The current and alternate cover appear below, followed by some brief information on plunder coins, followed by a section on mythical pirate flags, followed finally by images of the original pirate books that helped inspire this book.
Depicted on the cover is a detail from the Willem van de Velde II (the Younger) painting, De Windstoot
or The Gust
, circa 1680. The original is in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, where it is described as "A Ship in High Seas Caught by a Squall, known as The Gust.
" More information is available here
A proposed early cover. The illustration is by Howard Pyle.
Common late 17th and early 18th century coins, as might be considered "pirate treasure." Such coins even fictional pirate Bill Bones might have had in his sea chest. Most common were "pieces-of-eight." Four 8 reale "pieces-of-eight" are located at the upper left and right corners, with smaller denominations of 2, 1, and 1/2 reales at center. The remainder are a variety of English, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Mughal Empire coins.
A likely theory of the origin of the Jolly Roger is presented in "The Origin of the Dread Pirate Banner: the Jolly Roger," in Pirates Magazine, Issue 12, and also briefly in Pirate Hunting, chapter 9. A detailed discussion, however, built around narrative action, is forthcoming in The Great Pirate Legends Debunked.
Note that there are no original pirate flags in existence from the Golden Age (1655-1725), nor to my knowledge are there any drawings of them by eyewitnesses. Only three authentic pirate flags are known to exist. Two of them were taken from Barbary corsairs in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. If the ships were commissioned, then the flags are authentic "Jolly Rogers" but not pirate flags. A third is at the pirate museum in St. Augustine, but information on the flag's origin has been difficult to come by. Even modern "authentic" depictions of pirate flags from the period are invariably somewhat conjectural. See also the How History's Greatest Pirates page for more details on pirate flags.
Henry Every's purported flag (1690s), but, with one known exception, pirates of European origin did not fly the black flag until roughly 1715. A fabrication, probably 20th century.
Thomas Tew's purported flag (1690s), but again, pirates of his era did not fly the black flag. Again, a fabrication, probably 20th century. The image of an arm holding a cutting sword was, however, sometimes seen on both Ostend and Barbary corsair flags. Late 17th century Dutch buccaneer Edward Davis flew the arm and sword on a white field, and buccaneer Edmund Cook flew a banner of red and yellow stripes emblazoned with hand and sword when he crossed the Isthmus of Darien.
John Quelch's purported flag (1704). Quelch, however, did not fly the black flag. A century-old error has attributed the description of the flag of Charles Harris to Quelch. The above depiction of what is actually Charles Harris's flag. (An "anatomy" as given in the description was a skeleton, not a person in the flesh.) This flag also used by Ned Low and Francis Spriggs, and a nearly identical one by Bartholomew Roberts.
Blackbeard's flag depicted here is a fabrication, probably 20th century, based on the Spriggs/Low/Harris flags, with horns added, surely inspired either by "Roger" being a sobriquet for the devil, or by Johnson's fairy tale about an extra crewman--the devil--being aboard Blackbeard's ship one night, as well as of Blackbeard creating a "hell" onboard one time. This flag is often depicted as the "original Jolly Roger." One of Roberts's flags was similar enough as to be considered as virtually identical. See the How History's Greatest Pirates page for details.
Stede Bonnet's purported flag, of which there is no evidence for its existence.
The purported flag of John "Calico Jack" Rackham is yet another fanciful invention. There is one legitimate pirate flag known as depicting crossed swords from 1718 off the coast of Brazil: "a cadaver (skeleton) with scattered bones and crossed sabers," but it was not Rackam's for he was not in the area.
The purported flag of Christopher Moody, in this case a mis-attribution. The flag in fact is Barbary corsair flag of the late 17th and early 18th century.
A purported Bartholomew Roberts flag. The only evidence for it is an illustration in Charles Johnson's pirate history (1726). No eye witness accounts confirm the flag.
Pirate flag belonging to "Captain Kennedy" (1716), possibly Walter Kennedy, but also attributed to French pirate Jean-Thomas Dulaien (1727-1729). A written description of Dulaien's flag describes a black field with "figures of men, cutlass, remnants of our bones, and hour glasses" in white. The description is similar enough to suggest this flag, although Dulaien's flag might not have looked like this at all. Kennedy's flags had the "figure of a man, with a sword in his hand, and an hour-glass before him, with a death's head and bones." How these symbols were exactly arranged is unknown.
