In 1991, an article appeared in The New York Times entitled ‘An Author I’d Walk the Plank For’. Like millions of readers around the world, the writer, Richard Snow, had become addicted to Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series. Set against the sprawling canvas of the Napoleonic Wars, O’Brian’s naval adventure novels evoke this period in history like no others. Their success is down to the vim and vigour of O’Brian’s prose, his extraordinary eye for period detail and his ear for language. In Snow’s words: ‘O’Brian summoned up with casual omniscience the workaday magic of a vanished time.’
The partnership between Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is at the heart of Patrick O’Brian’s masterful series. Beyond the beautifully textured period setting, the thrilling skirmishes and naval battles (many based on real events), the popularity of the novels stems from these two engaging, intriguing protagonists. Jack Aubrey, the careerist naval officer with a passionate nature provides a marvellous foil for enigmatic Stephen Maturin the physician, naturalist and spy. Two centuries may separate us from them, but O’Brian creates an utterly compelling portrait of two men and a world at war.
In 2008 The Folio Society set sail with our own edition of the first in the series Master and Commander. Since then we have published all twenty books, with each new publication eagerly awaited by collectors across the world. With every edition featuring meticulously researched prints, maps and illustrations as well as a unique binding, it has been a monumental task to do justice to a series of books that have been called the greatest historical novels ever written.Browse the whole series here
Although Patrick O’Brian liked to cultivate the idea of a background similar to that of his hero Stephen Maturin, O’Brian was not Irish and is not now believed to have a background in intelligence. Instead he was born Richard Russ, in 1914 in Buckinghamshire, where he lost his mother at the age of three, and despite many siblings spent a fairly isolated childhood. Although his first literary work was written when he was just 12, O’Brian struggled to find his path as a young man. He changed his name after an unhappy first marriage, abandoning his wife and children to go to London and work as an ambulance driver during the Second World War.
There he met his second, beloved wife, Mary Tolstoy, to whom most of his novels are dedicated. They moved first to Wales, and later to Southern France near the Pyrenees, a setting which formed the background for Stephen Maturin. His growing familiarity with the Mediterranean inspired some of the finest scenes in his later novels, but at the time he worked as a highly-respected translator and biographer. Although the first few Aubrey-Maturin novels made respectable sales, it was only in 1991 with an article trailed on the front cover of The New York Times that O’Brian’s sales and reputation became as spectacular as his genius deserved. O’Brian died in 2000, leaving an unfinished manuscript - the 21st book in the much-loved Aubrey-Maturin series.
|Master and Commander||Post Captain||HMS Surprise|
|The Mauritius Command||Desolation Island||The Fortune of War|
|Surgeon's Mate||The Ionian Mission||Treason's Harbour|
|The Far Side of the World||The Reverse of the Medal||The Letter of Marque|
|The Thirteen Gun Salute||The Nutmeg of Consolation||Clarissa Oakes|
|The Wine-Dark Sea||The Commodore||The Yellow Admiral|
|The Hundred Days||Blue at the Mizzen|