Moby Dick Gets the Google Doodle Treatment

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 161st anniversary of the publication of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The woodcut-inspired graphic depicts Captain Ahab, the notorious one-legged Quaker, poised with a harpoon in front of his elusive white whale:

google doodle
Although born in New York City, Melville had deep family ties to Boston as his paternal grandfather, Major Thomas Melvill, was a participant in the Boston Tea Party. Melville spent his early youth as a green-hand in ports around New England and became smitten with the romantic lore of the Nantucket whaler. He moved to Pittsfield and became an instant literary success with his best-seller Typee. But when critics panned Moby Dick, inspired by the actual events of the Nantucket ship, Essex, the novel he thought would be his epic masterpiece failed to sell through its initial 3,000-print run. Moby Dick brought about Melville’s financial ruin and an end to his literary career.

The Google tribute coincides with an online project called Moby Dick Big Read, commissioned by the University of Plymouth and writer Phillip Hoare to record all 135 chapters of the novel over 135 days. The readings will be performed by well-known fans including Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry, John Waters, Neil Tennant, and Nathaniel Philbrick. With these celebrity endorsements and amazing artwork provided by Angela Cockayne, the adventures of Ishmael aboard the Pequod can breathe a sigh of relief, and sail into much-deserved posterity.