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An incomplete list of the works of "Captain Charles Johnson"

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Captain Charles Johnson was the mysterious author of one of the most influential books in all pirate history. Its many different editions carried many different titles but it is now commonly known as "A General History of the Pirates".


It can not be stressed enough that there is no one version of this book. The first edition appeared in 1724 and is now extremely rare but fortunately, the British Library has digitised it. This provides a useful comparison to the far more widely available second and third editions. The second edition, published the same year, included three extra pirates, a content restructure, some modifications (allegedly based on feedback from readers) and a comprehensive introduction. According to Philip Gosse, the third edition published in 1726 split the book into two volumes and added Captain Misson and what he called the "Madagascar group" of pirates. This does not seem to count the two editions that appeared in 1725.


The rapidity of the release of the second edition demonstrates that the book was widely successful. Subsequent editions (often unnumbered) modified the title, added pirate stories, took them out, modified prefaces, added introductions, modified them, and even fabricated a whole new pirate story. Within a few years, Johnson's pirate stories were combined with those of highwaymen, murderers and robbers (originally compiled by Alexander Smith in 1714). The whole book is then attributed to Johnson and by the late 19th century, Johnson's name was so synonymous with pirates that it became a promotional feature in its own right.


Who Johnson was is still a subject of dispute. Some editions of his books are still attributed to Daniel Defoe despite this assignation being clearly debunked. More recently, Nathaniel Mist emerged as a contender for the authorship. Mist's experience as a seaman turned publisher fits better with the book's publishing history but no-one will ever know for sure. Cindy Vallar has a slightly dated but comprehensive discussion on the authorship of the book that is well worth a read.


Below is a list I have compiled of all the editions of the book I have encountered primarily through the British Library Catalogue and Philip Gosse's My Pirate Library. Today, new versions appear regularly mostly based on either the second or third editions, so be sure to check which one as they were not the same!


1724


A general history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates, and also their policies, discipline and government, from their first rise and settlement in the island of Providence, in 1717, to the present Year 1724. With the remarkable actions and adventures of the two female pyrates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny. To which is prefix'd an account of the famous Captain Avery and his Companions; with the Manner of his Death in England. The Whole digested into the following Chapters; Chap. I. Of Captain Avery. II. The Rise of Pyrates. III. Of Captain Martel. IV. Of Captain Bonnet. V. Of Captain Thatch. VI. Of Captain Vane. Vii. Of Captain Rackam. Viii. Of Captain England. IX. Of Captain Davis. X. Of Captain Roberts. XI. Of Captain Worley. XII. Of Captain Lowther. XIII. Of Captain Low. XIV. Of Captain Evans. And their several Crews. To which is added. A short Abstract of the Statute and Civil Law, in, Relation to Pyracy.

Publisher: Rivington at the Bible and Crown


A General History of the Pyrates: from their first rise and settlement in the island of Providence, to the present time (second edition “with considerable additions”).

Publisher: T Warner


1725


A general history of the pyrates, from their first rise and settlement in the island of Providence, to the present time. With the remarkable actions and adventures of the two female pyrates Mary Read and Anne Bonny; contain’d in the following chapters, Introduction. Chap.I. Of Capt. Avery. II. Of Capt. Martel. III. Of Capt. Teach. IV. Of Capt. Eonnet. V. Of Capt. England. VI. Of Capt. Vane. Vii. Of Capt. Rackam. Viii. Of Capt. Davis. IX. Of Capt. Roberts. X. Of Capt. Anstis. XI. Of Capt. Worley. XII. Of Capt. Lowther. XIII. Of Capt. Low. XIV. Of Capt. Evans. XV. Of Capt. Phillips. XVI. Of Capt. Spriggs. XVII. Of Capt. Smith. And their several Crews. To which is added, A short Abstract of the Statute and Civil Law, in Relation to Pyracy. By Captain Charles Johnson.

Publisher: T Warner


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates, and their crews, from Capt. Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Capt. John Gow, and James Williams, his lieutenant, &c. Who were hang’d at Execution Dock, June 11. 1725, for piracy and murther; and afterwards hang’d in chains between blackwall and deptford. Giving a more full and true account than any yet published, of all their murthers, piracies, maroonings, places of refuge, and ways of living. Adorn’d with twenty beautiful cuts, being the representation of each pirate. To which is prefix’d, an abstract of the laws against piracy.

