BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Yo-ho-ho ...

This title may seem vaguely familiar to those of you who read this over in my personal blog, where I'd posted a few weeks back a piece musing about how cool it would be if Disney and CBS would make a connection between Pirates of the Caribbean's “Mr. Gibbs” and NCIS's Leroy Jethro Gibbs. When poking around online, I'd discovered a book, The Pirates' Code Guidelines: A Booke for Those Who Desire to Keep to the Code and Live a Pirate's Life, credited to PotC's Joshamee Gibbs … and I thought that would be a great plot point to link the two characters. Of course, once I discovered that the book was out there, I had to snag a copy, and it worked its way into my reading pile as a bit of light diversion.

Obviously, this is a promotional effort for the PotC franchise, but it is also a fairly interesting read. I went a-Googling a bit to see how much this might have been based on information from National Geographic's traveling museum show, Real Pirates, which had come through Chicago (at the Field Museum) back in 2009. This came up due to some of the info in the book being nearly identical to my recall of parts of that exhibit. The exhibit began its US tour in 2007, which is the same year the book came out, so there might have been some borrowing there – or perhaps both were mining the same research sources!

I've looked at a couple of other books “based on” other media in the past, but I think this is the first time I've picked up something that I was reasonably well-versed on the source material (having seen all the PotC movies). I don't know if that's a plus or a minus here, however.

The pretense of the book is that the Black Pearl's First Mate, Joshamee (Mr.) Gibbs had, later in life, published a book about the Pirate's Code … and that the paperback edition was a facsimile of that “long lost” book … found, of all places, in a sealed chest in the wreckage of the Titanic. Not only was this a copy of the long-rumored book on the Code, but Gibbs' own personal copy, with amendments and additions (such as letters from associates such as Capt. Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann), notes scrawled in the margins, various bits and pieces of info taped in like a scrapbook, and even the change in the title from Code to Guidelines (as noted by Capt. Barbossa in one of the movies).

The book is full of art … some of it basic and informative (illustrations of various knots, diagrams of the various sorts of sails, things showing how sails are places for running in relation to the wind, the various parts of a flintlock pistol, etc.) but the vast majority related to the movies, especially to At World's End which was coming out in 2007. Fans of the series will probably appreciate the art illustrating various characters (like the members of the Brethren Court), or specific elements of the films (such as Tia Dalma's fortune-telling crab claws), and illustrations of key scenes.

The text, likewise, varies between “scholarly” material related to pirates and their ships, and stuff that's purely from the story lines. There's a piece on sword fighting “by Will Turner”, and instructions for playing “Liar's Dice”, but most of the book is more concerned with how the ship was kept, how booty was divided, how they navigated, and quite a lot of detail on things like weaponry, sails, knots, etc.

As noted, The Pirates' Code Guidelines reads like it could have been an accompanying volume for the Real Pirates exhibit, as much of the info is similar (if not identical) to what was presented in that. It helps, obviously, if one is familiar with the Pirates of the Caribbean films, as that would give the reader context for the non-scholarly bits. Overall, I felt that the Disney team that produced this did a very reasonable job of straddling the line between making a “real” pirates book and marketing ephemera for the movies. Your mileage, of course, may vary, since I've got both the films and the museum exhibit to refer to, and this might not seem quite so balanced (I could even see it being an irritation if one didn't know the movie side of the equation) to somebody not versed in either or both of those.

This has been out for a number of years, and appears to be out of print … although a lot of copies are available via the used channels. I got my “like new” copy for 1¢ (plus $3.99 shipping), and there are still copies like that out there if this sounds like something you'd want to check out. Again, there is a lot of good-quality info in this for the history buffs, but it's also a nice “other look” at the PotC world. It might not be “for everybody”, but could be a nice addition to a fan's library.

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Tags: book review
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