Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2012 Issue

Travel in Jamaica: Buccaneers at the National Library in Downtown Kingston, in the Year 2012

Frontispirates

Some gentlemen of the sea.

The French edition of Esquemeling’s book is quite interesting as it did not reproduce the English plates – not even the portraits. The editor chose a different kind of illustrations such as a manatee, a scene of turtle fishing under the moonlight or some arrows. The most famous one represents a buccaneer standing under a palm tree, his dogs at his feet, smoking his pipe and holding the typical buccaneer rifle. It is as powerful as a photograph and has been copied over and over for three hundred years. To some English historians Esquemeling’s relation was nothing but an unscrupulous attempt at darkening the glory of the English nation. They were misled. Esquemeling was a learned man who wrote very well and had the talent to depict people in their environement. The description he gave of the first “boucaniers” of Santo Domingo, for example, is an admirable work of sociology.



*** *** ***

As I came out of the JNL, I looked down the street, beyond the bay of Kingston. Here stands the once “most wicked city on Earth”, Port Royal. Gunshots still echo in Jamaica, nowadays. They are not coming from those terrible “buccaneer rifles” any more but from Aka 47 or M16. The island, located on the cocaine road between South America and North America, remains a centre of the drug trade in the West-Indies. Some bold criminals, “terrible people” indeed, try to get rich by taking advantage of the geographical situation of the island and of their ability to handle a gun. And some of them are also backed by “bigger heads”, or people in the high society, with political motivations – just like Henry Morgan and his likes. The History of the Bucaniers... Part III. Yet to be stored at the National Library of Jamaica.

Rare Book Monthly

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