Crusoe and his calendar on the beach by George Cruikshank as the realisation in vignette of one Crusoe's first attempts to maintain civilisation in the wilderness in John Major's edition of The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1831). Cruikshank presents the calendar on the beach as an extension of Crusoe's sense of himself as a civilized being, for the early piece of construction reflects Crusoe's determination to maintain a sense of the passage of time back in England, although the island experiences just two seasons rather than England's four. Vignette: 4.9 cm high by 6.5 cm wide, p. 61. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

The Passage Illustrated: Recording the Passing Days to Maintain His Sanity

And now being about to enter into a melancholy relation of a scene of silent life, such, perhaps, as was never heard of in the world before, I shall take it from its beginning, and continue it in its order. It was by my account the 30th of September, when, in the manner as above said, I first set foot upon this horrid island; when the sun, being to us in its autumnal equinox, was almost over my head; for I reckoned myself, by observation, to be in the latitude of nine degrees twenty-two minutes north of the line.

After I had been there about ten or twelve days, it came into my thoughts that I should lose my reckoning of time for want of books, and pen and ink, and should even forget the Sabbath days; but to prevent this, I cut with my knife upon a large post, in capital letters​— and making it into a great cross, I set it up on the shore where I first landed​— "I came on shore here on the 30th September 1659."

Upon the sides of this square post I cut every day a notch with my knife, and every seventh notch was as long again as the rest, and every first day of the month as long again as that long one; and thus I kept my calendar, or weekly, monthly, and yearly reckoning of time.​[Chapter IV, "First Few Weeks on the Island," p. 61]


An imaginative touch (and one that implies that Crusoe's residence on the island may prove tenuous) is the smoking volcano​ just behind Crusoe, an imaginative detail not mentioned by Defoe. Despite Crusoe's attempts to impose European constructs such as a twelve-month calendar upon the geography and climate, there are natural forces here beyond the colonist's control that threaten him. The embedded text on the calendar reiterates the accompanying text: "I came on shore here on the 30th September 1659."

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Parallel Scenes from Stothard (1790), a Children's Book (1818), and Cassell's (1863)

Left: Stothard's 1790 realisation of the solitary and reflective protagonist, Robinson Crusoe at work in his cave (Chapter IV, "First Few Weeks on the Island," copper-engraving). Centre: The children's book frontispiece that exemplifies Crusoe's attempts to replicate European constructs upon the tropical island, Robinson Crusoe's Calendar (1818). Right: The Cassell's illustrator, using Stothard's copper-plate engraving as his model, shows Crusoe keeping track of time by recording events on paper in Crusoe writing his Journal, and therefore providing an image of the protagonist as author. [Click on image to enlarge it.]


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. 2 vols. London: Printed at the Shakespeare Press, by W. Nichol, for John Major, Fleet Street, 1831.

De Foe, Daniel. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Written by Himself. Illustrated by Gilbert, Cruikshank, and Brown. London: Darton and Hodge, 1867?].

Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. (1831). Illustrated by George Cruikshank. Major's Edition. London: Chatto & Windus, 1890.

Patten, Robert L. "Phase 2: "'The Finest Things, Next to Rembrandt's,' 1720–1835." Chapter 20, "Thumbnail Designs." George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, vol. 1: 1792-1835. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers U. P., 1992; London: The Lutterworth Press, 1992. Pp. 325-339.

Last modified 22 February 2018