ADLER, George J. (1821-1868). Letters of a Lunatic, or a Brief Exposition of My University Life. [New York?:] for the author, 1854

The inspiration for Bartleby the Scrivener—first and only edition of his account of his own madness. Herman Melville met George J. Adler, a linguist specializing in the German language at New York University, on a transatlantic voyage in 1849. Melville wrote that Adler was "an exceedingly amiable man and a fine scholar," who was also "author of a formidable lexicon (German and English); in compiling which he almost ruined his health. He was almost crazy, he tells me, for a time." Not long afterwards, Adler began work on a Latin dictionary project which purportedly drove him insane, and he was admitted to Bloomingdale Asylum in 1853; Melville would later attend his funeral. This self-published tract is an account of his experience of mental illness. Although Melville drew on a host of influences for his iconic short story, some scholars have suggested Adler as a model for the eponymous main character. Not in Sabin.

Octavo (224 x 148mm). 31 pp. (faint dampstain to upper margin). Original blue printed wrappers (a little dustsoiled and chipped, with covers tearing lower spine). Provenance: "W.W." (signature on rear wrapper).
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