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Robinson Crusoe
From Robinson Crusoe: His Life and Strange Surprising Adventures. In words of one syllable. Altemus’ Young People’s Library. Philadelphia, 1897.


Although most famous for his novel, Robinson Crusoe, written when he was 60 years old, Daniel Defoe was a prolific writer for most of his life, and no topic seemed unworthy of his pen. From religion to politics, from trade to moral conduct, Defoe had opinions on it all. This versatility combined with his audacity often got him into trouble with the law and is no doubt what led to his recruitment as a government spy.

Many of Defoe’s writings were anonymous, and although his contemporaries routinely accused him of writing one thing or another, it is often only in his personal correspondence that he admits to authoring particular pieces. This has made it problematic for modern scholars wishing to establish the Defoe canon, as there is so little evidence to go on. Some have erred on the side of generosity, as did John Robert Moore in his 1960 A Checklist of the Writings of Daniel Defoe, in which he identified 570 items written by Defoe. More recent scholarship has tended toward suspicion and caution, such that Furbank and Owens’s Critical Bibliography of Daniel Defoe lists closer to 250 publications, and many of these are only “probable” attributions.

This exhibition gives an overview of the many types of publications written by Defoe in his lifetime. Much of the credit for the current collection held at the Lilly Library goes to Moore himself who, as a professor at Indiana University in the mid-twentieth century, was largely responsible for building up the Defoe collection.

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Last Updated: 6 October 2008
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