Robinson Crusoe: 100 more years

Early 19th century editions

Introduction

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. To learn how Robinson Crusoe was developed as a book for children, please read this next post.

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