Rockwell Kent was originally approached in 1926 by R. R. Donnelley and Sons, Lakeside Press to do illustrations for Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast. Kent rejected, but suggested Moby Dick instead. Kent was given complete freedom to design and illustrate the three-volume set. Extensive archival material exists at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, The Rockwell Kent Papers, that document the project.
Completed in 1930, the Deluxe Edition of 1,000 copies, in three volumes and encased in a metal slipcase, sold out immediately.
Soon the Random House edition, circulated through the Book of the Month Club, was published. Selling for $3.50 each. This version was also an immediate success, with its infamous cover and dust jacket that failed to recognize the author.
For the last 75 years, Moby Dick, with illustrations by Rockwell Kent has been in publication in the US, even with R. R. Donnelley, Inc. reluctant to support a mass produced edition in 1930 for fear it would have an adverse effect on their edition.
(via The Beat)