A Buccaneering Classic with Early Description Of California
71. ROGERS, Woodes. A Cruising Voyage Round the World: First to the South-Sea, Thence to the East-Indies, and Homewards by the Cape of Good Hope. Begun in 1708, and Finish’d in 1711. Containing A Journal of all the Remarkable Transactions; Particularly of the Taking of Puna and Guiaquil, of the Acapulca Ship, and other Prizes: An Account of Alexander Selkirk’s Living alone Four Years and Four Months in an Island; and a Brief Description of Several Countries in our Course noted for Trade, Especially in the South-Sea. With Maps of all the Coast, from the Best Spanish Manuscript Draughts. And an Introduction Relating to the South-Sea Trade. By Captain Woodes Rogers, Commander in Chief in This Expedition, with the Ships Duke and Dutchess of Bristol. The Second Edition, Corrected. London: Printed for Andrew Bell at the Cross-Keys and Bible in Cornhil, and Bernard Lintot at the Cross-Keys between the Temple-Gates, Fleetstreet, 1718. xix [1, blank], 428, 57  pp., 5 copper-engraved folding maps, including a map by Moll showing California as an island: A Map of the World with the Ships Duke & Dutchess Tract Round it from 1708 to 1711 | By Herman Moll Geographer (20.3 x 35.5 cm; 8 x 14 inches). 8vo, contemporary calf, spine with raised bands (neatly rebacked, extra-gilt panelled spine retained, dark green gilt-lettered leather spine label, new endpapers).Moderate shelf wear, corners bumped (small exposure of board), hinges starting, interior fine, crisp, and fresh. Closed tear (approximately 18 cm long) to one map (no losses).
Second edition, corrected (first edition, London, 1712). Cf. Barrett, Baja California 2147. Borba de Moraes I, p. 744-745n. Braislin 1575: “One of the earliest works in the English language to describe California.” Cowan I, pp. 194-195. Cowan II, p. 540. Day, Pacific Islands Literature, One Hundred Basic Books 16. European Americana 718/154. Hill II:1479 (first edition): “A buccaneering classic.” Howes R421. JCB III:238. Mathes, California Colonial Bibliography 31. National Maritime Museum:Piracy & Privateering 472n. Sabin 72754. Wagner, Spanish Southwest 78a. Streeter Sale 2429 (citing first edition): “I have followed Henry Wagner in including with my California books the account by Woodes Rogers of the famous buccaneering voyage around the world, 1708 to 1711. Port Segura, not far from Cape St. Lucas in Lower California, was the base from which the smaller Spanish treasure ship from Manila was captured. It was on this voyage that Alexander Selkirk, the original of Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, was found on the island of Juan Fernandez. Rogers is most interesting in outlining the setup for a buccaneering expedition such as this, where many decisions were made by majority vote.--TWS.” The expedition cruised off the west coast of South America, Central America, and Mexico, reaching California in 1709 and then crossing the Pacific to Asia.During his sojourn at Cabo San Lucas (mid-November to January, 1710) Rogers made lengthy ethnographic, geographic, zoological, and botanical observations.
Although a famous book for many reasons cited above, this work is often under-appreciated for its descriptions of the diurnal life and problems faced by sailors on such a buccaneer mission and of its implications for seafaring voyages of long duration in general. Rogers states in his introduction that the written material on which this account is based was laid open for all the crew to scrutinize and to which any member could make any objection or correction he saw fit: "From our first setting out, I took the best method to preserve an unquestionable Relation of the Voyage, by having a daily Account kept in a publick Book of all our Transactions, which lay open to every one's View; and where any thing was reasonably objected against, it was corrected. This Method we observ'd during the whole Voyage, and almost in the same manner as you have it in the following Relation" (p. xix). Although it seems clear that Rogers has cleaned up the raw narrative somewhat, perhaps with the help of a ghostwriter sometimes suggested to be Daniel Defoe himself, the text remains a vivid and honest account of the events that happened on the cruise, down to texts of the many agreements that were signed to resolve disputes and questions. If democracy did not reign in Britain itself, it apparently flourished here halfway around the world far from the reach of Parliament.
