Tuesday, February 1, 2011

1962, The Macmillan Company Edition, Moby-Dick

Robert Shore is an american illustrator, studied at the Art Students League, and instructed at Cooper Union, whom has illustrated Heart of Darkness, Benito Cereno as well as this edition of Moby-Dick.

This edition is ExLib from the Metropolitan Dade County

The image of Ahab is haunting as he is holding a harpoon and wearing a bowler, yet the peg leg is so pronounced.

As I am posting, so many interesting facts and future posts come to mind. For instance: Right or Left leg? The majority of the posts of Ahab, so far, show him to have his peg leg on his right leg. I have no time today to refer to the text to see if Melville says right or left? Perhaps someone can comment? Thanks...


  1. I went ahead and checked on Chapter XVIII: Ahab, and in the description, Melville doesn't call attention to which leg, simply that he has a peg leg:

    "So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me, and the livid brand which streaked it, that for the first few moments I hardly noted that not a little of his over-bearing grimness was owing to the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood. It had previously come to me that this ivory leg had at sea been fashioned from the polished bone of the sperm whale's jaw. "Aye, he was dismasted off Japan," said the old Gay-Head Indian once; "but like his dismasted craft, he shipped another mast without coming home for it. He has a quiver of 'em."

    I obviously haven't perused the rest of the text for this, but I figured that if Melville decided it important to state which leg he had lost, it would be here. That said, this particular illustration of him is haunting and marvelous. Are the rest of Shore's illustrations for this edition comparable to this in terms of medium and tone?

  2. Thank you James! Firstly, all of Shore's illustrations are black and white, with the exception of the cover image. Printing technology being what it was in the 60's, I am assuming that the inside illustrations were in fact excuted in black and white. They covey a great deal of action and are marvelous. It looks to me that they were painted dark to light, and maybe are gouache.
    None the less, the issue with which leg was lost to the beast is interesting. The novel, being so filled with allegory, its a wonder that this fact is missing?! I agree that if Melville felt it was important he would have stated, and judging from the illustrations, not one of the illustrators found a reference by which to go on, since we have both right and left peg legged Ahabs! Cheers! and thanks for commenting... Bill

  3. I can vouch for the fact that nowhere in the book does it say which leg was lost. And even in the various movie and TV versions, it varies. In the 1956 film version with Gregory Peck as Ahab, it's the left leg that's missing, as it is in the Rockwell Kent illustrations. In the 1997 miniseries starring Patrick Stewart as Ahab, it's the right leg that's missing, as it will be in the upcoming miniseries starring William Hurt as Ahab.

    Although I'm not someone who has been asked to illustrate the book, I am an artist who draws and paints whales and dolphins, and I recently did my first painting of Moby Dick, the whale. It was seeing the 1956 film version on TV back in the 60s that ignited my life-long passion for whales and resulted in my becoming a whale artist. I also had a particular interest in sperm whales because of that , and I've devoted a lot of time to the study of sperm whale anatomy and behavior, so I feature sperm whales a lot in my art, and I've had scientists who study sperm whales tell me that my sperm whale art is the best/most accurate that they have ever seen.

    The reason I'm telling you all of this is to show how hard I work to get every detail right. To prepare for doing my recent painting of Moby Dick, I reread the entire novel and jotted down every single reference that in any way gave any small detail on exactly what the so-called "White Whale" looks like. I say so-called, because Melville does say that Moby is not entirely white (he's not an albino); only his head and the hump on the back are mostly white, the rest of him is streaked and spotted with white, so basically he looks like white marble. Far to many book illustrations have depicted him as being pure white, and very rarely have they even attempted to show his crooked jaw or wrinkled brow. None of the movie versions have done a crooked jaw, either. I know of only one other artist besides myself who has ever shown Moby with a crooked jaw, and he did not illustrate the book, either.

    I would love to have the chance to look through your collection and see all of the different illustrations that have been done for the novel, especially the ones done in other countries, as I am fairly familiar with all of the American editions, but have seen very few foreign ones. I've also seen a lot of art that was not done for any book illustration, but rather was inspired by the book, and I'd be happy to share some of it with you, if you're interested.

