Book from the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard identified

Researchers have identified the source of one of tiny fragments of paper found on board of the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge – the flagship of the pirate Edward Teach, known better as Blackbeard. It was revealed to be from a 1712 first edition of a book by Capt. Edward Cooke.

A fragment of paper from Queen Anne’s Revenge (by North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

Among many other items, researchers have uncovered 16 small fragments of paper from the wreckage, and seven of the fragments had legible text. They were discovered in a mass of wet sludge removed from the chamber for a breech-loading cannon. Queen Anne’s lab conservators working with specialist paper conservators and scientists from the department’s Division of Archives and Records, along with the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation found printed text on one of the fragment and managed to identify it originated from a 1712 first edition of a book by Capt. Edward Cooke, “A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711“. It is said to be a voyage narrative describing the Captain’s adventures on an expedition made by two ships, Duke and Duchess, which sailed from Bristol, England, in 1708. It described the rescue of Alexander Selkirk from an island on which he had been marooned for four years. Selkirk’s story became the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe”.

The identified fragment (by North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

The largest fragment of discovered scraps is said to be no larger than the size of a quarter of a US dollar coin. According to the researchers, the find provides archaeological evidence for books carried on ships in the early 18th century and adds to the total knowledge of the history of Blackbeard’s flagship and those who sailed it, as this find is the first archaeological evidence for the presence of books on the ship.

Queen Anne’s Revenge went aground outside of what is now Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1718, and Blackbeard was killed while battling British naval forces in the Pamlico Sound a few months later. The wreck of the pirate’s flagship was found by private salvagers in 1996 and excavation by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources began a year later. Half of the vessel is still unexcavated, lying on the seabed.

(after Salisbury Post, National Geographic & North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

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