Eighteenth-Century Abridgements of Robinson Crusoe
- The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 15, Number 3, September 2014
- pp. 292-342
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The numerous and varied eighteenth-century abridgments of Robinson Crusoe have for too long escaped the attention of Defoe’s bibliographers. Many have noted the existence of these derivative works, but few have ventured to explain their significance. What little scholarship does exist tends to focus on the children’s abridgments published by the Newberys in the second half of the eighteenth century. However, children’s abridgments and chapbooks represent but a small portion of the total number of abbreviated editions published prior to 1801. In particular, two different abridgments published by a coterie of London booksellers in the 1720s would become the base texts for nearly 100 further English-language editions. And unlike the Newbery abridgments, these were not designed exclusively for juvenile audiences. This essay seeks to answer the following questions. How did abridged editions of Robinson Crusoe differ from Defoe’s original? How did the abridgments contribute to the canonization of Robinson Crusoe? And what was the legal status of the abridgments?