Maurycy August Beniowski (as he was known in Poland)
Written and researched by Margaret nee Knight [Odrowaz] Sypniewska, B.F.A.

Beniowski's/Benyovszky's Manor House in Slovakie by Martin Hlauka (Pescan) Feb. 2008.

Maurycy August Beniowski was born about September 20, 1746, in Vrbove, Trnavsky kraj, Hungary (Slovakia), and died May 23, 1786, in Madagascar. Madagascar was declared a French colony on August 6, 1896. It is legend that Maurycy had a disagreement with his brothers and went to Poland to fight with the Confederation of Bar (see below). He was called Count Maurycy (his Polish name) or Baron Maurice Auguste de Benyowski (by the French) and was reputed to have come from a noble Hungarian family. One branch of the family was thought to be descended from Count Michko, who lived in the reign of King Samuel Aba (1041-1044), son-in-law of King Geza (c.970 -997). .

Various Coat of Arms of This Baronial Family:

The original coat of arms was described as:

Azure (blue) in base a triple hill Vert (green) surmounted by a ducal coronet Or with crescent Argent (silver) pointed upwards, in chief two six-pointed stars Or (gold).

Apparently, a flag was flown with this coat of arms during Benyowsky's reign on Madagascar (see below).

Description in Riestrap (French edition):

"Benyovski de Benyo - Hongrie. D'azur au tertire de sin, surm. d'un croiss d'arg.; somme d'une etoile d'or."

"Benyovski d'Urbano" - same as above.

A new coat of arms was awarded when he was made count.

An escutheon Azure on the coronet of Hungary (?) Or a crescent pointed upwards argent under the chief two six-pointed stars Or (gold)....

  • Motto: In adversis et Prosperis ("In adversity and prosperity")

    This coat of arms was recorded October 3, 1778, in the 38th year of the reign of the Queen Maria Theresa.


    Beniowski - Soldier, Sailor, and Writer:

    Maurycy was a soldier, and his career began as an officer in the Seven Years War. However, his religious views and attitudes towards authority resulted in his leaving the country. From this time on he was called a sailor, an adventurer, a visionary, a colonizer, an entrepeneur, and a king.

    Beniowski kept a diary most of his life, which later served in the publishing of his Memoirs. He was noted to have participated in an uprising against the Russians, to liberate Poland, as a member of the Confederation (Konfederacja Barska) at Bar beginning in 1768. Slovak archives have many documents concerning Maurycz Beniowski, his wife, and his family. Records show he studied at Piarist College at Svaty Jur from 1759-1760. There are many letters on file that were written, by the family, in both Latin and Slovak. However the bulk of what we know about Maurycy August Beniowski is from his own writings. Modern scholars are now examining these writings and have found a few inaccuracies.

    Beniowski fought alongside the Pulaski brothers, in Poland. This resulted in his being captured by the Russians, deported to Kazan, and after conspiring against the Russian Government, was exiled in Kamchatka, a seaport in Siberia. In 1771, he wrote, in his memoirs, that he made a pleasurable trip through Macao and Japan after his escape from the Russians. His escape came about as his fellow prisoners and he captured the fort of the governor. Beniowski discovered the Northern Pacific well before James Cook and J. F. Perouse. In 1772, Beniowski was in service of France, where he was promoted to General of the Polish Confederation. Maurycy spoke to Louis XV about a colony on Formosa or Madagascar. Beniowski "believed himself to be independant of the administrators of Islands de France, and instead of founding one settlement or a trading post, he evolved a new and more ambitious scheme. In his letters to Paris, he suggested the formation of a colony and informed the Minister that the whole island of Madagascar had been subjugated" ( Archival Source)

    Beniowski and Madagascar Island:

    In 1774, he "conquered" Madagascar, along with an armed expedition, as did many before him. He erected a stronghold, and was made Governor, of the island, by King Louis, along with the title of count. Madagascar is located in the Indian Sea (off the east coast of Africa, near Mozambique). He established a colony at Maroantsetra called Louisborg. His ship the Intrepid was said to have been stolen by his crew. They then reported Maurcycy as "killed in Malagasy." The Intrepid was provided by Baltimore businessmen Messonier and Zollikofer of the U.S.A.

