RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA—The Salisbury Post reports that 16 tiny scraps of paper have been recovered from a mass of sludge found in a breech-loading cannon on Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of the pirate Blackbeard, by the conservators at the Queen Anne’s Revenge Conservation Lab.
Printed text was discerned on a few of the scraps, the largest of which measures about the size of a quarter. Researchers determined the paper came from a 1712 first edition of the book A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710, and 1711, written by Captain Edward Cooke. Such voyage narratives were popular reading at the time. In the book, Cooke described his trip on an expedition on the Duke and the Dutchess, two ships that sailed from Bristol, England, in 1708 under the command of Captain Woodes Rogers.
Scholars have found references in the historical record to the fact that there were books aboard the vessels in Blackbeard’s fleet, but no specific titles were mentioned. The newly discovered paper fragments offer the first-known clue to the pirates’ reading habits.