Almost from the time of its publication early in 1846, Melville's first book, based on his own travels in the South Seas, has been recognized as a classic in the literature of travel and adventure. From the beginning, however, there have been problems with the text. Due to disparities between the American and English editions, and revisions Melville had to make at his publisher's request concerning its racy style and attitude toward missionaries, the book has circulated in two versions.
This scholarly edition is based on collations of all editions published during his lifetime, incorporating many authorial readings that have often been omitted and some that have been misprinted in all previous editions. This edition is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).