Treasure Island (First Edition) by Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island is a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). This work was initially serialised in the children’s magazine Young Folks between 1881 and 1882, and first published in book form in 1883 by Cassell and Company, London. Background
Stevenson decided to write Treasure Island after idly drawing a map of an imaginary island with his stepson. He wanted to write an adventure story for boys. He wrote it quickly and enthusiastically.
Sea novels were popular during the time of writing, both navy yarns and desert island shipwreck narratives. The genre had been developing since Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), and Treasure Island can be seen as a climax of the genre. Stevenson used accounts of real pirates in his writing of this novel. Much of what Stevenson invented in Treasure Island has formed a great part of the popular cliché of pirates: the talking parrot, the one legged map, the eye patch, treasure maps marked with an X.
This novel was Stevenson’s first critical and financial success, and remains to this day a classic adventure story. Alongside Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, it is Stevenson's most popular and well-known work.
Plot, Characters, Themes
Jim Hawkins, the young son of an innkeeper, discovers a treasure map and embarks on a sea adventure. Several of the crew are ex-pirates, to whom the treasure map belongs, and they mutiny. Jim is captured by the pirates and taken on shore to the desert island to attempt to find the treasure. They discover that it has already been taken by someone – another ex pirate, marooned on the island since the treasure was first buried there. The pirates are defeated and the treasure divided amongst the honest men, who return home, leaving the pirates stranded on the island.
A coming-of-age story, Treasure Island is also known for its creation of atmosphere and descriptions of action. Unusually for children’s literature, it also questions the ambiguous nature of morality, as with Long John Silver.
Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson was an extremely prolific and popular novelist, poet and travel writer.
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
First editions of Treasure Island (1883, Cassell and Company, London) are worth much more in their original bindings.
First edition copies were sold Christie’s for $14,400 in April 2005 and $16,250 in June 2008, and by Sotheby’s for $26,400 in April 2005, and $31,200 in December 2003.
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