cetology \sē-ˈtä-lə-jē\ n. 1. a branch of zoology concerned with the cetaceans
In the 32nd chapter of Herman Melville’s famous work, Moby Dick, in predictable Melville style, he expounds on a seemingly unimportant detail. In this case being that of whale classification. Ishmael describes the task of systemizing the types of whales,
“To grope down into the bottom of the sea after them; to have one’s hands among the unspeakable foundations, ribs, and very pelvis of the world; this is a fearful thing” (136).
As there is some variation concerning an exact definition of the unique features of whales. Nonetheless, Ishmael gives his opinion with the definition that a whale is, “a spouting fish with a horizontal tail” (137).
Ishmael then breaks down the types of whales into three different book, each containing a few chapters for that type of whale. In Book I Ishmael starts with the Folio, or the Sperm Whale, including chapters on 1.) Sperm Whale, 2.) Right Whale, 3.) Fin Back Whale, 4.) Humpbacked Whale, 5.) Razor Back Whale, and 6.) Sulphur Bottom Whale.
Book II categorizes the Octavo, or Grampus Whales. Chapter 1.) about the Grampus, 2.) Black Fish, 3.) Narwhale, 4.) Killer, and 5.) Thrasher.
And finally Book III is about the Duodecimos, or Porpoise Whales. With chapters addressing the 1.) The Huzza, 2.) Algerine Porpoise, and 3.) Mealy-mouthed Porpoise.