Publisher: E Midwinter


1726


Histoire des pirates anglois, depuis leur etablissement dans l’isle de la Providence, jusqu’à present. ... Traduite de l’anglois du Capitaine Charles Johnson.

Publisher: J Walter


A General History of the Pyrates: from their first rise and settlement in the island of Providence, to the present time

Publisher: T Woodward

NB: This is the volume cited by Gosse as the "third" edition.


1728


The history of the pirates: containing the lives of those noted pirate captains, Misson, Bowen, Kidd, Tew, Halsey, White, Condent, Bellamy, Fly, Howard, Lewis, Cornelius, Williams, Burgess, North, and their crews : also, an account of the piracies and cruelties of John Auger, William Cunningham, Dennis Mackarthy, William Dowling, William Lewis, Thomas Morris, George Bendall, and William Ling, who were tried, condemned and executed at Nassau, New-Providence, on Friday, the 12th of October, 1718 : to which is added, a description of Magadoxa, in Ethiopia / by Capt. Charles Johnson.

Publisher:


Notes:

This is an abridged version of the 1726 edition. The inclusion of the account of Captain Misson and his association with Libertalia is not corroborated by any other evidence. It is almost certainly completely fabricated. This edition also contains the first reference of John Rackham being known as "Calico Jack". However, this name is not used in the original entry on him. Here, it is referred to in the entry on John Auger, of whom there is also very little corroborating evidence.


This edition did not gain re-publication traction until around 1825. Then two competing American versions of it appeared as "The History of the Lives and Bloody Exploits of the most Noted Pirates".


1729


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates, and their crews, From Capt. Avery, who first settled at Madagasear, to Capt. John Gow, and James Williams’ his lieutenant, &c. Who were hanged at Execution Dock, June 11. 1725, for piracy and murther; and afterwards hanged in chains between Blackwall and Deptford. And in this edition continued down to the present year 1729. Giving a more full and true account than any yet published, of all their murthers, piracies, marronings, places of resuge, and ways of living. The third edition. Adorned with twenty beautiful cuts, being the representation of each pirate. To which is prefixed, an abstract of laws against piracy.

Publisher: E Midwinter


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers : &c. To which is added, a genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates. Interspersed with several diverting Tales, and pleasant Songs. And Adorned with the Heads of the most Remarkable Villains

Publisher: J Janeway


NB: Highwaymen etc stories from Alexander Smith


1732


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates, and their crews, from Capt. Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Capt. John Gow, ..

Fourth edition

Publisher: E Midwinter


1734


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c. To which is added, a genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates. ... By Capt. Charles Johnson.

Publisher: J Janeway


1736


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c ... 1399 to 1733. To which is added, a genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates. ... adorned with six and twenty large copper plates, ... By Capt. Charles Johnson.

Publisher: Olive Payne


1742


A general and true history of the lives and actions of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c. To which is added, a genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most noted pirates. Interspersed with several remarkable tryals of the most notorious malefactors, at the Sessions-House in the Old Baily, London. Adorn’d with the effigies, and other material transactions of the most remarkable offenders, engraved on copper-plates. By Capt. Charles Johnson.

Publisher: R Walker


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c. To which is added, a genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates, ... By Capt. Charles Johnson.

Second edition

Publisher: H Slater, F Noble, T Wright


A history of the lives and exploits of the most remarkable pirates, highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c. Interspersed with several tales, and plesasant songs. Adorned with the essigies of the most notorious offenders, curiously engraven on copper. Published with the leave of the proprietor.

