Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin, The history of the bucaniers (London, 1684).

Exquemelin had hands-on experience of life as a privateer, having retired from the profession in 1672. Originating in Normandy, he had been sold into slavery on the sugar plantations, but after suffering beatings and starvation, escaped to make his fortune on the high seas. He had this memoir first printed in Dutch in 1676, although as he was not a professional writer the publisher added an extra chapter and abridged the original French manuscript to make it more palatable to the reading public of Holland. The edition here is one of two separate English abridgements that appeared in 1684. Many of Exquemelin’s subjects were still alive when this book was printed, notably Henry Morgan (the larger portrait here), who sacked Panama but was later knighted and appointed lieutenant-governor of Jamaica. Morgan took exception to his portrayal in the book and sued both the English publishers, who agreed to pay him an indemnity and amend the text accordingly. Such was the success of this account of torture, rape and cannibalism that it is still currently in print.

Bequest of Peter Gunning.