This week’s chosen book from the collection has been selected as today marks the 190th anniversary of the author’s birth.The Coral Island is by Robert Michael Ballantyne, who was born on the 24th April 1825 in Edinburgh to a family of printers and publishers.  He became famous for his travel and adventure stories, with The Coral Island being the most remembered.

The Coral Island, 1875, Research Collections, Ballantyne
The Coral Island, 1875

The Coral Island tells the story of three boys who are shipwrecked, through the first person narrative of fifteen year old Ralph Rover.  The book is a retrospective account of events and begins with a preface from the protagonist stating that he was a boy when he ‘went through the wonderful adventures herein set down’.  The target audience of this tale was made clear from the offset through the preface:

I present my book specially to boys

And goes on to further detail the nature of the reader:

If there is any boy or man who loves to be melancholy and morose, and who cannot enter with kindly sympathy into the regions of fun, let me seriously advise him to shut my book and put it away. It is not meant from him.

The Coral Island, 1875

These images have been taken from an 1875 edition which was published by T. Nelson and Sons in London. This edition includes an illustrated frontispiece depicting the three boys; Ralph, Jack and Peterkin. The illustrations are attributed to Dalziel. The Dalziel brothers were a firm of engravers in the Victorian era who were renowned for cutting the illustrations for authors such as Charles Dickens, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.

The Coral Island, 1875, Research Collections
The Coral Island, 1875

The Coral Island is important in exemplifying texts that Victorian children would have read but also reflecting the beliefs and values of the time period with themes of Christianity and Imperialism. This edition is housed within our Hawkes Collection which consists of English-language books for children telling stories of travel, exploration or fictional adventures.