Wednesday, May 15, 2024

W. H. Bartlett's FOOTSTEPS OF OUR LORD AND HIS APOSTLES from the library of Herman Melville

Footsteps of Our Lord & His Apostles, Title-page with
engraving, "The Holy Sycamore"  © The Trustees of the British Museum

Looks like another illustrated book of travel and adventure in the Middle East by William Henry Bartlett can be added to the three already listed in the catalog of books owned and borrowed by Herman Melville at Melville's Marginalia Online. Merton M. Sealts, Jr. included three of Bartlett's works in Melville's Reading: A Check-List of Books Owned and Borrowed (University of Wisconsin Press, 1966; Revised and Enlarged Edition, University of South Carolina Press, 1988):

  • Forty Days in the Desert, on the Track of the Israelites (Sealts Number 48)
  • The Nile-Boat; or, Glimpses of the Land of Egypt (Sealts Number 49)
  • Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem (Sealts Number 50)

Melville mined each of these works in the writing of his epic religious poem Clarel (1876) as demonstrated by Walter E. Bezanson in the 1960 Hendricks House edition of Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land; and Dorothee Metlitsky Finkelstein in Melville's Orienda (Yale University Press, 1961). Bartlett's works and the groundbreaking scholarship on Melville's use of them by Bezanson and Metlitsky Finkelstein are duly registered by Mary  K. Bercaw in Melville's Sources (Northwestern University Press, 1987).

A fourth title by Bartlett, Footsteps of Our Lord and His Apostles in Syria, Greece, and Italy, was offered by rare book dealer Noah Farnham Morrison (1863-1950) of Elizabeth, New Jersey in his 1926 Catalog of Miscellaneous Literature No. 209, listed there on page 12. 

Noah Farnham Morrison, Catalog No. 209 - 1926

2257. BARTLETT (W. H.). Footsteps of our Lord and his apostles. 12mo, pp. 248, morocco, map and ills., gilt edges. N. Y., n. d. 3.50
From the library  of Herman Melville.

As indicated in Morrison's catalog description, this particular copy was a New York edition with no date given, acquired "From the library of Herman Melville." Price: $3.50, minus the 25% discount on all items in Catalog No. 209, as stipulated on the front cover. Morrison explained, 

"I am specializing in Americana and need the room for that stock."

The proprietor of "The Ark" aka "The Sign of the Ark" or "Noah's Ark" in Elizabeth, NJ had a longstanding interest in Melville's own writings, as shown by his advertisement in the Books Wanted section of Publishers' Weekly No. 1209, March 30, 1895. Based at that time in Newark, Noah Farnham Morrison was seeking 

"Herman Melville's Works, any, state publisher and date." (page 540)

Noah Farnham Morrison retired in 1943 and died on October 4, 1950 at the age of 87. From the notice of his passing in the Antiquarian Bookman:

"A specialist in Americana, he had opened his first book store in Newark in 1893. For over 40 years his Elizabeth store, Noah's Ark, was famous on West Jersey Street, until he retired in 1943. His stock of Americana was sold in six sessions by Swann's Auction Galleries in 1945-6."
Detail, front cover of Morrison's Catalog Number 216 - 1927

The full title of Bartlett's work is Footsteps of Our Lord and His apostles in Syria, Greece, and Italy: a succession of visits to the scenes of New Testament narrative. In his Catalog Number 209, Morrison gave the short title of Melville's copy as Footsteps of Our Lord and his apostles, without specifying the edition or publisher. However, Morrison did note the place of publication, N. Y. = New York, and the absence of a publication date on the title-page. Similarly, Melville's copies of Forty Days in the Desert (Sealts Number 48) and The Nile-Boat (Sealts Number 49) were also American editions, published in New York with no date indicated on the title-pages. Both volumes owned by Melville, Forty Days in the Desert and The Nile-Boat, were Fifth Editions published in New York by Charles Scribner and Company. Although Melville's copy of Bartlett's Footsteps of our Lord is now lost or (more hopefully) unlocated, it may have been Scribner's 5th edition. 

