The Whale and His Captors; or, The Whaleman's Adventures

Henry T. Cheever

The Whale and His Captors is an important firsthand account of the golden age of American whaling, chronicling both its lore and science as practiced from the inception of the fishery to the mid-1800s. Late in the composition of Moby-Dick, Herman Melville found inspiration in Cheever and his writings that would provide the final flourishes for one of America’s classic novels. After exhausting other whaling sources—Beale, Scoresby, Bennett, and Browne—Melville turned to Cheever for chapter titles and organization as well as passages that helped shape, define, and elucidate his great work. This is the first scholarly edition of The Whale and His Captors, accompanied by an introduction and apparatus that clearly elucidates Cheever’s treatise on whaling and demonstrates how his writings contributed both to the course of American literature and to our burgeoning understanding of literature’s engagement with the natural world.

Paper: $40 | E-book: $39.99
ISBN-13: 9781512602654
Pages: 264 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: May 1, 2018


  • The present edition is a fascinating work, containing all the illustrations from the original 1850 text. It is particularly suited for scholars interested in American maritime studies, literary criticism, and especially Melville and his work. . . . Recommended.

  • Among those who preceded Herman Melville on the whaleman’s storm-tossed literary seas, the Rev. Henry T. Cheever was especially intriguing. Madison has freshly edited Cheever’s 1850 book, supplied insightful additions of their own, and brought together an array of contextual materials in a rich appendix.

    Wayne Franklin
    author of James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years and The Later Years
  • Madison constructs illuminating literary and nautical contexts for this eyewitness account of life on a whaler and is especially good at tracing Cheever’s influence on Moby-Dick, as well as his changeable attitudes toward its author, Herman Melville.

    Hugh Egan
    Ithaca College
  • Sharing new discoveries and insights, the edition’s supplementary materials contribute to ongoing scholarship by accurately contextualizing Cheever and Melville within their own time-and by illuminating their respective connections to our own.

    Steven Olsen-Smith
    general editor, Melville’s Marginalia Online

About the Author

Other Recent Titles

The Green Ages

Annette Kehnel

The Philosopher Fish

Richard Adams Carey

Freshwater Fish of the Northeast

Matt Patterson

Birdwatching in Maine

Derek Lovitch

One Planet, Many Worlds

Dipesh Chakrabarty