Jack London

Jack London, "The Cruise of the Snark" Annotated Manuscript and Signed Check

Jack London, The Cruise of the Snark annotated manuscript and signed check


Lot consists of 3pp 1st revision typed manuscript of The Cruise of the Snark with 30+ handwritten edits/words in Jack London's hand; along with a signed check dating from the era of the Snark's construction.


In the spring of 1907, Jack London (1876-1916), along with his wife Charmian (1871-1955) and a small crew, set out for a modern maritime adventure aboard the Snark, their 45' long custom built sailboat. Over the next 2 years, the Londons would sail west and south across the Pacific Ocean, exploring Hawaii, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tahiti, Australia, and other tropical locales. London later recounted his travel experiences in a non-fiction illustrated account called The Cruise of the Snark, published by The Macmillan Company in New York in 1911.


These typed manuscript galleys correspond to pages 272-278 of London's final 1st edition of The Cruise of the Snark. This excerpt, from Chapter XV: "Cruising in the Solomons," dramatically describes some of the dangers of South Pacific travel; threats included tropical fevers, "Solomon sores" or topical ulcers, and bushmen pirates. The Londons were then traveling aboard an Australian yacht named the Minota.


The galley proofs are oversized, measuring 9.25" x 12" on average overall, and have generously sized margins to accommodate handwritten author's edits. The pages are in near fine condition with expected wear including paper folds and isolated light soiling. The manuscripts dates circa spring 1911.


London's edits throughout the manuscript are in pencil and blue pen. London has made "Johnny" possessive and replaced "you" with "one" on the first page. On page two, London noted a spelling error to the word "trapse" and wrote "OK" over a crossed-out annotation in red. Interestingly, neither London nor the publisher caught a spelling error located in the same paragraph, where "happened" was spelled "happed." (This had been corrected by the time the book was published.) London underlined the words "midnight" and "midway" on the last page, writing "do not Italicize" in the margin. Throughout, London has drawn arrows pointing to text blocks where he wished corresponding illustrations to appear. Other possibly publisher's edits in red are found throughout. London hand-inscribed captions to 2 remarkable black and white photographs that would become Illustration 93, "The Island of Langa Langa, built up from the sea by the Salt-water men," and Illustration 94, "A Salt-water fastness." 


The manuscript pages correspond to the following published text found in The Cruise of the Snark. Areas affected by London's edits are in bold.


"The drowning of the baby had come about through a misunderstanding.  Chief Johnny, of Binu, had declined to guide the landing party into the bush, nor could any of his men be induced to perform that office.  Whereupon Captain Lewes, righteously indignant, had told Chief Johnny that he deserved to have his village burned.  Johnny’s bêche de mer English did not include the word “deserve.”  So his understanding of it was that his village was to be burned anyway.  The immediate stampede of the inhabitants was so hurried that the baby was dropped into the water.  In the meantime Chief Johnny hastened to Mr. Abbot.  Into his hand he put fourteen sovereigns and requested him to go on board the Cambrian and buy Captain Lewes off.  Johnny’s village was not burned.  Nor did Captain Lewes get the fourteen sovereigns, for I saw them later in Johnny’s possession when he boarded the Minota.  The excuse Johnny gave me for not guiding the landing party was a big boil which he proudly revealed.  His real reason, however, and a perfectly valid one, though he did not state it, was fear of revenge on the part of the bushmen.  Had he, or any of his men, guided the marines, he could have looked for bloody reprisals as soon as the Cambrian weighed anchor.

As an illustration of conditions in the Solomons, Johnny’s business on board was to turn over, for a tobacco consideration, the sprit, mainsail, and jib of a whale-boat.  Later in the day, a Chief Billy came on board and turned over, for a tobacco consideration, the mast and boom.  This gear belonged to a whale-boat which Captain Jansen had recovered the previous trip of the Minota.  The whale-boat belonged to Meringe Plantation on the island of Ysabel.  Eleven contract laborers, Malaita men and bushmen at that, had decided to run away.  Being bushmen, they knew nothing of salt water nor of the way of a boat in the sea.  So they persuaded two natives of San Cristoval, salt-water men, to run away with them.  It served the San Cristoval men right.  They should have known better.  When they had safely navigated the stolen boat to Malaita, they had their heads hacked off for their pains.  It was this boat and gear that Captain Jansen had recovered.

Not for nothing have I journeyed all the way to the Solomons.  At last I have seen Charmian’s proud spirit humbled and her imperious queendom of femininity dragged in the dust.  It happened at Langa Langa, ashore, on the manufactured island which one cannot see for the houses.  Here, surrounded by hundreds of unblushing naked men, women, and children, we wandered about and saw the sights.  We had our revolvers strapped on, and the boat’s crew, fully armed, lay at the oars, stern in; but the lesson of the man-of-war was too recent for us to apprehend trouble.  We walked about everywhere and saw everything until at last we approached a large tree trunk that served as a bridge across a shallow estuary.  The blacks formed a wall in front of us and refused to let us pass.  We wanted to know why we were stopped.  The blacks said we could go on.  We misunderstood, and started.  Explanations became more definite.  Captain Jansen and I, being men, could go on.  But no Mary was allowed to wade around that bridge, much less cross it.  “Mary” is bêche de mer for woman.  Charmian was a Mary.  To her the bridge was tambo, which is the native for taboo.  Ah, how my chest expanded!  At last my manhood was vindicated.  In truth I belonged to the lordly sex.  Charmian could trapse along at our heels, but we were MEN, and we could go right over that bridge while she would have to go around by whale-boat.

