"THAT HE WAS ACCURATE, EVEN TO THE SMALLEST PARTICULAR, HAS BEEN REPEATEDLY PROVED": CHARLES JOHNSON'S A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES, 1724 SECOND EDITION, WITH ENGRAVED PLATES OF BLACKBEARD AND THE FEMALE PIRATES ANNE BONNY AND MARY READ
JOHNSON, Charles (DEFOE, Daniel, supposed author). A General History of the Pyrates… from Their First Rise and Settlement in the Island of Providence, to the Present Time. With the Remarkable Actions and Adventures of the Two Female Pyrates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny. London: T. Warner, 1724. Octavo, 20th-century three-quarter brown morocco gilt, raised bands, top edge gilt. $5000.
Second, enlarged edition of this very scarce and desirable pirate history—issued the same year as the first—a sequel to Exquemelin's Bucaniers of America, recounting the exploits of pirates in the West Indies and American waters, with two (of three) engraved plates: a portrait of Blackbeard and a plate depicting the female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
"This work is considered a sequel to Exquemelin's Bucaniers of America, and most of the pirates it records operated in the West Indies and American waters. This second edition was enlarged by the addition of the accounts of Captains Anstis, Phillips, and Spriggs; the first edition had only 320 pages [compared to the 427 in this second edition]. Nothing is known of the author who called himself Captain Johnson, and the name may be an assumed one. Beginning in 1724, and continuing to the present day, books on pirates have appeared under his name. There is no evidence to support the idea that Johnson was an actual pirate, even though his accounts seem remarkably accurate. There also appears to be little substance to the coincidence that a contemporary dramatist of the same name wrote a play, The Successful Pyrate, about the popular hero Captain Avery" (Hill). "Nothing is known of Captain Charles Johnson… Nor, beyond a general remark in the preface, is there any hint of the sources whence the author got his information; that he was accurate, even to the smallest particular, has been repeatedly proved… The General History soon became so popular that a second edition, considerably enlarged, was published in the same year, followed by a third the next year and a fourth in 1726. A large number of later editions were published… many in bowdlerized form" (National Maritime Museum). Includes chapters on Avery, Martel, Bonnet, Blackbeard, Vane, Rackam, England, Davis, Roberts, Worley, Lowther, Low, Evans, and the female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny. "This rare work embodies many items relating to the Colonial History of British America, nowhere else extant, such as the Adventures of Blackbeard, and his Capture by Lieut. Maynard in the James River, Va., &c." (Sabin). "Johnson can still be read with pleasure and delight, not only for the sake of the exciting deeds he recounts, but for the quaint and characteristic style in which he wrote" (Gosse, 11). Without folding plate depicting Captain Roberts and two of his ships. "J.R. Moore identified Captain Johnson as Daniel Defoe, but this was contested by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens in 1988, as well as by David Cordingly in a 1998 edition of Johnson. If the author was Defoe, it is interesting to note that he also wrote an elaborate review of the work" (Hill). The very scarce first edition appeared earlier in 1724 under the title A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates. Sabin 36187. Hill; 892 (second edition only). National Maritime Museum, Piracy & Privateering 267. Gosse, My Pirate Library, 45 (also second edition only: as Gosse notes in the preface to his 1926 bibliography, "If any copies of the first edition exist they must be very scarce. There is none in the British Museum Library, nor have I been able to trace a copy elsewhere"). Early owner ink signature on title page inked out.
Infrequent minor spotting to text, morocco-gilt binding near-fine and handsome.