French Huguenots

1686 Huguenot religious prisoner's pin prick note, with outstanding contemporary and modern provenance!

1686 Huguenot religious prisoner's pin prick note, with outstanding contemporary and modern provenance!


1p pin-pricked manuscript note by an unknown French Huguenot prisoner, circa 1686, with his wife's and child's accompanying handwritten notes in French and English. Along with a 1p ALS by Dr. Johnson Eliot dated June 19, 1842 gifting the above. In very good condition, with expected toning, foxing, and isolated discoloration. Professional restoration along folds.


The prisoner's manuscript consists of a 7.625" x 6.125" paper fragment laboriously pin-pricked with 4 lines of Roman capital letters. It reads: "NE TROVVERES VOUS POIN LE MOIEN DENVOIER DE QUOI POVVOIR ESCRIRE", which translated means: "You will not find the means to send that which you can write." Provenance information indicates that the note was fashioned while the man, a French Huguenot, was in prison without access to writing instruments. The prisoner jumped one hurdle, that of finding an alternate way of "writing" with a pin, but he hit another stumbling block: how to send the messages. It is unclear whether the prisoner meant it will be impossible to convey messages out from prison, or to himself in prison.


Below, the prisoner's wife has inscribed: "ce papier a ete fait par mon mari dans le cachot de la grite ou il a ette garde 6 cemaine par ni homme et de la conduit a la prison ou il a ette 8 mois 1/2 en 1686 du temps de la persecusion de nosbre religion". [Translated: "This paper was done by my husband in the dungeon of the grite (?), where he was kept 6 weeks in solitary confinement, and [then brought to the prison where he was for eight months and a half in 1686, at the time of the persecution of our religion."


A separate 4" x 2.875" note, inscribed by the prisoner's child, also establishes its provenance: "These papers were pricked with a pinn when my Dear father was in a dark Dungeon for want of penn and Ink in his confinement for Religion in the persecution in france".


A 1p ALS on cream bifold stationery inscribed overall and signed by Dr. Johnson Eliot 1815-1888) as "Johnson Eliot" shows that he donated it to an unknown "Institute" in 1842. The remaining pages are blank, each page measuring 5" x 8". It reads in full:


"The accompanying paper is presented to the Institute both on account of its antiquity and the interesting circumstances connected with it.


It was pricked with a pin by a Protestant confined in a dungeon and afterwards executed for his religious belief during the persecution in France in the year 1686.


It is unquestionably genuine having been carefully preserved by the descendants of the sufferer.


Johnson Eliot

Washington City

19th June 1842".


King Henry IV of France issued the Edict of Nantes in 1598, granting Calvinist Protestants (Huguenots) freedom of conscience and the restoration of theircivil rights. However, in 1685, his grandson, King Louis XIV, issued the Edict of Fontainebleau, ordering the destruction of Huguenot churches and the closing of Protestant schools. Thousands were imprisoned, like the unnamed author of this brief note, and hundreds were executed. In the following two decades, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled France, many to the United States.


Johnson Eliot graduated from the medical school of Columbian College (now George Washington University) in 1842. He was one of four founders of the Georgetown Medical School, which opened in 1851. Eliot served as professor of anatomy and later of surgery. After the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862, he was taken prisoner while attending the wounded, but was soon released. He was physician in charge of the Washington Smallpox Hospital from 1862 to 1864.



Item: 64109

Price: $5,000.00
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French Huguenots French Huguenots
French Huguenots
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