[Melville's first fiction - fine] New York: Harper & Brothers, 1849. 8 pp Vol II undated ads. Original blind-stamped green-grey cloth.
First American Edition of Melville's first novel, an allegorical romance that was preceded only by the nonfictional TYPEE (1846) and OMOO (1847). As Melville indicates in his Preface, "... having published two narratives of voyages in the Pacific, ... the thought occurred to me, of indeed writing a romance of Polynesian adventure...". Much of the tale (the voyage thither) takes place on whaling vessels, anticipating the publication of MOBY DICK two years later. Although MARDI was advertised as "will be immediately issued, being published simultaneously by Messrs. Harper in this city, and Bentley in London", it is generally agreed that Bentley's three-decker came out about three weeks earlier.
This set is in green-grey fine-grained "TR" (wavy-line) cloth; other copies appear (no precedence) in two other grains of cloth, in blue-green, purple, brown or green. This set does have the Vol II ad catalogue present only in some copies (no ads are ever called for in Vol I); this set also does have the very subtle blind-stamped rule across the extreme head of the spines (no precedence is known -- actually we wonder if there really are two states, with and without, because the rule's appearance is so faint).
The volumes are in remarkably fine, tight condition (a couple of small faint splash-marks on one cover); there is scarcely any foxing (usually it is considerable), there is virtually no wear, and the spine gilt is bright and distinct against unusually green (un-browned) spines. Melville first editions seldom turn up in this condition any more. Preserved in a felt-lined clamshell case with leather label. Blanck 13658. Provenance: early signatures of J.N. Wooldridge [?], plus Vol I bookplate of the bibliophile, bookseller and auctioneer Arthur Swann (1875-1959). Item #14861