Although many of the events and incidents recounted are mundane, some of them are horrific and make the modern reader wonder how anyone survived. Rogers himself was, for example, subject to terrible physical injuries, an event anticipated by a sham battle between his ship and the Dutchess, in which he pretended to attack the latter in a type of war game. As part of that exercise, "I order'd Red Lead mix'd with Water to be thrown upon two of our Fellows, and sent 'em down to the Surgeons, who, as well as the Prisoners in the Hold of the Ship, were very much surpriz'd, thinking they had been really wounded, and the Surgeons actually went about to dress them, but finding their Mistake, it was a very agreeable Diversion" (pp. 249-250). When Rogers' own turn came, however, in the battle with the Manila Galleon, the case was real. Shot severely through the face, Rogers records that the damage included "several of my Teeth, part of which dropt down upon the Deck, where I fell..." (p. 294). Two days later, he had trouble swallowing something and was never sure if the obstruction was "a part of my Jaw Bone, or the Shot, which we can't yet give an account of" (p. 294). Shortly after that, part of his foot was shot off, “So that I could not stand, but lay on my Back in a great deal of Misery...” (p. 302).
The much remarked upon recovery of Alexander Selkirk is also an amazingly honest rendering of a totally unexpected event. Throughout Rogers' description of the man is an undercurrent of wonder not only that the man survived but that he was so amazingly resourceful, an attitude in complete opposition to that of his fellow captain, Cooke. Rogers recounts event after event in which Selkirk had to adapt because he was gradually stripped of his usual European accoutrements, such as gunpowder, clothes, and shoes. Rogers' first impression is significant. He states that Selkirk was "a Man cloathed in Goat-Skins, who look'd wilder than the first Owners of them" (p. 125). This incredulity morphs into respect and even praise. When Selkirk had exhausted his powder, he had to catch goats by chasing them on foot, which he did successfully. Rogers, in a moment when European ideas of savagery and civilization were just emerging into the theory that would later posit the "noble savage," states his admiration for Selkirk's reversion to a natural state: "...for his way of living and continual Exercise of walking and running, clear'd him of all gross Humours, so that he ran with wonderful Swiftness thro the Woods and up the Rocks and Hills, as we perceiv'd when we employ'd him to catch Goats for us" (p. 127). Although Selkirk clearly needed no such things because "his Feet became so hard" that he could go without shoes, they were apparently fitted to him anyway, although it "was some time before he could wear Shoes after we found him" (p. 128).
Selkirk even made medical discoveries: "He found there also a black Pepper called Malagita, which was very good to expel Wind, and against the griping of the Guts" (p. 127). Thus, long before England would encounter a real noble savage such as Omai, here it was confronted with one of its own who seemed no less the worse, and maybe even better, for being stripped of civilization’s trinkets and comforts, a situation that Defoe would render in a deeper, more complex tale about a man named Robinson Crusoe, who actually started his adventure with far more advantages than did his model.
In some instances, Rogers' narrative is fascinating for his continuing concerns for his crew's health, much of which is reported with an obvious mixture of sadness but impartiality. He anticipated Cook by half a decade in his concern for health on long voyages. After lamenting the lack of proper medicines aboard, although he thought the ships well supplied, he remarks: "This day, Tho. Hughes a very good Sailor died, as did Mr. George Underhill, a good Proficient in most parts of the Mathematicks and other Learning, tho not much above 21 years old: He was of very courteous Temper, and brave, was in the Fight where my Brother was kill'd, and served at Lieutenant in my Company at Guiaquil. About the same time another young Man, called John English, died aboard the Havre de Grace, and we have many still sick. If we had staid in the Harbour, we should in all probability have lost near half of our Men" (pp. 209-210). ($3,000-6,000)
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