A unique relic of the Age of Piracy will be on display at the venue of the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Oakland, California, on February 6th and 7th, 2015, at the Oakland City Center Marriott Hotel. The 17th century stoneware pitcher with “ostrich egg finish,” given by the notorious pirate Captain William Kidd to the “proprietor” of Gardiner’s Island, off Long Island, New York, is destined for the auction block, to be sold by PBA Galleries the morning of Sunday, February 8th. The pre-sale estimate is $80,000 to 120,000.
In the summer of 1699 William Kidd, Scottish-born seaman, known privateer, suspected pirate, was safe in New York harbor, just returned from an adventurous, and evidently quite profitable, venture in the East Indies. Some treasure he had stashed on Caribbean Islands, some he and his men had spent on wine and women, and some he retained on board ship. His swashbuckling ways, however, had ruffled not a few feathers, and he was sought on charges of piracy. A financial backer in Boston, coerced by fear of his own prosecution, had promised Kidd clemency if he would come to that city and surrender to authorities. Thus lured, Kidd embarked for Beantown, but stopped on his way at little Gardiner’s Island, owned by John Gardiner. There he befriended Gardiner, giving him several gifts, and also a task, to safeguard “several bales and boxes containing gold, silver, jewels and cloth of various sorts.” These he left, to be retrieved when his good name was finally cleared. Among the gifts Kidd gave to Gardiner and his wife was some “gold cloth,” and the unassuming, utilitarian pitcher, filled with dried fruits for the Gardiner children.