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Histories of Three-Fingered Jack: A Bibliography
William Burdett, Life and Exploits of Mansong, and pamphlet accounts deriving from Burdett


This page lists all the editions of William Burdett’s text that I have located, followed by the many shorter versions which drew their text from him. As the long titles suggest, Burdett’s novel took advantage of the popularity of the pantomime Obi. The early editions of his novel include descriptions of the pantomime action, and some of them also include the songs from the pantomime. Most of the shorter, cheaper pamphlet versions do not mention the pantomime.

William Burdett’s novel opens in Africa and tells the story of how Mansong, a military hero, is betrayed into slavery and taken to Jamaica where he becomes known as Three-Fingered Jack. The Jamaican section largely follows the pantomime in plot. Like the pantomime, it includes a love story between Rosa, the planter’s daughter, and Captain Orford, newly arrived from England.

Burdett’s novel went into a tenth edition, but I have not been able to locate the second, sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth editions.

1. Editions of Burdett’s Novel:

Burdett, William. 1800. Life and exploits of Mansong, commonly called Three-finger'd Jack, the terror of Jamaica in the years 1780 and 1781: with a particular account of the Obi; being the only true one of that celebrated and fascinating mischief so prevalent in the West Indies. On which is founded the popular pantomimical drama of Obi; or, Three-finger'd Jack, performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket; an accurate description of which is also added. Sommers Town, London: A. Neil.
60 pages. Pages 57-60 are a description of the pantomime.
Price one shilling.
Includes an engraving as the frontispiece, titled “Jack had caught his antagonist by the throat with a living grasp.” This shows four black figures fighting.
Available at: Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). ECCO lists the source of its edition as British Library, but I have been unable to locate this edition on the British Library catalogue.

Burdett, William. 1800. Life and exploits of Mansong, commonly called Three-finger'd Jack, the terror of Jamaica: with a particular account of the Obi; being the only true one of that celebrated and fascinating mischief so prevalent in the West Indies On which is founded the popular pantomimical drama of Obi, or, Three-finger'd Jack, performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket; an accurate description of which is also added. Third edition. Sommers Town, London: A. Neil.
60 pages.
Text, image, and price appear to be identical to the first edition. The only change is the slight alteration to the title.
Available at: microfilm collection Three centuries of English and American plays, 1500-1830 available at Shakespeare Institute, Stratford, (University of Birmingham); National Library of Jamaica; Eighteenth Century Collections Online. ECCO lists the source of its edition as British Library, but I have been unable to locate this edition on the British Library catalogue.

Burdett, William. 1801. The life and exploits of Three-finger'd Jack, the terror of Jamaica. With a particular account of the Obi; being the only true one of that celebrated and fascinating mischief, so prevalent in the West Indies. On this history is founded the popular pantomimical drama Obi; or Three-Finger'd Jack; performed at the Theatre-Royal, Haymarket; An Accurate description of which, including all the songs, duets, choruses &c, is also added. Fourth edition, with additions. Sommers Town, London: A. Neil. 64 pages.
An “advertisement” explains that the “rapid sale” of earlier editions “has stimulated us to render the present edition still more acceptable to the public.” "We have therefore, in addition to our own knowledge (acquired by many years' residence in Jamaica) had recourse to the best authorities on the subject; and have made several emendations, additions, &c., so that the purchasers of this edition may rely on being in possession of a correct narrative of facts.”
This edition is largely the same as the third edition, but includes songs from the pantomime, as well as description of the action (pp. 55-64).
Available at: Bodleian Library, Oxford University; Cambridge University Library

Burdett, William. 1802. The life and exploits of Three-finger'd Jack: the terror of Jamaica. Including a particular account of the Obi; being the only true one of that celebrated and fascinating mischief, so prevalent in the West Indies, to which is annexed, an accurate description of the pantomimical drama (founded upon this history) of Obi, or Three-Fingered Jack, performed at the Haymarket Theatre, including all the songs, duets, choruses etc. Fifth edition. Sommers Town, London: A. Neil.
64 pages.
Available at: British Library

