Emory’s Manuscript Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) celebrated the opening of its collection of 699 editions of Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe
After several years of discussion about the donation, MARBL received the collection in September from Emory alumnus Robert W. Lovett (’69G) and his wife Miriam. Emory’s Rare Book Librarian David Faulds estimated that the Lovetts spent 20 to 25 years obtaining the collection.
The collection contains rare editions dating back to the 18th century and up to the 21st century, including a rare first edition book.
Faulds refused to comment on the value of the collection out of respect for the Lovetts, but said the collection contains several editions that are the only copies on record. The collection’s first-edition book is nearly impossible to obtain not only because of its rarity, but because most of the first editions are in libraries.
According to Faulds, the book’s versatility contributes to its sustained popularity.
“It has been described as the first novel to have the novel style in a modern sense,” Faulds said. “It is a very flexible piece. It can be made into a children’s book or can work for adults.”
The collection contains both children’s storybook versions and lengthy adult versions.
While the general premise of the story remains the same throughout the editions, the books contain marked differences.
The text changes throughout the editions, as the first edition was a three-volume work and subsequent editions included parts of these three volumes.
The style of writing also changes, becoming more modern and readable with the newer editions. Most of the books also contain illustrations, which also change throughout the editions.
According to Faulds, Lovett chose to donate the collection to MARBL because he knew it would be frequently used at Emory. English classes are already planning to use the collection next semester.
The collection is currently available not only to Emory students and faculty, but to the public as well. About 100 of the copies of Crusoe
are currently in EUCLID, Emory’s internet database. The entire collection may eventually be accessed digitally.
Although its actual value may be undisclosed, Faulds noted that the collection has something to offer everyone from historians to children.
“It is a really fun collection. It is not just for literature people. If you’re interested in popular culture and art history or children’s literature it is a good choice of materials. There are lots of aspects of it that can be researched,” Faulds said.
Faulds also noted that Robinson Crusoe
is a “timeless novel” and that its influence can still be seen in television shows such as “Crusoe” and “Lost.”
“You can see the perspectives on native culture,” Faulds said. “Today people are still worried about what is going on in other countries and I think [Robinson Crusoe] sort of touches on that, like in ‘Crusoe’ and ‘Lost’ and that kind of thing. It’s still a very current topic,” Faulds said.
The collection builds on MARBL’s extensive literature holdings.
“We have very strong holdings in 19th and 20th century English literature and this is another addition to that collection,” Faulds said.
Because MARBL’s collection is so extensive, there are currently plans in the works to build a standalone rare book library at Emory. Faulds said he hopes that this project will be completed within the next 10 years because there is no more room left on the 10th floor of the Woodruff Library.
— Contact Darah Protas