Harrison Hayford, Hershel Parker, and G. Thomas Tanselle (eds), The Writings of Herman Melville: The Northwestern-Newberry Edition, Vol. 5: White-Jacket: or The World in a Man-of-War

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pg 441Note on the Text

This edition of White-Jacket presents an unmodernized critical text, reconstructed according to the theory of copy-text formulated by Sir Walter Greg.1 Central to that theory is the distinction between substantive variants (those which affect meaning, such as verbal changes) and accidental variants (those which affect form, such as changes in punctuation and spelling).2 When an author makes substantive revisions in printed forms of his work, he is not always equally concerned with accidentals. The fact that he does not alter certain accidentals which were not his own but were changes made by the copyist, publisher, or compositor does not amount to an endorsement of those accidentals. Since the aim of a critical edition is to establish a text which represents as nearly as possible the author's intentions, it follows that the formal texture of his work will pg 442be most accurately reproduced by adopting as copy-text3 either the fair-copy manuscript or the first printing based on it. The printed form is chosen if the manuscript does not exist or if the author worked in such a way that corrected proof became in effect the final form of the manuscript. This basic text may then be emended with any later authorial alterations (whether substantive or accidental) and with other obvious corrections. Following this procedure maximizes the probability of keeping authorial readings when evidence is inconclusive as to the source of an alteration in a later authorized edition. The resulting text is critical in that it does not correspond exactly to any single authorized edition, but it is closer to the author's intentions—insofar as they are recoverable—than any such edition.

As the preceding Historical Note has shown, the first English edition of White-Jacket, though it was published earlier than the first American, was (except for a few added passages) set from the American proof sheets. The American edition was the one set directly from the manuscript Melville supplied, and, lacking that manuscript, the first impression of the American edition becomes the copy-text for the present edition.4 Any impressions or editions published during Melville's lifetime are a potential source for emendations in this copy-text, since theoretically it would have been possible for Melville to make corrections or changes in them.5 The two authorized editions—those of Harper & Brothers in the United States and Richard Bentley in England—have been fully collated in the following pattern:

  1. 1. American against English Edition

    1. a. One complete sight collation6 of the first American impression (1850) against the first issue of the English impression (1850)

    2. pg 443b. One substantive sight collation of the first American impression (1850) against the first issue of the English impression (1850)

    3. c. Two complete sight collations of the first American impression (1850) against the second issue of the English impression (1853)

  2. 2. Impressions of the American Edition

    • Two machine collations of the first impression of this edition (1850) against the last (n.d. [c. 1867])

  3. 3. Issues of the English Edition

    • Two machine collations of the first issue of this edition (1850) against the last (1853)7

The text was thus collated for record eight times.8 In addition, routine procedures in the process of compiling, checking, and preparing the information for publication have resulted in a larger total number of collations.9

pg 444Analysis of the variants (in both substantives and accidentals) disclosed by these collations has resulted in the adoption of 56 emendations in the copy-text; and 39 other emendations, not taken from English variants, have been made by the present editors. In order to make clear the evidence and rationale on which these decisions rest, an account of the textual history of the work is given below, followed by a discussion of the treatment in this text of substantives and accidentals, and an explanation of the editorial apparatus through which the evidence is presented.


No manuscript of White-Jacket survives (except for a revised fair copy of the Preface—see pp. 489–99), and the closest text to the missing manuscript is not the one published first. Although the English edition was published on January 23, 1850, about two months earlier than the American, it was set (except for a few passages) from proofs of the American edition which Melville took to England with him in October of 1849. What is technically the second edition of the book (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1850), therefore, is the one set directly from Melville's manuscript (whether holograph or scribal is not known). Copies of this American edition dated 1850 on the title page exist in at least two impressions, which can be distinguished in several ways: (1) in one, the quotation from Fuller is on the recto of the leaf following the title leaf, with the Note on the verso, while in the other these positions are reversed (gathering A); (2) in one, gathering U has twelve leaves (including seven leaves of advertisements), while in the other it has eight (including three of advertisements); (3) in one, the first leaf of gathering Q is incorrectly signed "Q*" and the first leaf of T is not signed at all, while in the other these errors are corrected; (4) in one, there are an asterisk and a period in the footnote at 224.22–2310 (sheet L), a hyphen in "cigar-holder" at 187.35 (sheet K), a period after "her" at 291.7 (sheet P), and a hyphen after "man" in "man-of-war" at 308.5 (sheet P), while in the other these marks of punctuation are absent; (5) in one, no plate damage occurs, for example along the right margins at A239.13–23, A267.23–35, and A452.23–24, and the page numbers 268 and 269 are undamaged, while in the other there is damage at these points. In each case, the readings mentioned second are pg 445the later ones because they persist throughout later printings.11 The fact that most of the readings listed first usually occur together in the same copies (and most of those listed second usually occur together in other copies), combined with the fact that two of these differences (the changes in gatherings A and U) required reimposition, suggests that there were two impressions of White-Jacket in 1850.

