The New Robinson Crusoe 1789

This is my copy of the 1789 John Stockdale single volume abridged edition of The New Robinson Crusoe. It is correctly titled An Abridgement of The New Robinson Crusoe An Instructive and Entertainment History for the Use of Children of Both Sexes (1789), and is a condensation of Stockdale’s 4 volume edition which was published in the previous year 1788. Stockdale claimed to have translated the book from a French text, but it was clearly a translation of Joachim Heinrich Campe’s 1779 German text Robinson der J√ľngere (Robinson the Younger). As can be seen from the title page below, the one volume abridgement could be purchased for two shillings and sixpence in 1789, a bargain compared to the 6 shilling price of the 4 volume edition, specially as all 32 illustrations from the 4 volume set are present in the single volume abridgement.

The Abridgement was the real start in English of Robinson Crusoe as an adventure book for the younger reader. As with Campe’s 1779 version, the essential elements of Robinson Crusoe have been incorporated into a story-telling narrative, where a father is telling the story to his children, who constantly interrupt the flow with a barrage of questions and comments. In spite of this rather clumsy structure, the essence of the story comes through surprisingly well. The later Routledge reprints of the New Robinson Crusoe are all clearly based on this 1789 edition of Stockdale.

John Bewick illustrations

The text was generously illustrated with full page wood engravings that had been drawn and engraved by John Bewick (1760-1795), the younger brother of the legendary master of wood engraving, Thomas Bewick. John Bewick died aged 35, where his famous older brother lived to be 75, leaving the Stockdale New Robinson Crusoe one of a relatively small number of books featuring illustrations by John Bewick. The illustrations are in a naive style which had been traditionally used for Robinson Crusoe. The Stothard illustrations for Stockdale’s complete Robinson Crusoe published in the next year (1790) are much more refined and sophisticated, and are generally agreed to represent the first well illustrated Crusoe to be published. A few of John Bewick’s illustrations from The New Robinson Crusoe are shown below.

It is interesting that in Stockdale’s edition of The New Robinson Crusoe, as in the original Campe edition, it is llamas that are tamed by Crusoe rather than goats. John Bewick’s illustrations show a llama in the last two panels above. The last panel shows Bewick’s interpretation of the famous incident of Crusoe finding strange footprints in the sand.


My 1789 copy of The New Robinson Crusoe has an interesting provenance. There is a bookplate for the George Barnes B.D., the Archdeacon of Bombay, on the first front free endpaper. The book also has an inscription on the second front free endpaper which reads “George Barnes, from his Papa, March 1826”. The book has been rebound, but I also have the original boards which have another inscription on the old front paste down which reads “Adelaide Penelope Barnes” and ” Miss Adelaide Barnes, The Rectory, Sowton, Exeter”. These three pieces of ownership evidence are shown below in Figure 3.

The simplest explanation of these three images is that they represent the book passing through the hands of three members of the Barnes family. I think that the original owner of the book was the Reverend George Barnes (1782-1847), who travelled out to India to become the inaugural Archdeacon of Bombay in 1815 and who founded the Barnes School in Bombay. He was 7 years old when the book was published and probably was given it around that time, when he was living in Devon. He returned to England to become the rector at Sowton, near Exeter in 1825. He cannot be the George Barnes who received the book from his Papa in March 1826, because his “Papa”, Ralph Barnes (1731-1820) was already dead by then. The George Barnes who received the book in March 1826 must be the Reverend George Barnes’ eldest son, George Carnac Barnes (1818-1861) who had been born in India but returned to England with his parents in 1825. George Carnac Barnes would have been 8 years old in 1826. He joined the East India Company in 1836 and went out to India in 1837. He returned to India following his marriage in London in 1856, and distinguished himself as the Commissioner of the main army depot at Amballa cantonment in Haraya state during the Indian Mutiny, for which service he was made a Companion of the Bath (CB). He was briefly Foreign Secretary for India in 1861 and died in Hazareebough, in Bengal, also in 1861.

Adelaide Penelope Barnes (1831-1913) was the third youngest of the ten children of the Reverend George Barnes. She was born in Sowton Rectory , following the family’s return from India in 1825 and lived there until her father’s death in 1847, at which time she and her unmarried siblings moved with their widowed mother to nearby Littleham in Devon. She must have written her name and address in the book before her father’s death in June 1847, when she would have been 16 years old. My guess is that the book possibly passed from her older brother George Carnac Barnes to Adelaide Penelope sometime around 1836-37.

In July 1852, the 21 year old Adelaide Penelope Barnes married a 36 year old Indian army officer who became Lt. General Edward Dayot Watson (1816-1900). They had 5 children born in India before they returned to England in 1868, where two further children were born. Adelaide died in Bath, Somerset in 1913 at the age of 82.

Finally, there is a faint inscription in pencil beneath Adelaide’s upper signature which in part seems to read “Barnes George James.” Beneath that may be the words “Stapylton Barnes”, which should belong to the descendants of George Carnac Barnes. All three children of George Carnac Barnes and his wife Margaret Diana Chetwyn-Stapylton had the name Stapylton Barnes. So far, I can not positively identify any particular member of the Barnes family with this inscription. The book may have changed hands within the family several times and moved from England to India and back more than once, but it is impossible to confirm that.

Figure 4. George James Barnes?

There are two other interesting people in the Barnes family. The eldest son of George Carnac Barnes was Sir George Stapylton Barnes (1858-1946), who was born at Amballa cantonment shortly after the Indian Mutiny. He became a politician and was the President of the Board of Trade. He may be the Stapylton Barnes referred to in Figure 4, but there is no evidence to suggest that he also had the name James.

The youngest son of Adelaide Penelope Barnes was Reverend Harry de Vitre Watson (1872-1947) who married Mabel Katherine Knatchbull-Hugesson (1868-1944), the grand daughter of Fanny Austen Knight, the favourite niece of Jane Austen. In Figure 5, there are portraits of some of the members of the Barnes family.

In a related posting, I discuss my copy of the 1856 Routledge reprint of The New Robinson Crusoe, which only had a single illustration. In the next posting, I will look at some other illustrated editions of Robinson Crusoe from the 19th century.