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Defoe and “the Footprints of Man”



1. Stevenson describes the four images thus: “Crusoe recoiling from the footprint, Achilles shouting over against the Trojans, Ulysses bending the great bow, Christian [in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress] running with his fingers in his ears” (256).

2. His biographer William Lee writes, “About six months after his death his Library, or the greater part of it, was sold to Mr. Olive Payne, the bookseller in Round Court, in the Strand, who published a Catalogue of his Books, and those of the Rev. Philips Farewell, D.D. I have searched in vain for this Catalogue, and fear that a copy does not exist.* *See a long advertisement of the Catalogue in The Daily Advertiser, 13 Nov. 1731” (1: 470).

3. See also Helmut Heidenreich, ed., The Libraries of Daniel Defoe and Philips Farewell: Olive Payne’s Sales Catalogue, 1731, which is particularly valuable for its comprehensive introduction and its detailed listings of book subjects. For a general account of the catalogue and the history of its discovery see George A. Aitken, “Defoe’s Library,” 706–707; Tim Severin, In Search of Robinson Crusoe, 181–83; and Heidenreich’s introduction to The Libraries of Daniel Defoe and Philips Farewell, vii–xxxix.

4. This suggestion was first made by Aitken in “Defoe’s Library,” 706. In Daniel Defoe, Master of Fictions: His Life and Ideas, Maximillian E. Novak notes that “some of the books went to Henry and Sophia Baker and show up in the catalogue of Henry Baker’s library" (704). The contents of Henry Baker’s library were sold at auction on February 10, 1772; see the List of Catalogues of English Book Sales, 1676–1900, Now in the British Museum, ed. Harold Mattingly, I.A.K. Burnett, and Alfred W. Pollard (77). However, the auction catalogue does not indicate which of the books included in the sale had belonged to Defoe. I am grateful to Qona Wright of The British Library’s Rare Books and Music Reference Service for locating and providing me with a facsimile of the actual catalogue: A Catalogue of the Library with the Prints and Books of Prints of Henry Baker, Esq.

5. Secord regarded the influence of Knox and Dampier as far more certain than that of Smeeks (100–107), a view vigorously challenged by David Fausett in The Strange Surprizing Sources of Robinson Crusoe, 175–94. For a survey of the various travel books Defoe may have read together with a discussion of their possible influence on his novel see Pat Rogers, Robinson Crusoe, 27–34.

6. “We were no sooner at Anchor [at the Isles of Pines off the west coast of Cuba], but five of us went ashore, leaving only the Cook and Cabbin-Boy aboard: We had but two bad Fowling-Pieces in the Ship; those we took with us, with a Design to kill Beef and Hog. We went into the Lagune, where we found Water enough for our Canoa, and in some Places not much to spare; when we were almost over it, we saw eight or ten Bulls and Cows feeding on the Shore close by the Sea. This gave us great Hopes of good Success. We therefore rowed away aside of the Cattle, and landed on a sandy Bay, about half a Mile from them: there we saw much Footing of Men and Boys; the Impressions seemed to be about eight or ten days old, we supposed them to be the Track of Spanish Hunters. This troubled us a little, but it being now their Christmas, we concluded that they were gone over to Cuba to keep it there, so we went after our Game…” (Dampier 2: 137 [pt. 2, ch. 1]).

7. “Being come at the River, we left the Road, and struck into the woods by the River side. We were exceeding careful not to tread on the Sand or soft Ground, lest our footsteps should be seen; and where it could not be avoided, we went backwards, so that by the print of our feet, it seemed as if we had gone the contrary way. We were now gotten a good way into the Wood; when it grew dark and began to Rain, so that we thought it best to pitch our Tents, and get Wood for Firing before it was all wet, and too dark to find it. Which we did, and kindled a fire” (Knox 261 [pt. 4, ch. 10]).

8. “Having searched on land one day in vain, on the next we sailed along the coast for some hours, firing a cannon-shot every bell. We set men on shore to seek again, who did not find anyone, although they saw some tracks of bare feet in the sand” (Hubbard 2); “I had plenty to eat, as I have said, and I walked towards the sea in the hope that our ship or people were still there, but found no one. While thus walking along the strand, I looked back continually, so that the mountain should not get out of my sight. On the way I thought I saw a mast behind a dune, with its top sticking out above. I though also that I saw footprints, but these again disappeared” (Hubbard 16–17).

