Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyYARRR!

  • Sun, 20 Jan 2013 12:54:58    Permalink

    Spent the last week cataloging and packing books to take to Washington so that my colleague John Thomson of Bartlebys Books can drive them out to San Francisco for the big international antiquarian book show there in mid-February. John and his wife Karen are specialists in Americana, and they take great delight in traveling the byways of this vast land. (John is also president of the ABAA, and Ill bet he especially relishes byways sufficiently by the way as to put him out of cell phone and computer contact with the ABAA and its tiresome concerns.)
    In any event, as I was processing five or six books about pirates and piracy, I fell to wondering what it is about pirates that so captures our imaginations? Why is "Talk Like a Pirate Day" the most heavily visited website each year?
    Sailing around the sunny Caribbean drinking, raping and pillaging sounds pretty irresistible, Ill admit. Burying gold and talking to parrots are good, too. But for me, and many others, it is Robert Newtons deathless portrayal of Long John Silver 
     in the 1950 movie Treasure Island that made me fall in love with pirates. I was no old than Jim Hawkins when I first saw the movie, and I was just as taken with the wiley old buccaneer as Jim was. Pirates will forever sound like Newtons Long John, and be as roguish, amoral, and ultimately good hearted as he. Yarr, Jim
    However, according to my recently cataloged piracy items, pirates actually excelled at getting hanged by the neck until dead.
    Anon. DYING DECLARATION OF NICHOLAS FERNANDEZ, WHO WITH NINE OTHERS WERE EXECUTED IN FRONT OF CADIZ HARBOUR, DECEMBER 29, 1829... ANNEXED IS A SOLEMN WARNING TO YOUTH (AND OTHERS) TO BEWARE THE BANEFUL HABIT OF INTEMPERANCE.  (NY)  1830.  b/w wood engraved frontispiece and title cut. 36 pp. A wonderful and scarce piracy pamphlet. Not in Gosse or the Driscoll sale catalog. According to the title page and copyright notice the narrative was translated from a Spanish copy by Ferdinand Bayer who presumably added the Solemn Warning. Fernandez delivers his death-row confession in the first person. This is followed by a commentary on the sentences (What brought Fernandez to ruin? Intemperance, thats what!) Then the twelve page temperance lecture, which is thematically linked to Fernnandezs awful fate. Pages clean and evenly tanned. Bound in later calf over marbled boards with calf cover label. $2250
    In fact, the life of a pirate the real life of a pirate was not a pretty one. To begin with, one became a pirate or a highwayman because one had no other means of supporting oneself. These characters were the very bottom dogs, the castoffs of society. No job, no money, no clothing, and often no food. Furthermore, the access of this class of people to the normal benefits of society was severely limited. No political power, no safety net, no community, no friends. No women. 
     So you join together with a similarly underprivileged gang, making a living as best you can, and then they catch you and hang you.
    Wheland, William, Joseph Baker, Joseph Brous,Peter Peterson. A NARRATIVE OF THE HORRID MURDER & PIRACY COMMITTED ON BOARD THE SCHOONER ELIZA, OF PHILADELPHIA, ON THE HIGH SEAS... (AND) THE LAST WORDS AND DYING CONFESSION OF THE THREE PIRATES, WHO WERE EXECUTED THIS DAY, (MAY 9TH, 1800.)  (Phila.)  1800.  b/w engraved tailpieces. 16; 8 pp. By three foreigners, who were tried before the Circuit Court of the United States, on Monday, the 21st of April, 1800 together with an account of the surprizing recapture of the said schooner, by Captain Wheland, the only person who escaped from their barbarity. In 1799 the merchant schooner Eliza, bound for the West Indies, was seized by the three foreigners named above. They murdered the rest of the crew excepting Captain Wheland who, despite his injuries, was eventually able to overpower the three mutineers and bring them to justice. Gory details are supplied in abundance. This is a scarce pamphlet, but it is scarcer still bound with the sequel, in which the three give their statements, then, Captain Wheland was present, with whom they shook hands, as they did with each other, previous to the last moments of their existence.  Back in the day, even pirates were gentlemen. Evans 39087, 37781. Pages evenly tanned but in good condition. Last words lacks illustrated frontispiece and half title. Bound in later calf over marbled boards with leather cover label. $2500
    Heres the most interesting pirate yarn Ive come across recently. There is a great story in Gloucester historical lore about a young fellow named Andrew Harraden who sailed out of Lobster Cove in Annisquam, bumped into a pirate who had been terrorizing the coast, and  beheaded him, sailing home with the pirates noggin impaled on a pike. Interestingly, in the version below, the story is told by another person, who claims HE was the one who did the beheading.
    Anon. A NARRATIVE OF THE SINGULAR SUFFERINGS OF JOHN FILLMORE AND OTHERS, ON BOARD THE NOTED PIRATE VESSEL COMMANDED BY CAPTAIN PHILLIPS...  Aurora.  1837   16 pp. With An Account Of Their Daring Enterprise, And Happy Escape From The Tyranny Of That Desparate Crew, By Capturing Their Vessel. First person account of a New England boy, captured by pirates, and his subsequent escape. This is a rare reprint of a rarer narrative (first published in 1804) by John Fillmore, Millard Fillmores great grandfather. Fillmore and two other captives, one of whom is called Andrew Harridon by Fillmore, overcame the pirates and lopped off the pirate captains head. Harridon is in fact Gloucesters own Andrew Harraden. And this story, told in a slightly different form is one of Gloucesters proudest legends. VG in later calf over marbled boards. $1250

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