    Original inhabitants of the island were of the Negro race, as might be expected. Madagascar was a well-known rendezvous for pirates, especially in the "Golden Age" from 1700-1730. Madagascar was a French trading post in the late 18th century. Madagascar (226,656 square miles) is larger than Great Britain (84,186 square miles). It is the fourth largest island in the world, while Great Britain places at number eight. The languages spoken here were French and Malagasy. The capital (of Madagascar) is now Antananarivo and has a street named "Rue Benyowski." Madagascar was originally explored by white men in 1498, and from that point on it was a major sea route to India. Pirates, therefore, saw this island as a perfect location for their trade. The island provided all sorts of provisions: oxen, goats, sheep, poultry, fish, citrons, rice, cotton, indigo, and many fruit that are common to that area of the earth. The island also had ebony trees, the choice for lances and native carvings. In short, the island had many valuable commodities, including its women who married pirates or were in their "harem."

    Beniowski was a privateer, at certain times, and he established his own stronghold and unified the local kings who made him their "King," on October 10, 1776. He could not return to his native land or he would be imprisoned or killed. Some think he took booty from ships in this area, catch as catch can style. Cuttroat pirates, in this area, looted the Arab Mocha fleets, and Indian Mogul's galleons, as well as ships of competing "pirates."

    Other Pirates in Madagascar:

    One of the first pirates to set up trade (in Madagascar) was Adam Baldridge. He fled there in 1685, after killing a man in Jamaica. Baldridge built his own castle-like mansion, on the top of a hill, behind a stockaded fort, on the islet of St. Mary's. St Mary was a surrounding island that became the pirate's favorite. Many pirates gave up their former lives and lived their remaining days in the islands of the Indian Ocean, in their newly established "courts."

    The Indian Ocean was said to have a favorable climate, and as many as 1,500 sailors settled on St. Mary's. Baldridge became the ruler of several native tribes, and he was known as "the King of the Pirates." Baldridge kept a harem of Madagascar girls. He fled St. Mary's in 1697, when the locals were angered by his selling of their people into slavery. Slavery was another means of obtaining quick cash.

    Another well-known Madagascar pirate was John Plantain. John arrived there in 1720. He became the Lord of the entire island. He was, like Baldridge, from Jamaica. John Plantain's parents were English. They say he began sailing at age 20. Plantain had a harem of women too. One woman especially caught his eye. Her name was Holy Eleanora Brown. Holy Eleanora was the daughter of an English pirate and a native girl. Her mother's father was a tribal chieftain. Brown would not consent to a marriage between his daughter and John. Plantain declared war on his father-in-law to be, and kidnapped Eleanora. John then discovered that Eleanora was already pregnant by another. John Plantain still decided to keep her as his wife, they raised a number of children, and she was said to be his favorite. John Plantain's next ambition was to becoming King of all Madagascar.

    All the pirates, of Madagascar, had similar stories. The difficult part is sorting fact from fiction. However, is is NOT confirmed that the island of Mauritius was named after this Polish adventurer, as some author's claim. The Mauritius government says that it was named in honor of Prince Maurice Van Nassau, "Stathouder" of Holland by Admiral Wybrand Van Warwyck, in 1598.

    In 1776, Beniowski was promoted to French General and was awarded the Order of St. Louis.

    The Order of Saint Louis

    However, he had another disagreement in Paris, and he returned to Central Europe. Beniowski was recalled and was active in dealings in both Austria and Hungary (his homeland). He obtained a pardon from Austrian Empress and Queen of Hungary, Maria Teresa, so he could come home on October 17, 1777. She promoted him to Count on April 3, 1778 (se above) He then took control of Madagascar in the name of Austria (see Coat of Arms above). Beniowski's activities in Madagascar are found in the Manuscript Department of the British Library. These records were placed there by Sir Walter Minto Farquhar, the first British Governor of Madagascar. In this file was a copy (now claimed to be missing) of the document signed by Joseph II of Austria. This document gave Beniowski permission/protection "for sailing the seas under his flag, but conferred no financial benefits. These same documents are found in French Archives. This document names all the chiefs of Madagascar and their signatures regarding his "kingship." (Archives.).At this time you could say Beniowski was a pirateer.

