Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2019 Issue

Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach, A keen reader of travel books?

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Blackbeard and his book fragment.

Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach is one of the most iconic pirates ever. Knowing that fear was his best ally, he fed his own legend with many tricks like tying lit matches to his hat in order to frighten his enemies. A wicked man, for sure—but the perfect romantic character! He was eventually killed in North Carolina in 1718, and his life has inspired many historians and novelists. A recent discovery on the wreck of his legendary ship, the Queen Ann’s Revenge, seems to indicate that Blackbeard was not only living adventures at sea, but was also reading about others on board!

 

Edward Teach was a Bristol man born, but had sailed some time out of Jamaica, in privateers, in the late French war,” Daniel Defoe writes in A General History of the Pyrates (London, 1726). “Yet, tho’ he had often distinguished himself for his uncommon boldness and personal courage, he was never raised to any command till he went pyrating, which I think was at the later end of the year 1716 (...). After cleaning on the coast of Virginia, (he) returned to the West Indies, and (...) made prize of a large French Guiney Man. (...) Aboard this Guiney Man, Teach mounted 40 guns, and named her the Queen’s Ann Revenge.” This is the ship he blocked the port of Charles Town, S.C, with; but he was soon forced to run her aground near the city of Beaufort, N.C, a few years before the matches of his hat were snuffed during his last battle on November 22, 1718. The ship remained there for 278 years, before she was finally spotted by a group of independent searchers. It took years before she was officially recognized as being the actual Queen Ann’s Revenge. In 2018, the Queen Ann’s Revenge Conversation Lab retrieved some pieces of paper from the mouth of one of the original 40 guns—probably placed there as a protection. The searchers first deciphered two words on the very small fragments (two-centimetre large), “south” and “phantom”. Then, they read “Hilo”, the name of a city in Peru that led them to the first edition of Cooke’s Voyage To the South Sea and Round the World performed in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711 (London, 1712)! This is a very rare and valuable book, richly illustrated, about a famous travel performed under command of another iconic sailor, Woodes Rogers. It tells of a tedious circumnavigation during which they found Alexander Selkirk, who had been marooned (or abandoned) on the island of Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chili, for four years. His incredible story inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe to Daniel Defoe—Defoe and Rogers were friends.

 

Relating the discovery of the pieces of paper on the Queen Ann’s Revenge last year, the French website of National Geographic states: “the famous Blackbeard was a keen reader of entertaining stories.” Of course, he wasn’t. Obviously, most members of the crew were illiterate—but ‘officers’ like Blackbeard had to be able to read maps, and we know Blackbeard was writing a journal while at sea. Nonetheless, he probably didn’t read Cooke’s relation to enjoy himself, but rather to get useful information about navigation around America. The pirates and privateers were very interested in these books—and not only to obstruct the mouths of their guns. In the fascinating preface of his Tour du Monde (Amsterdam, 1716 for the French edition), which relates the same Cooke’s travel, Woodes Rogers makes it clear: politics and commerce were at the heart of these expeditions. War was raging—France and England fought each other to get the better of the Spanish kingdom in America. Thus, knowledge meant power. Maps were not a mere matter of having a ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’ copy of a book, but of accessing to information that could save your life, or make you rich. Thus, the 16 pieces of paper recovered from the mouth of the Queen Ann’s Revenge’s gun are the vestiges of a book that was already valuable at the time. Of course, the condition of this ‘copy’ is not very satisfying: binding gone, title page, plates and all pages missing except a 2-centimetre piece of paper. These defects deeply affect the text, indeed—but could you dream of a more exciting and ‘prestigious’ provenance? From the personal collection of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Found on board of the Queen Ann’s Revenge. What would a bookseller add? Oh, yeah—very rare!

 

What makes this discovery extraordinary is the fact that it completes a terrible puzzle. Blackbeard reading the relation of a privateer is already quite pleasing. But the author of this book rescued the man who inspired Robinson Crusoe, a novel written by the same author who later wrote Blackbeard’s life! Furthermore, Cooke was then sailing alongside Woodes Rogers, sent to the West Indies after the Queen Ann’s, not revenge, but war (1702-1713), to eradicate piracy—which he did. Blackbeard probably read Cooke’s relation before he stuffed one of his guns with it, indeed—but it was rather to kill some Spaniards than to merely kill time.

 

 

Thibault Ehrengardt

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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