London: Printed at The Shakespeare Press, by W. Nicol, for John Major, 1831. Item #03295
Robinson Crusoe Illustrated by George Cruikshank
[CRUIKSHANK, George, Illustrator], DEFOE, Daniel. The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner. With introductory verses by Bernard Barton, and Illustrated with numerous engravings from drawings by George Cruikshank expressly designed for this edition. London: Printed at The Shakespeare Press, by W. Nicol, for John Major, 1831.
First edition with the George Cruikshank illustrations. Two small octavo volumes (6 9/16 x 4 1/16 inches; 166 x 104 mm.). [viii], xvi, 434, [1, imprint, verso blank]; [ii], 406 pp. Two engraved frontispieces and thirty-eight woodcut illustrations in the text. Bound without the half-title to volume two.
Bound by Zaehnsdorf ca. 1920 for Bartlett & Co., Boston (stamp-signed on verso of front endleaves) in full polished tan calf, covers with double gilt rules, spines with five raised bands, decoratively tooled in compartments, two dark green morocco gilt lettering labels, gilt board edges and turn-ins, all edges gilt, gray endpapers. A fine set.
"It may have been some compensation to George Cruikshank that publishers were fighting to secure his services for illustrated fiction. Robinson Crusoe was the particular bone of contention. Cruikshank started designing woodblocks for a lavishly produced reprint in 1830. Crusoe was a novel he loved. He may have designed seven woodcuts for one of the many chapbook versions that proliferated in the early nineteenth century. He certainly did a "Handsome Engraved [e.g., etched] Frontispiece" for a one-volume edition published by T. Hughes in 1819, then added five more etchings for a rival edition bound from the same sheets that Fairburn issued the same year. These were the first substantial illustrations since 1790, when Stockdale published an edition with engravings after Stothard. Crusoe had also received treatment in oils from Stothard, who exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy in 1808. Perhaps the fact that Defoe's novel had furnished subjects for both graphic and Academy pictures prompted Cruikshank to tackle the subject anew.
In 1830 John Murray provided the opportunity. After a few weeks, George drew twenty pounds from him in partial payment for designs already made. At this time, Thomas Roscoe was starting up his Novelist's Library as a competitor to Murray's Family Library. He wanted to begin with Crusoe and Cruikshank. Then John Major bid for the artist's services for his edition of the same title. Murray bowed out for some reason, but Cruikshank still had to obtain a release from Roscoe. "Mr. Major has directed me to proceed with the Drawing -- for Robinson Crusoe," he told Roscoe, "but I wish to know directly from you -- whether I am to do so or not -- & if I am to be paid by you." Roscoe and his publisher James Cochrane, came to some sort of understanding with Major and Cruikshank, publishing the first title in Roscoe's series with illustrations by Jacob George Strutt instead. Simultaneously they bound the artist to them for the remainder of the series.
Crusoe was a classic self-help text. It had flourished in crude illustrated editions for a century. The anonymous woodcuts had been used over and over; one set was offered for miscellaneous decorations by a printer's supplier. The plates had been standardized, as had the style of Crusoe's skins. Abridged versions of the novel reposed in many nurseries. Major aimed to restore the full text and produce an edition that deserved "a place in the library of every scholar and man of taste." He wanted Cruikshank's plates to stand comparison not just with the chapbook images but with "the celebrated Series by the admirable Stothard." (Robert L. Patten. George Cruikshank's Life Times and Art, volume 1, pp. 335-336)