Melville and Moby Dick

Herman Melville wrote his classic novel Moby-Dick (1851) without having visited the island of Nantucket. The island and its whaling history form the backbone of his novel, and indeed are central symbols in the epic journey of the Pequod in its hunt for Moby-Dick, the white whale. Melville based the essentials of his plot, and the final climactic ramming of the Pequod, upon all that he had read about Nantucket’s whaling industry, and in particular, the gruesome tale of the Nantucket whaleship Essex. After the publication of Moby-Dick, Melville finally visited the island, and met face-to-face with Captain George Pollard Jr., the captain who survived one of the most harrowing ordeals at sea in human history.

To learn more, explore the materials listed below that can be found in the NHA archives and collections and at the Nantucket Whaling Museum.

Moby Dick Multilingual Reading


Review contributions to the NHA archives by writers, researchers, and scholars exploring aspects of Moby-Dick and Melville's connection to Nantucket.More Read more from Articles

Historic Nantucket

Read recent articles on Melville and Moby-Dick featured in the NHA's Historic Nantucket publication.More Read more from Historic Nantucket


Watch videos of recent NHA presentations on Melville including sessions from the 2019 Melville Symposium.More Read more from Videos


The mystical symbolism and humor that made Moby-Dick seem modern before its time continue to inspire. View exhibitions at the Whaling Museum and online that retell this timeless story in new ways.More Read more from Exhibitions

Search the Collection

Explore the NHA collections for artifacts and manuscripts relating to Herman Melville and Moby-Dick.More Read more from Search the Collection


Shop the NHA Museum Shop for gifts inspired by Moby-Dick and other items reflecting the history, crafts, and natural beauty of Nantucket Island.More Read more from Shop

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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