Copies exist, however, in which the sheets of the two impressions are mixed; thus in a given copy the presence of the earlier impression of one sheet does not necessarily imply that the copy is of the earlier impression throughout. The copy-text for a critical edition therefore should theoretically be defined as the 1850 Harper printing in which the quotation from Fuller precedes the prefatory Note, gathering U has twelve leaves, Q1 is missigned and T1 unsigned, and the plates are undamaged at a number of points (as listed above). But since there are no textual differences between the two impressions except the changed order of two pages in sheet A and the missing punctuation in sheets K, L, and P, for practical purposes a copy with mixed sheets, but containing the first impression of sheets A, K, L, and P, can serve—as in the present edition—to provide the copy-text.12

The Harper edition was printed four more times from these plates between 1850 and 1868 with no deliberate changes; since all of the slight variations resulted from plate damage, none has any textual authority.13

pg 446The English edition, unlike the American, was printed only once but was issued at two different times, three years apart. The first issue (2 vols.; London: Richard Bentley, 1850) exists in various states, distinguishable by the relative positions or inking of certain pieces of type in at least nine places. Since the book was printed from type rather than from plates, the shifting (or failure to print) of individual pieces of type does not furnish evidence of an irreversible progression. For example, the absence of the "9" in the page number "319" in the first volume and the absence of a comma after "men" at 94.28 are probably instances of later states (especially since states also exist in which the "9" and the comma print but are out of place), as are the absence of the "t" in "the" at xiv. 14 and the absence of "P" in "President" at 294.38, though it is possible that the states in which these types print properly are later. The other variations, usually matters of spacing or inking (such as the inking along the left margin of E11 in the first volume or the inked quadrat preceding "garden" at E1.284.21), do not occur at points where they create substantive differences. In 1853 Bentley issued the remaining sheets of his edition in one-volume form with new title pages (dated 1853); some of the variations present in copies with 1850 title pages (such as the variations in the position of "73" in the page number "173" in the first volume, or the differences in inking of the "s" in "insult" at E1.50.28) also occur in the same states in copies with the 1853 title pages. In addition, a few other variations turn up, not so far discovered in 1850 copies—such as the presence of the second "3" in the page number "33" in the second volume. None of these differences between copies of the English edition—except possibly this adjusting of page numbers—gives any evidence of editorial intervention during the course of printing.

The text of the English edition differs substantively from the American edition at 181 points (there are scores of other changes in spelling and pg 447punctuation). Some of these English variants are obviously the result of careless typesetting and proofreading,14 but seven are corrections of obvious substantive errors in the American edition.15 Most of the variant readings, however, are neither obvious errors nor corrections of obvious errors. Of these, many are routine compositorial substitutions and casual Anglicizations; others are Melville's own revisions and additions, the most important of which are the insertions of seven passages: six sentences of some 100 words (at 28.22; 191.13–14; 381.31–32; 381.35–40) and six paragraphs totaling 615 words (at 27.26–32; 114.14–22; 285.20–286.16).16

The only other edition of White-Jacket which appeared during Melville's lifetime17 was the greatly condensed version of the American edition pg 448included in Henry Howe's Life and Death on the Ocean: A Collection of Extraordinary Adventures in the Form of Personal Narratives (Cincinnati: Henry Howe, 1855). The kinds of changes it introduces cannot be attributed to Melville, and it is of no textual importance.18

The first edition to appear after Melville's death was published in New York in 1892 by the United States Book Company. Although no editor's name appeared on the volume, it was part of a series of new editions of Melville supervised by Arthur Stedman. In his introduction to Typee, Stedman pointed out that he had some written instructions about that book from Melville himself; and a document in Mrs. Melville's hand, presumably recording directives such as those Stedman was referring to, is presently among Stedman's papers in the Columbia University Library.19 Although there is no hint of any such instructions in the case of White-Jacket, the fact that Stedman had direct contact with the Melville family makes his edition worth examining in more detail than a posthumous edition would normally require. However, although collations of the Stedman text against the first American impression20 reveal many changes, both in substantives and in pg 449accidentals, there is nothing about any of these alterations to suggest that Stedman was following instructions from Melville.

The chief significance of Stedman's United States Book Company edition is that its plates have been used by a long succession of publishers, and perhaps more people have read White-Jacket in this edition than in any other. Impressions bearing the imprints of Tait, Sons & Co., Dana Estes & Co., Putnam, A. L. Burt, D. D. Nickerson, L. C. Page, the St. Botolph Society, and Jonathan Cape all utilize these plates. Since this edition of 1892, White-Jacket has been set in type at least six times,21 and some of these editions have been reprinted or issued by more than one publisher—for example, the John Lehmann (Chiltern Library) edition (1952) was issued in the United States by the Grove Press. This edition follows the Harper text, as do the World's Classics (1924) and Pickwick (1928) editions. The Constable edition of White-Jacket (1922)—in the collected Works—is significant because it is part of the only complete set of Melville's work that has been available to scholars in the past and is therefore often cited as standard. Its text generally follows the Harper edition but incorporates many new changes (mainly in spelling and punctuation).22

