Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - November - 2012 Issue

A New Maritime List from the Ten Pound Island Book Company

Tenpound213

The mythical Elizabeth Emmons graces the catalogue's cover.

The Ten Pound Island Book Company has released a new catalogue, Maritime List 213. Offered are 50 items pertaining to the sea. It includes books, charts, sailing ship cards, broadsides and various other items. Here are some samples.

Item 5 is a surprising piece of naval history, an 18th century Signal Book for the Ships of War. Day and Fog. It was used on HMS Victory circa 1793. It contains hand-colored drawings of flags. There are also some manuscript hand-colored drawings and heavy annotations. It contains the inscription, “Lieut. B. Bradby, Victory 1794.” The Victory first set sail in 1765 as a first-rate ship of the Royal Navy. She did not see battle until the time of the American Revolution, but even then not in American waters. She was sent to fight France off the French coast after that nation began supporting the American revolutionaries. By the time Bradby signed his name, Victory was seemingly headed for retirement. That came in 1798 when she was to be converted to a hospital ship, but it was later determined that her services were still needed. She was completely refitted. It was then that she played her most important role. She was the flagship for Admiral Horatio Nelson, and led the British fleet in perhaps its greatest naval engagement ever, the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. That battle ended Napoleon's dreams of being a naval power, and forced him to limit his ambitions to ground warfare. However, Lord Nelson was mortally wounded in this battle and died on board the Victory. The ship was retired in 1812 but remains the oldest commission ship in the Royal Navy, though she now serves as a museum. Priced at $30,000.

Item 16 is a broadside death notice for Paul Cuffe. No other copies are known and its purpose unclear - possibly a galley proof for an obituary in some unknown newspaper. Cuffe (or Cuffee) was a remarkable man. He was the son of a freed slave and Indian mother. As such, his chances of much success in revolutionary era America must have been slim indeed. However, at the age of 16, he took to sea and learned all about navigation. After returning home, he built a small boat with his brother, which he used to deliver cargo from Cape Cod to Nantucket. His business grew and Cuffe in time purchased a fleet of ships. He was probably the wealthiest African American and wealthiest Native American in the early 19th century. Cuffe was a generous man, a strong supporter of abolition, and provided funds to build one of the first integrated schools. He was also a devout supporter of the Quakers, not surprising as it was his Quaker faith that led Cuffe's father's master to set him free. Paul Cuffe died in 1817. $2,500.

That almost a lady you see on the cover of this catalogue is Elizabeth Emmons, or at least, the best portrayal possible considering it is very unlikely the woman ever existed. The title is A Sketch of the Life of Elizabeth Emmons, Or The Female Sailor: Who was Brutally Murdered While at Sea, Off the Coast of Florida, February 3d, 1841. The author, who supposedly relayed this information via a letter, is almost as mysterious as Miss Emmons. He or she is identified only as “S.L.” This is one of those cross-dressing tales, a woman who dresses as a man to follow a profession limited to males. However, as the title tells us, this story is filled with tragedy. We will let Ten Pound Island provide the more thorough description: “Emmons' mother dies, father becomes a drunkard, she loses an eye, and her fiancée dies. Heartbroken and alone, she takes to the sea, where she finds true love and is then shot.” Lady Luck she was not. Item 46. $400.

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