Sunday, November 20, 2016

Fortnightly Book, November 20

When I was in elementary school, my grandparents gave me an omnibus edition of Robert Louis Stevenson, with several of Stevenson's works. Treasure Island, of course, was fun, and I enjoyed Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde; I've mentioned before that it took me forever to get into The Master of Ballantrae, although I enjoyed it once I eventually managed to do so. But there was another work in the collection, and I think I enjoyed it most at the time: Kidnapped, which is the next fortnightly book, since I haven't read it in years and years.

Stevenson often had money problems, in part due to poor health, and Kidnapped is his attempt to write a popular work that would bring in money like Treasure Island had. It was first serialized in Young Folks magazine in 1886. It was a reasonable success, selling well. After Stevenson's death, it faded into the background of his other works, being in some sense even more of a boy's novel than any of Stevenson's other works, but it has over the past century increasingly been regarded as having excellences in its own right.

To give a sense of historical period, Stevenson made the work's full title deliberately much longer than the short version by which we all know it:

Kidnapped: Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751: How he was Kidnapped and Cast away; his Sufferings in a Desert Isle; his Journey in the Wild Highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stewart and other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he Suffered at the hands of his Uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely so-called: Written by Himself and now set forth by Robert Louis Stevenson

I remember very much liking David Balfour and the realism of his struggles; we'll see if it holds up after all of these years.

I am reading this work in a nice Heritage Press (Connecticut) edition. Unlike most of the Heritage Press editions in my library, this one is not from my grandfather's library, but is a later acquisition. In general Heritage Press editions from New York are better than those from Connecticut, which tend to involve a lot of cost-saving shortcuts, but this one is quite nice at first glance. It was designed by Elmer Adler, a pretty significant name in book design, and its typeface is English Monotype Caslon, which gives the sense of an older book without sacrificing readability. It is illustrated with wood engravings by Hans Mueller, and a gold-stamped anchor on the front cover and a red slipcover.

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