pg 450The fact that there were substantial differences between the original American and English editions has not been generally recognized, although a few bibliographical publications—such as Michael Sadleir's bibliography in Volume XII (1923) of the Constable edition, Jacob Schwartz's 1100 Obscure Points (1931), and Carroll A. Wilson's Thirteen Author Collections (1950)—contained casual allusions to the matter. In 1965 the results of initial collations of White-Jacket for the present edition, revealing that Melville had added long passages in the English edition, were announced at a meeting of the Melville Society in Chicago; in 1966 and 1967 two new editions of White-Jacket appeared which gave some attention to textual matters. The first was edited by A. R. Humphreys for the Oxford University Press's series of Classic American Texts. Humphreys' work (see his Note on the Text, p. xxvii) was based on the erroneous assumption that the English text represents an earlier stage than the American: "This edition is based on the London text of February 1850 as corrected by the New York text of March, which was set up from it but shows a good many alterations. Many of these are clearly authoritative; others have consequently been accepted here even when it is not clear why they were made, provided they are not evident or probable errors in transmission." The result is that the accidentals of his edition generally follow the English text ("the London one has been taken as the primary authority in this respect"), but the substantives often follow the American. He appends a list of Variant Readings (pp. 428–33), recording 121 of the substantive variants between the Harper and Bentley texts (with an additional 13 entries for Constable variants); this list includes the long passages not present in the Harper text, and it shows that Humphreys in 76 instances chose the Harper reading over the Bentley and four times preferred the Constable to either. The other edition was prepared by Hennig Cohen for Holt, Rinehart & Winston's series of Rinehart Editions. In A Note on this Edition (p. vii), Cohen, confirming the 1965 North-western-Newberry discoveries, stated that Melville made alterations in the pg 451Harper proof sheets while on the ship bound for England and that these revised proof sheets became the printer's copy for the Bentley edition; the Rinehart edition therefore follows the Harper text as its copy-text. It does not, however, incorporate any emendations but instead records about a third of the variant readings from the Bentley edition, inserted into the text in square brackets. Neither of these editions establishes a definitive text, since neither is based on a study of all the relevant evidence, such as a complete list of variants between the Harper and Bentley editions.


The textual history of White-Jacket varies slightly from the pattern set by Melville's three preceding books. As in the case of Omoo, Mardi, and Redburn, proofs (somewhat corrected) of the American edition became printer's copy for the English edition. But in those three books there are only a few differences in wording between the American and English texts, while in White-Jacket there are many. Melville had much more time to make revisions, and his English publisher, Bentley, after his experience with Mardi probably saw more reason to impose modifications.

Melville had the time because he did not hurry the American proof sheets of White-Jacket off to England as he had those of the earlier three books but instead took them to London himself. Before he sailed on October 11, 1849, he had evidently made routine corrections in the proofs for the American edition of White-Jacket, for according to Evert Duyckinck he was "hard at work with proof of the new book"23 (as distinguished from Redburn) on September 5. A month later, on October 6, Melville wrote to Lemuel Shaw, "The other book [White-Jacket] I have now in plate-proofs, all ready to go into my trunk."24 Although the journal which Melville kept on the voyage contains no allusions to the proofs of the book, it was probably inevitable that during three and a half weeks on shipboard he would read them over and make some changes. After his arrival in England, another six weeks elapsed before he furnished Bentley with printer's copy. On December 18 he entered in his journal, "Spent an hour or so looking pg 452over 'White Jacket' preparatory to sending it finally to Bentley."25 He was free to make any revisions or additions he wanted to, since the whole book was to be reset for the English edition.

Melville returned to New York on February 1, 1850, roughly a month and a half before the American publication of the book and possibly in time to make more revisions—either to incorporate some of the revised English readings into the American edition or to revise and correct the American edition still further.26 The fact that the American edition has a different prefatory note dated March, 1850, might seem to support this view, as might the fact that the Harper records show a charge, along with the cost of stereotyping, for 50 hours' alterations. But the spacing of words in the American edition (including the points where the English edition differs) does not show that changes were made, either in standing type or in plates; and the nature of the differences between the two editions does not suggest that the American readings in general are later than the English, though a few may be. The date of the 50 hours' alterations in the American edition, however, is not specified in the Harper account and may well have been before Melville left for England. If so, there are two possibilities: either the revisions involved (or some of them) were not inserted into the proofs for England, with the result that the American readings at these points are later (though none of the American variants seems to be later); or else the revisions did get incorporated into the proofs for England, with the result that they cannot now be identified, since they could not appear as variants between the two editions.27 In other words, the charge for alterations in the American edition does not furnish evidence which would conclusively determine the sequence of revisions; but it does suggest that Melville's pg 453revision of White-Jacket after the book was first set in type may have been more extensive than is now apparent from a study of the variants between the English and American editions.

An editor must choose the American edition as his copy-text, since it was set from the manuscript Melville supplied. After adopting obvious corrections from the English variants, the editor has two problems. The first is to determine which of the remaining English variants are authorial, and whether to adopt those that are authorial as later or to reject them as earlier than the corresponding American readings. The second is to find and correct any readings that are corrupt in both editions—readings, that is, where the English text follows the American in printing words that cannot be the ones Melville intended.

Seven of the English variants are corrections obviously called for by the context (see p. 447, footnote 15). Whether compositors' errors or slips of the author's pen, the American readings can hardly have been intended by Melville, and whether the correction was made by Melville or by someone at Bentley's is immaterial.

After adopting these obvious corrections from the English edition (and rejecting a few equally obvious errors in it), an editor must consider the large category of variants in which both the American and the English readings make sense in the context. Although many of these English variants are the kinds of differences which can be expected whenever a text is reset in type, they require scrutiny since they could theoretically be Melville's revisions; indeed, some seem unquestionably to be the sort of change which only Melville could have made. These variants can be divided into six groups, ranging from those which are almost certainly not Melville's to those which can confidently be attributed to him. The size of each group, of course, bears no relation to its place in this continuum, for the largest number of individual differences fall into the third category and the largest number of added words into the sixth:

(1) A few variant readings in the English edition, though they make sense, are clearly inferior and can most logically be explained as compositors' errors. The English reading "the muzzles" (42.19–20), for example, instead of "their muzzles", destroys the parallelism with "their teeth" (42.21) and "their touch-holes" (42.21–22) and could easily be a compositor's oversight, influenced by "the port-holes" earlier in the same line; similarly, the omission of "their" before "hands" (36.30) makes the sentence awkward and does not correspond with the phrase "their hands" used twice later in the paragraph. Such readings can safely be rejected.

pg 454(2) Some two dozen changes apparently intended to correct grammar or usage, while possibly Melville's, seem more likely to be the work of a reader or compositor at Bentley's. They are not accepted since their origin is uncertain and the Harper readings probably derive from Melville's manuscript. For example, the repeated shift from "men-" to "man-" in "men-of-war's-men" and "men-of-war's men" is not adopted, nor is the alteration of "lay" to "lie" at 235.19.

