A Happy 356th Birthday to Daniel Defoe!

Drawing of book with mounts and snake. Open pages read

Daniel Defoe was born on this day during the autumn of 1660, probably in London or just outside the city. Though educated for the nonconformist ministry, he chose instead to follow his father in trade and political life. 

While Defoe authored political pamphlets and even satirical poetry, he is perhaps best known for his novel, Robinson Crusoe, first published in 1719. 

View of frontispiece and title page at opening of first edition of Robinson Crusoe
Frontispiece and title page at opening of a fine copy of the first edition of the first part of Robinson Crusoe (Special Collections Hubbard Imaginary Voyages PR 3403 .A1 pt.1)

Called "the greatest mythic fantasy ever written of the solitary survivor who will never succumb" by Defoe scholar Paula R. Backscheider [1], the novel engages notions of global opportunity, religious controversy, and individualism, bringing together Defoe's varied interests in a style reminiscent of the travel writing popular at the time.

Compelling and inspiring from its release, Robinson Crusoe is considered Defoe's greatest work. The novel has never been out of print and continues to attract both critical interest as well as additions to a remarkable number of imitations and adaptations in print and on screen.   

Our Hubbard Imaginary Voyages Collection features one of the world’s best assemblages of editions, translations, adaptations, and spin-offs of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. [2]

Copies of various editions of Robinson Crusoe on the shelves
Copies of various 19th century editions of Robinson Crusoe from the Hubbard Imaginary Voyages Collection.

Beyond a fine copy of the first edition of 1719, the collection includes a long series of British editions, a series of American editions, and a significant number of translations into many languages. It also features a host of "Robinsonades" (Robinson Crusoe imitations) in dozens of languages. The collection even includes a few board games from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Box cover of Robinson Crusoe game from England

Directions for play of Robinson Crusoe game from England
Box lid (above) and directions (below) for a Robinson Crusoe board game produced in England. (Special Collections Hubbard Imaginary Voyages GV 1469 .R625 185-)

 

Box, game pieces, direction packet for Robinson Crusoe board game produced in Sweden

Game board for Robinson Crusoe game produced in Sweden
Box, game pieces, direction packet (above), and game board (below) for Robinson Crusoe board game produced in Sweden (Special Collections Hubbard Imaginary Voyages GV 1469 .R63 195-)

Defoe's legacy lives on, in small part within our Hubbard Imaginary Voyages Collection, and far beyond print.

Happy Birthday Daniel Defoe!


[1] Paula R. Backscheider, "Defoe, Daniel (1660?–1731)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

[2] Established in 1923 with a donation of some 1500 titles by University of Michigan Regent Lucius L. Hubbard, the Hubbard Imaginary Voyages Collection now numbers more than 2800 titles with at least 70 percent pertaining to Robinson Crusoe. For more on the acquisition, see p.1378 of v. 4, pt. 8. “The Libraries” In The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey, edited by Wilfred B. Shaw. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 1942-58. Available online via HathiTrust.