Secondhand Rows 

Join Stephen Reid, our secondhand maestro, every month here as he takes a closer look at a couple of titles from his shelves.

August 2019

 - Friday, August 02, 2019
Scourge of the Seas: Buccaneers, Pirates and Privateers by Angus Konstam

(Osprey Publishing, Oxford. 2007) Hardcover. First Edition. Map endpapers, 240pp., b/w and colour illustrations, glossary, bibliography, index. Fine copy in Fine dustjacket. $40.00.
Pirates and I go back decades. Beginning with (at age 14) reading and (regularly) re-reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883). This granddaddy of all pirate stories is quite simply one of the finest adventures novels ever written. Don’t just take my word for this. Hilary Mantel, the famed historical novelist, regards it as superlative also. In learning about 18th century pirates I encountered a whole new historical glossary. Firstly, in strange, exotic sounding Coinage. I was constantly researching the meaning and values of Pieces of Eight, Doubloons, Georges and Louis Dórs. A whole raft of strange Nautical Terms were also encountered. I remember shuddering when first learning what keelhauling was (look it up). Pirates’ weaponry was a similarly exotic listing of: Flintlocks, a Dirk, Cutlasses, a Powder Horn and Musket Balls. And lastly, Pirate nomenclature—Billy Bones, Black Dog, Blind Pew, Captain Flint and Ben Gunn. A letter, written at Porto Bello, Panama, dated 14th July 1668—from the buccaneer, Captain Henry Morgan to Don Augustin de Bracamonte, Spanish Governor of Panama: Senor, Tomorrow we plan to burn this city to the ground and then set sail with all the guns and munitions from the castles. We will take all our prisoners with us and we will show them the same kindness that English prisoners have received here. However, departure could be delayed and the city spared on the payment of 350 000 pieces of eight. Piratical diplomacy at its most elegant and blunt. To find out if (Sir) Henry Morgen carried out this threat or if the Governor paid the ransom—approx. 35 Million Dollars in today’s values—you will have to read this encyclopaedic, handsomely illustrated volume.

Discovery of Australia’s Fishers: A History of Australian Ichthyology to 1930 by Brian Saunders
CSIRO Publishing, 2012. Hardcover. $40

This book traces the discovery of Australia’s fishes from the earliest days of taxonomy to the first part of the 20th century. It provides a unique insight into the diverse pathways by which Australia’s fish were discovered and outlines the history of early maritime explorations in Australia that collected natural history specimens. The book covers the life and work of each of the most important discoverers, and assesses their accomplishments and the limitations of their work. The book is well illustrated with both black & white and colour plates. It provides an historical overview of the discovery and taxonomy of Australia’s fish, includes brief biographies of many Australian zoologists with more detailed accounts of those most important to the subject, and gives an appreciation of the nature of the day-to-day work of zoologists in Australian institutions 1885 to 1930

The Moon Man: A Biography of Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay by E M Webster 
Melbourne University Press, 1984. Hardcover. Some fading and light edge wear to dust jacket. Sort inscription in pen to front endpaper. Small retailer’s sticker to front paste down. Faint marks to edges but internally tight and clean. $25
Few people have crammed 4 decades so full as Miklouho-Maclay. Russian-born in 1846, he studied the natural sciences at a time when Darwin was revolutionising Western cosmology. He took the whole world for his laboratory: sponges in the Red Sea, or the ancestry of the sharks; head measurements in New Guinea; negrito races in Malay jungles; marine life in Sydney Harbour. His fame today—to those who have heard his name at all —rests chiefly on the humanity of his approach to ‘native races’. He sa the harm to indigenous peoples that followed white encroachment; his vision of himself was  guardian & trustee. What irony, that Russian warships testing an early Pacific imperialism should have been his means of transport to his beloved New Guinea shores. The startled people of the villages near modern Madang believed that he came from the Moon. Webster rescues this short life of high adventure from total oblivion on the one hand & the adulatory veneration in which he was held in the USSR where he was depicted as the ideal forerunner of humane socialist man.

The Explorers of the Pacific by Geoffrey Badger Kangaroo Press. 2nd edition 1996. Paperback, 1984. $15
This is a story of hazard & adventure, a story of the explorers who found their way around the Pacific Ocean, the largest single feature on the Earth’s surface. From Polynesians in their double canoes to Magellan, Drake, Cavendish, Dampier, Tasman and the ‘Golden Age’ from 1760 top 1830. This 2nd edition updates the 1989 edition using new genetic research concerning the origins of the Polynesians, plus the story of French explorer Hyacinthe de Bougainville and a record of the English journeys in search of the North West passage.