My first copy of Treasure Island, a gift purchased at the Piggly Wiggly in Greenville, Alabama. Annotated, it was published in 1968. The book is noted in my introduction.
My first copy of Captain Blood, purchased at a book fair at Hillside Junior High School, Simi Valley, California, 1973 I think. The book is noted in my introduction. The cover art was clearly inspired by the photograph below, of Errol Flynn as Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk, 1940.
Errol Flynn as Geoffrey Thorpe in The Sea Hawk, 1940.
* By Antoine Marin Lemierre, from his poem "Commerce." (Le trident de Neptune est le sceptre du monde.)
Or, a more likely working title,
The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truths Behind the Myths
The truth behind the great pirate myths and legends of the Golden Age (1655-1725).
In April of 2011, Quarto Group, corporate owners of the Fair Winds imprint, froze the Fair Winds history lines, then later confirmed its decision to end the line--all as this book was for all practical purposes ready to go to press. (A business decision, they said: apparently cookbooks, diet books, sex books, beauty books, and even books about "power crystals" sell better, the cachet of authentic history notwithstanding.) In August I received the rights from Fair Winds, and by September I had an excellent agent at Folio working on its sale. Fingers crossed! Interested publishers may contact Folio directly.
Search no farther for the truth about those gentlemen of fortune! Though clearly based on fact, the present-day image of the pirate is shrouded in hearsay and fanciful fabrications, derived from sensationalist histories, romantic novels, and swashbuckling movies. Dashing and heroic, the pirate of myth strides forth in knee-high boots, long hair flying, sporting an eye-patch, tattoos and earrings, to do battle with tyrannical forces or quest for hidden riches.
1. Not by Walking the Plank: How Pirates Really Abused and Murdered Their Captives
After long firsthand experience of sea life and naval tactics as a U.S. Navy SEAL, and decades researching the history of piracy, Benerson Little knows better than almost anyone exactly how far this is from the truth. In this compelling survey, he scrutinizes the classic pirate myths, pinpoints their origins, and lays before us the facts. Few buccaneers, for instance, were out to help the downtrodden; as greedy fortune hunters, some sociopaths to boot, they usually just helped themselves. Epic sea battles, with sailors swinging from rigging and duelling across the decks, were almost unheard-of: pirates preferred to ambush the unwary, and most targets surrendered without a fight. And pirates did not bury treasure: plunder was shared out immediately and, spendthrifts almost to a man, pirates seldom held on to it long.
Popular piratical misconceptions are dashed, widely held notions disproved, fabled events revealed as outrageous inventions. In the process, Little fashions a series of spellbinding sagas more intriguing and shocking than any salty yarn spun by novelist, poet, or screenwriter.
2. United Under the Black Flag? The Myth and Reality of the Jolly Roger
3. Edward “Blackbeard” Teach: Not the Fiercest Pirate of Them All
4. Neither Pirate Galleons Nor Treasure Galleons: What Pirate Ships and Pirate Prey Were Really Like
5. The Myth of Dueling for Command: How Pirates Really Settled Differences and Chose Leaders
6. For Freedom and Equality—but Most of All, for Plunder: The Myth of the Rebel Pirate
7. Libertalia, the Pirate Utopia: What “Pirate Heaven” Was Really Like
8. Broadsides Few and Far Between: How Pirates Really Captured Ships at Sea
9. Titillation with a Cutlass: The Myth and Reality of the She-Captain
10. Bartholomew Roberts: Not the Greatest Pirate of Them All
11. Not That All Men Were Created Equal: How Pirates Really Looked at Race
12. Buried Treasure, Sunken Treasure: The Truth about Pirate Booty
The truth behind the great pirate myths and legends.
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Thirteen notorious pirates and how they got away with it.
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To really understand what the pirate's world was like: how buccaneers lived, fought, and died.
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A colorful and detailed description of how pirates and privateers practiced their trade.
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