Now I should not care to be misunderstood by what follows; but it is a matter of common knowledge in the Solomons that attacks of fever are often brought on by shock.  Inside half an hour after Charmian had been refused the right of way, she was being rushed aboard the Minota, packed in blankets, and dosed with quinine.  I don’t know what kind of shock had happened to Wada and Nakata, but at any rate they were down with fever as well.  The Solomons might be healthfuller.

Also, during the attack of fever, Charmian developed a Solomon sore.  It was the last straw.  Every one on the Snark had been afflicted except her.  I had thought that I was going to lose my foot at the ankle by one exceptionally malignant boring ulcer.  Henry and Tehei, the Tahitian sailors, had had numbers of them.  Wada had been able to count his by the score.  Nakata had had single ones three inches in length.  Martin had been quite certain that necrosis of his shinbone had set in from the roots of the amazing colony he elected to cultivate in that locality.  But Charmian had escaped.  Out of her long immunity had been bred contempt for the rest of us.  Her ego was flattered to such an extent that one day she shyly informed me that it was all a matter of pureness of blood.  Since all the rest of us cultivated the sores, and since she did not—well, anyway, hers was the size of a silver dollar, and the pureness of her blood enabled her to cure it after several weeks of strenuous nursing.  She pins her faith to corrosive sublimate.  Martin swears by iodoform.  Henry uses lime-juice undiluted.  And I believe that when corrosive sublimate is slow in taking hold, alternate dressings of peroxide of hydrogen are just the thing.  There are white men in the Solomons who stake all upon boracic acid, and others who are prejudiced in favor of lysol.  I also have the weakness of a panacea.  It is California.  I defy any man to get a Solomon Island sore in California.

We ran down the lagoon from Langa Langa, between mangrove swamps, through passages scarcely wider than the Minota, and past the reef villages of Kaloka and Auki.  Like the founders of Venice, these salt-water men were originally refugees from the mainland.  Too weak to hold their own in the bush, survivors of village massacres, they fled to the sand-banks of the lagoon.  These sand-banks they built up into islands.  They were compelled to seek their provender from the sea, and in time they became salt-water men.  They learned the ways of the fish and the shellfish, and they invented hooks and lines, nets and fish-traps.  They developed canoe-bodies.  Unable to walk about, spending all their time in the canoes, they became thick-armed and broad-shouldered, with narrow waists and frail spindly legs.  Controlling the sea-coast, they became wealthy, trade with the interior passing largely through their hands.  But perpetual enmity exists between them and the bushmen.  Practically their only truces are on market-days, which occur at stated intervals, usually twice a week.  The bushwomen and the salt-water women do the bartering.  Back in the bush, a hundred yards away, fully armed, lurk the bushmen, while to seaward, in the canoes, are the salt-water men.  There are very rare instances of the market-day truces being broken.  The bushmen like their fish too well, while the salt-water men have an organic craving for the vegetables they cannot grow on their crowded islets.

Thirty miles from Langa Langa brought us to the passage between Bassakanna Island and the mainland.  Here, at nightfall, the wind left us, and all night, with the whale-boat towing ahead and the crew on board sweating at the sweeps, we strove to win through.  But the tide was against us.  At midnight, midway in the passage, we came up with the Eugenie, a big recruiting schooner, towing with two whale-boats.  Her skipper, Captain Keller, a sturdy young German of twenty-two, came on board for a “gam,” and the latest news of Malaita was swapped back and forth.  He had been in luck, having gathered in twenty recruits at the village of Fiu.  While lying there, one of the customary courageous killings had taken place.  The murdered boy was what is called a salt-water bushman—that is, a salt-water man who is half bushman and who lives by the sea but does not live on an islet.  Three bushmen came down to this man--".



In addition to the hand-corrected manuscript is an unnumbered check inscribed overall and signed “Jack London” on the payee line. Issued from the Central Bank of Oakland, California on June 27, 1905 in the amount of $4.00 payable to “Warner Motor Co.” The plain cream check is stamped in blue, maroon, and purple recto and verso, and has a rounded cancellation mark at center. In near fine condition, with expected folds and wrinkles. Check measures 6.5" x 2.875".


Warner Motor Company was a manufacturer of light industrial power tools, like its "Little Wonder" and Hydrogiant" products. Its factory was located in Northampton, Massachusetts while company headquarters, supervised by President Draper C. Bartlett, were located in New York City.


In 1905, London purchased his first ranch on Mount Sonoma in Glen Ellen, California called Beauty Ranch, or the Ranch of Good Intentions. (Today, the ranch, along with London's 1911 Wolf House ruins, are part of Jack London State Historic Park.) This check to an east coast manufacturer could have been a ranch-related expense.


Jack London grew up in Oakland, California. He attended elementary school through high school there, and studied at a local waterfront bar named Heinold's First and Last Saloon; the proprietor later lent him tuition money to Berkeley.



Jack London wrote dozens of poems, short stories, essays, and novels over a prolific career curtailed by chronic ill-health. With income generated from adventure classics like Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), London was able to purchase a ranch and outfit the Snark.



Item: 64535

Price: $1,500.00
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Jack London
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