Burdett, William. nd. A New and Tenth Edition of the Life and Exploits of that Daring Robber, Three-Finger'd Jack, A Rebellious Slave, who was brought from Africa, and shortly became the Terror of Jamaica, including a Full and Accurate Description of that Fascinating Charm, called Obi, practised, with such mischievous consequences, by the African Negroes in the West Indies. London: A. Neill.
38 pages. This edition is shorter than the earlier editions largely because it uses a smaller font, but also because it omits the earlier editions’ description of the pantomime.
Price: Sixpence.
Available at: National Library of Jamaica

2. Anonymously published versions which use part of Burdett’s text. Those with dates (some estimated) are listed first in date order, followed by undated editions, given alphabetically by title. I have grouped new editions of the same text together, even where the date is unknown.
The History of Three Finger'd Jack, the Terror of Jamaica: containing I. Particulars of his birth - military skill - his being appointed Commander in Chief of the forces of the King of Kaarta, in Africa - great battles - his astonishing valour and success; II. When sent to conclude a peace was treacherously seized - sold to the captain of an English slave ship - taken to Jamaica, where he was sold to a planter; III. Authentic account of the Obi (a charm or system of witchcraft) a fascinating mischief, which caused such horror and dismay in the West Indies; IV. His astonishing fortitude under slavery - procures an Obi - excites and heads an insurrection among the blacks - are defeated - Jack retires to the Blue Mountains, from whence he bid defiance, during the years 1780 and 1781, to the civil and military powers of Jamaica, tho' alone, and unaided by associate or accomplice; V. Several exploits while in the Blue Mountains - loves of Orford and Rosa - proclamations, offering a reward for apprehending Jack - his death, &c.: being the history on which is founded, the pantomimical drama of Obi; or, Three finger'd Jack; performed with unbounded applause at the Hay-Market Theatre: to which is added, a description of the drama, and some of the most favourite songs. Nd (before 1804). London: S. Brown.
46 pages, price: 6 pence; 17 cm. Frontispiece shows “Rosa by means of a taper burns the Rope, and effects her escape.” Title page claims “Selected from the best authorities.” Estimated date is based on the fact that the edition published in Stirling in 1804 (below) seems to be an abridged version of this edition.
Pages 3-42 tell the story of Jack, following Burdett’s plot. Begins by noting the “unbounded applause” which Fawcett’s pantomime has received. On page 41 is a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!” Pages 43-44 provide a scene by scene “description of the drama of Obi; or three-finger’d Jack”; pages 44-46 give lyrics to the songs.
Available at: Glasgow University Library; Library of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

The History of Three Finger'd Jack, the Terror of Jamaica. Containing I. Particulars of his Birth - Military Skill - his being appointed Commander in Chief of the forces of the King of Kaarta, in Africa - great Battles - his astonishing Valour and Success. II. When sent to conclude a Peace was treacherously seized - sold to the Captain of an English Slave Ship - taken to Jamaica, where he was sold to a Planter. III. Authentic account of the Obi (a Charm or system of Witchcraft) a fascinating Mischief, which caused such horror and dismay in the West Indies. IV. His astonishing Fortitude under Slavery - procures an Obi - excites and heads an Insurrection among the blacks - are defeated - Jack retires to the Blue Mountains, from whence he bid Defiance, during the years 1780 and 1781, to the Civil and Military powers of Jamaica, tho' alone, and unaided by Associate or Accomplice; V. Several exploits while in the Blue Mountains - Loves of Orford and Rosa - Proclamations, offering a Reward for apprehending Jack - his death, &c. Being the History on which is founded, the Pantomimical Drama of Obi; or, Three finger'd Jack; Performed with unbounded Applause at the Hay-Market Theatre. Tto which is added, a Description of the Drama, and Some of the most favourite Songs. Nd (probably before 1804). Second edition. London: S. Brown.
46 pages, price: 6 pence. Identical to the first edition.
Available at: National Library of Jamaica

