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A plate from 'A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most Notorious Pyrates'… that depicts two notorious female pirates, ‘Ann Bonny and Mary Read’. They were convicted of piracy at an Admiralty court in Jamaica in 1720 but spared the hangman’s noose because they were both pregnant at the time.

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First published in 1724, this is a work that is credited to a Captain Charles Johnson, but one whose true authorship has remained a puzzle over almost three centuries now.

Robert Louis Stevenson and JM Barrie are among the many writers who have drawn inspiration from the work – the former even borrowing the name Israel Hands from a list of Blackbeard’s crew in the book.

Daniel Defoe is among those who have been suggested as its true creator in the past, but in recent times a very good case has been made for attribution to Nathaniel Mist, a former sailor, journalist and publisher of the Weekly Journal.

Copies have made as much as £4200 at auction (a 1724 first seen at Sotheby’s in 2005) but the example in the Edinburgh sale was a third edition of 1725. Bound in contemporary calf and showing some dampstaining and browning, it sold at £1400.

Top-priced lot in this L&T auction was the oldest known Scottish rutter, or set of sailing directions, Nicolas de Nicolay and Alexander Lyndsay’s La Navigation du Roy d’Ecosse… of 1583, which made £55,000 (featured as Pick of the Week in ATG No 2431).

More on this sale including a conchological rarity will follow in a later issue.