William Hacke was one of the most prolific manuscript chart makers for his time. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Hacke produced over 300 navigational charts from 1682 to 1702. In this post I will briefly discuss his career and his role in the pardon of the notorious pirate Bartholomew Sharp.
William Hacke was born in Winchester, England. In 1671, he was apprenticed for nine years at the Thames School. The Thames School was a generic name for several places along the Thames River in East London where students of cartography learned to make navigational charts. William Hacke created detailed manuscript charts which covered extensive areas of coastlines.
William Hacke is known for his association with the British buccaneer Captain Bartholomew Sharp. Buccaneers acted as legalized pirates who were licensed by the British Crown to attack ships during wartime. Captain Sharp led attacks on Dutch ships while he served as a commander during the Third Anglo-Dutch War. Captain Sharp continued his pirating activities after the war ended in 1674. He participated in raids on Spanish ships in the Caribbean and on the Pacific Coast of South America. The buccaneers attacked Panama City and stole a Spanish galleon named Trinidad, which they renamed the Trinity. The attacks were illegal because they occurred from 1675 to 1682 when England was not at war with Spain. Spanish officials demanded that Sharp be prosecuted for his crimes. Captain Sharp returned to England and was immediately arrested for piracy. He was brought to the High Court of Admiralty, which had jurisdiction for any crimes involving British ships at sea. Captain Sharp, and fellow pirates John Cox and William Dick, were indicted for stealing valuables from ships named El Santo Pedro and El Santo Rosario, murdering the captain of the El Santo Rosario and stealing the Trinity.
Below is an illustration of the buccaneers’ attack on Panama City.
During one of the raids Captain Sharp seized a Spanish book of charts from the ship El Santo Rosario. In 1682 William Hacke was secretly commissioned by British government officials to translate and reproduce the book of charts that was stolen by Bartholomew Sharp. Mr. Hacke produced an elaborate presentation copy for King Charles II. King Charles granted Bartholomew Sharp, John Cox, and William Dick full pardons for their crimes, due to lack of evidence. Historians believe that the pardons were granted because of the value of the stolen book to British mariners and because of the impressive presentation copy that William Hacke created for the King.
William Hacke produced multiple copies of manuscript charts of the coastlines of South America. Many of them were derived from the book of maps that was stolen by Bartholomew Sharp. The atlases created by Hacke were known as the South Sea Waggoners.
William Hacke also produced atlases of the coastlines of Africa and Asia; one of them is held in the Geography and Map Division. It is titled A description of the sea coasts … in the East Indies. Featured below are images of selected charts from the atlas. The atlas has been digitized and may be viewed in its entirety here.
William Hacke used pen, ink and watercolor to create distinctive, highly stylized manuscript charts. The charts included information about anchorages, distances and the navigation of rivers, which would have been very valuable to British buccaneers. It is fortunate that an original atlas drawn by William Hacke is held in the collections of the Geography and Map Division.