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Stories Before 1850. 0166: Daniel Defoe, The Little Robinson Crusoe

Author: Defoe, Daniel (but much revised)
Title: The Little Robinson Crusoe
Cat. Number: 0166
Date: No date (but c.1840)
1st Edition: 1719
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: Tilt & Bogue, Fleet Street
Price: 1s 6d for each volume
Pages: 1 vol., 191pp.
Size: 7 x 6 cm
Illustrations: 1 vignette and 48 further plates

Images of all pages of this book

Page 003 of item 0166

Introductory essay

Charles Tilt (1797-1861) issued his small books under the series title 'Tilt's Hand-Books for Children'. All of them measured about three by two-and-a-half inches, had around 192 pages, were bound in gilt-stamped cloth, and illustrated with 48 engraved plates. Many were devoted to aspects of natural history. None of them were dated, but the series was probably launched in about 1835. A Bibliography of Miniature Books (1470-1965) suggests a date of 1840 for The Little Robinson Crusoe. A slightly later date of publication is derived from Philip A. H. Brown's London Publishers and Printers, c.1800-1870 which suggests that Tilt and Bogue, the joint publishers of the books, operated together only from 1841 to 1843. Before that Tilt operated alone. For more information on the development of miniature books, see the essay accompanying 0002 and Louis W. Bondy, Miniature Books. Their History from the beginnings to the present day, Brian Alderson, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', or the on-line annotated catalogue from an exhibition held at the University of Iowa in 1996: 'Tiny Tomes: The Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books' (https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/exhibit/tinytomes/index.html).

Abridgements of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe were common in Britain and Europe in the century and a half after its original publication in 1719. Versions especially designed for children were published by Francis Newbery and Thomas Carnan in 1768 and Benjamin Tabart in 1805, but children doubtlessly read the many chapbook versions which began to circulate immediately after the work's original publication. Unlike these chapbook versions, which could compress the narrative into a mere eight or sixteen pages and which tended to concentrate on Crusoe's feats of arms, this edition by Tilt and Bogue places a strong didactic emphasis on the tale. The preface begins the process, drawing a moral from the story which Defoe might not have foreseen:

Let us hope that this tale of wonderful adventures, bitter sufferings, and perilous escapes, will teach our young friends the advantages of a safe and quiet home, and cure them of that sad disorder of the mind, a discontented and restless disposition. (pp.6-7)

It seems probable that Crusoe's 'wonderful adventures' and 'perilous escapes' might have inspired exactly that restlessness which the text professed to condemn, but this seems not to have occured to the author of this reworking of the story. The appropriation of the classic Crusoe tale for pedagogic purposes, and the rather hectoring tone it adopts, becomes fully evident within a page or two of the book's start:

Robinson, however, disregards all that can be said and done to attach him to his home; he becomes ill-tempered and reserved, and would you believe it, he forms the sad resolution of leaving his parents' house without their leave or knowledge! I quite expect to find him in some dreadful situation of distress the next time we hear of him - let us see. (p.11).

The narrator's expectation was not to be frustrated, as we discover on the next page. Later Crusoe is punished for his involvement in the slave trade (p.44) and criticised for not paying enough attention at school to be able to speak French, Spanish or Portuguese (p.36). This didacticism exceeds that imposed by some other revisions of Defoe's text, such as Joachim Heinrich Campe's New Robinson Crusoe (1778-1780; first translated into English in 1788), but is not as extensive as that which appears in others, such as Johann David Wyss's Swiss Family Robinson (1812-13; first translated into English in 1814). One other arresting change to Defoe's original text which was incorporated into Tilt and Bogue's version is that Crusoe's island apparently becomes part of the British Empire on his departure: p.188.

The Hockliffe Collection possesses another copy of Tilt and Bogue's Little Robinson Crusoe which was published in the same volume as The Little Esop: see 0165. For a further discussion of Robinson Crusoe see the essay accompanying the Hockliffe's copy of Campe's New Robinson Crusoe: 0080.

For another version of Robinson Crusoe see 0037. For a 1788 version of Philip Quarll, another Robinsonnade, see 0090.

Welsh, Doris Varner, and Weber, Francis J., A Bibliography of Miniature Books (1470-1965), New York, 1964; rpt. 1989

Brown, Philip A. H., London Publishers and Printers, c.1800-1870, London: British Library, 1982

Bondy, Louis W., Miniature Books. Their History from the beginnings to the present day, London: Sheppard Press, 1981

Alderson, Brian, 'Miniature Libraries for the Young', The Library, 3rd ser., 6 (1983), 3-46