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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

That’s Distinctive!: Moby-Dick

Check the blog each Friday for a new “That’s Distinctive!” post. I created the series because I genuinely believe there is something in our collections for everyone, whether you’re writing a paper or just want to have a look. “That’s Distinctive!” will provide a more lighthearted glimpse into the diverse and unique materials at Spencer – including items that many people may not realize the library holds. If you have suggested topics for a future item feature or questions about the collections, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Did you know that Spencer Research Library houses an extensive collection of Moby-Dick editions and adaptations? The more than 100 books in the collection range in type and size, so today I am sharing just a few with you.

Published in 1851, Moby-Dick; or, the Whale was written by American writer Herman Melville. The book “recounts the adventures of the narrator Ishmael as he sails on the whaling ship, Pequod, under the command of the monomaniacal Captain Ahab.” Though it is now considered a great American classic, Moby-Dick did not gain traction until the early 1900s. According to Wikipedia, “the novel has been adapted or represented in art, film, books, cartoons, television, and more than a dozen versions in comic-book format. The first adaptation was the 1926 silent movie The Sea Beast, starring John Barrymore.”

Many of the copies and versions of Moby-Dick at Spencer Research Library, including those shown below, were donated to the library by Elizabeth A. Schultz. Schultz, an emerita professor from KU’s Department of English and a former Fulbright Lecturer, advocates “for both the arts and the environment in Douglas County.” As a scholar and avid enthusiast of Herman Melville, Schultz published Unpainted to the Last: Moby-Dick and Twentieth-Century American Art (1995), which examines artistic interpretations and illustrated editions of the novel. “Deftly interweaving words with images,” notes the University Press of Kansas, “Elizabeth Schultz radically reframes our most famous literary symbol and provides a profoundly new way of “reading” one of the key texts in American literature.” Along with the donated books, Spencer houses a copy of Schultz’s book.

Color illustration of a huge white whale with a man on his back and harpoons sticking from his body.
This page contains text. Color illustration of sailors standing at the edge of a ship deck, looking at Moby-Dick in the water.
The front cover of and selected pages from Moby-Dick, adapted by Joanne Fink and illustrated by Hieronimus Fromm, 1985. Call Number: Children C144. Click image to enlarge.
Color illustration of a black silhouette of a whale in the ocean with a ship above it.
The front cover of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick: The Graphic Novel adapted by Lance Stahlberg and illustrated by Lalit Kumar Singh, 2013. Call Number: Children D200. Click image to enlarge.
Black background with text. On the right is a partial silhouette of a whale with sections in different colors and patterns.
The front cover of Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page by Matt Kish, 2011. Call Number: CK174. Click image to enlarge.
Color illustration of men rowing a small boat surrounded by whales in the ocean.
This page has text. One page has a muted color illustration of a young man sitting in a chair and holding a hat.
The front cover and first page of Moby Dick: The Illustrated Novel, illustrated by Anton Lomaev, 2018. Call Number: D7812. Click image to enlarge.

Tiffany McIntosh
Public Services

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