    Letters of Marque

    The practice of privateering was established, and had definite rules, during the 18th century. British, French, and American privateers had to follow procedure. Captains and ship owners would take a prize and sell the vessel and cargo captured, following an established protocol in Liverpool (England), Dunkirk (France) or Boston (America). Whenever war was declared, a General Prize Act was made to allow privateering,

    Applications for these "letters of marque" were made by the captain of the privatering ship or by the captain and his joint ship owners. In Great Britain these letters were delivered to the Admiralty, while in the Americas these were given to the state governors. The Continental Congress of the Americas issued privateering commissions from April 1776 until July 1780. Without a government's sanctions, privateers could be hung as pirates. These letters would name the ship's owner, their town of origin, the name of the captain and senior officers, the ship's name, the weight of the ship, the size of the crew, and its armaments. These letters also stated the country that they were allowed to attack and plunder. Infractions of these orders made them pirates.

    Ship owners were required to post a bond with the government to guarantee their good behavior. In 1812, this cost $5.000 - $10,000 (U.S.) or $1,500-$3,000 (in British pounds). If a captain, or any member of his crew, was not in accordance with these rules, he lost his deposit. Therefore, the captain could set uncooperative men in any location and leave them there, upon his own best judgment, to avoid losing this money. (Privateers and Pirates).

    In Paris, Beniowski met and became friends with Benjamin Franklin and Kasmierz Pulaski (1748-1779). In 1770, he went to America and fought with Pulaski in the American Revolution. He was in the Savanna battle where Pulaski died. In 1781, Beniowski returned to America again to recruit help. He then met George and Martha Washington. However, the project was not to be.

    Beniowski's Family:

    Beniowski's wife was Zuzanna (Suzanna) Honshova, she lived from 1784 until her death in the United States, by one account. She sailed on September 2, 1786, from Philadelphia, back to her husband's manor house in the Slovak town of Beckovska Visska, and died in 1825 (not in the U.S.A. in 1815 as another account states).

    Maurycy's Family

    The Beniowski family ancestry was reputed to go back to Count Michko, in 1041, in the reign of King Samuel Aba (1041-1044). It was said that the family left Slovakia because they were involved in a plot against King Robert (1308-1342) in 1330. The family fled to Poland, where they fought against the Turks in the battle of Nikopol under Sigmund of Luxembourg, who awarded them property in Benov and Urbanov. They were also given titles and made Hungarian aristocrats. Their name developed into Benyovszky from Benosih & Urbanoish.

    The first recorded Beniowski (after Michko) was named Martin and is recorded in 1448. Martin had three sons: Gabor (no issue), Adam (6 offspring), and Burian (6 children). Generations passed until we get to Moric Benyovszky (Beniowski in Polish) (1746-1786) the Hungarian name of the subject of this article. Maurycy had a daughter, Roza who married Donat Szakmary; and another daughter, Zsofia, who married Rudolf Osckay. Archives also show the birth of his son on December 9, 1768. Beniowski's descendants that are still in Slovakia are the Ambrozy family, who possess many of his certificates and writings.

    The Countess Alzbeta Ambrozyova, a descendant of Zsofia, lives in Slovakia. Count Paul Benyouszky lives in the United States. Alzbeta and Paul are cousins.

    Francis Beniowski, Maurice's brother, was an adjutant of Major Polerecky, Head of the Blue Hussars of the French Cavalry, who were supervising Britain's surrender at Yorktown. He lived out the rest of his life in the United States. Maurycy's younger brother Emmanuel had family in Bytea, Slovakia, and Croatia, and finally ended up in the U.S.A. as well.


    In 1783, Beniowski presented his writings, Memoirs and Travels (in French) to be published. They were later printed in English in 1790 (after his death). With Benjamin Franklin's help, he founded (as stated in his own memoirs), an American British company to trade in Madagascar. This document is also in the British Museum Library. It was the possession of M. Hyacinth de Magellan, F.R.S., a descendant of the famous explorer. It was stated, in these records, that Magellan supported Beniowski in his last expedition to Madagascar in 1784. On March 24, 1784, Beniowski appointed Magellan Plentipotentairy for the State of Madagascar and acted in his behalf. Magellan was forced to sell the manuscripts to recover some money" (Archives).

