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Three-Fingered Jack

Histories of Three-Fingered Jack: A Bibliography
by Diana Paton

Three-fingered Jack is a legendary figure in Jamaica. His story was based on the life of a real person, a man who escaped from slavery some time before 1780, became the leader of a group of maroons in the Blue Mountain region of that island, and was eventually captured and killed. His story was first introduced to the British public by Dr Benjamin Moseley, in his A Treatise on Sugar. It became a hit pantomime, opening in 1800 at London’s Haymarket Theatre, and playing there and in regional theatres for several years after. Two rather different novels, by William Burdett and William Earle, Jr., respectively, were also published in 1800, each also telling Three-Fingered Jack’s story. In 1830, a melodrama version of the pantomime was performed.

This series of web pages attempts to provide a comprehensive bibliography of published accounts of the Three Fingered Jack story, organized according to whether they follow Moseley, Burdett, Earle, the pantomime, or the melodrama. A few more recent versions are in the Miscellaneous and Twentieth-Century list.

Each entry in the bibliography gives basic publication information. Some entries are briefly annotated. I have also listed the libraries in Britain and Jamaica where, to the best of my knowledge, the editions are available. I have not attempted to include information about library availability in other countries.

No bibliography of this kind is likely to be complete. You are welcome to send corrections, additions or comments to Diana.Paton@ed.ac.uk. I will endeavour to update the pages fairly regularly, but can’t promise to do so immediately.

About Diana Paton:

I am a historian of the Caribbean, at the University of Edinburgh, with a particular interest in Jamaica. I have researched the emancipation period, leading to my publications:

I am currently working on a project on the cultural and political history of obeah, which is how I got interested in Three-Fingered Jack. For my analysis of the texts listed in these pages, see my article ‘The Afterlives of Three-Fingered Jack’ published in Slavery and the Cultures of Abolition: Essays Marking the Bicentennial of the British Abolition Act of 1807, ed. Brycchan Carey and Peter Kitson (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2007), pp. 42-63.

All images in the Three-fingered Jack archive courtesy the National Library of Scotland.