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1758 Annual Register

The first volume contains Edmund Burke's preface explaining the design of the Annual Registers and the  "History of the Present War" reporting on the first truly world war called the Seven Years War in Europe, where the combatants included England, France, Russia, Prussia, Sweden and Austria and battles where fought not only in Europe but in India and North America, where it was called the French and Indian War. Burke's review of the first years of the war, when England was losing battles throughout the world, is a tour de force of political, diplomatic and military history.

Here is some of what Burke says in the Preface on the purpose of the Annual Register:

Among the advantages over its competition “arising from our scheme of an annual rather than a monthly publication…we have an opportunity of examining with care the products of the year, and of selecting what may appear most particularly deserving of notice: we have from the same cause the advantage of order; we are better able to rank the several kinds under their proper heads…

 “We have not in our first article confined ourselves to the history of the year; we have taken the war from its commencement…which has been carried on in the four quarters of the world…

 on method to book reviews:  “we have given abstracts of some of the best books published within the year, with remarks upon them: we have observed upon none which we could not praise; not that we pretend to have observed on all that are praise-worthy: those that do not deserve to be well spoken of, do not deserve to be spoken of at all.”

And here is a sampling of his historical writing on the "History of the Present War:

P 2 “The war into which all parties and interests seem now to be so perfectly blended, arose from causes which originally had not the least connection; the uncertain limits of the English and French territories in America, and the mutual claims of the houses of Austria and Brandenbourg on the duchy of Silesia.”

“For a long time neither of these powers were sufficiently acquainted with the geography of America, to enable them to ascertain the limits of their several pretensions with any tolerable exactness; no, indeed, were these matters deemed of sufficient moment to call for a very laborious discussion.

P 4 Referring to General Braddock’s mission to take Fort Duquesne in Virginia (where he was accompanied by George Washington), “That general, abounding too much in his own sense of the degree of military knowledge he possessed, commanding in a country which he did not know, and carrying on a species of war in which he had no experience, suffered himself, when he had advanced within ten miles of Fort du Quesne, to be surprised by an ambuscade of French and Indians. The general himself, after having had five horses killed under him, was mortally wounded; wiping away all the errors of his conduct by an honourable death for his country.”

P15 With Austria, Russia, France, Sweden and the Austrian Empire allied against him, Burke had this to say about the King of Prussia: “But his astonishing economy, the incomparable order of the finances, the discipline of his armies beyond all praise, a sagacity that foresaw every think, a vigilance that attended every thing, a constancy that no labour could subdue a courage that no danger could dismay, an intuitive glance that catches the decisive moment; all these seemed to for a sort of balance to the vast weight against him; turned the wishes of his friends to hopes, and made them depend upon resources that are not within the power of calculation.”

P28 “…a confederacy, not of smaller potentates to humble one great power, but of five the greatest powers on earth to reduce one small potentate: all the force of these powers exerted, and baffled. It happened as we have related; and it is not the history of a century, but of a single campaign.”

 P28 on England’s miserable performance in 1757: “…it shews us in so strong a light the miserable consequences of our political divisions, which produced a general unsteadiness in all our pursuits, and infused a languor and inactivity into all our military operations; for whilst our commanders abroad knew not where to reward their services, or punish their neglects, and were not assured in what light even the best of their actions would be considered ( having reason to apprehend that they might not be judged of as they were in themselves, but as their appearances might answer the end of some ruling factions); they naturally wanted that firmness and that  enterprising resolution, without which the best capacity, and intentions the most honest, can do nothing in war.”

The initial volume of this great series was divided into eight sections: The History of the Present War; The Chronicle: State Papers; Characters; Extraordinary Adventures; Miscellaneous Essays; Poetry; and Account of Books. This structure of the Annual Register generally was maintained throughout the 18th Century with the exception that instead of "The History of the Present War" the first section evolved into the "History of Britain and Foreign Countries" and instead of "Extraordinary Adventures" new sections were added on Natural History, Antiquities and Useful Projects. The history section that reviewed the significant military and political events of each year and the book review section at the end of each volume were sections that Burke continued to give attention to for the next 30 years. 

Other Characters and events reported upon in the 1758 volume include "Sufferings of the persons in the black-hole at Calcutta," "Account of Calmucks and Cossacks," a character study of Voltaire by the King of Prussia and articles on Queen Elizabeth, The Duke of Marlborough and Montesquieu. Literary contributions include a book review of the "Memoirs of the life of Sir Thomas More," "A discourse on the study of the Law" and an "Essay on Taste" by Montesquieu.

There is also an interesting five page report of the dangers of the American frontier on page 301 entitled “A faithful narrative of the dangers, sufferings, and deliverances of Robert Eastburn, and his captivity among the Indians in North America.”  Along with 30 traders Eastburn set out from Philadelphia for Oswego in the Spring of 1756 and arrived at Captain William’s fort on March 28.  What follows is a  five page account of battle with the French and Indians and then Eastburn's capture, the brutality of Indians while in captivity, his forced march to Canada, finding his 17 year old son also captured and then being released by the French in Montreal on July 22.

This is a ninth edition in very good condition, with a little crack in the spine on the bottom of one side as shown above. The 1758 volume is also available as a part of the 1758 through 1791 set in a fifth edition and the 1758 through 1773 set also in a later edition.

Price: SOLD

I have a Third Edition published in 1762 which I will post soon.