This Site: An Elementary Guide


This fluid-text edition of the Typee manuscript showcases Melville’s revision process through several stages of the composition of his first published book, Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life (1846). In its day, Typee was Melville’s most popular publication, offering Victorian readers startling and romantic glimpses of island people and practices. Eclipsed in the twentieth century by more challenging fictions like Moby-Dick and Billy Budd, it has in recent years retrieved some of its early popularity not so much for its Pacific voyeurism but for its insights into race, sexuality, politics, American identity, Western imperialism, and the colonial encounter.

Typee is also one of American culture’s more startling instances of a fluid text. A fluid text is any literary work that exists in multiple versions due to authorial, editorial, or cultural revision; and Typee exhibits all three phases of that phenomenon because, along with at least three discernible authorial versions evident in the manuscript, it appeared in three radically different editorial versions and was revised again in 1892, soon after Melville’s death. In the twentieth century, it emerged in American and world culture in numerous illustrated editions, a comic book, and a film.

The Rotunda electronic edition of the Typee manuscript consists of traditional and innovative editorial features allowing readers unprecedented access to the heretofore “invisible text of revision” located on a sizable, three-chapter segment of Melville’s working draft of Typee discovered in 1983. These features are:

Using the Edition

The edition provides a viewing device which allows various “views” of the text to be selected for comparison. For example, a reader may compare:

The viewing device consists of upper and lower viewing frames and a navigation bar. The navigation bar has: a banner that links to the Typee home page; navigation for the upper frame; navigation for the lower frame; a coordination check box; and an icon that links to the Rotunda home page. The navigation for each frame includes: a menu for selecting alternate views of the text; another menu for selecting a particular page or folio number;1 left and right arrows for moving backwards and forwards among pages or folios; and an “open” button used to create a new window for the selected item. If the “coordination” box is checked then the upper and lower frames move in unison. Otherwise, the contents of the frames can be selected independently.

The viewing device

Fig. 1. The viewing device.


Severl different views may be selected for the upper and lower frames:

Digital images of the manuscript pages discovered in 1983 and now deposited in the New York Public Library.
Three different texts are available:
  1. Transcription: A typographic facsimile that provides a typeset view of the manuscript text and its alterations. Additions are colored red and deletions are ruled through with blue lines. Marginal notes provide descriptions of editorial activity, and are keyed to locations in the transcription using black numerals. Red numerals indicate transposed word order.
  2. Reading text: (Also known as the “base version.”) Melville’s final draft, as evident from the manuscript.
  3. First print edition: The text of the first British edition of 1846. In order to facilitate comparison, the lineation and pagination of this view follow the manuscript, not the British edition. (Page breaks in the British edition are marked by numerals in square brackets. Example: [99]) This view uses color to identify revisions that occurred later than the manuscript stage. Information on these is accessed through the corresponding Revision Sites.2
Revision Sites
Three sets of revision sites are provided, each using the reading text as a basic “map” from which to link to individual revision sequences and narratives.
  1. In manuscript: Revision sites evident in the manuscript are highlighted in yellow.
  2. Later stages: Sites relating to revisions that occurred later than the manuscript stage are highlighted in pink.
  3. All combined: Revision sites relating to the manuscript are highlighted in yellow, those relating to later stages are highlighted in pink, and revisions encompassing both are highlighted in orange.

Revision Sequences and Narratives

The editor has deduced a revision sequence and composed a narrative for every revision site. Clicking on a highlighted section in one of the views found under Revision Sites opens the corresponding revision sequence and narrative in a separate window.

Images and XML Coding: a technical note

The digital photographs of the Typee manuscript used in this edition were created by the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the New York Public Library. High-resolution photographs taken in December 2003 were converted to JPEG format at 20% scale and delivered to the University of Virginia Press in that format. No cropping, retouching, or other manipulation was subsequently performed by Rotunda; the images, including ruler and color scale, are presented here as received.

The underlying archival format for all textual data in this edition, apart from editorial introductions, is XML encoded according to the TEI Guidelines:

  1. The manuscript transcription, revision sequences, and revision narratives were originally prepared as word processing files delivered to UVa Press. The Press, in consultation with the editor, devised an encoding system using a very lightly extended version of the TEI P4 DTD. References for revision sequences and narratives, along with the apparatus for recording manuscript additions and deletions, are tagged using the standard TEI tagset for transcription of primary sources. The editorial text of the revision sequences and narratives is contained in the same XML source file. The archival source file may be downloaded for offline viewing via this link: Typee.xml
  2. The text and images for the first British edition of Typee included in this edition were prepared by Digital Library Production Services of the University of Virginia Libraries in 2006. Text was captured using DLPS’s customization of the TEI P4 DTD; conversion to HTML for Web presentation was done by Rotunda staff.


The viewing device uses JavaScript™ and operates with current versions of the following browsers:3

It will also operate with other browsers; however, some facilities such as coordinated scrolling may not function.

This site uses Unicode. If characters such as apostrophes and quotation marks are incorrectly rendered then reconfigure your browser to use Unicode (UTF-8) character encoding.

Images may be loaded at reduced size. Such images will expand if clicked. Alternatively, reconfigure your browser so that it does not resize large images to fit in its window.

First British Edition

A separate digital version of the first British edition of Typee (Narrative of a four months’ residence among the natives of a valley of the Marquesas Islands; or, A peep at Polynesian life [London, J. Murray, 1846]) was added to this edition as a resource in July 2006. It contains a complete transcription of the text along with digital images of the entire volume, including photographs of the book covers and spine.

Access the first British edition

1. According to convention, manuscript folios (i.e. leaves) are designated f01r, f01v, f02r, f02v, etc. Here, “f” stands for “folio,” “r” for “recto” (meaning “right”) and “v” for “verso” (meaning “reverse”). The other views use normal page numbering.

2. Highlighted revisions in the first print ed. view are not active, so clicking on one does nothing. Active links to information on these revisions can be found in the later stages and all combined views located under Revision Sites.

3. This list was compiled early in 2006, at which time the version numbers were Camino 1.0, Firefox 1.5, Internet Explorer 6.0, Mozilla 1.7, Netscape 7.2 and Safari 2.0.

4. The Mac version of Internet Explorer is not supported.