Publisher: T Aris


1747


A general and true history of the lives and actions of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, pirates, &c. Interspers’d with several remarkable trials of the most notorious malefactors, at the Sessions-House in the Old Baily, London, &c. By Capt. James Macklecan. Volume 1

Volume 2

Publisher: R Walker and W Jackson

NB: Attributed to Macklecan but stories lifted from Smith/Johnson; also attributed to Daniel Defoe


1748


A general and true history of the lives and actions of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, pirates, &c. Interspers’d with several remarkable trials of the most notorious malefactors, at the Sessions-House in the Old Baily, London, &c. By Capt. James Macklecan. Volume 1

Volume 2

Publisher: R Walker and W Jackson


1749


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, pirates, street-robbers, and thief-takers. Particularly the four last most noted villains, viz. Macdaniel, Salmon, Eagan and Berry. As also of that notorious Accomplice of theirs, Mary Jones and Others. Shewing The diabolical Arts by them practised, to get innocent Persons convicted for Robberies, and to share amongst themselves the Rewards paid for such Convictious. The Whole Interspersed with several diverting Tales, embellished with the Heads of the most remarkable Villians, neatly Engraved. By Capt. Mackdonald.

Publisher: J Warcus

NB: Partly extracted from Johnson.


1753


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, and pyrates. The whole ... embellished with the heads of the most remarkable villains, neatly engraved. By Capt. Mackelcan.

Publisher: R Richards


1765


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates, and their crews, from Capt. Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Capt. John Gow, ...

Eighth edition

Publisher: C Hitch, R Ware and S Crowder


1769


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates and their crews, from Captain Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Captain John Gow, and James Williams, his Lieutenant, &c. who were hanged at Execution-Dock, June 11, 1735, for Piracy and Murder; and afterwards hanged in Chains between Blackwall and Deptford: And in this Edition continued down to the Year 1735. Giving a more full and true Account than any yet published, of all their Murders, Piracies, Maroonings, Places of Refuge, and Way of Living. To which is prefixed, an abstract of the laws against piracy.

Ninth edition

Publisher: Robert Duncan


1770


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates, and their crews. In three parts. ...

Publisher: S Gamidge, Taylor and Harward

Anonymous but stories lifted from Johnson


1788


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates and their crews from Captain John Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Captain John Gow, and James Williams, his Lieutenant, &c. who were hanged at Execution Dock, June 11, 1735, for Piracy and Murder: and afterwards hanged in chains between Blackwall and Deptford: And in this Edition continued down to the Year 1735. Giving a more full and true Account than any yet published of all their Murders, Piracles, Maroonings, Places of Refuge, and way of Living. To which is prefixed An Abstract of the Laws against Piracy.

Publisher: Robert Duncan

Anonymous but stories lifted from Johnson


1790


The history and lives of all the most notorious pirates, and their crews; from Captain Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Captain John Gow, and James Williams, his Lieutenant, &c. who were hanged at Execution Dock, on June 11, 1725, for Piracy and Murder, and afterwards hung in Chains between Blackwall and Deptford; and of several others, down to the Year 1735. Giving a more full and true Account than any yet published, of all their Murders, Piracies, Maroonings, Places of Refuge, and Ways of Living. To Which IS Prefixed, An Abstract of the Laws against Piracy. A New Edition: Adorned with Twenty-One beautiful Cuts, being the Representation of each Pirate.

Publisher: J Hollis


1794


The history and lives of the most notorious pirates, and their crews, from Captain Avery, who first settled at Madagascar, to Capt. John Gow, and James Williams, his lieutenant, &c. who were hang’d at Execution dock, June 11, 1725 ...


1814


A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers : &c. To which is added, a genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates. Interspersed with several diverting Tales, and pleasant Songs. And Adorned with the Heads of the most Remarkable Villains.

Publisher: John Thomson Junior and Co


1834


Lives and adventures of English Highwaymen, Pirates and Robbers by C Whitehead

Publisher: Unknown


1839


The lives and actions of the most noted Highwaymen, street-robbers, pirates, By Captain Charles Johnson (Third edition)

Publisher: T Tegg


1843


Lives and adventures of English Highwaymen, Pirates and Robbers – Revised and continued to the present time

Publisher: Henry G Bohn


1925


General history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates

Preface by Philip Gosse

Publisher: Cayme Press

NB: Based on 1724 second edition


1998


A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (Maritime Classics) Preface by David Cordingly

Publisher: Lyons Press


2010


A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. Preface by David Cordingly


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