Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Embark on a journey through the pages of history with the Conversation Tree Press edition of Treasure Island, a timeless adventure that has captivated readers for generations. Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel is not just a tale of buccaneers and buried gold—it is a foundational piece that has profoundly shaped the course of literature and popular culture.
With 50+ letterpress-printed illustrations by Marc Castelli, three related essays by the author, a new introduction by Dr. Caroline Howitt, oversized at 9.5in by 13.4in, and two years in the making, this is the definitive edition of an enduring classic.
Since its first appearance in 1883, Treasure Island has set the gold standard for the pirate genre, introducing iconic elements like treasure maps marked with an “X,” exotic tropical islands, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders. These images, born from Stevenson’s vivid imagination, have become ingrained in popular culture, inspiring countless adaptations in film, television, and theatre, and influencing the portrayal of pirates in media for over a century.
The allure of Treasure Island goes beyond its adventurous plot and engaging characters. It is a masterful blend of suspense, morality, and action that has enthralled readers of all ages. Its influence extends into the realms of adventure literature, where it has been a guiding star, inspiring generations of writers to embark on their literary voyages.
Our edition of Treasure Island is a tribute to this seminal work. It offers both fans and new readers alike a chance to experience Stevenson’s masterpiece in a format that befits its legendary status. This edition is not just a book; it is a treasure chest of adventure, waiting to be opened and discovered anew.
Treasure Island is published in three states, Standard, Deluxe and Lettered and is available through this website and our first Kickstarter campaign.
- Lettered and Deluxe rights-holders: An email was sent to you with links to pre-order your matching number/letter of Treasure Island; please use those links to secure your copy.
- Standard copies, and Deluxe copies without rights: purchase through the KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN HERE. Updated to add: We’re honoured that Treasure Island was selected as a Project We Love by Kickstarter, their “way of highlighting brilliant examples of creativity.”
NOTE: if any Deluxe copies with rights become available, they will be randomly assigned to Deluxe backers on Kickstarter. If any Lettered copies become available, they will be made available via lottery in our newsletter.
All copies are signed by renowned maritime artist Marc Castelli, who has created 52 detailed drawings in pen and ink, which are printed letterpress.
The books are letterpress-printed by Nomad Letterpress and the Deluxe and Lettered states are hand bound by Ludlow Bookbinders. The text is set in Bembo Book and Goudy Text with a page count of 186 pages and text set in two columns.
All copies include head and tail bands, a ribbon marker, and have a trim size of 240mm by 440mm (9.5in by 13.4in).
Shipping is expected in Fall 2024.
The Standard state is quarter bound in Italian cloth and letterpress-printed decorative paper boards featuring whorls and curls that are reminiscent of tumultuous seas and the twists and turns of adventure. The gold accents evoke thoughts of hidden treasure partly buried beneath the soil.
All Standard state details:
- Quarter binding using premium, Italian cloth.
- Letterpress-printed decorative paper boards with swirls of brown and gold.
- Foil stamped spine with the title of the book and initials of the author and illustrator. The use of the initials only is an homage to the note signed ‘J.F.’ that came with the map to the island in the book.
- Letterpress printing on Swedish Munken Cream 120gsm paper.
- An included slipcase covered in the same Italian cloth used for the book, with the interior lined in plush suedel.
The final print run will be set at the end of the campaign based on the total number of backers, in addition to a select number of extra copies for those who miss the campaign.
The Deluxe is hand bound by Ludlow Bookbinders with a design meant to evoke a sense of adventure, history, and the timeless allure of pirate lore. It is a quarter binding of the finest goatskin and solid 10mm (0.4in) thick oak boards, beaten and burnt to look worn, giving it rugged, aged appearance reminiscent of the weathered decks of the Hispaniola.
The “black spot,” a powerful symbol and a key plot device that significantly influences the course of the story, is represented by a 40mm (1.6in) diameter leather circle set flush into the front board.
All Deluxe state details:
- Quarter hand binding in premium goatskin leather by Ludlow Bookbinders.
- 10mm (0.4in) thick oak boards, beaten and burnt to look worn with a dark finish applied, giving each book a unique patina.
- The “black spot,” a powerful symbol and a key plot device that significantly influences the course of the story, is represented by a 40mm (1.6in) diameter leather circle set flush into the front board.
- Six raised bands on the spine with foil stamping of the title of the book and initials of the author and illustrator, with a different design from the Standard. The use of the initials only is an homage to the note signed ‘J.F.’ that came with the map to the island in the book.
- Top edge gilded in gold.
- Letterpress-printed decorative paper endpapers (same as used for the boards of the Standard).
- Letterpress-printing on luxurious Naturalis 135gsm paper.
- An included slipcase covered in a premium, two-tone brown cloth with the interior lined in plush suedel, with a circular cutout that reveals the “black spot” when the book rests within.
All copies of the Deluxe state will be individually hand-numbered. The first 150 copies are being offered directly from the Press to collectors who purchased the first 150 copies of our previous book, Flowers for Algernon. Copies #151 onwards are being offered on Kickstarter.
The final print run will be set at the end of the campaign based on the total number of backers, in addition to a select number of extra copies for those who miss the campaign. Prices for copies available post-Kickstarter campaign will be higher.
Any copies with rights remaining after the exclusive pre-order period will be randomly distributed to collectors who backed Deluxe copies on Kickstarter.
The Lettered state of Treasure Island is hand bound by Ludlow Bookbinders in the finest Harmatan and Oakridge leathers. It features extensive blind stamping throughout and multiple onlays in different colours across both boards and the spine to create a topographic map of the island and surrounding areas.
The island on the boards is identical the to re-imagined Treasure Island map drawn by artist Marc Castelli and included in the book and letterpress-printed broadside. The binding is unencumbered by any text.
