Moby-Dick?

One of the great mysteries in American literature is the title of Herman Melville's 1851 novel, Moby-Dick. Or is it Moby Dick? Should the title be hyphenated, or not?

The first American edition had a hyphen in the title. But confusingly, inside the book the whale was referred to as Moby Dick, without a hyphen — except for one single time, on page 609, when the name was hyphenated because it spanned two lines.


There have been many subsequent editions. Some of them have a hyphenated title. Some of them don't. It seems to be totally random. But because that first edition had a hyphen, scholars consider that to be the correct spelling. So the title of the book is Moby-Dick, but the name of the whale is Moby Dick.

But why the hyphen? There's a number of theories. Perhaps Melville just liked hyphenated titles. One of his earlier works, White-Jacket, was also mysteriously hyphenated.

Or perhaps the hyphen was a mistake. Supporters of this theory note that the title was changed at the last minute, from The Whale to Moby-Dick, and the title change was communicated to the printer by Melville's brother, Allan. So maybe Allan made a mistake, and it was never Herman's intention to hyphenate the title?

We'll never know. It'll always be one of those mysteries that literary scholars love to debate. (such as here, here, and here).
Posted By: Alex - Mon Oct 17, 2016
Category: Literature, Books





Comments
You know you are in deep trouble when the 'Thought Police' disagree. {Thought-Police?}
Posted by BMN on 10/17/16 at 04:44 PM
I'm reminded of a psychedelic rock group called Moby Grape. (Definitely no hyphen.}
Posted by KDP in Madill, OK on 10/17/16 at 04:59 PM
I rank "literary scholars debate" as equal in importance to "ancient astronaut theorists suggest".
Posted by A Nonny Mouse on 10/18/16 at 08:25 AM
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