(3) Roughly half the changes are so unimportant that it is difficult to see why Melville or anyone else went to the trouble of making them; any of these could of course be Melville's, but they are more likely to be routine publisher's changes or compositorial substitutions. Examples are the shifts from "with" to "in" (26.18), "this" to "his" (54.8), "proportionately" to "proportionably" (166.12), and "those" to "these" (211.19). Since there is no strong reason to believe that any of these shifts are characteristic of Melville, no emendations are made in this category.

(4) Stylistic improvements, or attempted improvements (amounting only to half a dozen or so), can more reasonably be attributed to Melville than can the merely grammatical changes; but they also could have resulted from a careful reading by someone at Bentley's, particularly since later Bentley seems to have had such changes made in The Whale. The elimination of "that" at 47.22 is a clear syntactic improvement; the shift from "or" to "and" after "smoke" at 112.23 avoids a repetition of "or"; and the omission of "their" before "scraping" at 117.13 removes the awkward repetition of "their". Instances of this kind, when they are obvious improvements of the sort an author with ample time—and inclination—for such revision might make, provide possible grounds for emendation; in White-Jacket, however, given Bentley's known practice with The Whale and Melville's relative indifference to these matters, the grounds are never compelling.

(5) About two dozen brief changes serve to modify the actual sense of a passage. Some of these changes clarify a statement (often rendering it more consistent with the book as a whole) at points not likely to attract the attention of a publisher's reader, and they can safely be adopted as authorial (for example, those at 11.34, 12.11, 24.22, 141.3, and 191.13–14). Other changes, however, weaken or tone down an expression, and they pose an additional problem—not only whether Melville made a given change but whether, even if he did, it should be adopted as representing his intention. On the one hand, Bentley's known use of a publisher's reader to expurgate and otherwise modify The Whale suggests that the pg 455English edition of White-Jacket may also have received unusually close attention of this kind. On the other hand, anticipating censorship in advance or acting upon the impulses which later led him to increasingly employ guarded expressions, Melville himself could have made such changes (for example, those at 21.31–32, 77.26, 84.19–20, 87.24, 112.21, 123.7, 135.29, 151.9–10, 156.26–27, 185.14, 288.23). As it turns out, these changes, even when there are some grounds for thinking that they may be Melville's, are not adopted, since they, like his expurgations of Typee, can hardly have fitted his conception of the book as an artistic whole. They can more accurately be regarded as adaptations made simply for the sake of his English readers than as revisions intended to supplant the more forceful original American readings. (See the List of Substantive Variants at 4.25, 25.39, 135.29, 143.3, and 194.30.)

(6) The additions of complete sentences and paragraphs which extend and clarify a discussion are unquestionably Melville's own. No one else could have added, in the same vein, the seven passages (enumerated above, p. 447), ranging from 9 to 433 words and totaling over 700 words, which appear only in the English edition. Two of these (381.31–32; 381.35–40) seem calculated to mollify the British, but, like the others, they form a natural elaboration of the subject under discussion. All of these additions are therefore adopted, and the copy-text for such passages is necessarily the Bentley edition.

Besides the emendations taken from the English edition, there is a further—and in White-Jacket a minor—class of emendations, involving readings in which the American and English texts concur but which are evidently compositorial misreadings of Melville's manuscript (if not errors in the manuscript itself). In these instances, the emendations restore what Melville must originally have written, or at least intended to write.28

No substantive emendations have been made under any other circumstances. If, for example, an English reading fits the sense of a passage as well as the copy-text reading (or is in some respects even better) but cannot be pg 456convincingly defended as Melville's, then the copy-text reading is retained (see, for instance, the discussion of the reading at xii. 24). In other words, substantive emendations have not been made on the basis of the subjective stylistic judgments of the editors. Since the copy-text is likely to retain more manuscript readings than a later text, there is no choice but to follow it in those few cases which are otherwise indeterminable.


In the absence of a final manuscript, the degree to which the author was responsible for the accidentals—the punctuation and spelling—of a printed text is a matter impossible to settle conclusively. Greg's theory of copy-text provides a method for playing the odds to advantage: adhering to the printed text closest to the manuscript will allow a maximum number of characteristic authorial usages to be retained, since each successive impression or edition offers further opportunities for corruption, in the form of publishers' changes, compositors' errors, or plate damage. Even though changes in the spelling and punctuation of White-Jacket were undoubtedly made at Harper & Brothers, the American edition was nevertheless set directly from Melville's manuscript and inevitably preserves more of its accidentals than the English edition, another step removed, could possibly do. Even if some of the variants in accidentals in the English edition are changes that Melville made in the proofs he sent to Bentley, it is impossible to determine just which ones; to accept the English variants which appear to be improvements would be to risk adopting many instances of nonauthorial spelling and punctuation on the chance of acquiring a few authorial alterations—and to defeat the purpose of selecting a copy-text on Greg's principles.

