I don't know why it is, but I've seen more beautifully & cleverly designed Moby Dick covers than practically any other title out there. Maybe it's the love of Moby Dick (and it's here that I have to admit to the fact that while I've started Moby Dick many, many times, I have never finished it — it is my white whale of a sort)... or maybe it's the stark parameters with which designers convey the story through its cover.
I have some of these covers posted over on my Google+ page and my Pinterest page (along with other fabulously designed book covers).
First some historical context:
The Whale was first published by Richard Bentley on October 18, 1851 in Britain. It was published as Moby-Dick; or, The Whale in the US by Harper & Brothers of New York on November 14, 1851. Copies of these early publications still exist and list for upwards of $60K (USD).
The story is based partly on Melville's experiences at sea and partly on research. (He also credited Shakespeare and the Bible.) The character of Moby Dick was based on an actual white whale, named Mocha Dick.
It should be noted that this was an utter commercial failure and was out-of-print by the time of Melville's death in 1891.
Cover Design: Unknown
Publisher: Random House
Cover Design: Rockwell Kent
Illustrator: Rockwell Kent
First edition thus, lists for up to $825 unsigned and $1,325 signed by Rockwell Kent.
I adore Rockwell Kent's illustrations, and I'm noticing that a lot of the newer cover designs pull from his aesthetic.
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Cover Design: Spencer Charles
Listing for up to $58, unsigned over at Abebooks.com. (It doesn't state the printing.)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Cover Design: Coralie Bickford-Smith
This one is listing for up to $80 unsigned over on Abebooks.com. (It doesn't state the printing.)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Cover Design: Unknown
Listing for up to $29, unsigned on Abebooks.com
Cover Design: Umberto Scalabrini
This is probably my favorite design, but to my knowledge no one has actually used this for publication.
Publisher: Calla Editions
Cover Design: Raymond Bishop (assumed)
Illustrator: Raymond Bishop
Listing for up to $63 unsigned at Abebooks.com
A note on signed v. unsigned - for many of the newer publications, when I state that it is unsigned, I'm generally referring to the fact that many newer illustrators have a large enough following to warrant autographs and in some cases those signatures add to the value of the book.
Labels: book covers, collectibles, design, Herman Melville, Moby Dick