Even before his artistic partnerships with Charles Dickens and William Harrison Ainsworth in the Patten notes, a hot property among book illustrators working in London. Famous for his caricatures of Napoleon, King George IV and his court, young Cruikshank had switched to book illustration and never looked back. "Cradled" (to use his own expression) in caricature, however, even in illustrating the classics such The Pilgrim's Progress, he could never resist the opportunity for a humourous send-up. In the case of The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe and its sequel, he probably had the opportunityto study and assimilate a pictorial series entirely free of his kind of character comedy, namely the copper-plate engravings of Thomas Stothard, and the book itself as a serious work of art had fascinated Cruikshank ever since childhood. As Patten notes of the 1831 John Major project,
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." [Patten, pp. 335-36]
The first edition's (1831) title-page reads:
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. Vol. I. London: Printed at the Shakespeare Press, by W. Nichol, for John Major, Fleet Street. 1831.
The first John Major edition is 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. Together, these slight volumes contain two engraved frontispieces and thirty-seven woodcut illustrations dropped into the text. It was bound without a half-title for volume two. Neither frontispiece was reproduced in the 1890 edition issued by Routledge.
From The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
- 1. Cannibals dancing around a fire on the beach (frontis)
- 2. Young Crusoe and his Father (Ch. 1)
- 3. Crusoe tosses the Moorish deckhand overboard
- 4. Crusoe sights a Portuguese vessel
- 5. Crusoe clinging to a rock on the beach
- 6. Crusoe salvaging cargo from the shipwreck
- 7. Crusoe hunting goats
- 8. Crusoe and his calendar on the beach
- 9. "Jesus, . . . give me repentance."
- 10. Crusoe and his Hut
- 11. Crusoe builds a large, dugout canoe.
- 12. Crusoe circumnavigating the island
- 13. Crusoe and Poll the Parrot in dialogue
- 14. Friday's Footprint — Crusoe discovers a human footprint on the beach.
- 15. Crusoe discovers a dying goat in a cave.
- 16. Cannibals dancing around a fire on the beach
- 17. Crusoe and Friday watch the Cannibals from hiding
- 18. Crusoe and Friday encounter the captain of a British ship whose crew have mutinied
- 19. Friday and the Bear out on a limb
- 20. Crusoe and his Comrades repelling a massive Wolf attack
- 21. Riderless horse after his rider was attacked by wolves (tailpiece)
From Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
- 22. Crusoe, his wife and child on their farm in Bedfordshire
- 23. Crusoe sees a ship on fire at sea
- 24. The French survivors of the fire aboard the Quebec Merchantman
- 25. Friday and his Father
- 26. A Spaniard with a shovel comes to the assistance of an Indian attacked by a hatchet-wielding English colonist
- 27. Will Atkins leading his men against attacking aborigines
- 28. Crusoe distributing agricultural implements
- 29. Crusoe presents a Bible to Will Atkins and his native wife
- 30. Islanders attack Crusoe's ship, killing Friday
- 31. Crusoe attempting to halt the slaughter of villagers on Madagascar
- 32. Malayan pirates attacking Crusoe's ship in the Malacca Straits
- 33. Fighting off the attackers with boiling oil
- 34. The ill-mounted Mandarin riding through Tartary
- 35. The Mandarin being fed by his female servants
- 36. Crusoe, regaining consciousness, sees the dead Tartar.
- 37. The destruction of a Tartar idol with tar and gunpowder.
- 38. The Europeans fire a withering volley at the charging Tartar horde in Russia. (tailpiece)
The Frontispieces for the 1831 Edition
- 39. Volume One: Robinson Crusoe's first interview with Friday
- 40. Volume Two: Will Atkins and his native Wife
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.
Defoe, Daniel. The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Illustrated by Edward H. Wehnert. London: Bell and Daldy, 1862.
De Foe, Daniel. The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York, Mariner. Related by himself. With upwards of One Hundred Illustrations. London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1863-64.
De Foe, Daniel. Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, including A Memoir of the Author, and an Essay on his Writings. Illustrated by Phiz. London & New York: Routledge, Warne, and Routledge, 1864.
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). Major's Edition. London: Chatto & Windus, 1890.
"The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Extra-Extra-Illustrated (T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1820): Scope and Contents." PACSCL Finding Aids.http://dla.library.upenn.edu/cocoon/dla/pacscl/ead.html?id=PACSCL_RBCat_RBCat&sort=date_added_sort%20asc&fq=name_facet%3A%22Stothard%2C%20Thomas%2C%201755-1834%22&
McLean, Ruari. George Cruikshank: His Life and Work as a Book Illustrator. English Masters of Black-and-White. London: Art and Technics, 1948.
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.
Vogler, Richard A. Graphic Works of George Cruikshank. Dover Pictorial Archive Series. New York: Dover, 1979.
Last modified 21 January 2018