Presented as narratives of his own South Sea experiences, Melville's first two books had roused incredulity in many readers. Their disbelief, he declared, had been "the main inducement" in altering his plan for his third book, Mardi: and a Voyage Thither (1849). Melville wanted to exploit the "rich poetical material" of Polynesia and also to escape feeling "irked, cramped, & fettered" by a narrative of facts. "I began to feel . . . a longing to plume my pinions for a flight," he told his English publisher.
This scholarly edition aims to present a text as close to the author's intention as surviving evidence permits. Based on collations of all editions publishing during Melville's lifetime, it incorporates author corrections and many emendations made by the present editors. This edition of Mardi is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).