A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates
Most of what we know about Mary Read and Anne Bonny—and about pirates in general, for that matter—comes from a book called A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates by Captain Charles Johnson.
Although the name on the book does indeed read “Captain Charles”, many historians believe that this was just an imaginative pen name made up by Daniel Defoe, a popular writer in 18th-century England. (It’s possible he thought being a captain would make his work on pirates more credible or, at least, more interesting.)
The book, written in 1724, outlines the lives of some of the most illustrious pirates to ever live, including “Calico Jack” Rackham, “Black Bart” Roberts, and Edward Teach, a man you might know by his nickname: Blackbeard the pirate. In addition to recounting the lives and adventures of these corrupt sailors, the book provides a lot of detail about pirate rites and rituals, including descriptions of the pirate flag, the Jolly Roger (pictured), and the custom of burying treasure to be dug up later.
A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates also contains accounts of three totally fictional pirate captains: James Misson, William Lewis, and John Cornelius. The stories about these men make them seem larger than life, and perhaps more evil. For example, William Lewis and John Cornelius were said to have made pacts with the Devil, thereby risking their immortal souls as was the popular belief at the time, while James Misson purportedly sailed to Madagascar to start his own completely lawless civilization called “Liberatia.”