Berkshire Athenaeum to receive Literary Landmark status on Herman Melville's 200th birthday

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PITTSFIELD — On the 200th anniversary of Herman Melville's birth, the city's public library on Thursday will be designated a Literary Landmark under the auspices of the American Library Association.

The event gets underway at noon Thursday with tours of the Herman Melville research collection at The Berkshire Athenaeum, 1 Wendell Ave. At 1 p.m., Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum will lead the unveiling of a Literary Landmark plaque in the space.

Melville wrote his most famous novel, "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale," at Arrowhead, his home in Pittsfield from 1850 to 1863. Published in 1851, "Moby-Dick" tells the tale of Captain Ahab's mission to avenge the loss of his leg by the mighty whale.

The Herman Melville Memorial Room at the Athenaeum houses a collection of works by and about Melville. The collection includes correspondence, legal papers, annotated volumes from Melville's library, first editions of the author's works, family portraits, and a large collection of personal memorabilia, considered to be the largest of its type in the world, including the desk at which "Billy Budd" was written.

The Literary Landmark program, administered by the American Library Association's United for Libraries division, marks historic literary sites in the United States. More than 150 Literary Landmarks, ranging from homes of famous writers to libraries to literary scenes, exist nationwide.

Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Literary Landmark locations include the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield and the Jones Library, with its vast Robert Frost collection, in Amherst.

Thursday's event coincides with The Berkshire County Historical Society's "Moby-Dick" reading marathon, which takes place over the span of four days at Arrowhead, starting Friday.

An additional event Thursday celebrates Melville's 200th. A birthday party starts at 4:30 at The Country Club of Pittsfield, 639 South St. The ticketed event is a benefit for The Berkshire County Historical Society, which maintains Arrowhead.

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