Ephrata. 1747. pp. plus 7pp. printed register. Small quarto. Contemporary three-quarter calf and marbled boards. Spine heavily worn, split in center. Later 19th-century ownership inscription on front fly leaf. Slight wear and foxing to some leaves, and some ink burn, resulting in splits to some leaves. Very good. In a half morocco and cloth slipcase, spine gilt. Item #WRCAM46388
A unique and spectacular manuscript hymnbook created by the religious community at Ephrata, Pennsylvania, founded by Johann Conrad Beissel. This manuscript is from the period when the community was at its zenith, and is an outstanding example of the Frakturschriften for which the Ephrata Cloister is known. It contains over 250 pages of manuscript music, some of it likely original compositions. The printed register at the end contains 375 hymn listings, and an additional fifteen pieces of music precede the main body of the work.
Johann Conrad Beissel (1692-1768) was born in Germany and orphaned at an early age. A charismatic and engaging personality, he tried on several religious movements, and eventually emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1720 after being banished from his homeland for radical religious beliefs. Beissel spent part of the 1720s with the Dunkards in Germantown and Lancaster County before his controversial beliefs about celibacy and Sabbath-keeping caused a rift with his fellow congregants. He then established himself as a hermit on the banks of the Cocalico River, where he was eventually joined by other like- minded individuals who wished to follow his teachings, and so founded the Ephrata Cloister in 1732. "What began as a hermitage for a small group of devoted individuals grew into a thriving community of nearly 80 celibate members supported by an estimated 200 family members from the region at its zenith in the mid-18th century. During that period much of the activity surrounded the charismatic founder and leader, Conrad Beissel. His theology, a hybrid of pietism and mysticism, encouraged celibacy, Sabbath worship, Anabaptism, and the ascetic life, yet provided room for families, limited industry, and creative expression" - Ephrata website. "Both within and without Ephrata, Beissel aroused controversy. His opposition to the institution of marriage early divided his congregation, as did his refusal to tolerate the community's money-making industries. His adoption of the Jewish sabbath and work on Sunday violated provincial laws and aroused the opposition of civil officials. That women left their husbands and homes to be with Beissel produced their husbands' ever-lasting hostility and even provoked one to attack Beissel physically. Beissel's willingness to permit women to spend nights in his cabin and his initial housing of men and women in the same building led to rumors of sexual promiscuity that prompted a neighbor to try to set fire to the cloister" - ANB.
The community became known for its self- composed a cappella music, Germanic calligraphy known as Frakturschriften, and the complete publishing center which included a paper mill, printing office, and book bindery. Printing at Ephrata began in 1745, the third geographical location of printing in Pennsylvania. In fact, the largest book printed in America before 1800, numbering more than 1,500 pages, was published at the Ephrata printing shop in 1748. The first printed hymnbook of the cloister was called the "Turtle-Taube (Turtle Dove)," and contained more than 400 of the community's hymns, most of which Beissel had written. It was issued in 1747, the same year as this manuscript.
In addition to the press, the Cloister also had a scriptorium which produced beautiful manuscript hymnals and other works. Beissel composed many original hymns for the community, which then produced manuscript volumes containing both the words and, separately, the music. He is said to have composed more than 4,000 lines of poetry, almost all of it religious, some of it set to music also of his composition. "For the community's worship, he developed distinctive types of choral harmony and antiphonal singing, and he frequently required the members to sing in this style on late night walks around Ephrata" - ANB. Manuscript production at Ephrata was used as a form not only of book production, but also as a meditation and spiritual act. Beissel established a monastic style of living for the Cloister in 1735, three years after its founding, and the earliest output of the scriptorium dates to this time. Most of the fine manuscript work was likely done by the Sisters (the Cloister was segregated by gender), while the Brothers maintained the printing press. The scriptorium flourished during the 1740s and 1750s, declining near the end of that decade. The present manuscript was produced while the scriptorium was at the pinnacle of its output and handiwork.
This volume, with its elaborate fraktur titlepage, was likely a presentation copy rather than a standard, everyday hymnbook. The Ephrata community produced virtually the only original hymn texts and tunes during the colonial era. It was meant to be used with the printed words from the 1747 edition of DAS GESANG DER EINSAMEN UND VERLASSENEN TURTEL-TAUBE.... A bearded face has been drawn in each of the two upper corners of the fraktur, a highly interesting and unusual feature of the work. It is inscribed on the front fly leaf with a later ownership inscription which reads, "Abm. Burger's Book / January 29, 1830," which is followed by a gift inscription: "A Present of a Music Book from / Abm. Burger / to / Elder Lucius Crandal / Plainfield / Essex County / N.J. / December 17th 1854." These lines were probably written by Abraham Berger (1795- 1856), a member of the Snow Hill Congregation in Quincy, Pennsylvania, an offshoot of the Ephrata community located about ninety miles to the southwest. When Ephrata was in its decline in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Snow Hill was in its prime, and as a result, many of the books and manuscripts were transferred from Ephrata to Snow Hill. This would explain how and why Berger may have acquired the volume.
The gift recipient, Lucius Crandall (1810- 76), was an elder and minister in the Seventh Day Baptist Church, first at Plainfield, New Jersey, and later at congregations in Rhode Island and New York. The Ephrata Cloister congregation, following its incorporation in 1814, became known as the Seventh Day Baptists of Ephrata, also referred to as the German Seventh Day Baptists. While Ephrata had no official ties or affiliation to the Seventh Day Baptist Church with which Crandall was affiliated, the two denominations formed a close relationship. This was true to the extent that in the later 19th century, Crandall's denomination included the annual reports of the Ephrata and Snow Hill congregations in their own annual reports. Ministers and members would travel from Crandall's Seventh Day Baptist Church to the Cloisters at Ephrata for feast days and baptisms, etc., providing a link between the two men.
The Winterthur Library and Museum in Delaware has a significant collection of these hymnals, as noted by Kari Main in her excellent 1997 article on the subject (she compares eight hymnals). Columbia University has half a dozen manuscript hymnals, as well, and further collections can be found at the Ephrata Cloister, The Free Library of Philadelphia, the Library of Congress, and the Hershey Museum. Many of these derive from the great Samuel Pennypacker collection, dispersed at auction in 1908. Such manuscript works are incredibly rare on the market today, and the present copy is an especially fine example of these remarkable manuscripts. Kari M. Main, "From the Archives: Illuminated Hymnals of the Ephrata Cloister" in WINTERTHUR PORTFOLIO, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp.65-78. ANB (online). Website of the Ephrata Cloister, http://http://www.ephratacloister.org/history.h tm.