Patrick O'Brian collection

Patrick O'Brian book collection
‘A pervasive serenity, a generosity towards human frailty, are among the qualities which have made his books irresistible’

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

'If Jane Austen's naval brothers had written novels, they might have written the novels of Patrick O'Brian.'

Patrick O'Brian

(1914 - 2000)

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.

Read more about the life and work of Patrick O'Brian here

See below for all twenty titles in the 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
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