Robinson Crusoe (First Edition) by Daniel Defoe
Robinson Crusoe is a fictional autobiography of a castaway by Daniel Defoe (1659-1731). The first edition of this work was published under the title The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner in 1719 by W. Taylor. Background
Likely inspired by the numerous true stories of castaways that were widespread in Defoe’s time, including that of Alexander Selkirk, Robinson Crusoe is Defoe’s most popular novel, and one of the most widely published books in history. In its first year of publication, the book ran through four editions. The novel spearheaded the genre of realistic fiction, and had a large part to play in the establishment of the novel as a form. It was the first popular work of fiction in which the plot was not inspired by history, mythology, legends, or previous literature. Numerous imitation castaway novels followed its publication, and Robinson Crusoe is one of the most adapted and translated novels in history. The full title of the first edition was: '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 cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pirates'.
Plot, Characters, Themes
The main tone of the novel is didactic and confessional, told from the point of view of a castaway stranded on a remote island in the Caribbean. The protagonist Robinson Crusoe is faced with cannibals, mutineers, and captives, as well as the general predicaments of how to survive and make use of the resources on the island. The novel is epistolary in form, the story told in something like diary entries.
Robinson Crusoe is very much a colonial text. It can also be read as a demonstration of the theory of production, choice, and economy, when removed from the world of trade, commerce and capital. There are also very obvious moral and religious messages.
Defoe wrote over 560 books and pamphlets, and is considered to be both the founder of British journalism, and a cornerstone in the development of the novel as a form. Robinson Crusoe is his best-known work today, and also the one that initially made his name.
See main article: Daniel Defoe rare books and memorabilia
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
First editions of this work are rare and valuable. It is very unusual to find Defoe’s signature on them. The first edition of Robinson Crusoe is often sold together with first editions of The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Serious reflections during the life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his Vision of the angelick world (1720), and together the three can fetch large amounts at auction.
For example, the three first edition copies sold together for £45,410 at Christie’s London in June 2004, and £141,250 in November 2001.
Single first edition copies of Robinson Crusoe (1719) have been sold for $88,125 at Christie’s New York in October 2001, and $153,600 at Sothebys New York in December 2004.
It is not recommended to restore these first editions, as they are worth more the older their binding is. The very original bindings usually become very dilapidated over time, and in general the books will have been rebound at some point. It is important to take care of these bindings, especially old leather, which can dry out and crack very easily.
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