The head and tail bands are meticulously sewn in by hand and the top edge is gilded. Hand-marbled paper is used for the endsheets, featuring a custom design from Freya Scott at Paperwilds, inspired by the endpapers used in a 1745 binding of The History of England by Mr. Rapin de Thoyras held at the Nostell Priory.
This state is letterpress-printed on smooth, luxurious Liber Charta 170gsm (120lb) paper, a new mouldmade paper developed by John Purcell Paper. It exemplifies the best qualities of the now-discontinued Zerkall paper and has quickly become the top choice for printers and wood engravers alike.
About the Sea Chest
The book is encased in a chest inspired by that of Captain Bones, within which the map leading to Treasure Island was discovered. Crafted primarily from solid oak, with the exception of the base that features oak veneer, this chest faithfully replicates the seamen’s chests of the era depicted in the novel. Some important features include:
- Sides that slope inward, effectively lowering the center of gravity to enhance stability and prevent tipping.
- Hinges mounted on the inside, resulting in a flat top surface that offers comfortable seating.
- Runners at the bottom, elevating the base of the chest above the ground, safeguarding it from moisture and reducing the risk of damage.
The final design of the chest will be identical to the prototype, with the addition of the letter ‘B’ stamped on the top, in homage to the mark found on Captain Bones’s chest.
Every Lettered collector of Treasure Island will receive a copy of each of the two broadsides being created to celebrate the edition. These broadsides are being offered as rewards in the Kickstarter campaign, and they letterpress-printed on thick handmade 300gsm paper made from 100% cotton rags with deckled edges on all sides.
Immerse yourself in the world of this classic adventure story through the lens of renowned maritime artist Marc Castelli, who has created 52 detailed drawings in pen and ink, an illustration style commonly used in the mid-18th century when the story was set. These visuals range from the adventurous and breathtaking to the quietly emotive, each seamlessly woven into the layout.
All illustrations will be printed letterpress at the original size they were drawn, reproducing the artwork in the most authentic way possible. This requires meticulous preparation of the artwork and the photopolymer plates, along with substantial time and effort in the printing process.
Dr. Caroline Howitt, Programme Director at Adam Smith’s Panmure House, is a recognized authority on the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. Her doctoral dissertation, entitled Exploring Romance in the Prose of Robert Louis Stevenson, offered an extensive analysis of his body of work, and she has since been an instructor in English Literature at the University of St Andrews.
In her introduction, Dr. Howitt offers readers a fresh and engaging perspective on this timeless classic. She provides a deeper historical context and a nuanced interpretation of the novel’s enduring themes. Her analysis sheds light on Stevenson’s narrative techniques, particularly his use of romance, and explores the broader implications of his storytelling within the literary canon. Dr. Howitt’s contribution to this edition is more than just an introduction; it is an enriching experience that promises to deepen the appreciation for Stevenson’s masterpiece, appealing to both new readers and long-standing fans of the novel alike.
You can see Dr. Howitt’s lecture on How to Read Robert Louis Stevenson here, part of the Lights of Caledonia lecture series at Adam Smith’s Panmure House.
We are proud to be collaborating again with Pat Randle and his team at Nomad Letterpress on the letterpress printing of this edition, having worked together on our first two editions - J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Joe Hill’s Faun.
Treasure Island is typeset in Bembo Book, a typeface originally designed in 1929 by Monotype, under the supervision of British typographer and printing historian Stanley Morison. Graceful, elegant, and highly readable, Bembo quickly became a popular choice for book typography and hot metal printing. Bembo Book, a digital version of the original Bembo typeface, was developed in 2005. It was created using outlines from the initial Monotype drawings, which were then carefully edited to maintain the design and overall appearance of the original Bembo typeface.
Goudy Text, a blackletter typeface with a strong sense of history and tradition, is used for display. Though most printing had already moved on to Roman typefaces by the 18th century, blackletter retained widespread use for material intended for the general population.
The expansive trim size has allowed for generous margins and the use of a two-column layout that not only echoes the style of historical books but also allows for line lengths of a comfortable reading length.
Our edition utilizes the text from the 1883 first edition with minor emendations.
Alongside Dr. Howitt’s new introduction, Treasure Island features three appendices with related material by Robert Louis Stevenson. These pieces provide valuable context and further insights into the novel.
How This Book Came to Be
A revealing essay (also titled My First Book—Treasure Island) in which Stevenson recounts the development of his famous novel. In this piece, Stevenson describes the origins of the book, starting from a simple map drawing with his stepson that sparked the idea, through to the writing and publication process. He shares insights into his creative process and the influences that shaped the creation of the novel. This work provides a personal glimpse into Stevenson’s journey in bringing Treasure Island, one of his most celebrated works, to life.
A Gossip on Romance
“Fiction is to the grown man what play is to the child; it is there that he changes the atmosphere and tenor of his life; and when the game so chimes with his fancy that he can join in it with all his heart, when it pleases him with every turn, when he loves to recall it and dwells upon its recollection with entire delight, fiction is called romance.”
A Gossip on Romance is a seminal essay written by Stevenson while completing Treasure Island. Referenced in Dr. Howitt’s introduction, it explores the essence and impact of romance in literature and is presented here in its entirety for further exploration and enjoyment. In this essay, Stevenson argues that reading should be an immersive, captivating experience that transports the reader into a world of vivid imagery and emotion. He emphasizes the importance of incident and circumstance in storytelling, suggesting that these elements are more compelling and memorable than character or dialogue alone.
The Persons of the Tale
In this essay, Captain Smollett and Long John Silver break the fourth wall as they discuss their roles as characters in a story and question the concepts of good and bad characters. It explores themes of storytelling, the relationship between authors and their characters, and the blurred boundaries between fiction and reality.