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Captain Charles Johnson

A General History of the Lives and Adventures of the Most Famous Highwaymen, Murderers, Street-robbers &c ... 1736

36.7 x 4.2 x 25.0 cm (book measurement (inventory)) | RCIN 1052025

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  • This book, printed in 1736 by Captain Charles Johnson, is a reprint of Alexander Smith's Complete History of the lives & robberies of the most Notorious Highwaymen with additional extracts from Johnson's 1724 book, "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates". It contains short biographies of both historical and fictional highwaymen and pirates including, Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach, Anne Bonny, Calico Jack and Robin Hood.
    So little is known about the life of Captain Johnson, it has been presumed that the name is a pseudonym. In 1932, it was suggested by John Robert Moore that the author was Daniel Defoe (c.1660-1731). It is known that Defoe often wrote under pseudonyms and had written earlier works on piracy. However, recently there have been doubts as to the validity of this claim. The work, although it has similarities to Defoe's writing, also has some notable differences. Most apparent is the excellent knowledge of sea language and of the pirate code, the system by which all pirates are known to have adhered to. It is possible, but far from certain, that the author was Nathaniel Mist, a man with connections to Defoe, who had served in the Caribbean with the Royal Navy, and so would have been familiar with stories of the pirates featured in the book.
    Whoever Captain Johnson was, this book, and its first edition, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates, provides the best information of the lives and careers of some of the most famous pirates of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, while its companion, Smith's Highwaymen provides similar, though much more romanticised, information about some of the most significant highwaymen of the same period.

    Acquired by George IV when Prince Regent, 23 October 1812 (RA GEO 28538)

  • Measurements

    36.7 x 4.2 x 25.0 cm (book measurement (inventory))

  • Alternative title(s)

    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 & plunders of the most notorious pyrates / by Capt. Charles Johnson.