January 30, 2013

The Annotated Moby-Dick


The cover designed for Chris Routledge’s proposed annotated Moby Dick.

GalleyCat reported yesterday on a project that’s looking to produce an annotated edition of Moby-Dick, with a campaign on Kickstarter to raise the funds to publish it. Chris Routledge is the man behind the idea, and he’s hoping to raise £7,100, or about $11,000, to accomplish that.

Creating this new edition of Herman Melville’s classic is a passion project for Routledge, as you can plainly see from the video on the Kickstarter page. He describes devouring the book in one sitting the first time he read it, not to mention the fact that he’s read it cover-to-cover several times since then. He acknowledges that many modern readers have trouble with the dense tome, attributing that to Melville’s being well-read and filling it with references and allusions to ancient mythology, Shakespeare, scientific writing, and other sources. And that’s where the annotated Moby-Dick comes in. Routledge wants to have two editions published — a paperback and a hardcover — that will explicate the text in the manner of so many Shakespeare plays, with notes on vocabulary and obscure references, as well as historic illustrations of whales and whaling.

Routledge is working with Margaret Guroff to attain his vision, and using the annotations she’s already compiled for the website Power Moby-Dick in the book. The paperback and hardcover that Routledge wants to create will essentially be the site in physical form, so you can get a sense of what kind of notes to expect. Some of them are very basic definitions of words like “aloft” and “circumnavigation” that I’m not sure need explaining, but better safe than sorry, I suppose — and there are more useful notes on nautical terms and literary allusions.

The goal for the book is to present Guroff’s notes in a bound edition that Melville aficionados and new readers will find both useful and beautiful, and that will hopefully be useful to educators teaching the somewhat daunting book. BBR will be designing and producing Routledge’s edition, and Robyn Ng designed the cover that you can see at the top of this page.

Routledge has organized a marathon reading of Moby-Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool for May 4-6, and he hopes to use the occasion to debut the annotated book. As of this writing, the Kickstarter page has brought in £4,181 of the £7,100 goal that would pay for production and printing costs for 500 copies, UK shipping, and Kickstarter fees, with just a few days left to fund the project.




Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.