An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies …
An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies …
An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies …

KNOX, Robert. An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies: Together, With an Account of the Detaining in Captivity the Author and divers other E….

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'the most perfect & spirited description of ceylon that any literature can boast of'

KNOX, Robert. An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East-Indies: Together, With an Account of the Detaining in Captivity the Author and divers other Englishmen now Living there, and of the Author’s Miraculous Escape. Illustrated with Figures, and a Map of the island. By Robert Knox, a Captive there near Twenty Years London, Printed by Richard Chiswell, Printer to the Royal Society, at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1681.

Folio. Slightly later panelled calf, spine with raised bands, lettering-piece and ornamentation in gilt, marbled endpapers; pp. [xxiv], 189, [publisher's catalogue], folding engraved map and 15 engraved plates; binding worn but holding firm, re-backed at an early date; map with small filled flaw in outer margin, affecting only the framing line, one plate with repaired tears, one reaching 3cm into image, a little spotting here and there; a good copy of a very rare work, complete with initial imprimatur leaf (signed by Christopher Wren in print) and final advertisement leaf; engraved armorial bookplate inside front cover.
First edition of the first account of Sri Lanka in English, which provided source material and inspiration for Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Whilst trading along the Coromandel coast Robert Knox (1641-1720) was forced to land at Kottiar Bay, Ceylon, whereupon he was held captive for the next nineteen years, eventually escaping in 1679. The Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon was written on the voyage back to England, where it was published with encouragement of the East India Company and Robert Hooke of the Royal Society. 'The book influenced the work of contemporaries such as Daniel Defoe, who drew from Knox's experiences much of the context for, and the aspirations of, his hero in Robinson Crusoe ... 'a fundamental source for the economic history and anthropology of mid seventeenth-century Ceylon' (ODNB). Whilst in the service of the East India Company in 1659 Knox was forced to put in to Kottiar Bay in Ceylon due to ship damage. Failing to send a letter of explanation for his presence to the king of Kandy, Rajasinha II, or to provide him with gifts as was customary, he was taken captive. 'He was kept under house arrest and in the following years was moved around Ceylon, taking on various occupations, until he managed to escape to the Dutch fort at Aripu in 1679. Daniel Defoe drew from Knox's experiences in writing Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719' (ODNB). - This particular copy has one initial leaf (late 18th-century) bound in with an essay beginning with a paragraph referring to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. 'Here is no incident in Robinson Crusoe told in language more natural and affecting than Robert Knox's accidental discovery of a bible in the midst of the Candian dominions of Ceylon'. After a reference to the Mutiny of the Bounty the scribe goes on elaborate on the literary quality of Knox' book. 'This old quarto (folio) volume enjoyed great & well-merited popuilarity at the time (1681) and it still remains […] the most perfect & spirited description of Ceylon that any literature can boast of'. He then reports that people who lived on the island could confirm the accuracy of the information given by Knox. He concludes that nothing remains of Knox's residence 'but his memory was preserved in tradition by the […] Singalese in the neighbourhood who told Mr Marshall that a white and very good man, a long time ago, lived there for may years' (end of text apart from disguised scribe's name).
ESTC R16598 '[17] leaves of plates : ill., map., ports'; ESTC R179513 records one title-page of this work, printed in 1682, which states 'Illustrated with 15 figures, and a map of the island', a collation which is conform with the present copy. - The portrait of Knox is seldom present as it was not published until several years later.

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