London: printed for W. Taylor, 1719. First editions. First edition, first issue of the first part; first edition, second issue of the second, of the book that is widely accepted as the first novel in English. The first part was published on 25 April 1719 in an edition of 1,000 copies; the sequel, Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, was published in August the same year. 2 volumes, octavo (195 x 118 and 196 x 120 mm). Vol. I: contemporary calf, dark red morocco spine label, raised bands, professionally refurbished. Vol. II: rebound in period style to match, in full calf. Woodcut head- and tailpieces, historiated initials. Vol. I: engraved frontispiece by Clark and Pine, 4 pp. publisher’s advertisements at rear, the second leaf supplied in facsimile. Vol. II: woodcut title page vignette, copper-engraved folding map, 11 pp. publisher’s advertisements at rear. Issued without half-titles. Vol. I rarely appears in its original binding, and is more commonly found rebound. Vol. I: a square, tight copy, expertly restored in 1936 by Sangorski & Sutcliffe for former owner Mr James S. Cox (original invoice laid in, detailing the conservation conducted for the cost of £8 10s., including furbishing the binding, washing the book block, and making a number of neat paper repairs such as those to the frontispiece, A2, B1, and E2). Vol. II: map cleaned, pressed, and remargined along top edge, two tiny nicks to fore edge and small closed puncture to bottom margin of title leaf, small ink mark to title leaf verso, rear free endpaper creased horizontally. Contents of both browned and occasionally soiled; a very good set.
The first English novel was modelled along the existing lines of hugely popular travel books; yet Robinson Crusoe was “novel”, as Defoe himself claimed in the preface to the second part. It remains immensely influential today. “The special form of adventure that [Defoe] chose, and even the name of his hero, have been adopted by countless imitators … This influence is not yet dissipated, for much of science fiction is basically Crusoe’s island changed to a planet. At least equally relevant to the present purpose is the figure of the lonely human being subduing the pitiless forces of nature; going back to nature, indeed, and portraying the ‘noble savage’ in a way that made the book required reading for Rousseau’s Emile” (PMM). “Defoe’s immortality will always rest … especially on Robinson Crusoe, that immensely subtle, complex book with its simple plot and a character of compelling reality who appears in one archetypal incident after another. Embedded in world cultural consciousness, Robinson Crusoe has never been out of print. Most people still encounter Crusoe in childhood and never forget him. Only the Bible has been printed in more languages. From the very beginning Defoe’s impact was international, as was the recognition that Robinson Crusoe was a new literary form with revolutionary power to ‘instruct and delight’” (ODNB).
Hutchins gives the standard account of the printing and publishing of the two parts, including a number of so-called variants within the issues. As the variants are found in so many different combinations, he and other bibliographers have suggested that thinking in terms of separate variants or states is restrictive and even “wholly misleading” (A. W. Pollard quoted in Hutchins, p. 56). Nevertheless, in the present copy of the first part the title page is the second variant given by Hutchins (with a semi-colon after “London” in the imprint); the Preface is the third variant (the first page ending “Men always”, with the catchword “apply”, and the second page beginning “apply them”); and the text of page 343 (Z4 recto) is the first variant (with the misspelling of “Pilot” as “Pilate” in line 2, and “Portuguese” as “Portugnese” in line 21). The second part is the second issue, distinguished by the advertisement for the fourth edition of part 1 printed on the verso of A4 (in the first issue this is blank). Hutchins does not note variants within the second issue.
Grolier English 41; Hutchins, pp. 52-71 (first part), 97-112 (second part); Moore 412 & 417; Printing and the Mind of Man 180; Rothschild 775. (Item #2959)