From the Stacks: Robinson Crusoe

Portrait of Defoe, frontispiece from an 1816 copy of Robinson Crusoe, published by J. Gleave

One of the most widely published books in history, Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published on April 25, 1719 under the original title The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pirates. The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character, who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island.

Robinson Crusoe was well received in the literary world; within the first year of its publication the book had already run through four editions. It has since spawned numerous sequels and adaptations for stage, film, and television.

Third edition, published by W. Taylor in 1719

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections is home to approximately 70 different printings of Robinson Crusoe, many of which are housed in the Spiro Peterson Center for Defoe Studies collection. The Spiro Peterson Center for Defoe Studies collection includes more than 550 volumes, 100 reels of microfilm, and various documents, maps, notes, and files. The collection is made up of materials in over thirteen different languages. I have included a few of my favorite editions here.

Robinson Crusoe in Words of One Syllable, by Mary Godolphin published in 1882

Illustration from a German language edition, published in 1922

A 1905 edition that replaces the characters with various animals. Crusoe is portrayed as an elephant, while Friday is portrayed as a bear.

A Russian version from 1894

Small chapbook from 1810

A publisher’s binding edition from the 1860’s

This edition was published in 1895

Illustration by Elenore Plaisted Abbott, from a 1920 publication

These are just a small handful of the many editions of this popular title found in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections.

Ashley Jones
Preservation Librarian