The Ten Pound Island Book Company has published their Maritime List 207. Old, Rare & Exquisite. That title tells the story of what can be found within its pages. These are old and rare books about the sea, boats, sailors, admirals, voyages, and such. Be prepared to get your gills wet as we take a look at a few of the books offered within the pages of this latest list.
There have been few voyages as remarkable, or as well known, even after more than two centuries, than the one retold here: A Narrative of the Mutiny on Board His Majesty's Ship Bounty. Captain William Bligh and his crew were on a rather pedestrian mission, to transport breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the Caribbean. The plan was that this would provide a cheap source of food for the slaves. However, a little ways out of Tahiti, Bligh was in for a major surprise. Part of his crew mutinied. Bligh, and some loyal crewmen, were forced into a longboat, and probable death at sea. History has not always been kind to Bligh, though he was not the tyrant some depicted the man. He was more pompous than cruel. On this occasion, Bligh rose to unimaginable heights. Instead of disappearing into the sea, he led his men on an incredible 3,500-mile journey to rescue in Batavia in this small boat, even charting some of the northern coast of Australia along the way. When Bligh made it back to England, he felt compelled to quickly recount his tale so that authorities would know who were the good guys and who were the bad. Two years later, he wrote a more extended version of this tale, but this book, published in 1790, is the first account. Item 7. Priced at $15,000.
Item 47 is a copy of the 1718 edition of Woodes Rogers' A Cruising Voyage Round the World...Containing an Account of Alexander Selkirk's Living Alone... Rogers was a privateer, a polite word for pirate, who cruised the coast of South America, stealing from Spanish ships. The pilot for this voyage was another noted privateer, William Dampier. This work is considered a “buccaneering classic,” though the most interesting part relates to the rescue of Alexander Selkirk. Selkirk had wisely asked off of a ship of dubious seaworthiness years earlier on deserted Juan Fernandes Island. He was expecting another ship to come by shortly, but it was almost five years until Rogers arrived and rescued him. Selkirk's name may not be that well known today, but he was the inspiration for the well-known fictional character of Robinson Crusoe. $3,500.
Item 58 pertains to a case from a time when failure at sea was treated far more harshly than it is today: An Appeal to the People: Containing the Genuine Entire Letter of Admiral Byng... along with Further Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, both from 1756. Admiral John Byng rose in the British military without seeing much action, but he came with a fine pedigree. His father had been an admiral. During the early years of the Seven Years War, he was sent out with a fleet to defend the British island of Minorca, in the Mediterranean Sea, from the French. The French were in the process of seizing the outpost, and were perhaps better equipped than Byng's British forces. Byng engaged the French, but after indecisive results, retreated for repairs and reinforcements, rather than pursuing the French. Unfortunately for Byng, regulations at the time called for pursuit regardless of perceived difficulties, and the penalty for not pursuing was death. Byng was placed on trial and convicted. Despite Byng's high standing, and friends who called for a pardon, Byng was made into an example, and executed for his “crime.” $750.
Item 30 is a manuscript Journal Kept by George Barnes Aboard HMS Terrible, Off Sevastopol Between July 17th and December 6th 1854. Barnes served on board during the Crimean War, and part of his journal is an account of one of the more infamous chapters in British military history. This incident would become very famous as a result of Tennyson's poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. There was a miscommunication of orders, resulting in the Light Brigade being sent on a suicide mission. The men attacked bravely, but futilely, and many died in a clearly doomed mission. $5,000.