Robinson Crusoe: 100 more years

Early 19th century editions


Robinson Crusoe continued to be very popular throughout Europe in the early years of the 19th century, with many publishers adding to the growing list of editions. For example, in 1820, Cadell and Davies published an edition which featured re-engraved versions of the Stothard illustrations that had been first published by James Harrison in 1782 and in extended form in 1790 by John Stockdale. In that same year (1820), Tute published an edition of Robinson Crusoe in Dublin, Garney and Le Fuel separately published editions in Paris, and Castiaux and Blocquel published another French edition in Lille. In the following year, at least three more editions were published in Paris followed by another two in 1822, while in London, in 1822, Charles Whittingham and Thomas Kelley each published two volume editions of Robinson Crusoe, Whittingham’s being another reprint of his edition of 1812. None of these editions were specifically published for juvenile readers.

Harvey and Darton edition 1831

The earliest 19th century edition that I have in my collection is from 1831. It was published as a single volume in London by Harvey and Darton, but was not alone, as at least three other editions appeared in London that year; a new single volume edition published by J.F. Dove; an 1818 edition re-published in 1831 by Baldwin and Craddock in two volumes with illustrations by Harvey, and another new edition published in two volumes by John Major, with illustrations by George Cruickshank, who would win everlasting fame a few years later with his illustrations for Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. 1831 also saw the appearance in the USA of a much republished edition of Robinson Crusoe by Key and Mielke of Philadelphia, with illustrations by William Robinson. A notable Italian edition was also published in 1831 by Gaspare Truffi in Milano.

In the pictures below, I show some images of my Harvey and Darton edition of 1831.

Keen Jane Austen fans might notice that Harvey and Darton’s offices were in Gracechurch Street, which is the street where the Gardiner family from Pride and Prejudice lived. Gracechurch Street still exists and now finds itself in the shadow of “The Gherkin”, one of London’s newer monstrosities. It must be said that most of London’s publishers at the time were clustered around Covent Garden, St. Paul’s churchyard and The Strand. Gracechurch Street was more mercantile in character and was to the south east, a little way from the publishing heart of the city.

The other notable facet of the title page is that there is no credit given to Daniel Defoe as the author. The reason can be deduced from the images of the two page preface shown below, where the anonymous “Editor” is trying to persuade the reader that the story is a true account of the adventures of a real man, a “just history of fact” rather than a “romance”.

Needless to say, there is no “Life of Defoe” printed with this edition. It seems to me remarkable that, more than 100 years after Defoe was first identified as the author of Robinson Crusoe, it was still possible to publish in London an edition that continues the pretense of the 1719 first edition that the story was a true history. This edition was reprinted in 1842 in a similar form by Harvey and Darton.

The illustrations in the Harvey and Darton edition are dated 1831, but are not credited to a particular artist. In addition to the frontispiece shown above, there are four other plates that are produced in a deliberately archaic form with two images per plate enclosed in an ornamental border, reminiscent of some of the cheaper style of chapbook illustrations of the 18th century. They are shown below.

The text in this edition is a condensation of the first two volumes of Robinson Crusoe, as published by Taylor in 1719. It is very much in a style designed for the adult rather than the juvenile reader.

Robinson the Younger published in 1856

The earliest version of Robinson Crusoe in my collection that was specifically published for the juvenile reader was Robinson the Younger, published by George Routledge & Co. in London in 1856. The upper board, which is in the original binding, and both the engraved and the printed title pages are shown below.

The printed title page reveals that this is an English translation of Robinson der Jüngere (1779) by Joachim Heinrich Campe, the first juvenile version of the story of Robinson Crusoe ever published, which was discussed in the previous Robinson Crusoe blog. My copy is the second Routledge edition of 1956, the first edition having appeared in 1855. There seems also to have been a third edition published in 1859. All three editions are scarce, but the text is available in electronic form in several libraries.

The book has two prefaces; a translator’s preface and some extracts from an unattributed author’s preface, which is presumably a translation of part of a preface written in German by Campe in 1779. The translator R. Hick explained how he came to translate Campe’s book as follows:

The original work of which the following is a translation, fell accidentally into my hands when looking for an entertaining German reading book. I was presently struck with its admirable adaptation for the use of children, and once resolved to translate it for my own little boys; during the progress of my agreeable task I now and then read what I had written, sometimes to my wife, sometimes to friends, who one and all strongly recommended my offering it for publication.

Translator’s Preface, Robinson the Younger, George Routledge & Co. London 1856

He finished by writing:

I have endeavoured as much as possible to render it simply what it professes to be, a faithful image of the admirable original, the worth of which has been emphatically stamped by the German public having demanded upwards of forty large editions of it.

R.Hick Woodhouse Hill, Near Leeds, 1855.

The image on the engraved title page in the central panel above shows a man reading from a book to his family grouped around him. This is how Robinson der Jüngere  and Robinson the Younger are both structured, with the story being read out to the children by the father as a narrative interrupted by frequent questions from the children. I give an example of this below, with the famous incident of the discovery by Robinson of the footprint. This is from the chapter headed “Fourteenth Evening.”

“He had not gone far when he reached the most southerly part of the island. Here the ground in some parts was sandy, and just as he reached the most prominent point, he was struck almost as with a thunderbolt, became as white as a sheet, and trembled all over.

John.- Why?

Papa.- He saw what he never dreamed of seeing here, the footprints of one or more men in the sand.

Nicholas.- And did that frighten him so? Why, it should have delighted him!

Papa.- The cause of his terror was this : he concluded at once that the man of whose foot this was the print, was not a brother or a friend, who would be ready to help and serve him; but a cruel creature, who would fall upon him in a fury, and would kill and eat him. In a word, he saw in this , not the trace of a polished European, but of a savage cannibal, like those of whom you have heard in the Caribbee Islands.

George.- Ah! That I believe, and so he must have been frightened.”

from Robinson the Younger, George Routledge & Co. London, 1856, pp 117-118.

My copy of the book has no illustrations other than its frontispiece, shown below. The Robinson Crusoe depicted seems decidedly older than the young man described in the text.

Frontispiece from Robinson the Younger, George Routledge and Co. London, second edition 1856

In the next blog, I will discuss some later 19th century editions of Robinson Crusoe that I have in my collection.