The History of 3 Finger'd Jack. The Terror of Jamaica. Being the History on which is founded the Pantomimical Drama Obi: or Three-Finger'd Jack. Performed with unbounded applause at the Theatre-Royal, Haymarket. To which is added a description of the drama and some of the most favourite songs. Nd. 3d ed. London: S. Brown.
Concludes with a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!”
Available at: National Library of Jamaica

The history and adventures of that famous negro robber, 3 finger'd Jack the terror of Jamaica containing, particulars of his birth--military skill--his being appointed commander in chief of the forces of the King of Kaarta, in Africa--great battles--his astonishing valour and success--when sent to conclude a peace was treacherously seized - sold to the captain of an English slave ship - taken to Jamaica, where he was sold to a planter; His astonishing fortitude under Slavery--procures an Obi (a charm or system of witchcraft) excites and heads an insurrection among the blacks - are defeated - Jack retires to the Blue Mountains, from whence he bid defiance, during the years 1780 and 1781, to the civil and military powers of Jamaica, though alone, and unaided by associate or accomplice--Several exploits while in the Blue Mountains - loves of Orford and Rosa - proclamations, offering a reward for apprehending Jack - his death, &c. 1804. Stirling: C. Randall.
24 pages. Text seems to be derived from the S. Brown editions (above), considerably abridged, and without the description of the pantomime action. Final paragraph includes the denunciation of the slave trade as “the worst of all traffic.”
Available at: Bodleian Library, Oxford University

The History and Adventures Of that Famous Negro Robber, 3 Finger'd Jack, The Terror of Jamaica. Containing, Particulars of his Birth--Military Skill--His being appointed Commander in Chief of the Forces of the King of Kaarta, in Africa--great Battles--his astonishing Valour and Success--When sent to conclude a Peace was treacherously seized - sold to the captain of an English Slave Ship - taken to Jamaica, where he was sold to a Planter. His astonishing Fortitude under Slavery--procures an Obi (a Charm or system of Witchcraft) excites and heads an insurrection among the Blacks - are defeated - Jack retires to the Blue Mountains, from whence he bid Defiance, during the years 1780 and 1781, to the Civil and Military Powers of Jamaica, tho’ alone, and unaided by Associate or Accomplice--Several Exploits in the Blue Mountains - Loves of Orford and Rosa – Dreadful Battle--His Death, &c. 1806. Stirling: C. Randall.
24 pages. Almost identical to the 1804 edition published by C. Randall, immediately above.

The History and Adventures of that Famous Negro Robber, 3 Finger’d Jack, the Terror of Jamaica. 1822. Falkirk: T. Johnston.
24 pages. Very similar to the 1804 Stirling edition, above, including the final paragraph denouncing the African Slave Trade. In the British Library edition, the final pages (23 and 24) are incorrectly bound with the subsequent item.
Available at: British Library

The History & adventures of Obi; or, Three-fingered Jack, the famous Negro robber. 1837. Newcastle upon Tyne: W. & T. Fordyce, printers, Dean Street, Newcastle. To be had also at No. 43, Myton Gate, Hull.
24 pages; illustrations on title page and page 24. According to Oxford University online library catalogue, publishers' dates are derived from C. J. Hunt, C. J., The book trade in Northumberland and Durham to 1860 (1975)
This edition opens with a reference to “Amri, the mother of Mansong, or Three-Fingered Jack,” using the name of Jack’s mother in the Earle novel. It then continues using text from Burdett. This is the only example I’ve found of an edition which mixes elements of the Burdett and Earle texts. Concludes with a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!”
Available at: Bodleian Library, Oxford University; National Library of Jamaica

The History and Adventures of Obi; or, Three-Fingered Jack. 1840. Glasgow: J. Lumsden.
Date from information on National Library of Scotland catalogue.
26 pages
Small edition (12 cm), including coloured illustrations. Title page includes the text: 'Lumsden & Son's improved edition of coloured twopenny books embellished with numerous engravings'
Available at: National Library of Scotland