Accordingly, the accidentals of the first American impression of White-Jacket have been retained in the present edition except in a few unusual instances, even when the spelling and punctuation may appear incorrect or inconsistent by mid-twentieth-century standards. Some of the inconsistencies in the spelling and punctuation may have been in the manuscript, and, although Melville presumably did not intend them, they constitute a suggestive part of his total expression, since patterns of accidentals do affect the texture of a literary work. On the other hand, some of the inconsistencies in accidentals may have resulted either from an imperfectly realized attempt to make the manuscript conform to a house style or from compositorial alterations. To regularize the punctuation and spelling would be pg 457to risk choosing nonauthorial forms.29 Therefore no attempt has been made to impose general consistency on either spelling or punctuation,30 and any changes have been made sparingly, according to the following guidelines:

Spelling. The general rule adopted here is to correct spellings which were unacceptable by the standards of 1850, but to retain any acceptable variants. One available guide for decisions about spelling is the 1847 revision of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (Springfield, Mass., 1848). Webster's was the dictionary used by Harper & Brothers at the time, for Melville remarked, in his letter to Murray on January 28, 1849, that "my printers here 'go for' Webster." The Harper accounts show that Melville ordered at least three copies of Webster's (on April 10 and November 15, 1847, and on November 16, 1848), the third of which could have been the 1848 edition. In any case, the 1848 Webster's can be taken as a generally accepted standard in use in 1849, when Melville was writing White-Jacket. Recourse to it and to other contemporary dictionaries (and to editions of American novels and works of travel published in the 1840's by Harpers and other American publishers) has resulted in the retention of a good many anomalous-appearing copy-text forms, such as "Bastile," "Brahim," "breaksman," "Chili," "cue" (for "queue"), "gauky," "glozed," "Mephistophiles," "overhaul" (as in "overhaul trowsers"), "pall" (for "pawl"), "suit" (for "suite"), "waive" (for "wave"), and "wizzen." A few other forms, not found in reliable parallels in such contemporary sources, have been corrected: "braggadacio," "buogee," "Cruickshank," "discription," "Hawthorn," "plum-line," "Shelly," and "Trelwarney." One random misspelling of a name invented by Melville has been regularized (at 336.35, "Shenley" should be "Shenly"). Any changes to bring spelling into conformity with an 1850 standard have been made cautiously so as to preserve the wide latitude allowed in contemporary usage, especially for proper names.

Punctuation. In several instances emendations in punctuation have pg 458been made to correct obvious typographical errors, such as the absence of the periods after "years" (141.27) and "deplored" (166.3), and various errors involving the misuse or omission of quotation marks.31 In only one instance does the punctuation of the Harper text create an ambiguity serious enough to interfere with the meaning of a sentence (229.1), and so to require editorial emendation.


The basic evidence for textual decisions in the present edition is given in the preceding sections of this Note and in the four sections which follow it and complete the Textual Record:32

Discussions of Adopted Readings. These discussions take up any reading (whether a copy-text reading or an emendation) adopted in the Northwestern–Newberry text which seems to require discussion or explanation beyond the general guidelines already stated. Certain instances of decisions not to emend, as well as some actual emendations, are commented upon.

List of Emendations. This list records every change made in the copy-text for the present edition, accidentals as well as substantives. The left column gives the Northwestern–Newberry readings, the right column the rejected copy-text readings. Each emendation is followed by a symbol to indicate whether the source is the English edition (E) or the present editors (NN).33 Items marked with an asterisk are commented on in the Discussions of Adopted Readings.

Forty-three emendations have been made in accidentals, 52 in substantives. Of the accidentals, 20 are corrections made in the English edition, pg 459and the other 23 have been made by the present editors; of the substantives, 36 come from the English edition and 16 from the present editors. No emendations of any sort have been made silently; using the List of Emendations and the Report of Line-End Hyphenation, one can reconstruct the copy-text in every detail.34

Report of Line-End Hyphenation. Since some possible compound words are hyphenated at the ends of lines in the copy-text, the intended forms of these words become a matter for editorial decision. When such a word appears elsewhere in the copy-text in only one form, that form is followed; when its treatment is not consistent (and the inconsistency is an acceptable one, to be retained in the present text), the form which occurs more times in analogous situations is followed. If the word does not occur elsewhere in the copy-text, the form is determined by a survey of similar words, by the usage in the 1848 Webster's, and by any relevant evidence in a Melville manuscript. The first list in the Report of Line-End Hyphenation records these decisions, by listing the adopted Northwestern–Newberry forms of possible compounds which are hyphenated at the ends of lines in the copy-text. The second list records the copy-text forms of compounds which are hyphenated at the ends of lines in the Northwestern–Newberry Edition. No editorial decisions are involved in this second list,35 but the information recorded is essential for reconstructing the copy-text and making exact quotations from the present edition.

List of Substantive Variants. This list is a historical record of all variant substantive readings in the two editions authorized by Melville.36 pg 460The left column gives the readings of the first American impression (and also the Northwestern–Newberry readings when they differ from those of the copy-text). The right column lists the English substantive readings which are at variance with the copy-text. Editions are designated by three symbols: A (American), E (English), and NN (Northwestern–Newberry).

With these lists the reader can examine and reconsider for himself the textual decisions for the present edition and in the process see more clearly the relationships between the texts of White-Jacket available during Melville's lifetime and the one which is offered here as a more faithful representation of the author's intentions.


