New Acquired Letter

I was able to acquire a letter written by the Count and I made mention of it in March 2021, but never got around to making a post about it. Thanks to a little help from the facebook group (link) we figured out the first word of the letter, which left me a little stumped - it's a border city so its more German.


Let me walk you through how I go through the process of examining something as simple as a letter.

  • Translate

  • Examine paper

  • Examine handwriting

  • Look into the background of the letter


Below are both sides of the letter. You should be able to click on them for a larger version.

These are written in French.


FRONT

Schlestatt le 17, y lre 1776. Mn. Le Sangrier


Le prends Monsieur, mi interet particulier a Mr Le Comte de Signiville, monParent; et comme jl n’ert encore age que de 16 a 17. Ans, je m’oeuipe alui doimer la meilleure education militaire possible.


Ayant qeicomue beaucoup d’avantage a cellequel’ ou qeioit a Strasbourg, jevous serai infiniment oblige si vousvoulis bien, Monsieur, donner les orders neiessairer. A l’ecoler artillerie, pour que Mr. de Signiville y soit admis atoiettes les Etuder et exercices qui s’y font.


Mr. de Signiville ert ques Garden du Corps Dans ma Compangnie desuis pres dedeupans et a fait soneservice en cette qualite aujoir.


Mr. Le Comte de Saint Germain


BACK

Du Roi.


J’ai l’honneur d’etre avez untris sinure et inviolable attachment, monsieur, votrebien humble ettris obissante erviteu.


Le Pce de Beauvau



Translation


I start with a literal translation before doing a free translation of language. In the picture below, I have the literal translation on the left and the free translation on the right. A literal translation is technically correct, but lacks readability and original meaning. Free translation is an understanding of the meaning of what's being said.


A quick example using Klingon. (I know I'm a nerd.)

"Qab pagh qech 'ach hegh qotlh 'op" - This is a Klingon phrase. A literal translation is "Some deserve bad ideas but die". A free translation is "There are no bad ideas, only ideas deserving death". As you can see, similar but completely different.



What we can gather from this is that this letter was basically a really brief letter of recommendation for a military academy. It even made it to the king.


Examine Paper


The date on the letter is 1776. Is the paper the letter is written on consistent with late-18th century paper? If you're familiar with paper or texts from the 18th century, then you might have an idea of the texture, weight, and color of what to expect.

The secret to 18th century paper is to hold it up to the light. You can see the makers mark and the screen impression left in the paper. Below is an 18th century paper making screen, courtesy of University City of London.

Is the paper legit? Sure is!


Examine Handwriting


This is a letter written by Count St Germain, but is it OUR Count St Germain? There was also Count Claude Louis Robert de Saint-Germain who was a military man. I have some examples of OUR Count's handwriting, as found in Jean Overton-Fuller's book. These are my two go-to handwriting samples that I compare stuff to. Click to enlarge them.


The first thing that I notice is the lack of uniformity in these known letters by the Count, compared to the newly acquired letter. Could that be explained away? Perhaps looking deeper at the handwriting will prove to be useful.

I pulled some similar points from the letters, except for the back side of the new letter since that was written by Prince de Beauvau.

As far as I can tell, the new letter was written by someone else - not OUR Count.



Background of Letter


Let's pull the names from the letter and identify them.

  • Monsieur le Sangrier (initial letter recipient)

  • Count de Signiville (student being recommended in letter)

  • Monsieur le Comte de Saintgermain (author of letter)

  • Roi (aka The King)

  • Prince Beauvau (Prince Charles Juste Beauvau - sent letter to King)

We know who the king is - Louis XVI. Prince Charles Juste Beauvau, in 1776, was a knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit - which was the highest honor before the French Revolution (1789). A brief historical check shows that Prince Beauvau had some close ties with the Académie Française.


I'm thinking that the "Saintgermain" on the front of the letter is Claude Louis Robert de Saint-Germain. The handwriting is completely different from known letters written by OUR Count. Also, Claude lived in Alsace, which is near Schlestatt and Strasbourg. In 1776 and 1777, OUR Count was traveling around Germany under the name Welldoun/Weldon (or other variation on that name).



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I'm going to say that in my opinion as a historian, this is NOT a letter written by our mysterious Count St. Germain, but by Claude Louis Robert de Saint-Germain. Kind of lame because I spent like $80-something on the letter, but now we know.