Versions of Typee

Background: Manuscript, Print, and Adaptation.

Typee (1846), Melville’s first and (in his lifetime) his most popular book, is based on his desertion in 1842, with Richard Tobias Greene, from their whaling ship Acushnet, their retreat into the wilderness of the Marquesan Island of Nuku Hiva, their habitation in Taipivai valley among the Taipi, a putative cannibal tribe, and their separate escapes from the valley and island. The first-person adventure narrative mixes biographical fact and fictional embellishments in ways that explore the psychological, sexual, and political ramifications of Melville’s encounter with an indigenous culture soon to be dismantled by American and European colonial interventions. Melville’s first book also exists in multiple versions in manuscript, in various revised print editions, and in different kinds of adaptation. More than any other work in the Melville corpus, Typee is Melville’s fullest fluid text. Editing Typee as a fluid text of such scope and integrating it into MEL’s digital platform pose significant navigational and technical challenges.

The versions of Typee represent a full range of authorial, editorial, and adaptive revisions. Melville’s 1845 first draft manuscript—a three-chapter fragment—consists of extensive revisions, each a potential opening into new interpretations of the book. For instance, in one pattern of revision, Melville consistently deletes the word savage in favor of two other, more culturally neutral descriptors, native and islander, which suggests that the writer’s understanding of Polynesian civilization grew not only as he wrote but also because he wrote. In this kind of self-discovery that came with writing out and revising his feelings, Melville also began to articulate his sexual anxieties and multicultural consciousness. Manuscript revisions reveal Melville working through his narrator Tommo’s rivalry with his companion Greene, renamed “Toby,” over Tommo’s island lover Fayaway, whom he abandons in his escape from the island. In other episodes, revisions help us unpack Melville’s growing awareness of the political implications of his “whiteness.” They also let us follow Melville’s attempt to “interpret” Polynesian language and his decision to westernize words, such as changing his lover Faaua’s name to “Fayaway.” Our digital fluid-text editing of Typee, beginning with Melville’s manuscript revisions, will enable scholars to analyze other revision patterns in subsequent print versions that reveal Melville’s first unfoldings as an evolving writer and thinker.

Typee’s print versions involve different kinds of revision. When we compare the numerous revised passages in the 1845 manuscript to the first British edition of February 1846 (Brit1), we detect an equally staggering number of changes. In addition, Bryant’s analysis of the manuscript in his 2008 Melville Unfolding also argues that Melville had originally conceived of Typee as much shorter, and that he later doubled its size by interspersing, in various stages of composition, digressive chapters, some merely factual. Others, however, were inspired by his angry response to his sources (in particular Charles Stewart and David Porter) regarding Polynesian sexuality, religion, and cannibalism.

Despite Typee’s international success, the religious press criticized Melville’s sexual liberality, attacks on missionary colonizers, and defense of pagan Polynesian culture. Hints of this discontent among readers are reflected in minor expurgations made by Melville’s first American editor John Wiley for the first American edition of March 1846 (Am1). Later, Melville consented to heavier cuts of sexual, political, and religious content in Wiley’s American Revised edition of August 1846 (AmRev), content found mostly in the very angry digressions he had added during the composition of Typee. In the American Revised version, Melville also removed the book’s appendix with its controversial defense of the temporary 1843 British seizure of Hawai’i and replaced it with his brief recounting of Richard Tobias Greene’s escape from Taipivai, titled “The Story of Toby.” Finally, just before his death in 1891, Melville gave instructions for more revisions to Typee, including the restoration of one expurgation, in a posthumous 1892 edition. When edited together, the full range of manuscript and print revision will provide openings for new interpretation of Melville’s shifting intentions for Typee. The ways in which Melville’s readers adapted Typee will tell us even more.

Adaptation is a familiar phenomenon and, along with manuscript and print revision, is a third extension of the fluid text. It includes translations; “announced” adaptations in plays, films, and illustrated editions; bowdlerizations, abridgments, children’s books, and comics; and cultural memes. Adaptations do more than provide evidence of a writer’s reputation: They represent a culture’s way of re-writing the work itself; they are an interpretation of the work and an embodiment of the adaptor’s mediation of the work for expanding audiences in an evolving culture. What are the deeper cultural anxieties that compel us to revise another person’s writing into an adaptive work that is essentially a reflection of ourselves? Incorporating these kinds of “adaptive revisions” into our editing of Typee will help scholars address this and other questions more concretely.

Adaptations of Typee emerged almost immediately with Samuel Goodrich’s sanitized excerpts for children in an 1847 number of Robert Merry’s Museum. Various illustrated editions, two comic books, and two adventure films appeared in the early to mid-twentieth century. These were matched by the emergence of the 1968 NN scholarly edition and several critical, teaching, and popular editions at the turn of the twenty-first century. Typee was the first Melville book to be translated, as early as 1847 (in German), but the twentieth century witnessed an eruption of Typee translations especially in Romance languages. (See Attachment 6, Sample 8.) The varied adaptive versions of Melville’s first book expand interpretive possibilities in equally varied fields, including children’s literature, translation studies, reader response, and book history.

Challenges in Editing Typee.

