Captain William Dampier (1656-1715) joined the Royal Navy at an early age, which he followed with a career as a buccaneer under several captains, raiding Spanish commerce in the Pacific, Caribbean and the East Indies, circumnavigating the world in the process.
His diaries, published in 1697 as A New Voyage Round the World were a major success, reprinted several times and translated into numerous languages. As a consequence, he was given command of HMS Roebuck in 1699 on a voyage to the Pacific to explore the east coast of Australia.
It was unsuccessful in its objective, and ran aground before reaching Australia. Dampier returned to piracy, but not before publishing an account of the Roebuck’s voyage, entitled A Voyage to New Holland. He subsequently served as a privateer during the War of the Spanish Succession, commanding his own expedition in 1703 and participating in another under Woodes Rogers in 1708.
While a mercenary buccaneer and cruel commander, Dampier possessed an insatiable intellect, and his voyages are rich with geographical and cartographical description, depictions of flora and fauna, and accounts of the appearance and customs of the peoples he encountered.
King’s College owns a four-volume set published in 1729, A Collection of Voyages, which contains reprints of Dampier’s works and those of William Funnell (who served with him) and Lionel Wafer, as well as a reprint of William Hacke’s A Collection of Original Voyages, original printed in 1704 and containing accounts by William Ambrosia Cowley, Bartholomew Sharp (who had taken Dampier on his first privateering expedition), John Wood and Captain Roberts.