Pirates in Special Collections!

Posted on
February 24, 2016

Pirates, pirates, pirates! From the 16th century through the 19th century, pirates interrupted the shipping trade between Great Britain, Spain, France, Africa, and the New World, particularly along the east coast of North America down to the islands of the Caribbean. They attacked and plundered merchant ships as they transported slaves, treasures, tobacco and other goods along and across the Atlantic Ocean.

Our Rare Book collection, Swem Library’s general collection and our Manuscript Collection contain quite a few books and accounts of piracy in the Caribbean. Of particular note is a 1699 edition of The History of the Buccaneers of America by Alexander O. Exquemelin in which he gives magnificent first hand, possibly eye witness, details of pirate life in the Caribbean. The Library of Congress has an online exhibit of the book which is well worth seeing.


"The Battel Between the Spaniards and the pyrats"
"The Battel Between the Spaniards and the pyrats" From "History of the Buccaneers of America" (RB F2161 .E765)


Another great book is the 1829 edition of The History of the pirates, containing the lives of those noted pirate captains, Misson, Bowen, Kidd, Tew, Halsey, White, Condent, Bellamy, and their several crews. Also, an account of the piracies and cruelties of John Augur, William Cunningham, Dennis Mackarthy, who were tried, condemned and executed at Nassau, New Providence, on the tenth of December, 1718. To which is added, A correct account of the late piracies committed in the West Indies; and the expedition of Commodore Porter by Thomas Carey.  This book gives accounts of numerous pirates on the high seas.

Our Manuscripts Collection contains a few letters about pirates, though more research would certainly discover others. In the Tyler Family Papers,  Francis Nicholson, on June 10, 1700, gives an account “of a French pyrate [sic] ship being taken and the trial of the pirates” and recommends action against piracy. In the Myers Papers (II), Moses Myers writes to Myer Myers commenting that “his Pensacola schooner was captured by pirates, but he is insured.” The Lloyd H. Williams Papers contains much of Williams’ research on Blackbeard and piracy for his book Blackbeard's Account.

There are many books on pirates, piracy, pirate treasure and shipwrecks that make Captain Hook look like a nice guy! Explore!