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Dear Readers,

It took many sailors to man a pirate ship.

In the Golden Age of Pirates (approximately 1650–1726 AD), a pirate crew consisted principally of a captain, his first mate, and a quartermaster. The captain was the director of all affairs, his first mate the second in command. The quartermaster worked as liaison between captain and crew, enforcing discipline for those who broke the code, and, when necessary, officiating mutinous votes against the captain.

A crew of three could hardly man a square rigged sailing ship, though. Captain “Calico Jack” Rackam had a crew of fourteen, whereas Blackbeard boasted a crew of three hundred. Whether small or large in numbers, a crew always needed a cook, a gunner, a navigator, a carpenter, and a bosun. The common sailor was the least prestigious position on a crew, though no less important than the others. Trained to climb multiple–storied masts in both sunshine and storm, sailors were essential in minding the sails, which functioned as the engine of the ship.

I hope I haven’t lost you, readers. I am aware that this is the editor’s note of a literary journal, not a historical encyclopedia of pirates. But pirates and our literary journal have more in common than you may think. The definitions of the word “masthead,” after all, apply only to these three subjects:

1. Also called flag. A statement printed in all issues of a newspaper, magazine, or the like, usually on the editorial page, giving the publication’s name, the names of the owner and staff, etc.

2. Also called nameplate. A line of type on the front page of a newspaper or the cover of a periodical giving the name of the

3. Nautical.
            a. the head of a mast.
            b. the uppermost point of a mast. (, 2023)

Across decades, pirates were unified by the notorious Jolly Roger ensign that flew from the uppermost point of their masts (definition three). Staff at our journal are unified by the title Inscape, a name representing our 40+ years of curating peculiar art and literature (definition two). Every member of a pirate crew was essential to its survival, they could not function with a captain, a first mate, and a quartermaster alone. Likewise, our journal could not survive solely on the backs of myself, my assistant, and our faculty advisor. Inscape hosts a thriving staff 44 members strong (definition one). The quality of our journal is due to the sweat of many sailors.

Our parallels continue. Contrary to the image Robert Louis Stevenson painted for us in Treasure Island, many pirates were not wealthy. Often, pirates chose their plundering lifestyle for the freedom and ample food portions it provided (a sailor pressed into His Majesty’s Navy had a far more brutal existence, one with poor rations and without pay). At Inscape, we boast freedom of thought, and we’re intellectually fed by rich pieces of poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, and visual art.

Pirates are often misunderstood by society, both historically and modernly. Bloody, merciless depictions of pirates run rampant in pop culture. While some pirates deserve this infamy—Henry Avery is one of them—many pirates, like Sam Bellamy and Blackbeard, abhorred bloodshed. Most just wanted to get out from under the monarchy’s thumb and earn a living that kept their families fed and clothed. At Inscape journal, we toil on a work that society often misunderstands, too. Now, more than ever, our culture is turning away from the written word. At Inscape journal, we still believe in and fight for it.

Now, you may be ill at ease with the fact that I’ve made a comparison of this literary journal to a pack of historic criminals. Fair point. I am aware—and grateful!—that our staff doesn’t “pillage and plunder and really bad eggs” (Bruns and Atencio, 1967). (In fact, you won’t find a more upstanding group than our staff.) But our journal is obsessed with treasure, for we esteem quality literature and visual art as such. And all pirates—even if their first priority was freedom and food—lusted after treasure. This is what gives Inscape journal and pirates an inseparable connection.

Welcome to the good ship Inscape. I sincerely hope you enjoy the peculiar work you find within our waters.

Mikayla Johnson

Sources Cited
Bruns, George and Atencio, Xavier. “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life).” Disneyland Theme Parks. Disney, 1967.
“Masthead.”, DICTIONARY.COM UNABRIDGED, 2023, pp. 1.