The Famous Negro Robber, and Terror of Jamaica, or The History and Adventures of Jack Mansong. 1850. Glasgow.
24 pages
Begins ‘This daring marauder’
Unlike many of the pamphlet editions that follow Burdett, this does not end with criticism of the slave trade. Instead it ends by noting that Jack’s “head and three-fingered hand are now preserved in spirits for the satisfaction of the curious."
Available at: Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Frost, Thomas. 1851. Obi; or, Three-fingered Jack; a romance. London: E. Lloyd.
406 pages, 167 chapters, each page printed in two columns, with many black-and-white illustrations.
This long melodramatic novel uses the Jamaican elements of Burdett’s plot in combination with aspects of Earle’s novel and additional new elements including many characters who do not appear in any other version of Three-Fingered Jack. Jack’s parents are Amri and Makro from near the Gambia river, and the story of how they arrived in Jamaica is taken from Earle. Jack escapes from the plantation on which he lives, which is owned by the evil Mr Morton, and captures Captain Harrop, who lives on a plantation elsewhere in Jamaica. Jack later captures the Rosa Selby and Captain Orford, whose escape from his cave is modeled on Rosa’s escape in Burdett’s novel, although their relationship later ends. Quashee and Sam are ultimately responsible for Jack’s death, which they undertake in pursuit of their own freedom. Among the many additional characters are Jack’s light-skinned lover Cora, who escapes early in the novel and is killed by bloodhounds accompanying Orford in his pursuit of Jack; Julia Davidson, a quadroon slave woman who early in the novel kills the planter Mr Morton and who is in love with Arthur Morton, Mr Morton’s heroic nephew. Arthur does not love Julia, but takes the blame for her crime until she confesses. He later marries Rosa.
Available at: British Library

Obi, or Three fingered Jack. (Sir Richard Whittington.). 1861. London: J. Bysh.
12 pages, 12o.
Concludes with a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!” The Three fingered Jack story is on pages 1-9; pages 9-12 are a version of the story of ‘Richard Whittington’.
The same text as the other J. Bysh edition, published in 1870.
Available at: British Library

Obi, or, Three Fingered Jack. nd [between 1850 and 1870]. London: J. Bysh. (Date from Bodleian catalogue)
12 pages, 19 cm.
The same text as the 1861 J. Bysh edition.
Available at: British Library; Bodleian Library, Oxford University; National Library of Jamaica

The History and Adventures of Jack Mansong, the Famous Negro Robber, and Terror of Jamaica. nd. Lancaster: C. Clark.
Includes on the last page the famous Wedgewood antislavery “Am I not a man and a brother” motif. Concludes with a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!”
Identical text to the Otley edition (immediately following), but with different font size leading to different pagination, and different title page.
Available at: National Library of Jamaica

The History and Adventures of Jack Mansong, the Famous Negro Robber and Terror of Jamaica. nd. Otley: William Walker.
24 pages.
Identical text to the Lancaster edition (immediately above), but with different font size leading to different pagination, and different title page.
Available at: National Library of Jamaica; Library of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

The History and Adventures, of Obi; or Three Fingered Jack. nd. London: J. L. Marks.
Concludes with a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!” Title page headed: ‘Marks’s edition’
23 pages. Three-Fingered Jack takes up pages 1-18, followed by ‘The Battle of Chevy Chace’, about the Northumberland Percy family, pp. 19-23.
Available at: National Library of Jamaica

The History and Adventures of Obi; or, Three-Fingered Jack. To Which is added, Prince Fatal and Prince Fortune. Embellished with Neat Wood-engravings. nd. Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd.
31 pages. Size: about 2 x 4 inches; part of a series of "Juvenile Books."
Price: 2 pence
Concludes with a paragraph condemning “the worst of all traffics—the AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE!”
Available at: National Library of Jamaica; National Library of Scotland

'Obi'. Image reproduced courtesy of The Trustees of the National Library of Scotland

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