Moby-Dick was published in England on October 18, 1851 (its United States publication fell almost one month later, on November 14). And in the one and a half centuries since, it has inspired countless new creations by painters, playwrights, musicians, writers, and even tattoo artists. In honor of the White Whale’s birthday, I have decided—like Herman Melville’s own sub-sub-librarian—to share “a glancing bird’s-eye view of what has been promiscuously said, thought, fancied, and sung of Leviathan” since Moby-Dick’s first appearance in 1851.
Two favorite illustrated editions of Moby-Dick are held in NYPL’s Rare Book Division. Arion Press’s 1979 edition, bound in blue morocco, is printed on paper that, when seen on edge, is a reminder of pale blue roiling seas.