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Robinson Crusoe sails into Auckland' Central City Library

Published: 3 December 2019

"I was born in year 1632, in the city of York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father being of Bremen, who settled first at Hull." 

So begins Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, commonly referred to as the first modern adventure novel.

This year, the book turns 300 years old and to celebrate, Auckland Council Libraries is putting a third edition of the book, first published in 1719, on display for all Aucklanders to see.

The book, which has never been out of print since being first published, has its roots in the true story of Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish navigator who was left stranded on an island off the coast of Chile in the early 1700s.

In 1704, tired of being on a broken ship filled with disease and rotting food, Selkirk having argued with his captain, demanded he be left on the shore of what is now known as Robinson Crusoe Island.

It would be four years and four months before somebody - a privateer (a pirate for hire) named Woodes Rogers - found Selkirk and brought him back to the newly formed Great Britain.

Daniel Defoe's novelisation of these events was so popular there were 700 alternative editions printed between its publication in 1719 and the turn of the 19th century, including several children's illustrated editions.

Robinson Crusoe has spawned a whole genre of adventure fiction set on deserted islands, counting among its descendants Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and William Golding's Lord of the Flies.

Auckland Council Libraries' Special Collections have 25 different editions of Robinson Crusoe in its vaults.

"It's quite special to have this 300-year-old book on display so Aucklanders can see this important piece of literary history," says Georgia Prince, Auckland Council Libraries' principal curator rare books.

The third edition of Robinson Crusoe along with its sequel The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and an account of Alexander Selkirk's rescue, A Cruising Voyage Around the World by Woodes Rogers, will be available for viewing in Auckland Council Libraries Real Gold case at the Central City Library throughout the month of December.

Read more: Libraries Heritage

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