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Antiquarian Book Profile, Revue and Price Guide: Robinson Crusoe by Himself, 1815 edition

Robinson Crusoe ..... by Himself

Robinson Crusoe is one of the most published books in a history.

Originally published on 25th April 1719, Robinson Crusoe was styled as an autobiography - despite being a work of fiction. It is one of the most important pieces of English literature and is considered by many to be the first English novel and, perhaps more importantly, it brought a hithertoo unseen realism to fiction writing. This is a trend which is still prevailent in the twenty-first century. Readers today (even of genres such as fantasy) need to engage with a plot and empathise with the key characters - something achieved by adding realism to the story.

Of course, Robinson Crusoe did not write this book himself as he was a fictional character. The author was Daniel Defoe, a Londoner who lived from 1660 to 1731. He was a writer, journalist and merchant who frequently fell foul of the establishment and was even pilloried and jailed for some of his political writings. Like many of the finest English writers of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, he lived much of his life beset by poverty, and in and out of the debtor courts of the time.

Defoe's character Robinson Crusoe, who's birth name was Robinson Kreutznaer, joins an expedition transporting slaves from Africa but is shipwrecked (30th September 1659) on an island about forty miles off the coast of Venezuela, close to the mouth of the Orinoco river. Crusoe, the sole survivor, spends over twenty seven years on what he calls the "Island of Despair" and Defoe's account is as much a spiritual journey as it is a tale of survival.

For his inspiration Defoe likely used the true life story of Scotsman Alexander Selkirk. He spent four years as a castaway on an uninhabbited Pacific Island close to Chile, known today as Robinson Crusoe Island (previously known as Más a Tierra).

Early editions of Robinson Crusoe were likely sold as a travelogue, rather than a work of fiction. This was due to the impression created by Defoe as early as the title page: Robinson Crusoe by himself. This 1815 edition, although ninety-six years after the first, bears no mention of Daniel Defoe's name. It is illustrated by the Hydrographer of the Naval Chronicle and is stated to be "Revised and corrected for the advancement of nautical education".

Published by Joseph Mawman of London, the book has 579 numbered pages and is bound in plain board covers. Later editions of books are frequently much cheaper than originals. This is the case here but this edition is enhanced by black and white engravings, charts and maps, which have technical and geographic annotations.

Approx. Size: 158x255mm

Approx. Weight: 1031g

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Approx. Value in good condition: £300