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Have you seen me? The hunt for the Weekly Jamaica Courant

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Researchers of the Golden Age pirates have made great use of the Boston News-Letter, the first regularly published newspaper in British America, whose publisher covered the pirates movements, often from firsthand accounts related to him by sailors arriving in that port. The London papers -- of which there were many in 1715-1725 -- generally republished accounts from the News-Letter and, towards the end of this period, the Boston Gazette, American Weekly Mercury (Philadeplphia). and New England Courant (Boston). Had these newspapers not survived -- we have nearly complete press runs of each -- many important episodes would have been lost to history.

That's why I'm hoping somebody, somewhere out there is sitting on copies of the Weekly Jamaica Courant. Published in Kingston by Robert Baldwin, who operated the island's official print shop, its first issue (now lost) appeared in May 1718, at the height of the careers of Blackbeard, Charles Vane, and other pirates operating in the area. The newspaper continued publishing until at least June, 1730 -- 688 issues -- and possibly as late as 1755, and would have carried extensive information on the pirates.

Unfortunately, only 17 editions appear to have survived, all of them by happenstance. The oldest editions -- No. 10 and No. 11 from the summer of 1718 -- were found in 1936 by curators at the British Museum when they were rebinding the papers of Governor Vernon; Vernon's papers had originally been bound in 1718 by Robert Baldwin, who had glued together unsold copies of the Courant to create the volume's cover. Previous to this, only three issues had been found: one by the British Library, two others in the UK National Archives, because they had been enclosed for one reason or another in official diplomatic correspondence. Five more editions were later found in the National Library of Jamaica. The contents of fifteen issues can be found on a reel of microfilm at Harvard University, which I made use of while researching The Republic of Pirates.

I've included a master list of all issues known to have survived. If you have or know of a copy of an issue not listed here, please comment or contact me. Any new information that can be confirmed will be posted to this site.

Surviving issues of the Weekly Jamaica Courant:

No. 10   July 30, 1718. Microfilm. Originals in British Library and National Library of Jamaica. 

No. 11   August 5, 1718. Microfilm. Originals in British Library and National Library of Jamaica. 

No. 38   February 11, 1719* Microfilm. Original in National Library of Jamaica.

No. 47   April 15, 1719* Microfilm. Original in National Library of Jamaica.

No. xx   June 17, 1720. Reportedly held by National Library of Jamaica.

No. xx   September 12, 1720. Reportedly held by National Library of Jamaica.

No. 162  June 28, 1721. Microfilm. Original in National Library of Jamaica.

No. 224  June 20, 1722. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

No. 235  September 12, 1722. Microfilm. Original in Burney Collection, British Library.

No. 249  December 12, 1722. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

No. 469  March 22, 1726. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

No. 448  October 26, 1726. Microfilm. Original in UK National Archives (CO137/52).

No. 449  November 2, 1726. Microfilm. Original in UK National Archives (CO137/52).

No. xx   May 31, 1727. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

No. 575  April 24, 1728. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

No. 595  March 25, 1730. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

No. 688  June 24, 1730. Microfilm. Location of original unclear.

 

* - Due to the eccentric dating conventions of the time, these issues are printed with the date "1718," even though they were published in 1719.

-- Colin Woodard

(Jump to The Republic of Pirates website.)

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