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Last Updated 05/24/00

Preface to Christoph von Graffenried's Account of
the Founding of New Bern


The following account of the establishment of New Bern, later a center of trade and government for the colony, was penned by Christopher deGraffenried of Bern, a Swiss nobleman and entrepreneur. It was transcribed and translated from separate manuscripts, one in French and one in German, in the Burgerbibliothek, Bern, Switzerland. Together they constitute one of the most detailed relations extant of the founding of a settlement in British North America.

De Graffenried's chronicle/apologia was not printed until 1920, when the North Carolina Historical Commission published a volume edited by two scholars at the University of Illinois, Vincent Todd and Julius Goebel. Another version, in French and located in the public library at Yverdon, Switzerland, was included in the first (Saunders) series of The Colonial Records of North Carolina, I, 905-984. It differs from those in the Todd/Goebel edition in a number of mostly minor particulars.

As for the manuscripts used by Todd and Goebel, those editors chose to publish "only so much of the French Version ... as is necessary to show wherein it varies from the German version." The two versions are printed in separate sections, in both the original language and in English translation. Superscript numbers in the German version indicate where the French one is deviant and direct the reader to it. This electronic edition also employs superscript numbers, and links them to Todd's French selections.


This account was written in haste, without much thought, just as the things occurred to my weak memory, so that here no especial style is to be observed; and it has been arranged in 12 chapters or “misfortunes” for my society and for others who might have unfavorable ideas with regard to my American projects, thinking that I had undertaken them without consideration and foresight, and had passed my time in Carolina in splendor and luxury. So then I have shown the contrary. The beginning is also arranged to show that it was not merely carelessness which brought me to this distress, but serious reverses and unfortunate accidents. If ever I revise this in time of leisure, everything shall be better written and arranged.

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