Jamaica in 1687: The Taylor Manuscript at the National Library of Jamaica
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.
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