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Introduction STEVEN OLSEN-SMITH Boise State University T ‘hisspecial issue of Leviathan represents the ample scholarly and critical rewards of research devoted to Herman Melville’s reading and sources. The heightened importance of reading- and source-study results from two separate but related factors of Melville’sintellectual life: the sheer magnitude of his reading and his habitual use of source books in the composition of his own works. Withdrawn from formal schooling after the bankruptcy and early death of his father, Allan Melvill, Sr.,Melville pursued a program of intense and concerted reading that lasted until his death when his personal library of some 1,000volumes was dispersed among book sellers and surviving family members. Since Melville marked and annotated his books with uncommon precision and regularity, the ongoing recovery of his library has revealed his direct engagement with a vast array of authors and topics; and the scholarly effort of deducing his use of still more titles on the basis of evidence in his own writing has illuminated ideas and subject matter that profoundly influenced his work. Not just Melville’s ambitious reading, then, but the exceptionally large, detailed, and ever-expanding documentary record of that preoccupation enables-indeed requires-the kinds of scholarship exemplified by this special issue of Leviathan. Source-study since the Melville Revival proceeded in halting fashion along relatively narrow lines of inquiry, by no means exhausting the field for current researchers. Whereas scholars began discovering Melville’s sources in the 1920s,efforts at analysis did not begin to rise to the potential of the discoveries until the 1940s and 1950s, as Mary K. Bercaw observes in Melville5 Sources.’ Early studies tended to assume a reportorial approach, pinpointing the sources of Melville’s literary expression without investigating the rhetorical and interpretive consequences of his source use. The age of close reading ushered in by the New Criticism breathed life into the enterprise, so that by the late 1940sscholars not only identified important new sources but began to explore the aesthetic implications of their discoveries. The new phase produced major studies, yet the decline of source-study recognized by Bercaw in 1987 (15)is evident in the fact that most major studies from this era have yet to be superseded, after more than half a century. Progress in the study of Melville’s marginalia has been similarly slow. ‘Mary K. Bercaw, Melvilleb Sources (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 19871, 1-15. L E V I A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 5 S T E V E N O L S E N - S M I T H Preserved at Harvard University, the Berkshire Athenaeum, and the New York Public Library (to name the largest collections), Melville’s marked and annotated books have been out of reach to most researchers. Worse still, Walker Cowen’s multivolume dissertation on Melville’s Marginalia (1965;rpt. 1987) is also uncommonly rare outside of major research institutions; ironically, once located Cowen’sdated methods of transcription make the resource difficult to use. Moreover, many of Melville’sbooks were unavailable to Cowen in his day, and still more have emerged since then: marked and annotated copies of William Wordsworth, Giorgio Vasari, John Milton (transcribed in Leviathan 4.1&2 [March and October, 200211, and Edmund Spenser, to name a few. Much scholarship of the past century would have benefited from accurate information on Melville’s reading and annotation, but owing to its general unavailability such evidence has often been overlooked. The present issue of Leviathan aims to prompt renewed scholarship in the field with essays by Jonathan A. Cook and Peter Norberg devoted to Melville’s reading, a cumulative supplement to Merton M. Sealts,Jr.’s Melville’s Reading, and a transcription of his marginalia in The Works of Sir William D’Avenant. The two opening essays illustrate in turn the rich insights made possible by determined source-study, and by careful analysis of Melville’smarginalia . In “TheHistorical and Literary Sourcesof Redburn’s‘MysteriousNight in London,”’Cook combines literary sleuthing and historical analysis to reveal the source-origins of Melville’sgambling...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 5-7
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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