Happy 160th ‘Moby Dick’: Gallery of Vintage Book Covers

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Considered one of the greatest American novels ever written, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick was first published 160 years ago today. Artist Bill Pettit has been collecting various editions of the famous novel for about 30 years and boasts nearly 200 volumes in his personal collection. His obsession with the tale about a vengeful captain chasing an enigmatic white whale started in the 1980s. Pettit explained why he’s always been so drawn to the story during a recent interview. “It’s a capture of an entire industry that no longer exists. There’s description of places that people haven’t seen and have never been and places that have been destroyed by civilization,” he shared. “And then there are places that people can go to, like Nantucket and New Bedford, and you can see the places that Melville referenced and get that kind of broad worldwide focus. There are not a lot of novels where that happens.” Browsing Pettit’s collection of covers is a fascinating flip through 100 years of bookmaking. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite Moby-Dick covers past the break.

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1958 Hungarian Language Edition Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1970 Icelandic Language Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1969 Collier Paperback Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, Books Inc. NY, Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1930 Random House Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1962 The Macmillan Company Edition Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1931 Saalfield Every Child’s Library Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1956 Riverside Edition Paperback Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, 1956 L. W. Singer Company Moby-Dick

Photo credit: Bill Pettit, His personal 1964 highschool edition Moby-Dick