1536 Froschauer Bible with rare illuminated Fraktur bookplate and genealogical record that documents the flight from religious persecution by the Mennonite immigrant Bachman family
Title page and fraktur bookplate
The spine needs to be repaired, reinforced, re-sewn and re-lined
Bachman family record fraktur
Mennonite Heritage Center exterior
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Why save this artifact?
Many 16th-century Swiss Anabaptist families owned Froschauer Bibles, and these symbols of their faith were sometimes confiscated by Swiss authorities as part of a campaign of religious persecution. This Bible is one of only several surviving copies that came to Pennsylvania with Mennonite families, and the well-documented ownership by the Schnebelli-Bachman family presents evidence for several important aspects of Pennsylvania Mennonite history.
Inscriptions from Hans Jacob Schnebelli (1696) and the bookplate for Matthias Schnebelli (1708) document the Palatine sojourn of this Swiss Mennonite family as they migrated from Switzerland to the German Palatinate before their final immigration to Pennsylvania. The 1708 illuminated bookplate similar to the later Pennsylvania fraktur style and the genealogical record of the Bachman family added by schoolmaster John Adam Eyer increase the artistic and historical value of this artifact.
The Bible also relates to the infamous “Saucon Incident” of 1778 during the American Revolution. When the men of the Saucon Mennonite congregation refused on religious grounds to take the Test Oath of Allegiance to the revolutionary government, the sheriff of Northampton County confiscated and sold nearly all the household goods of the Bachmans and ten other Saucon Mennonite families, including most likely this Bible.
How We'll Save It
The Bible’s cover and text block leaves require surface cleaning. Conservators will mend major vulnerable tears and losses to the first several and last several leaves. The second title page will be repaired with mulberry paper and re-hinged to the volume. The media on the fraktur bookplate will be consolidated. Conservation work will also include the repairing, reinforcing, re-sewing and re-lining of the spine and linings as necessary with new linen thread and mulberry paper. Detached spine leather will be reattached to the spine and the wooden cover fragment will be re-adhered to the front cover board. Finally, loose corner boss on the back tail corner will be secured and the cover hinges and cracks on the spine will be mended.
What Happens Next
Once conserved, the Bible will be stored flat in its new clamshell box. It will be exhibited occasionally, with appropriate book supports, as we’ve done since it was acquired in 1990. It will be exhibited for several months at a time, with a period of rest in storage between exhibitions.
Who We Are
The Mennonite Heritage Center (MHC) is a historical museum and library in Harleysville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, built in 1990 by the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania, a 501(c)3 incorporated in 1974. The MHC staff and Board of Trustees work to preserve and share over three centuries of Mennonite faith and life in eastern Pennsylvania. Mennonites, a European Reformation group, came to Pennsylvania at the invitation of William Penn in the late seventeenth to mid 18th centuries seeking religious freedom and economic opportunity. They retained their German dialect and separate cultural identity well into the twentieth century.
MHC archival collections include rare books and manuscripts, maps, broadsides, letters, genealogies, deeds, church records, and other printed material. There are manuscript collections from many local Mennonite persons and families, and thousands of photographs and audio tapes are available for research purposes. The collection of 125 local Mennonite illuminated fraktur manuscripts is particularly significant. The artifact collection includes quilts, coverlets, samplers, clothing, furniture, farm implements, housewares, and musical instruments.
MHC programs include exhibits, lectures, traditional arts workshops, bus tours, seminars, a quarterly newsletter, and special events. Museum and library visitation is five to six thousand annually with several thousand more visitors attending special events, including the Whack & Roll Croquet Tournament and the Apple Butter Frolic, an October harvest festival that features farming, traditional crafts, children’s activities, and Pennsylvania German food. Visitors include both local and out-of-state tourists, local historical society groups, families, senior groups, school groups, folk art enthusiasts, genealogists and researchers.