"IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PYRATES, HE WHO GOES THE GREATEST LENGTH OF WICKEDNESS, IS LOOKED UPON WITH A KIND OF ENVY AMONGST THEM": A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE LIVES AND ADVENTURES OF THE MOST FAMOUS HIGHWAYMEN, MURDERERS, STREET-ROBBERS, &C, 1736, WITH 26 FOLIO COPPERPLATE ENGRAVINGS
JOHNSON, Charles. A General History of the Lives and Adventures of the Most Famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street-Robbers, &c. From the Famous Sir John Falstaff in the Reign of K. Henry IV, 1399 to 1733. To Which Is added, A Genuine Account of the Voyages and Plunders of the Most Noted Pyrates. Interspersed with diverting Tales, and pleasant Songs. London: Olive Payne, 1736. Folio (9-1/2 by 14 inches), early 20th-century full brown morocco, boards and spines decorated with gilt skulls, raised bands, watered silk endpapers, all edges gilt. $16,800.
Second—and often preferred—edition of this scarce pirate history, with frontispiece and 25 copper-engraved plates, wonderfully bound by Zaehnsdorf in full morocco with gilt skull motifs.
In 1724, Daniel Defoe, using the pseudonym Charles Johnson, published A General History of the Robberies and Murderers of the Most Notorious Pyrates, a two-volume work intended as a sequel to Exquemeling's Bucaniers of America. Beginning with this publication and continuing even to the present day, a number of pirate books have appeared under the name of the fictitious Captain Charles Johnson. Although related in part to Defoe's History, this work is largely based on Captain Alexander Smith's 1714 The History of the Lives of the Most Noted Highway-men: according to Gosse, "Johnson took this and to it added a number of his pirates" (Gosse, My Pirate Library, 49). The section on pirates includes chapters on Avery, Martel, Blackbeard, Bonnet, England, Vane, Rackam, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, Davis, Roberts and Morgan. The first edition was published in 1734 with the name A General and True History of the Lives and Adventures…; it was the first of the many similar works to be published in folio format. "Very scarce and seldom found in good condition. Interesting to the American collector, as some of their exploits were in this country" (Sabin 36194 on the 1734 first edition). According to Sabin, this 1736 edition is "the same edition" as the 1734 first edition "with a new title page and some additional plates" (Sabin 36194). See Hill, 892; Gosse, My Pirate Library, 49. Sabin 36195. Bookplate of Sir David Lionel Salomons, from the Salomons family of Tunbridge Wells, notable politicians and advocates of Jewish Emancipation.
Plates and text fine, expert paper repairs to title page and final text leaf, front inner hinge expertly reinforced; striking binding with minor toning to spine, small mark to front board. Quite rare.