9. On this possible influence, see A.S. Fulton, introduction to Ockley’s translation of The History of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan; Lenn Evan Goodman, introduction to Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: A Philosophical Tale; A.T.S. Goodrick, “Robinson Crusoe, Imposter,” 672−85; Antonio Pastor, The Idea of Robinson Crusoe, 1: 305−66; and Nawal Muhammad Hassan, Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A Study of an Early Arabic Impact on English Literature.

10. A 1711 edition of Ockley’s Life of Hai Ebn Yokdhan was found in the library of Defoe’s son-in-law, Henry Baker, F.R.S., following his death (see item #209 in the 1772 Baker auction catalogue). It is conceivable that Baker may have inherited this volume from his father-in-law’s collection, which at the time of Defoe’s death included another Ockley work, vol. 2 of The History of the Saracens (1718), listed as item #1012 in the Olive Payne catalogue.

11. See Gül A. Russell, “The Impact of the Philosophus Autodidactus: Pockocke, John Locke and the Society of Friends,” 224−65.

12. “Hayy Ibn Yaqzân, in the mean time, was wholly immers’d in his sublime Extasies, and never stirred out of his Cave but once a Week, to take such Provision as first came to hand. So that Asâl did not light upon him at first, but walk’d round the Island, and explor’d its various Parts, without seeing any Man, or so much as the Footsteps of any: Upon which account his Joy was increas’d, and his Mind exceedingly pleas’d, in regard to his compassing that which he had propos’d to himself, namely, to lead the most retired Life that was possible.” “At last it happen’d, one time that Hayy Ibn Yaqzân coming out to look for Provision in the same place whither Asâl was retired, they spy’d one another” (Ibn Tufayl, The History 159−60 sect. 103−104).

13. On this point see Heidenreich, introduction to The Libraries of Daniel Defoe and Philips Farewell, ix−x.

14. In his A Checklist of the Writings of Daniel Defoe, John Robert Moore cites this as the second earliest known work attributable to Defoe, the first being a 1681 holograph entitled Meditac[i]ons, now in the Huntington Library.

15. This rare manuscript survives and is preserved in the collection of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles (MS. 1951.009). The importance of the manuscript was first noted and discussed by Maximillian E. Novak in his Realism, Myth, and History in Defoe’s Fiction, 18−21, as well as in his Daniel Defoe: Master of Fictions, 38−39 and passim. (I am indebted to Scott Jacobs of the Clark Library for providing me with a photographic copy of the manuscript.)

16. See Maximillian E. Novak, “Lost Defoe Manuscript Discovered,” 1−3.

17. The underlying similarity between the stories of Aristippus and Robinson Crusoe was observed as early as 1862 (Goodeve, The Law of Evidence 28) and as recently as 2011 (McGrath 15), but in no case was one story viewed as the possible inspiration for the other. The similar settings of the two stories have also suggested the title for an anthology of literary essays edited by Zbigniew Białas, Aristippus Meets Crusoe: Rethinking the Beach Encounter. Dr. Białas graciously sent me a copy of his work.

18. “As reason is the substance and original of the mathematicks, so by stating and squaring every thing by reason, and by making the most rational judgment of things, every man may be in time master of every mechanick art” (Defoe, Robinson Crusoe 55).

19. See Novak, Realism, Myth, and History in Defoe’s Fiction, 19−20. “Nicho: Udall” inscribed in Defoe’s handwriting can be seen in the left-hand margin of page 71 in the PDF version of manuscript available from the UCLA’s Clark Library.

20. Compare Historicall Collections, 29 (UCLA Clark Library PDF) with Udall, “Aristippus,” sect. 1; and Historicall Collections, 55 (UCLA Clark Library PDF) with Udall, “Aristippus," sect. 8.

21. While Udall speaks here of both footprints (“steppes”) and diagrams (“signes”), Erasmus’ original Latin text had used only the phrase “hominum vestigia adspicio” (“I have espied the footprints of man”). (I am grateful to my colleague, Dr. Charles Fantazzi, for supplying me with Erasmus’ original wording.)

22. This episode opens the sixth volume of Vitruvius’ ten-volume treatise.

23. Nor do the Poor alone their Liquor prize
The Sages join in this great Sacrifice.
The Learned Men who study Aristotle,
Correct him with an Explanation Bottle,
Praise Epicurus rather than Lysander,
And *Aristippus more than Alexander.

