Mystery of Marginalia: A New Voyage Round the World by a Course Never Sailed Before

After flipping through the brittle pages of countless old books published before the year 1920, I finally came across the book A New Voyage Round the World by a Course Never Sailed Before written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1895 by J.M. Dent & Co.

On the top of the first page of the book I found the name of a previous owner. It reads: Oliver B. Seamau, 1948 (I may not have read this name correctly as the handwriting is difficult to make out). I googled this name (and a few variations of it) but found nothing about this man.  As for the year 1948, that was the year that Ghandi was assassinated, that the Berlin Airlift began, and that British Railways was created.  The book itself is about a group of English voyagers sailing around the world and trading with people from different countries. Digital Defoe, a study and archive of Defoe’s work, calls this book “a work of capitalist pornography, in which clever and enterprising merchants reap astounding profits.”  The creation of railways in Britain in 1948 increased national income and supported economic growth.  Thus, we know railways in Britain were a significant element in British capitalism, which is the main focus of this book.  The owner of this book may not have even made that connection, but it is fascinating to look back in history and make such connections.

In addition to the name and date written on the first page, I also found two newspaper clippings and a magazine article pasted into the book. The two clippings were pasted onto the second page and the article on the second last page.  The first clipping on the top of the second page refers to Defoe as a “great literary figure,” and it discusses the excavation and proper reburial of his remains.  The second clipping mentions some of Defoe’s other literary works including the ever popular Robinson Crusoe.  The owner of the book seems to admire Defoe and have a keen interest in his works.

The article on the second last page is titled Daniel Defoe (1661?-1731). It raves about Defoe and calls him “the first real news reporter” and it claims that he had a “remarkable ‘nose for news.'”  This article, like the previous one, reviews many of Defoe’s works (again, Robinson Crusoe).  While most of the article praises his different books, one of the paragraphs in the article mentions Defoe’s personal life–he was the son of a butcher whose last name was Foe, a name that Defoe dropped at the age of 40 when he began to sign his works Defoe.  Altogether, the owner of this book shows that he is tremendously fascinated by Defoe, his works, and his personal life through marginalia.IMG_4266 IMG_4200IMG_4267IMG_4202


Works Cited:

“On Teaching Another Defoe.” Digital Defoe. Digital Defoe, 2009. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.


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