Here’s to you, Swiss Family Robinson

Johann David Wyss, who died exactly 200 years ago, wrote the most-translated Swiss book ever: Swiss Family Robinson. Yet, at home, both Wyss and his book remain practically invisible and firmly in the shadow of a certain Alpine orphan, Heidi.  “This work is, as the title has said, for children and friends of children. It is not, however, for all children, but only for those who read with some understanding, who have a command of general terms of natural history and geography, and who have been versed in a range of knowledge from the better schools for 8- to 14-year-olds.”  The publisher who wrote the preface for the first edition from 1812 of “Der Schweizerische Robinson” knew his target audience.  Despite these seemingly limiting requirements, Swiss Family Robinson – or to give it its full catchy title, “Swiss Family Robinson or the shipwrecked Swiss preacher and his family. An instructive book for children and friends of children who live in cities and in the countryside” – ...

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