JOHNSON, Captain Charles (fl. 1724-1736)
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. (7 1/2 x 4 3/4 inches). , 17-427, pp. Three engraved plates (2 folding).
Contemporary panelled calf, rebacked to style, spine gilt with raised bands in six compartments, red morocco lettering piece
The expanded second edition of one of the two most important contemporary works on pirates and their lives.
This fascinating work, first published in 1724, was an instant success, with the present corrected and expanded second edition appearing in the same year as the first, a third edition in 1725 and a fourth edition in 1726. The work remained in print in various languages throughout the 18th and 19th centuries - with over 30 editions being published before 1900. It now serves as one of the most important contemporary printed sources for information about the British pirates of the first decades of the 18th century. It includes chapters on all the great ones: Captain Avery, Edward Blackbeard Teach, Steed Bonnet, Bartholomew Roberts, Henry Morgan and others. Also includes chapters on two female pirates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny. One of the copper-engraved plates shows these two female pirates; another shows Blackbeard; and the third depicts Captain Bartholomew Roberts with his two pirate ships. "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. 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 a popular hero Captain Avery. 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). Others, including his bibliographer Moore, have attributed the work to Daniel Defoe based on the internal relationship to his works of proven authorship (cf. J.R. Moore, Defoe in the pillory. 1939. p. 126-188). The National Maritime Museum notes that there is "considerable evidence' to suggest that 'Johnson may well have been a nom de plume used by Daniel Defoe" (Piracy & Privateering p. 83).
Hill 891; Hanson 3303; JCB V:724/50; McBurney 164; Moore Defoe 458; NMM Piracy & Privateering 267; Sabin 36187; Stevens Rare Americana 1220.