I am not a sailor. My interest in sea literature emerges not from nautical experience but from a particular literary archive: the Extracts section found at the beginning of Moby-Dick. When I first read Melville’s novel in high school, I wondered about the sources of its references to whales, many of which are drawn, naturally enough, from writing by and about sailors. My curiosity about the cited narratives—some of whose titles remain in literary circulation only in Moby-Dick’s front matter—led eventually to this book.
I thus wish to acknowledge, first and foremost, the libraries and archives from which the material of my work has been extracted. My primary research was conducted at the American Antiquarian Society, with the support of a Reese Research Fellowship; Mystic Seaport’s G. W. Blunt White Library, in conjunction with the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies; the Library Company of Philadelphia; the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania; and the Houghton Library at Harvard University. I am grateful for the invaluable assistance of the librarians of these institutions and wish to thank Joanne Chaison, Jim Hench, Marie Lamoureux, and Caroline Sloat of the AAS; Paul O’Pecko of the Blunt White Library; Jim Green of the Library Company; and John Pollock at Penn. I am also grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for an NEH Summer Stipend in support of my completion of the book.
I first learned the pleasures of archival work from Christopher Looby, whose inventiveness and judiciousness have been models for my own attempts to approach canonical and noncanonical literature. Elisa New believed in this project from its earliest conception; indeed, the example of her keen and imaginative eye was fundamental to conceiving it in the first place. Nancy Bentley’s intellectual breadth and professional grace have been a strong influence on me, and I am thankful to have had her guidance. Chris, Lisa, and