Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tattooing in the Penny Cyclopaedia

Digitized by Google Books from a volume at NYPL, formerly (as the stamp in the front shows) in the Astor Library, New York.

As the Penny Cyclopaedia article indicates, illustrations and much of the text for this entry are from The New Zealanders. On Melville's imaginative uses of The New Zealanders in Moby-Dick, you have to read Whipscars and Tattoos by Geoffrey Sanborn. And Sanborn's classy website is well worth checking out, not least for the helpful links.

Did the entry on Tattooing prompt Melville to consult The New Zealanders? Howard Vincent suggested a similar pattern might be evident in White-Jacket, of seeing articles in the Penny Cyclopaedia, then consulting works cited as sources for those articles--for instance, Guthrie on Gun-Shot Wounds.
" is more probable that Melville had read these articles and then turned to the basic medical authorities from which the encyclopedists themselves had taken their materials."  --The Tailoring of Melville's White-Jacket, 131


  1. Hi Scott,
    The article on Cannibals in PC also references Craik's book. I wonder if there is enough in PC (is the narrative of Tupai Cupa there, for instance?) to account for HM's borrowings without having him actually consult the original work?
    I'm not sure why people are excited with the self-portrait (that appears on the cover of NCE2, for instance): HM uses the word "square" half a dozen times in Ch 3 and 4 to describe Q's tats, and "this is not the man."

    1. Good line to pursue I think. Juniper Ellis contrasts the square tats of Q with T's in Tattooing the World. I guess we would need to re-examine anecdotes about TC that are supposedly reworked for Q unless they also appear in PC. And that image of Tupai Cupa in European dress always makes me think of George Washington canibalistically developed. Thanks much for the comment--I missed it somehow along with several others.