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the first issue of the first and most enduring English novel

The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: who lived eight and twenty years, all alone in an un-inhabited island on the coast of America, near the mouth of the great river of Oroonoque; Having been case on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates. Written by himself. [with:] The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe; being the second and last part of his life… [and:] Serious Reflections during the Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his vision of the angelick world.
DEFOE, Daniel
Printed for W. Taylor at the Ship in Paternoster Row,
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First editions, first issues, 3 volumes. 8vo., (191 by 120mm; 198 by 120mm; 192 by 116mm), engraved frontispiece portrait of Crusoe by Clark and Pine in volume I, folding engraved frontispiece map of the world in volume II, folding engraved frontispiece map of Crusoe's island by Clark and Pine in volume III. Titles to volumes II and III with woodcut vignette of a ship, woodcut head- and tailpieces in volume III. Advertisement leaves as called for at the end of each volume, full mottled calf gilt, contrasting labels by Riviere.




The first appearance of 'The Life of Robinson Crusoe…', was on the 23rd April 1719, and it was an instant and a huge success, a second and third edition appeared before the year was out. During what was left of his lifetime, it was published four more times, and that was in addition to numerous piracies and abridgements.

'The Farther Adventures…', appeared just four months later, on the 18th of August; and the 'Serious Reflections…', on the 4th of August 1720.

Before writing his best-seller, Defoe had lived several lives: as speculative businessman, initially a wholesale hosier; then investing in ships, civet cats, and a diving bell, the export-import business with tobacco, logwood, wine, spirits, and cloth; he owned a brick and pantile factory in Tilbury, with prestigious contracts, including the building of the Greenwich Hospital for sailors. His first bankruptcy happened in 1692, when his debts totaled £17,000 (now about £700,000), and he went to prison for the first of many times. Bizarrely, he then became an accountant; and from 1704, a spy for Robert Harley. All the while, he remained a non-conformist in deed (he had joined Monmouth's revolt of 1685) and word, writing polemics as diverse as on how to get rich quick, social iniquity, religion, politics and poetry.

The inspirational spark for 'Robinson Crusoe', was Woodes Rogers' rescue of Alexander Selkirk from Juan Fernández, but it "brings all his interests together. Crusoe is a disobedient son, arguing with his father, representing opinions of a new world—one where life in England is uncertain but global opportunity beckons, and children are increasingly torn between traditional obedience to family and individual self-satisfaction. Drawn to the sea regardless of parental and what appear to be providential warnings of catastrophe, he finds unbounded economic opportunity in Brazil. Defoe's fascination with travel narratives and with Great Britain as an international trading nation shapes the book and especially its sequel. Defoe also writes out of his engagement with religious controversies of the time, especially the Bangorian and Salters' Hall controversies. When Crusoe instructs Friday in the Christian faith, he is demonstrating the adequacy of scripture and revelation alone. Also inscribed are Defoe's theories of government and of colonization. Crusoe sets himself up as monarch, prince, generalissimo, and finally colonial governor, and perhaps ironically his abandonment of his island is emblematic of the neglect of which Great Britain was often guilty with its Caribbean colonies. In fact, this novel can be placed within Defoe's propaganda for the settlement of the New World and especially his writings about the doctrinal controversies splitting and embarrassing dissenters as well as Anglicans. Above all, however, it is the greatest mythic fantasy ever written of the solitary survivor who will never succumb. He will not starve, and he will not give in to his paralysing fear or extended isolation. Physically, mentally, and spiritually he survives and grows stronger" (Paul R. Backscheider for DNB).


Grolier English 41; Furbank and Owens 201, 204 and 210; Hutchins' Robinson Crusoe and its Printing' 1719-1731 pp. 52, 97 and 122; Moore 412, 417 and 436; PMM 180; Rothschild 775.