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Magon de la Ballus letterbook

 Collection 0052-MDHC
Magon, captain of the ship the "Ballus," or "Balue," was a descendant of a prominent French merchant family highly influential in sixteenth-century mercantile endeavors. The Magons were heavily involved in international trade and played a significant role in the growth of the port city Saint Malo, France. The papers of Magon de la Ballus consist of a letterbook, written entirely in French, in which he recorded his correspondence both at sea and in port. Magon's letters cover a variety of topics, including French-English war matters; trade of various commodities, such as codfish, coffee, corn, wheat, cloth, and sails; transportation and trading of enslaved people; and privateering.


  • 1756-1757

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


1 Items

Scope and Content of Collection

The papers of Magon de la Ballus consist of a letterbook containing copies of letters of a French merchant/privateer, Magon, of the ship "Balue," who home was the port-city Saint Malo, France. The letters cover the period October 1756 to May 1757. The correspondence is written entirely in French. Nearly 1,1000 letters of generous length are included in the handwritten 380 page letterbook. The letters were recorded both at sea and during anchorage and primarily French-English War matters and trade of various commodities such as sails and other ship equipage. The transportation and trading of enslaved people is also a frequently discussed issue. Magon's correspondents lived in various cities throughout France.

The records have been arranged in a single series entitled "Letterbook."


The sea captain Magon of the ship "Balue" (or "Ballus") was a descendant of a prominent merchant family widely known and highly influential in sixteenth-century economic enterprises. The Magon family was among a number of elite merchant families, who for many generations were deeply involved in international trade and who in turn led to the growth of Saint Malo, France, as an economic metropolis and worldwide port during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Like other privateer-merchant families of the time, the Magons joined in business with a number of families of the royal court and were of great service to the royal family.

During the 1700s the Magon family became the wealthiest of all of Saint Malo residents. The ship "Balue," under the auspices of the Magon family, was used for the transportation and trade of dye, coffee, printed cotton, dollars, corn and wheat, codfish, enslaved people, and sails and other ship equipment.

Beginning in the sixteenth century, and until the time of the French Revolution, the Magon family was highly regarded as a powerful, enterprising commercial giant of the region. The family was also well known for their affiliations with Saint Malo's admnistration of commerce, office of farmer general of revenues, and office of "The Bank of the Court." The Magons were also among the first economists in Saint Malo. The family is believed to be originally of Spanish lineage.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The source of the Magon de la Ballus letterbook is unknown.

Existence and Location of Copies

A digital copy of this letterbook is available at

Processing Information

The letterbook has been stored in an acid-free box.
Guide to the Magon, de la Ballus letterbook
Processed by David C. Clemons.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
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