fidelity proved beyond a peradventure; I could not but think that I was building myself up in an unerring knowledge of Liverpool; especially as I had familiarized myself with the map, and could turn sharp corners on it, with marvelous confidence and celerity. [...] I began to think I had been born in Liverpool, so familiar seemed all the features of the map. And though some of the streets there depicted were thickly involved, endlessly angular and crooked, like the map of Boston, in Massachusetts, yet, I made no doubt, that I could march through them in the darkest night, and even run for the most distant dock upon a pressing emergency.

Dear delusion!

It never occurred to my boyish thoughts, that though a guide-book, fifty years old, might have done good service in its day, yet it would prove but a miserable cicerone to a modern. I little imagined that the Liverpool my father saw, was another Liverpool from that to which I, his son Wellingborough was sailing. No; these things never obtruded; so accustomed had I been to associate my old morocco guide-book with the town it described, that the bare thought of there being any discrepancy, never entered my mind."

Provenance: signed first "Allan Melvill, Paris on December 15, 1807, presented by my friend Cargill," and then directly below, "Herman Melville, New York, July 6, 1850." Herman has further corrected his father's inscription to read "his" friend Cargill. Sealts 304a.

Twelvemo (186 x 110mm). Two folding maps of London and environs. Uncut. Original boards (spine perished, front board detached). Custom chemise and slipcase. Provenance: L.I. Rosenbaum (ownership inscription inside front cover) – Sotheby’s, 2 December 1987, lot 137.

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. 11.
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