Existing critical editions of Typee are themselves a kind of adaptive revision. Currently, the now-standard scholarly edition of Typee is the mixed-version or “eclectic” text released in 1968 as the first volume of the Northwestern-Newberry Writings of Herman Melville (NN). Soon after Melville’s manuscript fragment was discovered in 1983, Bryant began transcribing the manuscript, and versions of his transcription emerged first in his Penguin edition of Typee (1996, rev. 2005). His online Herman Melville’s Typee (UVa Press Rotunda Imprint 2006) included all manuscript leaf images, PDF diplomatic transcriptions of each page, and hyperlinked revision sequences and narratives. In 2009, it was the second digital edition to receive the MLA-CSE seal. Bryant’s Melville Unfolding (Michigan 2008) includes, as an appendix, a print version of the Rotunda edition’s transcription and sample revision narratives.

Both the NN edition of Typee and the Rotunda edition of the Typee manuscript are problematic. In following the standard practice of critical editing of its day, the NN edition aims to represent a “private” Melville not constrained by publishers or unduly coerced into expurgation by censorious readerships. They achieved their reading text by emending their first British edition copy text with changes they deemed to have been authorized by Melville, selected from Melville’s revised (but also expurgated) American edition. Even though Melville seems to have been complicit in the expurgation of his own work, the NN editors decided not to honor these American Revised Edition changes but nevertheless added into their own reading text of Typee other such revisions they deemed to be consistent with Melville’s final intentions as evident in the first British edition. This mixing of versions–a hallmark of “eclectic” critical editing–necessarily obscures the moments of revision in Melville’s shifting rather than “final” intentions. In addition, the NN edition’s decision to place all evidence of Melville’s revisions into a hard-to-unpack textual apparatus further removes readers from the edition’s revision data. Worse, in the reprinting of the NN reading text for popular editions, the textual apparatus is invariably removed so that scholars, instructors, and students have had diminishing contact with the Typee revision data.

Bryant’s Rotunda Edition is differently problematic. Because it can be accessed only through subscription, it has limited online circulation. Moreover, its intended focus on the manuscript gives only a portion of the full story of Melville’s revisions to Typee. Not surprisingly, its technology is already out of date. For instance, the Rotunda diplomatic transcription, base version, and revision sequences and narratives are created manually and not coded in TEI.

Typee’s complex history of revision in manuscript, print, adaptation, translation, and scholarly edition is ideally suited for digital fluid-text editing. The goal of such an edition is to offer users a central, pleasurable reading experience of Typee while at the same giving readers options to go deeper into their own experience of the scholarly retrieval of Melville’s revision process. But integrating Typee’s versions on a navigable platform, and one that interoperates with MEL’s other fluid-text editions, poses significant editorial and technological challenges.

Editorially, MEL’s proposed fluid-text edition of Typee will not mix versions (as does the NN Typee) but will edit each version separately, selecting one version–a composite of Brit1 and “The Story of Toby” from AmRev–as a “base version” with links to the full range of manuscript, print, and adaptive revisions. Technologically, this approach will be facilitated by MEL’s transition to the atomized database platform called OCHRE, developed along with the University of Chicago’s CEDAR digital humanities initiative, of which MEL is a project partner.

The challenge is to present the complex sequence of versions in a way that does not overwhelm readers but encourages them to explore revisions on their own terms. In ways already adopted in MEL’s Moby-Dick and Billy Budd editions, MEL will create a single, pleasurable reading text (a lightly edited and coded iteration of the aforementioned “base version”) of Typee, with three sets of on-the-page annotations. These are 1) textual notes that record authorial variants in spelling and punctuation; 2) contextual notes addresing biographical, historical, and cultural references; and 3) revision notes that link substantive variants (manuscript revisions, expurgations, adaptations) to explanatory revision sequences and narratives. Readers of MEL’s reading text of Typee will be able to filter any combination of these three forms of annotation, or none at all.

MEL’s goal is a long-held aspiration of scholarly editing: to balance the pleasure of reading with layers of detailed but equally pleasurable scholarship. Because of the highly granularized nature of the OCHRE database, the base version, reading text, and annotation affordances can be readily achieved through OCHRE-generated APIs and interface development in Performant Software’s FairCopy critical editing platform (the newest iteration of Performant’s Juxta Editions, used for displaying MEL’s model editions, Moby-Dick, Billy Budd, and Battle-Pieces).

Unlike textual and contextual annotation, effective revision annotation is particularly challenging for several reasons. While we know revisions occur over time, we cannot be certain of their exact sequencing. Different editors will discern different orderings of revision steps; or they may agree on a single sequence but differ on the revision narrative that explains those same steps. Discerning the phenomena of revision is debatable. But since making the debate accessible is the mission of annotation, an edition’s revision notes must accommodate differing revision sequences and narratives. Accordingly, MEL’s digital tools store and display alternative revision sequences and narratives, as is evident in our fluid-text edition of Billy Budd, achieved through MEL’s TextLab technology. Our transition to CEDAR and its OCHRE database technology along with OCHRE’s work with Performant will help MEL adapt our approach to revision annotation first developed for Billy Budd to the fuller range of revision found in Typee, enabling us to integrate manuscript, print, and adaptive versions and help MEL more fully realize its goal of making annotation a place for discourse about revision.

Work in Progress.

Starting in December 2020, MEL received Rotunda XML for its Typee manuscript base version, revision narratives, and Brit1 texts and permission from University of Virginia Press, and we began re-transcribing the manuscript leaf images (supplied by NYPL) in TextLab. In 2021, we will work with The Newberry Library to digitize the relevant print versions of Typee and with University of Chicago’s OCHRE staff to curate those print texts.

  • Manuscript (1845)
  • British Edition (1846)
  • American Edition (1846)
  • American Revised (1846)
  • Stedman Edition (1892)
  • Memorandum of Stedman changes
  • Personal Copy with marginalia
  • Juxta Collations & Edition