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Histories of Three-Fingered Jack: A Bibliography
William Earle, Obi: or, the History of Three-Fingered Jack, and accounts deriving from Earle.


This page lists all the editions of William Earle’s text that I have located, followed by the shorter versions which drew their text from him. Perhaps because it was not connected with the pantomime, Earle’s version was not reprinted or republished nearly as frequently as was Burdett’s.

Earle’s epistolary novel opens in Africa and focuses on Jack’s parents, Amri and Makro, who befriend and are then betrayed by a shipwrecked white slave trader, Captain Harrop. Much of the novel is taken up with Amri’s narration of this experience to her son, Jack, in Jamaica. As a result of learning about Harrop’s treatment of his parents, Jack vows to take revenge.

1. Editions of Earle’s Novel

Earle, William. 1800. Obi: or, The history of three-fingered Jack: in a series of letters from a resident in Jamaica to his friend in England. London: Earle and Hemet.
232 pages
Available at: Cambridge University Library; Institute for Commonwealth Studies, University of London; National Library of Jamaica; Eighteenth Century Collections Online; National Art Library (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Earle, William. 1804. Obi; or, the History of Three-fingered Jack, in a series of Letters from a Resident in Jamaica to his friend in England. Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, Jr.
168 pages
Available at: Early American imprints (microfiche); National Library of Jamaica.

Earle, William. 2005. Obi or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack. Edited by Srinivas Aravamudan. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview.
Includes an introduction by Aravamudan and a range of other primary sources, including the relevant extract from Benjamin Moseley’s History of Sugar.
Based on the 1800 edition.
Click here for more information or to buy from Amazon

Earle, William. 1999. 'The History of Three-Fingered Jack'. In Peter J. Kitson and Debbie Lee, ed, Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period, volume 6: Fiction, ed. Srinivas Aravamudan. London: Pickering and Chatto. Pages 271-292, with introductory note pp. 269-270.
This is much shorter than the other editions, and does not make use of the epistolary form. The facsimile does not list an author, but I have followed Srinivas Aravamudan in attributing this directly to Earle. According to Aravamudan’s introductory note, this is a facsimile of “Falkirk’s 1822 edition.” However, the text is very different to The History and Adventures of that Famous Negro Robber, 3 Finger’d Jack, the Terror of Jamaica. 1822. Falkirk: T. Johnston. I have not been able to locate an alternative source.

2. Anonymously published pamphlets which use part of Earle’s text. Those with dates are listed first in date order, followed by undated editions, given alphabetically by title.

Fairburn's Edition of the Wonderful Life and Adventures of Three Fingered Jack, the Terror of Jamaica! Giving an Account of his persvering Courage and gallant Heroism in revenging the Cause of his Injured Parents: with an account of his desperate Conflict with Quashee! Who, after many Attempts, at last overcomes him, and takes his Head and Hand to Jamaica, and receives a large Reward for destroying him. Embellished with Four Coloured Engravings. 1829. London: J. Fairburn.
24 pages. Price: 6d. Small size.
The actual pamphlets are undated, but date is given by Joseph John Williams, Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica (New York: Dial Press, 1934), who describes it as “a melodramatic piece of fiction of no historical value whatever.”
Includes crude coloured engravings entitled: Jack receiving Obi, Jack escaping from Prison, Jack conquered by Quashee and Sam, Captain Harrop starved to death in Jack's cave.
Available at: British Library; National Library of Jamaica; Bodleian Library, Oxford University

The Wonderful Life and Adventures of Three-Fingered Jack, the Terror of Jamaica! Giving an Account of his persevering Courage and gallant Heroism, in revenging the Cause of his Injured Parents; with an account of his desperate conflict with Quashee! Who, after many attempts, at last overcomes him, and takes his Head and Hand to Jamaica, and receives a large Reward for destroying him. 1829. London: T&J Allman.
Available at: Library of the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

The Life and Adventures of three Fingered Jack, the terror of Jamaica. nd. London: Orlando Hodgson.
The text of this edition is the same as that of Fairburn’s 1829 edition.
Available at: British Library; National Library of Jamaica

Three-Fingered Jack. The Young Gentleman's Library; or Treasury of Entertainment With coloured plates and gilt edges. n.d. London: Orlando Hodgson.
14 pages. Price: One penny. Very small edition, about 2 by 4 inches.
The cover has a colour picture of Jack.
The text focuses on the African side of the story: on Amri and Makro and their relationship with the villain Captain Harrop. Jack does not appear until page 12. The plot ends with Jack killing Harrop; his escape and life in the mountains is hardly discussed. Very unusually, Jack does not die at the end of this version.
Available at: National Library of Scotland

'A scene from Obi, or Three-Fingered Jack'. Image reproduced courtesy of The Trustees of the National Library of Scotland

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