The island setting has long been a staple of imaginative literature in narratives across a range of genres, from Homer’s epics and More’s Utopia to the satires of Swift and the robinsonades of Defoe and others. Often remote and by definition insular, islands offer a blank but bounded space where the imagination can refigure human concerns in fantastical and experimental forms. With the advent of European exploration in the early fifteenth century and the attendant documentation in reports, travelogues, diaries and letters, real islands began to inform the imaginary in the literature of the West, and in the second half of the nineteenth century, islands took on a new significance because their self-contained ecosystems offered evidence for natural selection. The same isolation, insulation, and limitations in size and scope that made islands such fertile ground for the imagination provided a controlled environment for more easily discernible evolutionary processes.