Joseph Conrad in Special Collections

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, the son of Polish aristocrats.  When Conrad was a child, his parents were sentenced to political exile in northwest Russia.  Conrad was largely taught by his father, who introduced him to literature, but Conrad was orphaned at age 11.  His maternal uncle helped him to enter the French and British merchant marines, where he served on a number of ships.  Conrad gained his certificate as a master mariner in 1886 and also became a British citizen.  However, changes in the shipping industry made it increasingly hard for Conrad to find positions.  In 1894, he received an inheritance and was able to retire.  He had already been writing his first novel, Almayer’s Folly, which was accepted and published in 1895, thus launching him into a career as one of England’s foremost men of letters.

Many of Conrad’s major works were written between 1897 and 1911, including ”Heart of Darkness” (1899), Nostromo (1904), and The Secret Agent (1907).  These works won Conrad much critical acclaim for their innovation, but his writing did not earn him substantial amounts of money until after this period. Further reprints, popular later novels like Chance (1914) and Hollywood movie rights to his early novels secured Conrad the financial success to match his critical reputation.

Special Collections has a substantial collection of first editions by Joseph Conrad, including a number of presentation copies. One highlight is an advanced copy of Lord Jim signed to friends. Our newest acquisition is a first edition of Nostromo, shown here.

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