1. "The Rationale of Copy-Text," Studies in Bibliography, III (1950–51), 19–36. For an application of this method to the period of Melville, see Fredson Bowers, "Some Principles for Scholarly Editions of Nineteenth-Century American Authors," Studies in Bibliography, XVII (1964), 223–28; and his "A Preface to the Text," in the Centenary Edition of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1962), pp. xxix–xlvii (reprinted in the later volumes of the Centenary Edition).

2. The line between the two is not rigid, for some changes of punctuation and spelling do affect meaning and accordingly could be classed as substantives.

3. "Copy-text" is the text accepted as the basis for an edition.

4. The particular copy of the first American impression which served (in the form of a marked Xerox reproduction) as printer's copy is M67–722–122 (see footnote 7). For the passages which first appeared in the English edition, the copy of the first issue of the English edition used as printer's copy is M66–3577 (I) and M66–2471–48 (II).

5. The 1855 condensation published in Henry Howe's Life and Death on the Ocean can be ruled out, however, since most of the variants in it are a direct result of the process of condensation, and the others are evidently compositorial errors.

6. Collations between two editions, which (because they are printed from different settings of type) cannot be performed on the Hinman Collator, are "sight collations." Those between impressions of the same edition are "machine collations"—so called because that machine, by superimposing page images, enables the human collator's eye to see differences, including minute changes not otherwise easily detected, such as resettings and type damage. A "complete sight collation" is one in which both substantive and accidental variants are recorded; a "substantive collation" is one in which only substantive variants are recorded. The terms edition, impression (printing), issue, and state, as used here, follow the definitions of Fredson Bowers in Principles of Bibliographical Description (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949), pp. 379–426.

7. The English edition of White-Jacket is in two volumes, the American edition in one. Since each volume of any multivolume work is a separate entity, no bibliographical significance attaches to any particular combination of volumes. In these collations, therefore, no attempt was made to treat presently constituted sets as units, although no set was in fact separated for collation. The copies used for these collations are here recorded by identification number (for books in the Melville Collection, now at The Newberry Library) or by library name and call number (for books not in the Melville Collection): (1a) M66–2471–50 vs. M66–2471–48; (1b) M67–722–122 vs. M66–2471–48; (1c) M67–103–14 vs. M66–2471–47; M66–2471–50 vs. Newberry Case Y255M5191; (2) M66–2471–46 vs. M66–2471–51; M67–722–85 vs. M67–722–145; (3) M66–3288 vs. Newberry Case Y255M5191; M66–2471–48 vs. M66–2471–47.

8. The number of collations which must be performed in order to detect all significant variations in a given text can never be prescribed with certainty, since chance determines, at least to some extent, the particular copies available for collation. Whether or not variant states of a first impression are detected, for example, depends largely upon whether or not at least one copy of an earlier state is present in the collection of copies assembled for collation; regardless of the size of this collection, there is always the chance that an unknown earlier state is missing. To reduce the element of chance somewhat, the present editors have checked many points in every copy of White-Jacket in the Melville Collection at The Newberry Library and have examined numerous copies in other collections. For making copies of White-Jacket available, the editors are indebted to William M. Gibson, M. Douglas Sackman, and Howard P. Vincent.

9. Proofreading provided the chief opportunity for making these additional collations. Copies of the first American and the first English editions were simultaneously compared with two sets of the Northwestern–Newberry page proofs; besides this group proofreading, six individual proofreadings were made of the page proofs against copies of the first American edition.

10. Reference numbers with prefixed letters refer to page and line of the American edition (A) or the English edition (E); when these letters do not appear, reference is to the Northwestern–Newberry Edition.

11. The advertisements were eliminated entirely from the later printings of White-Jacket, but the state of the advertisements (such as the reset text of the advertisement for Redburn) in the gathering with eight leaves corresponds to the state of the advertisements in Moby-Dick (1851).

12. Historical facts about the dates, sizes, and background of the various printings and editions are given in the Historical Note; precise physical descriptions will appear in the full-scale bibliography to be published in conjunction with the Northwestern–Newberry Edition. The present discussion is not concerned with bibliographical details discovered in the process of collation, unless they bear on textual questions. Type or plate damage, for example, which may distinguish the states within an impression or the impressions within a given year, is not reported here if it does not create a textual variant (as defined in the following footnote) and if the states or impressions involved are not otherwise of textual significance.

13. In the second 1850 printing, although there were at least 26 instances of damage to the plates in addition to those already mentioned, only one could conceivably create a textual ambiguity—the loss of the hyphen in "cigar-holder" at 187.35. The 1855 printing contained two further examples (a missing comma after "things" at 142.10 and a missing hyphen in "fellow-beings" at 174.23), and in 1860 another comma and hyphen were missing (after "printed", 224.22; in "night-cap", 263.27). A final printing, according to the Harper records, occurred between late July, 1866, and mid-February, 1868; examination of the increased plate damage in copies with no date on the title page shows that such copies belong to the last printing. Of the many new instances of damage, seven came at places where they might affect one's reading of the text: one comma was illegible (after "was", 47.19), and one semicolon appeared to be a comma (after "ship", 180.39), while one period (preceding the dash in 59.25), one exclamation point (244.39), and three hyphens (after "at", 136.11; after "top", 312.23; and in "French-/ men", 316.35) entirely disappeared. In this Note, when changes are listed within either the American or the English edition, the many instances of battered type or plates and missing letters are not included when it is clear what letter is intended, nor is missing end-punctuation mentioned when the absent mark is a period; and missing hyphens at the ends of lines are not reported when the divided word is not a possible compound. Missing commas, however, which might pass unnoticed, are listed. In other words, type or plate wear is noted only when it could pass unnoticed or be mistaken for intentional revision.

