November 13, 2011

Typee: very entertaining and pleasing

On November 13, 1848, Allan Melville noted the progress of Typee, a novel written by his brother Herman Melville. The cost of publishing 6500 copies, including the process of stereotyping, totaled $1663.01. By then, 5753 copies were sold. Melville's portion of the profits, Allan noted, came to about $686.46.

Though this was certainly a good profit for a first book, the Melvilles were already looking forward. They were in the midst of negotiating terms for a new book, Mardi, and a Voyage Thither, with the publishers Harper & Brothers. Typee had been published by Wiley & Putnam but its sequel, Omoo, was brought to Harper & Brothers (within a few months after the above records, rights to Typee were brought there too).

Typee was, by all accounts, quite a success, and it brought the unknown Melville into the literary scene. Poet/editor Charles Fenno Hoffman called it "one of the most delightful and well written narratives that ever came from an American pen." Critic Margaret Fuller noted it was "a very entertaining and pleasing narrative." Idealist George Ripley approved of the "careless elegance" in the author's writing style. Though the veracity of the story was soon questioned, Typee sold very well.

Wiley had apparently been slow in making payments, often requiring a prompt from Melville himself before a check was cut. Harper, however, paid Melville up front with $500 before Mardi was even printed.

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