This remarkable description of Jamaica in the 1680s was written by a contemporary English observer, John Taylor, who spent some months on the island. The 800-page manuscript is held by the National Library of Jamaica, and has rarely been used by scholars. It contains information about Jamaica under the Spaniards, about the English invasion of 1655, and about the formation of the subsequent society, including the treatment of slaves. There are sections on the island’s settlement and architecture, including a particularly full description of Port Royal. John Taylor sets out fifty current laws, many of them unknown. He also carefully explains the nature of Jamaica’s birds, beasts and plants.
He offers an image of the island before the general spread of sugar cultivation, citing some creatures now extinct in Jamaica; he also makes many suggestions about the medical use of natural products. His world is still one in which certain places are enchanted, though he also describes an island whose main features will be entirely familiar to modern Jamaicans. Buisseret’s edition provides an annotation both for the meaning of particular words and for the significance of the discourse. A glossary provides further meanings and notes have been written to appeal to the general reader. The text will be useful to generations of scholars and students or to anyone with an interest in Jamaica and its colourful history.
Co-published in association with the National Library of Jamaica and the Mill Press, Limited.
“Primary sources on English Jamaica in the seventeenth century are extremely rare, especially ones reproduced in print. The University of the West Indies Press has performed a significant service in making public one of the most important sources for early Jamaican history – John Taylor’s manuscript describing his travels to and residency in Jamaica from 1686 to 1688. . . . Taylor wrote for his fellow Englishmen back home, and his interests ranged widely from travel information to politics, geography, agriculture, labor, health, piracy, and history. For Taylor, Jamaica constituted an exotic world, and his manuscript contained topics that he hoped would amaze as well as inform. . . . Readers will find this edited work to be handsomely printed and full of subjects that constitute the heart of later island history. Highly recommended.”
– A. Lewis, Western Carolina University, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March