What is 'island'? And what is 'island writing'? The author explores these concepts through a close reading of ‘A Voyage to New Guinea, and the Moluccas’, an account of Thomas Forrest’s travels in the Malay Archipelago. Having more to offer than merely ethnographical and scientific data, the report is a cultural product anchored in the realm of eighteenth-century English travel writing, with its distinctive literary conventions. Additionally, it is a text in which the instability of meaning parallels the definitional precariousness of ‘island’ that historically defies monolithic interpretation of scholars in cartography, geography and literary studies. At a disciplinary crossroads, 'A Quest for Insularity' should be of interest to scholars and students of textual interpretation, eighteenth-century English print culture and literary tradition, European discovery literature, and Southeast Asian maritime history.