All three titles were advertised together by Scribner & Company. Bartlett's popular works headed the list of "SUPERBLY ILLUSTRATED ENGLISH BOOKS FOR THE HOLIDAYS, 1865-6" in the American Literary Gazette and Publishers' Circular (Philadelphia, PA) for November 1, 1865. Listed first: Footsteps of Our Lord and his Apostles in Syria, Greece, and Italy: a succession of visits to the scenes of New Testament Narrative featuring "47 exquisite Illustrations on steel and wood." 

As advertised in the Philadelphia American Literary Gazette, these holiday gift books were "Crown 8vo" in size which would make them smaller than the usual octavo--possibly close to the 12mo or duodecimo size of the book from Melville's library according to Noah Farnham Morrison. The advertised price of each volume in "Cloth extra, gilt" was $4, exactly one day's pay for a customs inspector at the Port of New York as Melville officially would become on December 5, 1866. As described in Morrison's 1926 catalog, Melville's copy of Footsteps of our Lord and His Apostles was bound in morocco leather which normally would have upped the purchase price by about two dollars.

Melville could have acquired the Footsteps volume when the 5th edition was issued for the holidays by Scribner and Company in 1865-6, or later. As indicated by Sealts in Melville's Reading, Melville's Forty Days in the Desert (like Footsteps in the 1865 ad shown above, a Fifth Edition published in New York by Scribner) was inscribed by Melville in New York City on January 31, 1870.

Melville's other copies of Bartlett's works are held by the New York Public Library in the Gansevoort-Lansing collection. Arranged by Sealts Number, the two Scribner editions, Forty Days in the Desert (Sealts 48) and The Nile-Boat (Sealts 49) are located in the Gansevoort-Lansing family library, box 329. As recorded in the relevant catalog entries at Melville's Marginalia Online, these two volumes were given by Melville's daughter Frances to Caroline W. Stewart. Sealts Number 50, the London edition of Bartlett's Walks about the City and Environs of Jerusalem, was a Christmas gift from Herman to his wife Elizabeth Melville. Also located in the New York Public Library, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Gansevoort-Lansing Box 329 according to the catalog entry at Melville's Marginalia Online.

Not Melville's actual book but still a boon to researchers, Scribner's undated Fifth Edition of Footsteps of our Lord and His Apostles by William Henry Bartlett is also at The New York Public Library, now located in the Schwarzman Building M2 - General Research Room 315. I checked, it has the same number of pages, 248, as the one at Noah's Ark. Google-digitized images from the physical volume at NYPL are available online courtesy of HathiTrust Digital Library:

Possibly Melville borrowed something in Clarel (and perhaps in other writings) from somewhere in Bartlett's Footsteps of Our Lord and His Apostles. What remains to be seen. 


  1. Another good find! Following Bartlett in Noah's catalog is Bashkirseff, Maria whose book title is in the library of Jane Melville.

    1. Thanks, John. Say, maybe Noah F. Morrison got the Bartlett volume from Herman Melville's niece Mrs Morewood--Allan's daughter Maria "Milie" Melville, then widow of William B. Morewood. The Morewoods lived in Elizabeth New Jersey, right? Noah's Ark in Elizabeth NJ offered Bartlett's FOOTSTEPS the year before Allan's daughters sold Arrowhead (and unspecified books from Herman Melville library) in 1927.

    2. Bingo! Maybe Noah has more. John G

    3. Could be. Noah's alphabetized discount catalog of Misc. Lit #209 with the Bartlett volume stops in the C's. Miscellaneous or "General Literature" sale continues over several different catalogs. #211 = C to F; #213 = F to L; #215 = L & M. Jeez, look in the L's, item 3542: The Lusiad, trans. Mickle. London, 1809 for one dollar.