Archive for February, 2017

Online Texts of “Robinson Crusoe”

February 23, 2017

As most of us know, the exploits of Alexander Selkirk form the basis for Robinson Crusoe. For those not acquainted with Selkirk, please peruse these contemporary sources: Richard Steel’s 1713 piece in The Englishman; Edward Cooke’s A Voyage to the South Sea, and around the world, perform’d in the years 1708, 1709, 1710, and 1711…. (1712); and Rogers Woodes’ A cruising voyage round the world: first to the South-seas, thence to the East-Indies, and homewards by the cape of Good Hope. Begun in 1708, and finish’d in 1711 (1712). A 2005 article from The Smithsonian gives us a modern précis of Selkirk’s adventures.

The telling of Crusoe’s sojourn on the island actually spawned an entire genre of fiction – the robinsonade. Daniel Defoe’s The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, mariner… was first published in 1719 and went through several editions; the one here is the third edition. This book was been reprinted/republished many times; here you will find hundreds of renditions in English from 1719 to 1922. Many more in other languages can also be perused. This site –  the Digital Library of the Caribbean – boasts almost 200 volumes of this title; what makes it unique is that it carries full-text versions beyond the copyright date barrier (that would be another essay in itself) of 1922.

Another Seafaring Dictionary

February 15, 2017

Admiral William Henry Smyth had more than one career – he sailed on a merchantman, then entered the Royal Navy and had numerous exploits during the Napoleonic Wars, undertook a hydrographic expedition of Sicily and the nearby Italian coast, wrote multiple treatises, advanced astronomy to such an extent that he was elected to the presidency of the Royal Astronomical Society, co-found the Royal Geographical Society, wrote biographies, and also was a numismatist. What attracted me to this polymath was his The Sailor’s Word-Book (1867), a posthumous tome that exceeds seven hundred pages. He takes into account loan-words from other languages that English seamen would have been familiar with. Here is his entry from The Dictionary of National Biography written by none other than John Knox Laughton.