    Having used up his good faith with France, in 1785, Beniowski sought financial aid from the United States of America. It is thought that the company who sponsored him was Zollikoffer and Meisenniers of Baltimore. With the monies he received, Beniowski was able to re-organize another expedition to Madagascar. The captain of the Intrepid dropped Beniowski on shore and sailed off, marooning him. The Intrepid was a 500 ton vessel, and it sailed from Baltimore on October 1784. Why this happened was most likely because the French had a warrant out for Beniowski's arrest? Captain Paschke left a document regarding this hire (a contract written with the firm of Zollikoffer and Meisonniers of Baltimore) in the French National Archives. This points to the fact, that the Captain might have been in alliance with the French Government, and left Beniowski in Madagascar under their orders. Beniowski died shortly afterwards, as a result of an argument with the French, mostly likely related to his new found loyalities to Austria(?) or a break in a contract, no one is sure about this. Beniowski's wife wrote a letter to Benjamin Franklin on May 11, 1786 to find out what happened to her husband. On this last expedition Hyacinth de Magellan became ill, after Christmas, and was said to have no memory of events before he died. Therefore, he could not inform Beniowski's wife regarding his misadventures on Beniowski's last trip.

    Some documentation shows Beniowski in Brazil before he went to Madagascar. A letter from the Count to Magellan was found in Magellon's papers after his death. It was stated that they anchored on May 22, 1785, and stayed a fortnight. Eventually the ship ended up in Antangara Bay near Madagascar. No one knows why he was in Brazil. After this voyage many crew members fell ill and died.

    Beniowski changed the spelling of his name to reflect the local spellings:

    In Slovakia he was known as Matus Moric Benovsky/Benowsky.
    In English his name was Count Matthew Maurice Benyowsky.
    In Poland he was called Mauryccz August Beniowski.
    The Hungarians knew him as Benyovszky Moric
    The French as Maurice Auguste de Benyowski/Benyowsky
    The German as Moritz Benjowsky
    In Latin he was Mauritius Auguste de Benovensis.
    In Brazil, he was Mauritius Augustus, Conde de Benyowsky