  4. dolphinguy Thanks for the detailed comment. Interestingly, I reread the very description of Moby Dick that you reference a couple of weeks ago and realized that the "so called white whale" was not white at all, and was thinking about a post in that vein, so thank you for pointing that out. Also, few of my foreign books are illustrated, I have an eye out for them, and am aquiring as the pop up.

  5. Thank you for the reply. I had no idea that you're also an artist; guess I should have looked at your profile before I wrote to you. It explains why you're so interested in the illustrations. Rockwell Kent's illustrations are still my favorites, as they really seem to illuminate the mystical and mythical aspects of the book.

    Have you seen the book "Unpainted to the Last: Moby-Dick and Twentieth Century American Art" by Elizabeth A. Schultz? It's an extensive study of both the illustrations for the book as well as interpretations of artists who have been inspired by the book. I found it several years ago in the local university library, but I don't own a copy. You can find it on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Unpainted-Last-Moby-Dick-Twentieth-Century-American/dp/07006074 . There's also a brand new book out on sperm whales by Richard Ellis; he's the guy who painted the Moby Dick mural for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and he has written and illustrated several books on whales and whaling and ocean life. His new book has an entire chapter devoted to Melville and the writing of Moby Dick, with a brief history on why and how it finally became popular in the 1920s.

    BTW, my name is Rick Pearson, and in case you're interested in seeing some of my art, including my new painting of Moby Dick, then please go to http://sitekreator.com/Leviathan/main_page.html . As you will see there, I've done several drawings of Moby Dick in the past, just never a painting until last month.

  6. I had actually written a longer reply, but the Blog ruling said it was too long, so here's the rest of my comment.

    My new painting was inspired by the following passage in The Chase-Third Day:

    "Suddenly the waters around them slowly swelled in broad circles; then quickly upheaved, as if sideways sliding from a submerged berg of ice, swiftly rising to the surface. A low rumbling sound was heard; a subterraneous hum; and then all held their breaths; as bedraggled with trailing ropes, and harpoons, and lances, a vast form shot lengthwise, but obliquely from the sea. Shrouded in a thin drooping veil of mist, it hovered for a moment in the rainbowed air; and then fell swamping back into the deep."

    I also think that you'll appreciate something I found out while doing research for the painting. One thing I didn't realize until I started doing research for this painting, is that the wooden pole that the harpoon head is mounted on is supposed to break away/pop out of the iron head/shank, as the weight of the whale pulls on the iron and line. Also, the iron head and shank are made of a fairly soft iron and are supposed to bend as a result of that weight and pulling, thus resulting in all the harpoons being bent and twisted like corkscrews, as asked by Queequeg and answered by Ahab, in the Quarterdeck scene. Ishmael/Melville doesn't say anything about the pole breaking away, and although I have read numerous books on old-time Yankee whaling, most of them don't mention it, either. It was by pure happenstance that I saw something about this on-line just a couple of months ago. I subsequently went to my local library and checked out several books on whaling, some of which I had read before, to see what they had to say. The 2 books which I had previously read on the more recent hand harpoon whaling in the Azores both mention this, but I hadn't really noticed it before. One of those books also said that the pole has a loop attached to the end so when it comes out it is still attached to the whale line and after the kill the pole is recovered and used again. Although the pole doesn't always come out of the socket, so Moby might have one or two harpoons with the pole still sticking up, but most of them will not be, but rather will be tied to the line close to the iron harpoon shank. Now Melville does mention a shattered lance pole sticking out of Moby's back, because the sea birds keep flying down and perching on it as Moby swims along the surface; which makes sense, as the killing lance is supposed to be used over and over again, and is not normally left stuck in the whale, so the pole is not supposed to separate from the lance head/shank. So I included those details in my new painting as I painted in the harpoons and whale lines. So that's why the "harpoons lie all twisted and wrenched in him"; they're supposed to be that way.