*The Drunkards Name for Canary

Defoe inserted the asterisk and footnote above into his text to alert the reader to the fact that Aristippus’ name was being used as a pun, for it was not only the name of a Greek philosopher, as we have already seen, but in Defoe’s time it had become a name for “canary,” a type of fortified wine like sherry. The early seventeenth century English playwright Thomas Randolph had, in fact, constructed an entire play around this pun in his first comedy entitled Aristippus, or the Jovial Philosopher, which was performed as a student play in Cambridge in the 1620’s and published in 1630. See

24. The two-volume 1791 edition of The Architecture of M. Vitruvius Pollio was translated by William Newton. An earlier translation by Newton including only the first five books of Vitruvius’ treatise had appeared in 1771, based upon an abridged French translation by Claude Perrault (1673; corr., 1684), later translated into English by A. Boyer (1692). Newton’s “Preface” (iii−v) gives an informative chronological account of the translations that had preceded his own.

25. “He was able to read the Greek classics, and had not only mastered the most difficult Latin authors, but himself produced Latin compositions for the press; he translated and spoke Spanish, Italian, and French, the latter fluently, and had some knowledge of Dutch” (Lee 10). “I have been in my Time pretty well Master of five Languages, and have not lost them yet, tho’ I write no Bill over my Door, nor set Latin Quotations on the Front of the Review” (Defoe’s Review 7: 114 [December 16, 1710], 455). Regarding his rival, John Tutchin, Defoe wrote: “As to my little Learning, and his great Capacity, I fairly Challeng’d him, in a letter I sent him Yesterday, and which I now Renew, ‘That I’ll take any Latin Author he shall Name, and with it one French, and one Italian, and I’ll Translate them into English, and after that Re-translate them Cross-wise, the English into French, the French into Italian, and the Italian into Latin; and this I challenge him to perform with him, who does it soonest and best for ₤20 each Book; and by this he shall have an Opportunity to show the World, how much De Foe the Hosier, is inferior in Learning, to Mr. Tutchin the gentleman” (Defoe’s Review 2: 38 [May 31, 1705], 150).

26. For a reproduction of the engraving including its caption, see the frontispiece of Sir Thomas Heath’s Archimedes. For an online image without the caption, see

27. Defoe mentions this in the Review 7: 114 (December 16, 1770): 455.

28. Archimedis Opera together with two treatises on cylinders and cones (item #267), Geometrie Practique [sic] de l’Ingenieur (item #507), Barrow’s Archimedes (item #595), Le Elemens [sic] d’Euclid by Dechalles (item #1283), and La Geometrie by Crousaz (item #1300).

29. See note 18 above.


Aitken, George A. “Defoe’s Library.” The Athenaeum 3527 (June 1, 1895): 706−707. Print.

The Architecture of M. Vitruvius Pollio. Trans. and Intro. William Newton. 2 vols. London, 1791. Print.

Białas, Zbigniew, ed. Aristippus Meets Crusoe: Rethinking the Beach Encounter. Katowice, Poland: Wydawnichwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego [U of Silesia P], 1999. Print.

Bulteel, John, ed. The Apophthegmes of the Ancients; Taken out of Plutarch, Diogenes Laertius, Elian, Atheneus, Stobeus, Macrobius, and others; Collected into one Volume for the Benefit and Pleasure of the Ingenious. London, 1683. Google Books. Web. 30 May 2013.

Campbell, Colen. Vitruvius Britannicus; or, The British architect, containing the plans, elevations, and sections of the regular buildings, both publick and private in Great Britain, with variety of new designs. 1715−1725. 3 vols. New York: Benjamin Blom, 1967. Print.

A Catalogue of the Library with the Prints and Books of Prints of Henry Baker, Esq. London: Sotheby, February 10, 1772. Print. [BL Mic. B740/1/5; S.C. Sotheby, Lugt number 1994].

Dampier, William. Dampier’s Voyages: Consisting of a New Voyage Round the World, a Supplement to the Voyage Round the World, Two Voyages to Campeachy, a Discourse of Winds, a Voyage to New Holland, and a Vindication, in answer to the Chimerical Relation of William Funnell. 1697 and 1699. Ed. John Masefield. 2 vols. London: E. Grant Richards, 1906. Print.

Defoe, Daniel. Defoe’s Review. 1704−1713. Ed. Arthur Wellesley Secord. 22 vols. New York: Published for the Facsimile Society by Columbia UP, 1938.

———. Robinson Crusoe. 1719. Ed. John Richetti. New York: Penguin, 2001. Print.

