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SAR Genealogical Research Library Receives Rare Book



The NSSAR is pleased to report that the SAR Genealogical Research Library has received an exciting new addition to its special collections.The gift, a book entitled Révolution de l’Amérique by M. l’Abbé Raynal, is a history of the American Revolution written entirely in French!

This copy of the book, published in 1781, is in beautiful, near perfect, condition with an unbroken binding and little to no wear on its scarlet leather cover. The book itself is relatively small, only 131 pages, with three sketches. The first is placed just before Raynal begins the history and depicts a cherub seated on a cloud, holding a harp. The last sketch on the final page of the book is a laurel wreath decorated with a horn instrument and the caduceus, the popular Greek symbol of two serpents wrapped around a winged staff, with the French word for end, ‘fin’, just below it. Finally, the largest and most detailed of the sketches is a fold out illustration, now in two pieces, presumably because of age and wear, showing a map of the thirteen colonies and a sliver of Louisiana and Canada. Below the illustration is a quotation from the poet James Thomson that reads:

                        Full are thy cities with sons of art;

                        And trade and joy in every busy street,---

                        Yet like the mustering thunder when provok’d,

                        The dread of tyrants, and the sole resource

                        Of those that under grim oppression groan.



Interestingly enough, it is the only text in English throughout the entire book. The quotation is from Thomson’s longer epic poem Summer, which was originally published in 1727 and was revised several times. It is unknown to us which of the editions this quotation was borrowed from.

Although the book is nearly pristine, its most valuable asset is, of course, its content. On the title page the author of the work, M. l’Abbé Raynal is cited to have also written an important history of the eighteenth century called Histoire philosophique et politique des etablissemens, et du commerce des Europeens dans les Deux Indes. Roughly translated this title means “The Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Commerce of the Europeans in the Two Indies.” (The “Two Indies” references the East Indies, and in the eighteenth century, typically referred to India and almost the whole of East and South-East Asia and the other Indies are the West Indies in the Caribbean.) The author was born in 1713 in the French village of Latpanouse de Séverae and grew up in Saint-Geniez, both towns that are located in the south of France. Later, he became an abbé, or priest, but he eventually left the clergy and became a journalist and historian. 

Overall the book is a concise history chronicling the events of the American Revolution with some interestin