London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1858. Item #05071
Excessively Rare First Edition, First Issue, of “The Coral Island”
BALLANTYNE, Robert Michael. The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean… With Illustrations by the Author.
London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1858.
First edition, first issue, with the plate “Terrible Encounter with a Shark” facing p. 76 (in the second issue, it was tipped in as the frontispiece).
Octavo (7 x 4 5/8 inches; 177 x 117 mm.). viii, -438, [2, blank] pp. Color-printed frontispiece, color-printed pictorial title, and six color-printed plates after drawings by the author. All plates with original tissue-guards. Title-page and a following leaves up to p. 19 with three small and very light marginal water-stains. Small very light water-staining affecting the lower corners of pp. 31-73; small piece (3/8 x 5/16 inch) missing from lower blank corner of pp. 177/8; small piece (3/4 x 5/15 inch) chipped from upper blank fore-margin of pp. 425/6. Some occasional light stains and foxing, but quite honestly one of the cleanest copies internally that we have seen in over fifty years. This first issue is rare in any condition and notoriously rare with the text fairly clean as here.
Publisher’s first issue binding of red diagonal ripple-grain cloth with covers decoratively stamped in blind and front cover and spine pictorially stamped and lettered in gilt. Original pale yellow coated endpapers. Front free endpaper with neat early ink signature of William Mathieu. Rear endpaper with the 19th c. booksellers blind-stamp of Wm. M. Stout , Danville KY. Housed in a felt-lined half black morocco clamshell case, spine with five raised bands, decoratively ruled and lettered in gilt in compartments.
This copy which is far better than any we have seen in recent years has been expertly rebacked with the original spine laid down. The gilt on the front cover and spine is quite bright. Slight wear to corners and extremities, inner hinges expertly restored.
We have been super critical in our description - overall an excellent copy of this extremely scarce nineteenth-century children’s book. Only a handful of copies of the first issue in the original cloth have sold at auction in the past fifty years.
“Most of the incidents used in the plot of ‘The Coral Island’, the author’s most famous book, Ballantyne culled from an obscure work entitled ‘The Island Home; or, The Young Cast-Aways’, by James F. Bowman, who wrote under the pseudonym of Christopher Romaunt. ‘The Island Home’ was published in Boston, U.S.A. in 1851, and by Nelson’s of Edinburgh in 1852, and Ballantyne took a copy with him to Burntisland, near Edinburgh, where he spent a fortnight’s holiday during the summer of 1857. The full story is given in chapter six of Ballantyne the Brave. The writer’s other main source of information was ‘Recent Exploring Expeditions to the Pacific, and the South Seas’ by J.S. Jenkins, published by Nelsons in 1853” (Quayle).
Robert Michael Ballantyne (1825-1894) was a Scottish author of juvenile fiction who wrote more than one hundred books. He was also an accomplished artist, and exhibited some of his water-colors at the Royal Scottish Academy. The Coral Island (1858) is the most popular of the Ballantyne novels still read and remembered today, but because of one mistake he made in that book, in which he gave an incorrect thickness of coconut shells, he subsequently attempted to gain first-hand knowledge of his subject matter. For instance, he spent some time living with the lighthouse keepers at the Bell Rock before writing The Lighthouse, and while researching for Deep Down he spent time with the tin miners of Cornwall.
The Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books 1566-1910, volume I, p. 322; Quayle. R.M. Ballantyne. A Bibliography of First Editions. 12a; Sadleir 103.