Thursday, December 18, 2014

A [baker's] dozen of the best Moby-Dick art

So my favorite piece of written anything is Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, or The Whale. I read it every Christmas as a birthday treat to myself. It's a work that demands your full attention for long stretches of time, no slacking off on deck, keep your eyes peeled at the horizon. There's a gold doubloon for you if you spot the beast. Harpoon at the ready.

About a week ago, I went to an impromptu dinner with some of my friends, and I learned just then that one of them, DK, was reading Moby-Dick for his English class. At Berkeley, engineers do have to take some humanities classes, and it always seems like we mope about them rather than enjoy those courses for what they are. To my delight, DK, an EECS through and through, loved reading it. We spent dinnertime talking excitedly about Moby-Dick, from spout to fluke, every symbol and sign and every theory we had, and we got DK's CS project partners, new friends of mine, eager to read this book for the very first time.

A clump of engineers talking about Moby-Dick over burritos and chips - now that's something I live for. I love that book. I love it. It's cliche and it's bombastic and operatic and so heavy-handed, but I love that book.

Anyhow, this post is really just to get me excited for my birthday read. From Pinterest, I culled my favorite pieces of art for or inspired by Herman Melville's leviathan.

Moby Dick! Lesson kids is don't hunt whales or you're going to regret it! - Omar Todd.

12. Japanese cover - unsourced

The only one here where Moby-Dick is not a white whale. A stylistic choice here, and I do like the woodblock-effect. My favorite theme of the work appears here - note the stars in the water. The ocean as the Universe, Moby-Dick himself as the Universe, as God, the Creator, the Destroyer.

11. Moby Dick - Max Bardin

The baleful whale. The only Jaws-styled piece that I'll include here, though you'll see many diving poses in this post. Anyhow, this is very moody and very simple, which is fine by me.

Rockwell Kent-designed cover for Moby Dick by Herman Melville

10. Rockwell Kent, one of many

Rockwell Kent has done quite a bunch of Moby-Dick pieces, but I liked this one for the very Art Deco look. It's different. I sort of like it a lot.

Moby Dick Woodblock Print by Erika Gallagher, via Behance

9. Moby Dick, Erika Gallagher

Again with the woodblock. This one is more striking and frenetic, which fits the situation. Whatever sort of maritime feelings it stirs in me - and it really does inspire me to quit college and run off to 19th century Cape Cod...sort of - I can't ignore that it looks like Moby-Dick has baleen, and that the boat has a sail.

Moby Dick Framed Art Print by Rachael Shankman | Society6

8. Moby Dick, Rachel Shankman

I like this style. It's modern and I particularly like the colors. Of the pieces shown so far, this has got to be the most oversize whale, but given that we are told that the whale can smite folk with its fluke, that's no issue.

Book Covers by Umberto Scalabrini, via Behance

7. Moby Dick, Umberto Scalabrini

This one. Now this one gets it. It's so simple, but it's so effective. It's striking. Look at it. Who is that in the whale's eye? Is it Ahab? Ishmael? Starbuck? Me? Probably me. How are we compared to the whale? To the Universe and God? What does that eye see? Questions. Mysteries upon mysteries.

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale [ARION PRESS]. Wood engravings by Barry Moser. Designed by Andrew Hoyem.

6. Various, Barry Moser

Again, I love this style. Woodcut/block-like. Also, look at the dude riding the dolphin,

Moby Dick by Rachel Wong

5. Moby Dick, Rachael Wong

Truly this is the white whale. I think the way everything is staged, the wake and the deep, the beast itself, everything looks good. However, I have no idea what that boat is - the harpooners' boat or the Pequod? Really, I'm wondering.

Moby Dick - re-read it every year.

4. The Penguin Classics edition

One of the most common covers you'll see. It's a beauty. It's so clean and simple. It's beautiful.

Moby Dick. It took me a few tries to get into this book, but it was worth it. thanks to my friend Leigh, who guilt-tripped me into it ;)

3. The Folio Society - unsourced

The Devil's in the details. I've mentioned stars in the water, but here, with the stark white of the White Whale, the utter lack of title, we truly have a representation of the Universe on our hands. Vassal fish by the fluke, and a stream of water/bubbles/energy/whatever from the blowhole. There are harpoons on the spine, and all in all, it's a beautiful, beautiful cover.

Listen to ‘Moby-Dick’ as Read by Tilda Swinton, John Waters, David Cameron, Stephen Fry and More ( )

2. Unsourced

It's a shame that I can't find who made this - and the other unsourced ones, of course. This one is great. The various characters scattered about Moby-Dick really make it for me. Note the small Queequeg in the corner, floating on his coffin. Retroactive spoiler alert.

'Fictional Feasts: Mouth-Watering Moments of Literary Gastronomy', Flavorwire.It has been my whale for over ten years! I decided I MUST read it when I couldn't answer the trivia question: "What famous book starts with the line 'Call me Ishmael ?'" I have started it no less than 6 times, get to about page 100 and get stuck every time in the section about the physiology of the whale. One day, one day. - Angie
1. Both unsourced - of course

Just look at these ones. By now, you'll know I love the Moby-Dick is the Universe/God/everythingandnothing but the first one really hammers it home. The White Whale takes up the sky, the entire space. There is nothing but whale. The bottom cover is one that I see quite a lot in stores, and it pretty accurately/comically portrays the last standoff between Moby-Dick and the men of the Pequod. It's a wonder. They're both wonders.


  1. Hi --

    Just found your blog. Some coincidences: 1. I went to Cal - not a science major but I did study Chinese and spent a year in Hong Kong, 2. my family is from New Hampshire - trying to convince my sophomore son to attend Dartmouth (if he doesn't go to Cal), and 3. I LOVE Moby Dick - my second favorite right after Pride and Prejudice. I really look forward to exploring your blog!

    1. What a coincidence indeed! I had actually forgotten about this post, and now see that some of the image links are unfortunately dead.

      I don't know what UC Berkeley was like back in your day, but when I left it last year, it was a strange, enriching, maddening, beautiful place. If your son is interested in engineering, then Cal is certainly a school to look at.

      I actually have another NH hike planned, as well as a "points of interest/delicious food" post about Berkeley, CA. Thank you for visiting my blog!