14. Among such errors in the English edition are "ring" for "wring" (4.27), "amounted" for "mounted" (16.26), "we" for "be" (27.9), "May" for "Way" (186.20), "remorsely" for "remorselessly" (329.16), and "giving" for "given" (358.6).

15. At 34.13 "sailor's" is corrected to "sailors"; at 318.29 "other" to "others"; at 323.10 "woop and warf" to "woof and warp"; at 378.1 "lined" to "linen"; at 381.4 "were" to "was"; at 382.37 "friends" to "friend's"; and at 385.10 "softens" to "soften".

16. Among these variants (including both authorial and compositorial changes) are a dozen and a half differences in the choice of nouns and verbs (the American "piece" at 231.32, for example, is changed to "place", and "used up" at 141.14 to "worn out"); three dozen in the forms of nouns and verbs (many are the repeated change from "men-" to "man-" in "men-of-war's-men" and "men-of-war's men"); over two dozen in other parts of speech (nearly half of which are substitutions of one adjective for another, such as "dignified" for "perilous" at 25.39); and two dozen in phrasing, ranging from the reversal of the order of words ("I have" at 119.16 becomes "have I", and "the still" at 331.2 becomes "still the") to the rewriting of entire sentences (such as the entries in the List of Substantive Variants at 21.31–32 and 24.22). The largest category of these variants, however, consists of omissions and insertions. Of the 22 omissions in the English edition, 15 are of single words, 5 of a few words each (totaling 13 words), one of a complete sentence (11 words) at 151.9–10, and one of two paragraphs 94 words) at 138.20–27. Although 133 words are thus deleted, the insertions of additional material amount to 757 words. Of the 24 such insertions in the English edition, 11 are of single words, and 6 are of a few words each (totaling 26 words); the remaining 7 (totaling 720 words) are cited in the text above as obviously being Melville's. Comment on the authority of certain individual readings will be found below in the Discussions of Adopted Readings.

17. Several extracts from White-Jacket appeared in Evert A. Duyckinck's Literary World on March 9, 16, and 23, 1850 (VI, 218–19, 271–72, 297–99); although Melville was in a position to have made revisions in the copy he furnished Duyckinck, a complete collation of these passages with the text of the American edition indicates that he made none. The only differences between the two texts are changes in accidentals (which appear to be either editorial or compositorial) and obvious compositorial errors. (Copies used for collation: M67–2133–1 vs. M67–722–108.) The same holds true of the extract printed in the New York Home Journal on March 16, 1850, p. 4.

18. Entitled "How They Live on Board of an American Man of War: Being the Experiences of a Sailor in the United States Navy," the condensation consists of 24 pages (pp. 261–84), made up of excerpts from 21 chapters (Chapters 2, 3, 6, 9, 10, 14–16, 25, 30, 31, 33, 48, 67, 68, 74, 84–88). Some of these chapters (such as Chapters 3, 6, 16, 33, 67, 74, and 88) are printed in nearly complete form, while others (such as Chapters 31 and 86) are represented by only a few lines. Since this version is so severely abridged, obviously any omissions—whether of long passages or of short phrases within the selected passages—may be assumed to stem from the aim of condensation. This edition would have textual significance only if substantive differences in the passages printed were demonstrably Melville's own and were not necessitated by the condensation. However, of the substantive variants (excluding omissions) revealed by one collation, three-fourths directly result from the effort to avoid references to omitted parts of the book or to characters' names. These comments on the Howe edition are based on a collation of M67–1794 (a copy of the first American printing) with Gift M66–79 (a copy of the 1860 printing of Howe's book).

19. For further discussion of this document, see the Note on the Text in the North-western–Newberry Edition of Typee, p. 312.

20. Only two of the substantive variants of the English edition are present (those at 283.11 and 323.10), and the deviations in accidentals from the American edition do not follow the English punctuation—both facts suggesting that Stedman was using the American, not the English, edition as copy-text. But the collations reveal just over a hundred additional substantive differences, ranging from omissions of single words and phrases (over a dozen instances) or of large passages (3 instances, amounting to some 600 words: 45.32–39; 220.20–221.9; 375.31–376.11) to changes of verb tenses and numbers of nouns (three dozen instances) and possible attempts to improve the choice of words (such as "money-bag" for "monkey-bag" at 39.5, or "squash" for "quash" at 93.14). Many of the differences (at least a third) are simply typographical errors (like "robe" for "rope" at 246.9, or "sale" for "sake" at 333.6); and even one of the three long omissions (45.32–39) may have been unintentional (the other two remove material which might be regarded as objectionable). Among the numerous changes in accidentals, the principal categories are the elimination of commas and hyphens and the shift to British spellings (or affectations of British spellings). Copies used for collation: Gift M67–16 (W. M. Gibson copy) vs. M67–767–8; Northwestern 813.3M531w1850 vs. M67–767–9.

21. The number cannot be stated with assurance, since further editions—which have not been discovered in an extensive search of catalogues, libraries, and bookstores—occasionally still turn up. Details of all these editions will be included in the forthcoming descriptive bibliography. The Melville Collection being formed at The Newberry Library in connection with the preparation of the North western–Newberry Edition contains many of these later editions (and ideally will contain all of them in time). Charles Roberts Anderson, in Melville in the South Seas (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939), states that 21 "editions" of White-Jacket had been published by 1938 (p. 439); but he is not using "edition" in the sense employed here, as a technical bibliographical term which encompasses all the impressions from a given setting of type.

