A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates

Captain Charles Johnson

Introduced by Margarette Lincoln

The bloodthirsty biographies of the world’s most infamous pirates are reproduced in this Folio edition of Captain Charles Johnson’s renowned work, including original woodcut illustrations and a fascinating introduction by Margarette Lincoln.

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Pyrates; more or less introduced all the pirate tropes we know and love today, including peg-legs, buried treasure, piratespeak.’
  1. The New Yorker

First published in 1724, Captain Charles Johnson’s book remains the most influential account of piratical lore ever written. In the grip of the Golden Age of Piracy, Georgian England had an insatiable appetite for tales of bloodlust and debauchery on the high seas and this stunning edition brilliantly reproduces Johnson’s graphic accounts of the marauders and their grizzly deeds. Introduced by maritime historian Margarette Lincoln, who offers a fascinating historical and political perspective on piracy, the edition also includes 35 intricate woodcuts and illustrations. The beautiful blocked-cloth binding is a fitting place to feature Major Stede Bonnet’s striking flag and the stunning endpapers replicate Jack Rackham’s pirate skull and cutlass totems.

Bound in printed and blocked cloth

Set in Caslon

464 pages

Frontispiece and 35 integrated black & white illustrations

Spot UV endpapers

Plain slipcase

9˝ x 5¾˝

The biographies include notorious names such as Blackbeard, Captain Kidd and Major Bonnet. The legendary Blackbeard battled his foes ‘till the sea was tinctured with blood’ and eventually died in battle; Kidd terrorised trading ships off the coast of America until hanged for his crimes; and Bonnet, ‘the gentleman pirate’, swapped privateering for outright pillaging, many speculating that an unhappy marriage led to his career change. The inclusion of female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny delighted readers and helped propel the book to bestseller status. Bonny’s fearsome facade even remained intact during the public execution of her lover Captain Jack Rackham. Johnson’s work rapidly became a bestseller but nothing is known about the author himself: one theory is that Daniel Defoe wrote the book under a nom de plume. Whatever his identity his rollcall of rogues went on to influence writers such as J. M. Barrie and Robert Louis Stevenson. Indeed, their antics still captivate; the popularity of Pirates of the Caribbean proving our enduring fascination with these ne'er-do-wells.

About Charles Johnson

Unfortunately, nothing at all is known of the life of Captain Johnson, a name which may even be an assumed moniker. What is known is that in 1724 a volume ascribed to that author and entitled A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates became available for the first time in the shops of London. Its arresting title helped its success and within months a second edition was published. This was followed by a third in 1725 and an enlarged two-volume edition in 1728. In 1734 Captain Johnson expanded the subject matter to publish A General History of the Lives and Adventures of the most famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street Robbers, &c. to which is added a genuine Account of the Voyages and Plunders of the most notorious Pyrates.

About Margarette Lincoln

Margarette Lincoln is an author and maritime historian. She was Director of Research and Collections and, from 2001, Deputy Director of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. She is now a visiting fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her publications include Representing the Navy: British Sea Power 1750–1815 (2002), Naval Wives and Mistresses 1745–1815 (2007), British Pirates and Society, 1680–1730 (2014) and Trading in War: London’s Maritime World in the Age of Cook and Nelson (2018).


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