Herman Melville’s Lifetime Literary Earnings

Books, Literature, Writers

The chart below is from The Life and Works of Herman Melville.

Note: This chart does not represent Melville’s entire literary production. It does not list earnings for the magazine articles or for Israel PotterThe Piazza Tales, and The Confidence-Man, for which surviving records are incomplete; nor does it give figures for the volumes of poetry that were published at private expense.

		    UNITED STATES	       UNITED KINGDOM		      TOTALS

		Copies       	            Copies       	        Total       Total
Title		Sold	     Earnings	    Sold	 Earnings (a)   Sales       Earnings
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Typee		9,598	     1,138.61	    6,722	   708.40	16,320	    1,847.01

Omoo		7,403	     1,719.78	    5,932	   644.00	13,335	    2,363.78

Mardi		2,900	       740.88	    1,000	   970.65	 3,900      1,711.53

Redburn		4,718	       683.57	      750	   484.00	 5,468	    1,167.57

White-Jacket	4,922	       969.44	    1,000	   968.00	 5,922	    1,937.44

Moby-Dick	3,215	       556.37	      500	   703.08	 3,715	    1,259.45

Pierre		1,821	       157.75	      --	      --	 1,821	      157.75
Battle-Pieces	  471	     - 229.71 (b)     --	      --	   471	    - 229.71
	       ------	     --------	   ------	 --------	------	   ---------
TOTALS	       35,048	     5,736.69 	   15,905	 4,478.13       50,953	   10,214.82
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9 thoughts on “Herman Melville’s Lifetime Literary Earnings

    1. If the total is $10,214.82, and you start at, say 1855 (a few years after Pierre was published), the figure is $366,815.44, according to this inflation calculator—http://www.halfhill.com/inflation.html — although I’m not really sure how accurate it is, because I really don’t know much about the science or history of economics.

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  1. Total earnings in the final column: about $426.00 in today’s money. ($24.00 in the mid 1800’s being about $1.00 in today’s money.)

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  2. Who cares about dollars? It’s the number of copies. I was going to have my daughter put “Posthumous Doesn’t Count” on my grave marker, but I just changed my mind.

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  3. After Typee and Omoo were published Herman Melville was able to marry and buy a home in Pittsfield, MA from his book earnings. He remained in that home for 13 years writing. There are great passages in Typee about our culture damaging the indigenous people of the South Pacific.

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