Monday, July 02, 2007

Gettin' Yer "Yarrrr Yarrrr's Out!: Pirates or Pirateology?

With the recent opening of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Pirate-o-Mania is upon us again. As The Dangerous Book for Boys reminds us, boys (and girls) crave adventure and a bit or risk in their play and in their literature. Those pirates of the 18th century, characters filled with passion and derring-do, certainly continue to excite readers and movie-goers today.

Two appealing "coffee table" books about these pirates are currently available to fill this need, Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter's Companion, by Captain William Lubber (pseudonym for Dugald Steer), and Pirates by John Matthews. These two large books have many commonalities. Both have arresting black covers: Pirates features a classic Jolly Roger, a grainy skull and crossbones, the skull decked out with one gold tooth and a 3-D "ruby" filling one eye socket; Pirateology's cover has a working compass embedded in the center. Both books have large, double-sided pages with bits of trivia presented in hands-on flaps, pull-outs, folding inserts, envelopes and string-tied packets, ingenious items such as playing cards, treasure maps, facsimiles of letters and advertisements from the high-pirate era, informational biographies of famous pirates, bits of naval lore such as maps, rope knotting patterns, cannons, and various pirate flags, a history of piracy, especially the "Caribbean pirates," weapons and tools, chronologies, and cutaway diagrams of famous pirate ships. Both have glossaries of pirate talk, including the ever-popular "Avast!" Lastly, both substantial books share the same list price at $19.95, and are usually deeply discounted.

Pirateology's internal organization is based upon what would in the pirate era have been called a "conceit." The book itself is presented as a journal of one Captain William Lubber, discovered in a tar cloth-sealed sunken sea trunk in the wreck of a frigate sunk off the Grand Banks. The journal, which includes the story of Cap'n Lubber's pursuit of the notorious female pirate, Mary (Arabella) Drummond, "terror of the seas," was purported to have been lost when the adventurous Arabella sent Lubber's ship to the bottom after a fearsome battle in 1723. Information is presented in the spot art collage format, somewhat of a scatter-gun approach, but one which works itself out as somewhat of a mystery as new nuggets of information about Arabella Drummond are found on each page. A humorous advertisement near the book's end describes The Pirate's Rest, New Providence, Bahama Islands, "A Peaceful Retreat for Retired Seafaring Persons", operated by one "Mrs. Drummond," which hints at the tranquil golden years of Arabella, "terror of the seas" emeritus.

John Matthew's Pirates follows a more conventional organization, falling into sections entitled History, Dress and Personal Weapons, Ships and Flags, Life on Board, Gallery (of Famous Pirates), Attack Tactics and Weapons, Treasure, Life on Land, Capture and Trial, Punishment, The End of Piracy, Fiction, (books and movies) and Timeline. This format provides for much more content, offering, for example, twelve examples of different pirate flags as opposed to Pirateology's eight, a more extensive glossary of pirate talk, and more biographies of notorious male and female pirates. Although in format this volume is a slightly more orthodox reference book, it, too, has as many interactive gimmicks secured to the page as does Pirateology.

If you can only buy one, my vote goes to Pirates, but the fun of pursuing the Arabella Drummond story through the book is enticing enough to make Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter's Companion a tempting second choice. If you can't choose, you can't go wrong with both!

Heave to! You only have 79 days to bone up for Talk Like a Pirate Day!



  • Piratology also has secret instructions to a treasure map, including a coded message. It's kinda fun to find the pieces and learn where the treasure is hidden.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:18 PM  

  • I really don't know why it's necessary to ad "(and girls)" to these topics. It just reeks of political correctness.

    If you can't write without paying homage to the thought police, why not just not write at all.

    By Blogger paul a'barge, at 10:54 AM  

  • Paul--

    Political correctness? I played a pirates as a kid and I am very much a GIRL! What's so politically correct about including girls in saying that? I wanted plenty of adventure as a kid, still do!

    Girls want adventure as well, that's not politically correct, that's just TRUE. Geez.

    By Anonymous Amy, at 6:04 PM  

  • Yeah, Paul. What she said.

    By Blogger GTC, at 9:06 PM  

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