———. A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain. London, 1742. Print.

Erasmus, Desiderius. Apophthegmes. 1542. The English Experience: Its Record in Early Printed Books, Published in Facsimile 99. New York: Da Capo Press; Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1969. Print.

Fausett, David. The Strange Surprizing Sources of Robinson Crusoe. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994. Print.

Goodeve, Joseph. The Law of Evidence as Administered in England and Applied to India. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, & Co., 1862. Print.

Goodrick, A.T.S. “Robinson Crusoe, Imposter.” Blackwood’s Magazine 183 (1908): 672−85. Print.

Granger, Frank, ed. Vitruvius: On Architecture. 2 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP; London: William Heinemann, 1983. Print.

Harris, John. The Palladian Revival: Lord Burlington, His Villa and Garden at Chiswick. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994. Print.

Hassan, Nawal Muhammad. Hayy bin Yaqzan and Robinson Crusoe: A Study of an Early Arabic Impact on English Literature. Baghdad: Dār al-rashīd li-l-nashr: Al-Rashid House for Publication, 1980. Print.

Heath, Thomas L., Sir. Archimedes. 1897. Pioneers of Progress: Men of Science. Ed. S. Chapman. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: The Macmillan Co., 1920. Print.

Heidenreich, Helmut. Introduction. The Libraries of Daniel Defoe and Philips Farewell: Olive Payne’s Sales Catalogue, 1731. Berlin: W. Hildebrand, 1970. Print.

Historicall Collections, or, Memoires of Passages & Stories Collected from Severall Authors. London, 1682. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, University of California, Los Angeles, MS.1951.009.

Hubbard, Lucius L. A Dutch Source for Robinson Crusoe: The Narrative of the El-Ho “Sjouke Gabbes” (Also Known as Henrich Texel): An Episode from the Description of the Mighty Kingdom of Krinke Kesmes, Et cetera, by Hendrik Smeeks, 1708, Translated from the Dutch and Compared with the Story of Robinson Crusoe, by Lucius L. Hubbard. Ann Arbor, MI: George Wahr, 1921. Print.

Ibn Tufayl, Abu Bakr. Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan: A Philosophical Tale. Trans. and Ed. Lenn Evan Goodman. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009. Print.

———. The History of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. 1708. Trans. Simon Ockley. Ed. and Intro. A.S. Fulton. London: Chapman and Hall; New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1929. Print.

Knox, Robert. An Historical Relation of Ceylon: Together with somewhat concerning Severall Remarkable passages of my life that hath hapned since my Deliverance out of my Captivity. 1681. Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons, 1911. Print.

Kropf, C.R. “The Sale of Defoe’s Library.” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 65 (1971): 123−33. Print.

Lee, William. Daniel Defoe: His Life, and Recently Discovered Writings, Extending from 1716 to 1729. 3 vols. London: John Camden Hotten, 1869. Print.

Librorum ex Bibliothecis Philippi Farewell, D.D., et Danielis De Foe, Gen.; Catalogus: or a Catalogue of the Libraries of the Reverend and Learned Philips Farewell, D.D., Late Fellow of Trinity-College, Cambridge; and of the Ingenious Daniel De Foe, Gent., lately Deceas’d. London, 1731. Print.

List of Catalogues of English Book Sales, 1676−1900, Now in the British Museum. Ed. Harold Mattingly, I.A.K. Burnett, and Alfred W. Pollard. London: Department of Printed Books, The British Museum, 1915. Print.

McGrath, Alister E. Surprised by Meaning: Science, Faith, and How We Make Sense of Things. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. Print.

Moore, John Robert. A Checklist of the Writings of Daniel Defoe. 1960. New York: Archon Books, 1971. Print.

Novak, Maximillian E. Daniel Defoe, Master of Fictions: His Life and Ideas. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.

———. “Lost Defoe Manuscript Discovered.” Clark Library Newsletter 1 (1981): 1−3. Print.

———. Realism, Myth, and History in Defoe’s Fiction. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1983. Print.

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Russell, Gül A. “The Impact of the Philosophus Autodidactus: Pockocke, John Locke and the Society of Friends.” The “Arabick” Interest of the Natural Philosophers in Seventeenth-Century England. Ed. Gül A. Russell. Leiden: Brill, 1994. 224−65. Print.

Secord, Arthur Wellesley. Studies in the Narrative Method of Defoe. 1924. New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1970. Print.

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