1986 The Folio Society, London; "A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea"; hardbound, 342 pages; Introduction by Mervyn Horder; Drawings by Ian Ribbons; very good as-new condition of book; slipcase very good; includes the original "The Folio Society Limited" postcard and attached "Bookmark"; a wonderful collectable book.
Two Years Before the Mast is a memoir by the American author Richard Henry Dana Jr., originally published in 1840, having been written after a two-year sea voyage from Boston to California on a merchant ship starting in 1834. A film adaptation under the same name was released in 1946.
While an undergraduate at Harvard College, Dana had an attack of the measles which affected his vision. Thinking it might help his sight, Dana left Harvard to enlist as a common sailor on a voyage around Cape Horn on the brig Pilgrim. He returned to Massachusetts two years later, aboard the Alert (which left California sooner than the Pilgrim). He kept a diary throughout the voyage, and, after returning, he wrote a recognized American classic, Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840.
The term "before the mast" refers to the quarters of the common sailors, in the forecastle, in the front of the ship. His writing evidences his later sympathy with the lower classes. He later became a prominent anti-slavery activist and helped found the Free Soil Party.
Dana wrote Two Years Before the Mast not as a sea adventure but to highlight how poorly treated common sailors were on ships. The book quickly became a bestseller.