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German Baroness Captured during the American Revolution

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490.     RIEDESEL, Friederike Charlotte Luise von (Baroness). Auszüge aus den Briefen und Papieren des Generals Freyherrn von Riedesel und seiner Gamalinn, gebornen von Massow. Ihre beyderseitige Reise nach America und ihren dortigen Aufenthalt betreffend. Zussamengetragen und geordnet von ihrem Schwiegersohne Heinrich dem XLIV. Grafen Reufs. Gedruckte als Manuscript für die Familie. N.p., n.d. [Berlin, 1800]. [2], [1] 2-386 pp. 8vo (19.4 x 13 cm), nineteenth-century brown roan over marbled boards, spine with raised bands and title lettered in gilt, marbled endpapers and edges (neatly rebacked, original spine preserved). Two leaves in latter part of text with a few paper flaws resulting in loss of a few letters in one instance, else fine with interesting provenance. Title with “Dup.” in pencil and early small ink stamp of O. Hessenstein. “Wild” written in ink in gutter margin of two leaves and on Barlow’s bookplate (relating to provenance on printed card at front stating that the book is the bequest of George B. Wild in memory of his brother Robert Wild). Front pastedown with book plate of attorney and bibliophile Samuel Latham Mitchell Barlow (1826-1889). (The Church collection copy, No. 1338, of the 1827 New York edition of the book is also ex-libris Barlow.) A few neat nineteenth-century bibliographical pencil notes on front endpaper, title, and occasionally in text.

     First edition, privately printed for the author’s family (according to Sabin, 260 copies printed, 60 on fine paper), preceding the regular edition printed at Berlin in 1800 and with a different collation, under the title Die Berufs-Reise nach America (Clark refers to the second edition as the “first edition for general circulation”). A reprint of the second edition followed in 1801, a Dutch edition in 1802, and an abridged English translation (New York, 1827), the latter with “numerous passages omitted…to nearly forty pages of the German edition. They were left out because the translator considered them a little indelicate. See North American Review, XXVI, 224” (Sabin 71301). Howes R284 (“b”). Sabin 71299: “The volume was prepared and sent to the press in 1799, but was not finished till after the death of General Riedesel in January, 1800. Most of the letters were written by Madame Riedesel.” Clark, Old South I:295: “Mme. Riedesel’s narrative and descriptions are written with impressive directness and simplicity; there is a quality of genuineness about them that bespeaks her sterling character and the honesty of her record. The section on her life in Virginia is brief but revealing; it seems clear that the German officers were well treated as prisoners by the Americans.”

     Baroness Riedesel’s book is considered one of the most accurate eyewitness accounts of the Burgoyne Campaign. The translator for the 1827 New York edition remarks that the memoirs “are a genuine appendix to American history. They trace national events, and delineate the state of society, in this country, at one of the most momentous epochs. Names that will go down to posterity, with the memory of lofty actions and events of a new, lasting, and far-spreading character, are here brought together by one, who was the friend, the associate, the companion, or, at least, the acquaintance of their bearers; of Washington, Gates, Schuyler, Carleton, Burgoyne, Phillips, and the person the nearest related to the Noble authoress, General Riedesel” (pp. 10-11).

     Baroness Riedesel, thirty-one years of age at the time of the events described in her book, arrived in Canada with three daughters in tow-ages four years, two years, and ten weeks. While on parole in New York City in 1779, another daughter was born, whom she named America. For more on this remarkable lady, see Elizabeth Ellet, et al., Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence (Greenwood Press, 1998, pp. 209 et seq): “Her graphic picture of the war and American society is also an exhibition of female energy, fortitude, and conjugal devotion.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online: “Friederike’s journal and letters provide an almost unique source of information for an important period in the history of Canada and the United States.” Not in Lande or Toronto Public Library.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,200.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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