| Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was first published in 1719. The book was instantly popular, and since then, the story of the first castaway has inspired brilliant artists and philosophers to create imaginative works of their own. How have they looked at him? as a wretch? a conqueror? a victim? -a man living in peace with nature and the natural kingdom? Many portraits performed by many brilliant artists are in the next pages.
Some idea of the degree to which civilization has embraced the tale can be gleaned from the fact that an umbrella in France came to be called a "Robinson." The theme of a castaway who works through his miseries by focusing on the tasks of survival, discovers faith, and who matures from selfishness to a concern for the welfare of others has inspired generations of children and adults who have passed it on to following generations of readers, often in the form of beautifully illustrated books. It is the purpose of this web site to display the brilliance and variety of these illustrious perceptions of the first castaway, Robinson Crusoe.
The web authors gratefully acknowledge the information they obtained from The Illustration of Robinson Crusoe, 1719-1920 , by David Blewett,(Gerrards Cross :Colin Smythe, 1995) and Robinson Crusoe :a Bibliographical Checklist of English Language Editions(1719-1979)by Robert W. Lovett ( New York:Greenwood Press, 1991). The illustrations and the captions for them were provided by Dr. Geoffrey Sill, who curated an exhibit, "Picturing the First Castaway," on display from February-April 2004, at the Special Collections and University Archives, located in the Alexander Library of Rutgers University.
Follow the Index below for a literal, chronological view, or the Timeline to see these illustrations in their historical context.
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