Historical and biographical sketches/07 Zionitischer Weyrauchs Hügel oder Myrrhen Berg

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This book contains a preface written at Ephrata, Pa., 14th of Fourth month, 1739, which with the title-page covers fourteen pages; seven hundred and ninety-two pages of hymns, and fourteen pages of index. It is dedicated “To all solitary Turtle-Doves cooing in the wilderness as a spiritual harp — playing in the many times of divine visitation.” There are a number of facts in the bibliographical history of the Weyrauchs Hügel, any one of which would be enough to make it a remarkable publication. It was the first book printed in German type in America. It was the first book from the justly celebrated and prolific colonial press of Christopher Saur of Germantown. A letter from Germantown dated November 16th, 1738, and published in the “Geistliche Fama,” a European periodical of the Inspired, says: “We have here a German book-publishing house established by Saur, and the Seventh-day Baptists have had a great hymn book printed of old and new hymns mixed.” In rather a curious way it led to the establishment of the Ephrata press. The 37th verse of the 400th hymn runs as follows : —

Sehet, sehet, sehet, an!
Sehet, sehet, an den Mann!
Der von Gott erhoehet ist,
Der ist unser Herr und Christ.

Which translated literally is —

Look, look, look,
Look, look upon the mrin ;
He is exalted by God ;
He is our Lord and Christ.

The compositor asked Saur whether he thought that more than one Christ had appeared. Saur inquired of him why he suggested such an idea; when the man pointed out this verse and said it appeared to him that by it Conrad Beissel, the founder of the Ephrata Cloister, meant himself. Saur wrote to Beissel, and asked whether the suspicion had any foundation; whereupon Beissel replied to him that he was a fool. Such terse and uncomplimentary language did not please Saur, who soon after issued a pamphlet censuring Beissel, saying among other things that his name contained the number 666 of the beast of the Apocalypse, and that he had received something from all the planets — “from Mars his strength, from Venus his influence over women, and from Mercury his comedian tricks.” Beissel became quite angry, and one of the results of the widening breach was a new press at Ephrata. The Weyrauchs Hügel is the largest and most important collection of the hymns of the Ephrata Cloister. Many of them were written there by Beissel and others, but unfortunately it is not possible, except in a few instances, to determine the authorship of particular hymns. Christina Hoehn, “a pious and God-fearing woman,” who died an inmate of the Cloister at an advanced age, wrote those upon pages 465 and 466, beginning “Wenn mir das Creutz will machen Schmertzen,” and “Ich dringe ein in Jesu Liebe.”[1] Choral books, containing the music to which these hymns were sung, were beautifully written and illuminated with full page decorations of flowers and birds by the brethren and sisters. One of them is now in the possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and another, with different designs, in a private library in Philadelphia. Ephrata is believed to be the last place in the world where the middle-age art of illuminating manuscripts was preserved and practiced.

A well-known New England collector who has since met with a sad fate, succeeded a few years ago in finding a copy of the Weyrauchs Hügel, for which he paid $40. Unfortunately, it lacked a title-page. Its owner, hearing of a gentleman living in the interior of Montgomery County, Pa., who would be more likely than any one else to be able to supply the omission, made him a visit and offered him $10 for the missing leaf. The gentleman referred to, with a tender sympathy for the plight of his antiquarian friend, went out to the Snow Hill Institution in Franklin County, and luckily found what was needed to complete the copy.

As the edition was small and the book was in common use for devotional purposes, it has become extremely scarce, nearly all of the few known copies being imperfect. For accounts of it see the Deutsche Pionier, vol. viii, page 47, and Dr. Seidensticker's paper on "Die Deutsch-Amerikanischer Incunabula," in the same volume, page 475.

  1. The inmates whom I have been able to identify under their cloister names are:
    Father  Friedsam, Conrad Beissel.
    Sister Albina, Margaret Hoecker.
    Sister Anastasia or Tabea,   ——— Thomen.
    Sister Eunike, Philip Hanselmans' wife.
    Sister Marcella, Maria Christiana Saur.
    Brother  Agabus, Stephen Koch.
    Brother Agonius, Michael Wohlfahrt.
    Brother Amos, John Meylin.
    Brother Ezekiel, Heinrich Sangmeister.
    Brother Elimelech, ——— Eckerlin.
    Brother Haggai, ——— Kroll,
    Brother Jabez, Peter Miller,
    Brother Jephune, ——— Eckerlin.
    Brother Jotham, ——— Eckerlin.
    Brother Obadiah, ——— Funck.
    Brother Obed, Ludwig Höcker.
    Brother Onesimus, Israel Eckerlin.
    Brother Philemon, Conrad Riesman.
    Brother Theodorus, Thomas Hardie.
    Brother Zephaniah, ——— Nägely.