    Mauritius Augustus, Conde de Benyowsky

    FROM A PORTUGUESE GENEALOGY JOURNAL [I will translate soon] João Felipe da Trindade ( Professor da UFRN e membro do IHGRN e do INRG Na Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, encontramos as seguintes informações: Mauritius Augustus, Conde de Benyowsky, magnata húngaro, nasceu em Worbuena ou Verbowna, domínio hereditário de sua família no condado de Nittria no reino da Hungria, no inicio do ano de 1741 (outros dão seu nascimento como em 20 de setembro de 1746). Era filho de Samuel Conde de Benyowsky, um general da cavalaria no serviço do Imperador da Áustria, e de Rosa, baronesa de Revay. Na sequência, a dita enciclopédia relata grande parte das aventuras do Conde, com base, principalmente, no livro intitulado Memórias e Viagens de M. A. Conde de Benyowsky, escrito por ele mesmo. Uma das informações importantes para nosso artigo é que, segundo a enciclopédia, ele partiu de Baltimore para o Porto de St. Augustine, na costa leste de Madagascar, em 25 de outubro de 1784, no navio que foi chamado de Intrepid. Devido à gravidez de Madame Benyowsky, o conde deixou sua família na América. A viagem, desde o principio foi lenta e azarada. No inicio de janeiro de 1785, o Intrepid chegou à costa do Brasil, de onde Benyowsky escreveu a última carta que seus amigos tenham recebido. Cerca de um mês depois o navio encalhou na Ilha de Juan Gonçalves (na verdade Ilha de Manoel Gonçalves, como veremos), e não foi antes de abril que ele saiu em boas condições de navegabilidade. Benyowsky partiu, então, pelo Atlântico em direção ao continente Africano. É no projeto Resgate Barão do Rio Branco, projeto ultramar da UFPE, que vamos encontrar o sumário do que aconteceu com o Navio Intrepid que arribou na Ilha de Manoel Gonçalves. Em 27 de maio de 1785, o governador da Capitania de Pernambuco, José Cesar de Menezes, enviou ofício ao Secretário de Estado da Marinha e Ultramar, Martinho de Mello e Castro, encaminhando o sumário abaixo, e seus complementos. "Nas praias de Manoel Gonçalves, distrito da Capitania do Rio Grande do Norte, arribou em princípios de janeiro, próximo pretérito, o navio americano denominado Intrépido, comandado por Lucas David, e mandando eu pelo Doutor Provedor da Fazenda Real da dita Capitania praticar as diligências, que em tais casos determina o Régio Alvará, de cinco de outubro de mil setecentos e quinze, satisfez com o sumário, que ponho com esta na presença de Vossa Excelência, do qual se mostra que saindo o dito navio de Baltimore para o Cabo da Boa Esperança, e Madagascar, por causa dos ventos e correnteza das águas, e também por falta de água e lenha, arribara ao mencionado distrito, de donde continuou sua viagem depois que proveu do necessário; e não fez comércio algum enquanto ali se deteve". Para praticar as diligências, acima referidas, foram para Ilha de Manoel Gonçalves as seguintes pessoas: Provedor Doutor Antonio Carneiro de Albuquerque Gondim; Escrivão Antonio José de Sousa e Oliveira; Meirinho da Real Fazenda, José Ribeiro da Silva; o seu escrivão João Cardoso Batalha; os oficiais nomeados pelos capitães-mores interinos da Capitania José Barbosa Goveia, militar, Antonio da Rocha Bezerra, vereador mais velho, a saber: o sargento José da Costa Pereira, Comandante da Tropa paga, por não haver outro oficial maior, na dita tropa; o mestre carpinteiro Francisco da Rocha; o mestre calafate Alexo Silva. Na Ilha de Manoel Gonçalves foram tomados os muitos depoimentos dos tripulantes e passageiros, que praticamente contaram a mesma história relatada no sumário. Entre eles, depoentes, estavam o Conde, já citado acima, várias mulheres, e o comandante na Ilha, José Pereira Vas Botelho. Em síntese, disseram que o navio saiu de Baltimore para o Cabo da Boa Esperança e Madagascar, no início de outubro, mas as correntezas e os ventos dificultaram a viagem. As correntezas levaram para os baixos do Cabo de São Roque, mas não puderam contorná-lo. Por conta da dilatação da viagem, começou a faltar tanto água, como lenha. Procuraram avistar terras para suprir suas necessidades, chegando ao Cabo de Tubarão. Tentaram fazer reparo e o provimento das necessidades fora da Barra, sem intenção de entrar nela. Usaram bandeiras para se comunicar com uns pescadores que estavam numa jangada próxima ao Navio Intrepid. Entretanto, eles fugiram. Mas no outro dia, apareceu um português que subiu no navio e se ofereceu para levar para mais próximo da terra, pois seria melhor para provimento de água e lenha. Mas, o navio encalhou em um banco de areia, aumentando as avarias. Com dez pessoas e duas bombas não conseguiram conter o volume de água que entrava a cada hora cinco pés ou sete palmos. Tiveram que jogar ao mar cinco peças, vários mastros, paus e outros objetos. Para escaparem, o General (conde de Benyowsky) e vários passageiros saíram em um Escaler para a terra. Na Ilha de Manoel Gonçalves pediram auxílio ao capitão mandante José Pereira Vas Botelho, 50 anos, capitão da Cavalaria Auxiliar do Regimento da Ribeira do Assú, residente naquelas praias, que acudiu, em vista do perigo, e mandou um prático, outro português, para entrar na Barra, onde estavam agora consertando o navio. Informou, o Conde sobre o material encontrado no navio, que tudo era dele, depoente, que levava para as suas fábricas de açucares, e aguardente, como caldeira de cobre, e ferro, bacias do mesmo; moinhos vários, alguma pólvora, espingarda de caçar para negócio, e uns pretos da África; tijolos para alguma obra, e cal. O Conde fez seu depoimento em Latim que foi vertido no português, e assinou com o Ministro nomeado Antonio Carneiro. Nas suas credenciais constava, entre outras, como Conde do Sacro Romano Império a Benyowsky, magnata do Reino da Hungria e da Polônia, Comendador da Ordem da Águia Branca, Cavalheiro da Ordem Real Militar de São Luiz, Camarista de Sua Majestade Imperial e General maior da mesma Majestade. Assinatura posta no depoimento na Ilha de Manoel Gonçalves, Costa do Rio Grande do Norte, em 1785 Postado por João Felipe às 12:53 0 comentários Links para esta postagem Marcadores: Genealogia, História, Notícias Vídeo: Pajuçara 360 - Fábio Arruda de Lima, genealogista - TUDO NA HORA - O portal de notícias de Alagoas Fábio Arruda é um dos maiores conhecedores dos Engenhos do Nordeste e grande genealogista. Veja a entrevista dada por ele. 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    Evidence shows that Beniowski was a head-strong man who may had resorted to privateering from time to time. Privateers were known to loot the ships of their enemies for the crown, and this was legal in the country you were working for. Beniowski was alive in a time when this sort of activity was popular, in a place that was home to many pivates and privateers, Madagascar. There is much circumstantial evidence for the fact that he was a privateer. Judge for yourself: Was he a hero or a privateer? Or a bit of both in one man? Whichever, he certainly had an interesting history, even though some facts are difficult to prove. Currently, Beniowski's writings are being tested against documentary evidence in France, England, Hungary, and the U.S.A.

