3

Towards the beginning of Moby Dick there is a chapter which is dedicated to a character called Bulkington, in this chapter the Author addresses this as a "six-inch chapter"

Wonderfullest things are unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of Bulkington.
- Moby Dick, Chapter 23 (The Lee Shore)

I was wondering: in which versions of the book was this actually a six inch chapter? Did any publishers take the time to make this a six inch chapter?

2
  • 3
    In the first American edition ,chapter 23 is slightly less than a page long, spanning pp. 117-118. Since the book measures 20 cm, or slightly less than 8 inches, after discounting the margins, it is a "six-inch" chapter. Jan 7, 2019 at 22:02
  • The real question is not so clear to me either. According to mel.hofstra.edu/tracking-the-versions-moby-dick.html the first British edition's version of chap 23 is 2 full pages long, surely longer than 6 inches by any reckoning. The same source says that the American edition, although published shortly after the British, is Melville's earlier verison. (That page says the B version was set from the corrected page proofs of the A version.) Jan 8, 2019 at 23:08

1 Answer 1

5

As kimchi lover pointed out in a comment:

In the first American edition ,chapter 23 is slightly less than a page long, spanning pp. 117-118. Since the book measures 20 cm, or slightly less than 8 inches, after discounting the margins, it is a "six-inch" chapter.

Personally, I doubt this was intentional, or that any publisher deliberately took the care to make the chapter match its description. It would have meant carefully tweaking the type size for either the single chapter (which would stick out like a sore thumb) or for the book as a whole (which seems implausible, since that would have a significant impact on the cost and methods of manufacture for the book).

Rather, I assume that Melville picked the number for thematic reasons more than literal ones. The chapter describes itself as Bulkington's "grave", and the traditional depth of a grave is six feet. "Six-inch" parallels that, while also conveying a general idea of the chapter's shortness.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.