22. This generalization is based on a partial collation of a copy of the 1850 American edition (M67–2133–1) with a copy of the Constable White-Jacket in the Russell & Russell reissue (New York, 1963; M67–722–123). For some background relating to the Constable texts, see Philip Durham, "Prelude to the Constable Edition of Melville," Huntington Library Quarterly, XXI (1957–58), 285–89. A compositorial error in the Constable edition, perpetuated in the 1952 Lehmann edition and consequently in the 1952 Grove reissue, has become a classic contemporary example. The phrase "coiled fish" (NN 393.23) appeared as "soiled fish"; unaware of the error, F. O. Matthiessen, in American Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1941), commented that "hardly anyone but Melville could have created the shudder that results from calling this frightening vagueness some 'soiled fish of the sea.' The discordia concors, the unexpected linking of the medium of cleanliness with filth, could only have sprung from an imagination that had apprehended the terrors of the deep, of the immaterial deep as well as the physical" (p. 392). The compositorial error, together with Matthiessen's unlucky comment, was first pointed out by John W. Nichol, "Melville's '"Soiled" Fish of the Sea,'" American Literature, XXI (November, 1949), 338–39.

23. Quoted in Jay Leyda, The Melville Log (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1951), p. 312.

24. The Letters of Herman Melville, ed. Merrell R. Davis and William H. Gilman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960), p. 91 (letter 65).

25. Journal of a Visit to London and the Continent, ed. Eleanor Melville Metcalf (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948), p. 76.

26. In revising the proofs of Moby-Dick which he sent to London as the basis of the Bentley edition, Melville made several striking corrections of misreadings in the Harper edition. The absence of such corrections among the variants between the Harper and Bentley editions of White-Jacket may be due to the greater accuracy of the manuscript, the greater fidelity of the compositors of the Harper edition of White-Jacket, or the greater thoroughness of Melville's initial proofreading of the American White-Jacket, but the absence could conceivably be due to Melville's correcting the proofs he gave to Bentley, then making the same corrections in the Harper edition after he returned to New York.

27. There remains, of course, the theoretical possibility that revisions were incorporated into both editions in slightly different forms (whether inadvertently or not). Such changes would show up as variants, but neither reading would represent the unrevised proof; in such cases the American reading could be either earlier or later.

28. Such changes are of course made only when the copy-text reading is unsatisfactory. The emendation must be a word that Melville would have used in the context (judging from his literary practice); it must be a word that improves the sense and fits the tone of the context; and it must be a word that in Melville's hand could have been misread as the word in the copy-text (or that Melville himself could mistakenly have written). Under these three criteria, "woolen" is emended to "wooden" (67.37); "Wood's" to "Hood's" (159.19); "providentially" to "providently" (189.16); "cried" to "cries" (308.29); and "Purser's" to "Surgeon's" (330.15).

29. Melville's habits in the extant manuscripts and letters are not definite enough to offer grounds to emend for consistency (and in any case the letters, not intended for publication, do not provide a parallel situation). Neither is the Harper house styling consistent enough to be helpful in determining precisely what elements of the punctuation of White-Jacket resulted from it.

30. For example, no emendations are made to secure consistency in the use (or nonuse) of capital letters; of apostrophes in contractions; of italics or of quotation marks (or both at once) for such items as foreign words, the first occurrence of special terms (nautical terminology, slang, and the like), names of ships, and titles of books.

31. Thus the deletion of double quotation marks at 397.12, together with the insertion of single ones at 397.13 and 397.18, makes clearer who is reciting the verse and follows the practice used elsewhere in the book for such situations. In addition, a single quotation mark is supplied to close the couplet at 270.13. In neither instance does the emendation require a decision affecting the meaning, since in neither does the misuse or omission of quotation marks call into question who is speaking or what is said.

32. On file in the Melville Collection at The Newberry Library is a complete list of variants between the American and the English editions, including both substantives (which are reported in the List of Substantive Variants) and accidentals (which are reported in the List of Emendations only when they are adopted). Also on file is the evidence for the decisions in the first list of the Report of Line-End Hyphenation.

33. The presence of an NN symbol signifies only that the reading does not occur in the two authorized texts; it does not imply that no one has ever thought of it before.

34. That is, every textual detail: features of the styling or design of the copy-text print—such as the length of lines; the form and content of the title page and running titles; the typography and punctuation of the epigraph, chapter numbers, and chapter titles; and the display capitalization of chapter openings and half-titles—are of course not recoverable from these lists. However, in this volume, capitalization of words in the chapter titles, both in the Table of Contents and at the heads of the chapters, follows the somewhat inconsistent capitalization in the Table of Contents of the copy-text. Opening quotation marks are omitted before the display capitals at the beginning of Chapter 2 (p. 6) and Chapter 90 (p. 377). The rule around the playbill on page 92 is supplied.

35. Except in the cases of words hyphenated at the ends of lines in the copy-text as well. These words, which appear in both lists and are marked with daggers, are given in the forms which the present editors adopted but which are obscured by hyphenation at the ends of lines in this edition.

36. Such variants as jails/gaols, suit/suite are considered accidentals whenever the 1848 Webster's or other contemporary dictionaries classify them as interchangeable forms of the same word. Treated as a nontextual feature is the fact that the American edition numbered the chapters I–XCIII and listed them in a single table of contents, whereas the English edition, in two volumes, numbered them I–XLVII in the first and I–XLVI in the second, with a separate table of contents in each volume.

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