1. In this opening sentence, Melville's metaphor for verbal description, "to paint," and his implication that words fall short of canvas in power of depiction, suggest his admiration for pictorial art. His early interest in art evolved into a life-long study, and a personal collection of hundreds of prints and engravings. In chapters 55, 56, and 57 he alludes to many illustrations and works of art, judging them according to the accuracy with which they depict whales. The order of the chapters is from gross error to reasonable accuracy. Pictorial representation, though, can, like language, be difficult to interpret, as shown in the apparent whaling painting at the start of Chapter 3: 12.3-13.15, which itself may be a prefiguring of the Pequod's end in Chapter 135: 570.6-572.39. These three chapters' concern for veracity is related to the search for truth evident throughout Moby-Dick. See, for example, Father Mapple's sermon in Chapter 9: 48.24-25, Bulkington in Chapter 13: 107.1-6, Chapter 24: 110.34-35, Chapter 35: 155.31-34, Chapter 41: 184.27, 185.31, Chapter 45: 205.23, Chapter 83: 362.28, Chapter 110: 480.38.
2. William Hogarth (1697-1764) English painter and engraver, best known for his satirical prints.
3. He wrote Histoire Naturelle des Cetacees.
4. William Scoresby, Jr. (1789-1857), arctic whaling captain, scientist, clergyman, son of England's most famous whaler, and author of An Account of the Arctic regions, with a History and description of the Northern Whale-Fishery. His book is a major source for Moby-Dick, though Melville parodies its pompous praise of Scoresby, Sr. (called Captain Sleet) in Chapter 35, "The Mast-Head" [156-58]
5. Here Ishmael states his belief that the sperm whale is ultimately unknowable to human beings. In Chapter 36 [164.10-12] Ahab says that to him, the White Whale has something "inscrutable" behind it.
6. Both Ishmael and Ahab, each in his own way, are more than simply curious about whales, and about Moby Dick in particular. The result of Ishmael's dogged intellectual and emotional pursuit of the whale is Moby-Dick itself. Ahab's crazed, murderous obsession with Moby Dick is first revealed in Chapter 36, while Ishmael's fascination with the white whale in particular is evident much earlier, at the end of Chapter 1