THE ANNOTATED TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson

THE ANNOTATED TREASURE ISLAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The classic tale of pirates and their buried loot is enriched with explanatory footnotes, diagrams and illustrations in this fascinating annotated edition.

First published in 1883, Stevenson’s Treasure Island narrates the adventures of Jim Hawkins, an English teenager who in the 1750s discovers a map to a fabulous pirate treasure buried on a desert island; the ensuing voyage embroils him in a mutiny, fierce musket-and-cutlass fights and a twisty relationship with the pirate Long John Silver, a charismatic figure of noble courage and dastardly treachery. Featuring taut suspense, brisk action, an iconic coming-of-age theme and colorful characters, Treasure Island became the template for later genre pieces such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Barker-Benfield’s engaging introduction and comprehensive margin notes and sidebars explain many of the story’s details to an audience less familiar with age-of-sail conventions. Much of the narrative hinges on the handling of sailing ships, and he provides detailed, interesting accounts of their construction, rigging, navigation, protocols and jargon, which help explicate important plot points. He also delves into the evolving culture of the early-modern Atlantic-Caribbean region and the history, lifestyles and indispensable accouterments of pirates: Silver’s loquacious parrot is probably an African gray, we learn, while the refrain “yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum” prompts a disquisition on that beverage’s production and neurological effects. Intriguing conundrums and inconsistencies in the text are teased out; latitude and longitude figures put Treasure Island at one of four improbably cold locales, the author notes, while Silver’s life history makes his claimed age of 50 years a tad optimistic. Throughout, Barker-Benfield’s notes adroitly translate the richer flights of buccaneer lingo into respectable English. (“I’m a poor old hulk on a lee shore” is a pirate’s “dramatic way of saying he is nearing the end of his life.”) There are also detailed maps of the Caribbean, reproductions of portraits of real-life pirates and sea captains and meticulously detailed diagrams of ships, cannons and nautical equipment; these, along with Rhead’s atmospheric drawings of scenes from the story, add an exquisite visual dimension to the original text.

A sumptuous edition of a masterpiece that will captivate both youngsters and older fans interested in the history and lore underpinning Stevenson’s yarn.

Pub Date: Oct. 7th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1937075019
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Fine & Kahn
Program: Kirkus Indie
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