James Speke Collection Update!

A few random items from the collection, including the volume of Horace and the silver-hilted smallsword discussed below.

Last year, after a long journey of intellectual curiosity, investigation with a near-gothic atmosphere, and more than one skullduggerous attempt to thwart us, we announced the acquisition of the James Speke of Comerton Collection of papers related to Caribbean piracy in the 1680s. The collection includes the original unpublished set of twenty-odd volumes of journals used by Rafael Sabatini as the factual basis for many of the adventures of his sanguinary hero, Captain Peter Blood.

We are continuing in the various processes of conservation, categorizing, copying, and transcribing the large number of documents ranging in date from 1685 to 1697, and which also include several boxes of books, such as several 17th to 19th century editions of Exquemelin’s Buccaneers of America, and a first edition of Macauley’s famous History. Oddly, the latter is the American edition rather than the expected UK edition.

Also included in the collection — which I hear through the grapevine our acquisition of which has incensed the board members of at least one UK museum and one US university, both having hoped to acquire it for themselves — is a pocket-size mid-17th century volume in quarter-calf of Horace’s Odes, Epodes, Satires, and Epistles in Latin, and a mid-1680s silver-hilted French smallsword with a colichemarde blade.

Based on several medical and nautical notations in pencil, including the style of hand, on the end papers of the volume of Horace, we believe it was once owned by a 17th century sea surgeon, or possibly a physician taking a sea voyage. The sword appears be the same one included with the book on a list of personal possessions. We cannot yet prove who they belonged to, yet we can also not restrain our hopeful imaginings!

For the moment we are continuing to limit access to the papers and journals to ourselves, aided by an experienced conservator (thanks, Shell!) of antiquarian books and papers. Again, per James Speke’s wishes more than a century ago, we intend to publish the collection of journals, the most important of them in hardcover, the remainder digitally.

We’ll keep you advised at least annually on our progress with the collection. We look forward not only to further discoveries in the history of buccaneering, but also to learning how they shaped Sabatini’s famous novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey.

Copyright Treasure Light Press 2022. First posted April 1, 2022.

The Speke Papers Have Arrived!

“Zeeslag,” anonymous, after Reinier Nooms, 1650-1738. Rijksmuseum.

It is with great pleasure that Treasure Light Press announces the acquisition of the James Speke Collection of historical documents associated with Caribbean piracy during the 1680s. The collection includes the original unpublished set of twenty-odd volumes of journals used by Rafael Sabatini as the factual basis for many of the adventures of his sanguinary hero, Captain Peter Blood.

Author Benerson Little, co-publisher and annotator at Treasure Light Press, has been searching for the papers, long thought lost, for more than a quarter century. Their rediscovery was the result of a combination of diligent research, serendipity, and thankfully thwarted skullduggery, including attempted forgeries and book-breaking, all of which was an adventure in itself.

The collection, long held by James Speke of Comerton, UK, disappeared after the amateur scholar’s death and passed, often unknowingly, through several hands, eventually ending up in an attic in a house in uptown New Orleans just off St. Charles Avenue, not far from the Columns Hotel.

For the moment we are limiting access to the papers and journals to ourselves, aided by an experienced conservator (thanks, Shell!) of antiquarian books and papers. At some point, however, given their obvious historical value, we may lend or donate the papers to a research institution for access by scholars, Sabatini fans, and the public at large, with emphasis on serious amateur historians who lack university credentials or access. Having been snubbed at times by some academic institutions ourselves, we’re sympathetic to the plight of amateur scholars producing quality research.

More importantly, per James Comerton’s wishes more than a century ago, we intend to publish the collection of journals, the most important of them in hardcover, the remainder digitally.

We’ll keep you advised on our progress with the collection. We look forward not only to further discoveries in the history of buccaneering, but also to learning how they shaped Sabatini’s famous novel, Captain Blood: His Odyssey.

Copyright Treasure Light Press LLC 2021. First posted April 1, 2021.

The Romantic Ideal

“But fortunately romance never dies. The spiritual hunger of humanity seeks nourishment in ideals, which it is the business of romance to furnish. Romance is of no particular time or age. If it has usually preferred to lean upon the remote epochs, it is only because the remote is easier to idealise.”

–Rafael Sabatini, “My New Adventures of Captain Blood,” Pearson’s Magazine, December 1929.

Publicity still, Captain Blood (Warner Bros., 1935).

Beyond the Armchair…

“Pish, child! The fellow’s an adventurer.”

Her agreement shocked and dismayed him more than contradiction could have done.

“So I had supposed,” she smiled distractingly. “I love adventurers and the adventurous.”

—Rafael Sabatini, The Black Swan, 1931.

“Dutch Ships in the Roads of Texel; in the middle the ‘Gouden Leeuw’, the Flagship of Cornelis Tromp.” Ludolf Bakhuysen, 1671. Rijksmuseum.