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About William Dampier

About the author: William Dampier (1652 — March, 1715) ship captain and buccaneer.

According to Princeton University’s Strait Through: Magellan to Cook & the Pacific page on the author,

What do the words avocado, barbecue, breadfruit, cashew, catamaran, and chopsticks have in common? They, and hundreds of others, were introduced into the English language by the explorer/naturalist/buccaneer William Dampier. Though he has been largely forgotten, Dampier was the most important English maritime adventurer of the seventeenth century: he was the first person to circumnavigate the world three times, the first Englishman to reach and map parts of Australia and New Guinea, and the first English best-selling travel writer. Bookended by the careers of Sir Francis Drake in the 1500s and Captain James Cook in the 1700s, Dampier’s exploits fused the rakish plundering of the former with the scientific inquiry of the latter. His contributions were numerous and his influence far-reaching.

Little is known of Dampier’s early life, except that he was born in East Coker, Somerset, England, the second son of a tenant farmer, and received a good, basic education that included Latin and arithmetic. By age seven, he had lost both parents and was apprenticed to a shipmaster—beginning a lifelong love of the sea. He sailed to France and to Newfoundland; by 1670, he was sailing to Java in the East Indies by way of the Cape of Good Hope, learning the art of navigation and studying the patterns of wind and weather that would become his forte. A major part of his early life was spent in the Caribbean region, ultimately joining buccaneers in their raids on Spanish shipping, then sailing with privateers around South America to continue attacks on the Spanish along the continent’s west coast. He crossed the Pacific to the Philippines and Spice Islands (Moluccas), explored the northwest coast of New Holland (Australia), was marooned in the Bay of Bengal, and finally returned, penniless, to England in 1691, having completed his first circumnavigation. After all of this, he still had his journals.

About the diary:  Published as A New Voyage Around the World: Describing particularly The Isthmus of America, Several Coasts and Islands in the West Indies, the Isles of Cape Verde, the Passage by Tierra del Fuego, the South Sea Coasts of Chile, Peru, and Mexico; the isle of Guam one of the Ladrones, Mindanao, and other Philippine and East India Islands near Cambodia, China, Formosa, Luconia, Celebes, etc. New Holland, Sumatra, Nicobar Isles, the Cape of Good Hope, and St. Helena. Their Soil, Rivers, Harbours, Plants, Fruits, Animals, and Inhabitants. Their Customs, Religion, Government, Trade, etc.

The author’s own introduction says,

Before the reader proceed any further in the perusal of this work I must bespeak a little of his patience here to take along with him this short account of it. It is composed of a mixed relation of places and actions in the same order of time in which they occurred: for which end I kept a journal of every day’s observations.

As the introductory note to the 1927 edition says,

When we come to investigate the text of this delightful book we find some difficulties which have to be met and solved. The story and the scientific observations are undoubtedly Dampier’s, for which he must have the entire credit. It was however charged against him in his own day that the literary style or polish was contributed by some unknown assistant or collaborator. This was believed by Swift, who evidently loved Dampier and was probably much influenced by him in his methods of narration as, indeed, is indicated by his reference to Dampier as Lemuel Gulliver’s cousin. That Dampier had some aid in preparing his work for the press is admitted by himself in the Preface to the Voyage to New Holland. He there refers to the charge that he has “published things digested and drawn up by others,” and he retorts: “I think it so far a diminution to one of my education and employment to have what I write revised and corrected by friends; that on the contrary the best and most eminent authors are not ashamed to own the same thing, and look upon it as an advantage.”

It is difficult, if not impossible, now to discover the extent or nature of the assistance which Dampier obtained. The “copy” of the voyage as printed does not appear to exist, and the Sloane Manuscript account of it is in the clear script of a copyist, the marginal notes only being in Dampier’s hand. The manuscript is much shorter than the printed book. It comprises the story of the voyage, but lacks the observations in natural history: on the other hand it includes (1) Wafer’s account (taken “out of his own writing”) of his life among the Indians of the Isthmus, (2) the account of the voyage of captain Swan before he joined Dampier’s party, and (3) the antecedent adventures of Captain Harris, all of which are omitted from the book. A perplexing factor is that the Sloane Manuscript contains in the copyist’s writing the references (A) (B) etc., to the marginal notes afterwards supplied by Dampier. Other marginal notes are added, these indicated by a pointing hand. In some cases the marginal note is incorporated in the book, in others disregarded. Sometimes, too, a jotting from the journal as to an unimportant day’s doing is omitted from the book. In some places the printed book alters the manuscript in a material point.* Thus the manuscript represents only one step in the preparation of the book text. Being in a copyist’s hand, it may be only a fair copy of Dampier’s not always quite legible writing: or it may be a version of his journal with some little polish administered by a literary friend. It is clear that his natural history notes were composed and kept separately from his journal. They comprise observations made at various places and at different and often subsequent periods of his travels: and they are sometimes pitch-forked into the book at odd junctures.

The portion used in The Philippine Diary Project comprises the voyage from Guam to Mindanao and then to Celebes, from May 30, 1686 to November 2, 1687 inclusive.


An interesting note via the blog of Gemma Angel, researcher in University College London, in Tattoos That Repel Venomous Creatures! The Tragic Tale of Prince Giolo:

A similar fate befell the Miangas islander named Jeoly, who became popularly known as ‘Prince Giolo’ when he arrived in England in 1691. Perhaps the most famous of all the tattooed ‘curiosities’ exhibited in Britain, Jeoly was purchased as a slave by the buccaneer-adventurer William Dampier in Mindanao, the Philippines, in 1690. Having failed in his ambitions to discover unexploited spice and gold wealth in the Spice Islands, Dampier returned to England broke, with only his diaries and his ‘Painted Prince’ to show for travels. On his arrival home, Dampier sold Jeoly on to business interests, and later published his journals under the title A New Voyage Around the World, in 1697.