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Picturing the First Castaway:
Illustrations of Robinson Crusoe, 1719-1950

The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. London: Ernest Nister; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1895. Illustrated by Joseph Finnemore (1860-1939), with G. H. Thompson (fl. 1833-84) and Archibald Webb (1870-?).

Special Collections and University Archives welcome members of the Rutgers University community and the general public to view an exhibition of illustrated editions of Daniel Defoe's novel, Robinson Crusoe, together with still photographs, posters, and videos of cinematic adaptations of the story. The exhibition, titled Picturing the First Castaway: the Illustration of Robinson Crusoe, 1719-1950 draws on the holdings of the Rutgers University Libraries, as well as the personal collection of Dr. Geoffrey Sill, chair of the Department of English at the Rutgers campus in Camden.

The exhibition is currently on display in the galleries of Special Collections and University Archives, located on the first floor and lower level of Archibald S. Alexander Library in New Brunswick.

From the first edition of the novel in 1719, the figure of this adventurer has attracted the talents of scores of book illustrators, from Thomas Stothard and George Cruikshank to N. C. Wyeth and Lynd Ward. Robinson Crusoe has appeared in their work as a man in the natural world, an explorer, a religious penitent, a conqueror, a Darwinian survivor, an existentialist, and finally as a FedEx employee. Along the way his image served as a model for ideologies of individualism, colonialism, and democracy, all platforms on which boys and girls were encouraged to base their aspirations for selfhood. The novel eventually became a staple of children's literature, with a corresponding domestication of Crusoe and his companion, Friday.

This exhibition is made possible by grants from the Friends of the Rutgers University Libraries and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The exhibition will run through June 30, 2004. An online version of the exhibition is available at

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New Jersey Council for the Humanities logo    This exhibition and public program is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Posted April 6, 2004