Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about novels and novelists and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the novel urban legends featured so far.
NOVEL URBAN LEGEND: Moby-Dick was printed in England without the Epilogue.
As I noted in a legend years ago (about how the “piracy” in Pirates of Penzance was a reference to COPYRIGHT piracy), in the 19th Century, copyright piracy was rampant. Something would be printed in England and then people would rush it over to the United States, which did not recognize British copyrights, and then print up copies here and be legally allowed to do so.
So while people continued to always publish in England first, what authors began to do was to publish essentially simultaneously in both England and the United States, to gain copyrights in both places at the same time.
That is what happened with Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby-Dick, about an ill-fated whaling crew hunting down a great white whale. However, in the process, there was a major chunk of the book actually left out of its initial printing!