      Maurycy August Beniowski has been the subject of numerous plays and fictional novels:
    • Count Benyowsky is a play by August Friedrich con Kotzebue (1761-1819). The play premiered in Baltimore in 1814.

    • Benyouszky is an opera by Austrian composer Albert Franz Doppler (1821-1883).

    • Beniowski is an epic poem by poet Juliusz Sl~owacki (1809-1849).

    • A TV series called Vivat Benovsky was popular in the 1970's.

    • The King of Kings was a Slovakia documentary about his life.


    1746 - September 20 - Birth of Maurycy Beniowski
    1770 - Beniowski is exiled to Siberia (Kamchatka)
    1771 - Beniowski in Macao and then meets George and Martha Washington for the first time in the U.S.A.
    1772 - Neniowski is promoted to General of the Polish Confederation. 1774 - Louisbourg is founded by Beniowski.
    1755-1763 - the Seven Years War (Britain versus France)
    1775 - Beniowski seeks financial aid from the U.S. when the Thirteen (13) American colonies rebel against British rule.
    1776 - Local King elects Maurycy Neniowski as their Ampanasacabe (Emperor) of Madagascar.
    .......Maurycy is promoted to French General and is awarded the Order of Saint Louis.
    1777 - Benyovszky met Benjamin Franklin in France.
    Beniowski and Benjamin Franklin were reputed to have been good friends.
    Beniowski gave Franklin his sword, as it was presumed that Benyovsky knew his days were numbered

    Beniowski even wrote a farewell letter to General George Washington.

    1778 - France allies with America against the British.

    1779 - Spain allies with America against the British

    1780 - Holland allies with America against the British

    ***submitted by: Kenneth Andrew Bauman, investigative author. A sword in my possession has been researched for twenty years to the month and is determined to have been the personal possession of Maurice Benyovszky, the First King of the Merina Royal Family of Madagascar, elected October 10, 1776 by the island chieftains. Benyovszky unified the island while in the possession of this sword. This same sword was used to pattern a new infantry model in Italy in 1843...this is that sword which looks strikingly, almost exactly like Benyovszky's sword

    1783 - The Treaty of Versailles ends conflict.
    1786, May 23 - Maurycy August Beniowski was killed, while fighting the French at a small fort in Madagascar, via a bullet wound to his chest. His death occured during a battle for Madagascar's independence. 1896, August 6 - Madagascar was declared a French Colony.

    The heyday of privateering in the Americas followed the revolt of Britain's American Colonies and lasted until 1814. Congress commisioned less than 50 warships during the revolt, and they were almost exclusively employed as commerce raiders, capturing 196 British vessels. During the war, 792 "letters of marque" were issued, and these privateers captured in excess of 600 British merchant ships, with an estimated value of $18 million (by today's standards).

    Benyowsky Unifier of Madagascar

    Archival Sources)

    Dziegielewski, Jan et al. Encycopedia Historii Polski: Dzieje Politityczne (Tom I) Warsaw: Morex s.c.-Egross, 1094.(portions from this book were generously translated by Leonard Suligowski)

    Ellms, Charles, The Pirates Own Book. New York: The Book-of-the-Month Club, 2002 (reprinted from the 1837 original).

    Konstam, Angus. Privateers and Pirates 1730-1830. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Limited, 2001.

    Reistrap, J.B. Armorial General. Volume A-K. Baltimore, MD.: Clearfield, 2003, 166.

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