Melville's Reviewers: British and American, 1846-1891

Melville's Reviewers: British and American, 1846-1891

Melville's Reviewers: British and American, 1846-1891

Melville's Reviewers: British and American, 1846-1891

Excerpt

The fields from which have been gathered the reviews and notices of the books of Herman Melville are the actual files of the magazines and newspapers. Since during his lifetime, 1819-1891, few magazines and practically no newspapers were indexed, and since such general indexes as Poole's give perhaps fifteen per cent coverage, and of magazines only, I have located what was said in print about his books by leafing through the bound volumes, as I suppose have the other harvesters.

I have often therefore been a pilgrim to the libraries best stocked with the middle-sized volumes of old magazines and the huge volumes of old newspapers. The latter are much harder to find. The files of newspapers, except of the most prominent, are in two sorts of libraries only--the very greatest, and those in the home towns or cities. As few realize, really complete files of nineteenth-century newspapers are rare, or in some cases nonexistent, even in the home libraries. As for microfilming, the only pertinent newspapers which in 1951, when I did much of the scanning of newspapers, had been microfilmed in toto were the Times of London, the New York Times, and the New Bedford Mercury. My fortunate chancing on the fact that the files of certain papers in the New York Historical Society Library were more nearly complete than those found elsewhere led to some of my most exciting discoveries, the National Intelligencer and Tribune reviews of Moby-Dick.

The richest fields, of course, have been the mammoth libraries. It is difficult to say whether my harvesting was better in the New York Public Library or the Library of Congress. I found less than I had hoped in the British Museum: first, before I went to London in 1957 I had already scanned many British newspapers in American files, particularly in the Boston Public Library and the Library of Congress; and second, the heavy bombing during World War II of the wing of the British Museum Newspaper Depository in Colindale con-

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