This month the E-Library is revealing its first ‘Pirates’ archive journey event, on Thursday 7 February at 2.30pm. This is the latest storybox in a series of many which brings together thematically a wide variety of manuscripts, a rare book, and prints.
The journey begins with a letter written by Burghley and Walsingham in 1588, authorizing Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Norreys as commanders of the ill-fated expedition of 1589. Their actions became not that dissimilar from those of pirates, Corunna and Port Santo being plundered for wine, cannons and over £30,000 worth of goods. The intention of the mission was to press an advantage over Spain after the English defeat of her Armada. However, organisation and discipline turned to impatience and greed.
The next is a journal written in 1683 by Captain Carlile of the Francis. The manuscript tells of the notorious French pirate, Jean Hamlin and the burning of his ship, the Trompeuse. What is interesting here is that the pirate vessel was under protection of an ex-buccaneer, the Governor of St. Thomas Island; the castle in the harbour firing at the Francis in an attempt to save her. After failed negotiations to release the French vessel to the English, the Trompeuse is burnt after night fall.
Also included is a particularly gruesome account written by the English pirate, William Davidson in 1788-9. Here we see a pirate vessel disguised as a Russian privateer (flying the Russian flag) cruising the Mediterranean. Most of their victims were either burnt with the ship, drowned or execution on board. One especially brutal punishment of a prisoner was having ‘his eyes torn out, his fingers chopped off, and bones in his arms and legs broken. He was then set adrift on a grating in order that he might expire in the extremist tortures.’
Prints in the storybox include:
“Captain Teach commonly call'd Black Beard” by Thomas Nicholls (pictured above).
Captain Avery and his crew taking one of the Great Mogul's ships, c.1700-02 by Tett and views of the harbour of Messina, c. 17th century by Abraham Casembrodt (pictured right).
In terms of rare books, William Dampier’s A collection of voyages, 1729, includes Captain Sharpe’s journal of his expedition 1680-1. Dampier’s diverse and colourful account reveals him as a buccaneer, pirate, privateer and navigator, scientific enquirer and commander in the Royal Navy. It was whilst serving as a buccaneer under Coxon, Sharp and Sawkins that they captured Portobello with the aid of the Mosquito Indians, later raiding across the isthmus to attack Panama City, in imitation of Henry Morgan’s victories of 1670-1.
Mike (Manuscripts Cataloguer)
Visitor notice: We are pleased to announce that Royal Museums Greenwich is reopening. To find out more about which sites will be open and how to plan your visit, click here.