Christopher Hoffmann, Eighteenth Century Schwenkfelder Bookbinder

The major occupation of the Schwenkfelder immigrants was farming. A few had one or more avocations. Christopher Hoffmann was a farmer and his avocations were school teacher, pastor, copyist, and bookbinder.

As a six-year-old, Christopher accompanied his grandmother, father, mother and two older sisters on the 22 week trek from Berthelsdorf, Saxony (where he was born), to Pennsylvania. Nothing is known about his childhood or even his teen years. His father, Balthasar, was no doubt the person who taught him to read and write, imparting to him a love for books.

As a rather young man, I would think, he was trained in the art of bookbinding and soon become the bookbinder for the Schwenkfelder community in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately no clue has been found about who trained him in this trade. When he purchased land in 1752, he was already dubbed “the Bookbinder”. While in Europe the Schwenkfelders were prohibited from publishing because they were seen as heretics. Their writings existed only in manuscript form, which, from time to time, were bound by a bookbinder. Nor has any evidence been found that a bookbinder was among the Pennsylvania immigrants. Yet a need for a bookbinder in the community was evident. Old books needed repair and new manuscripts needed bindings. In some cases multiple copies of a particular title were needed. One example is the “Daily Songbook”, a short, abridged hymnal. Every family needed at least one copy, and Schwenkfelder scriveners such as Hans Christopher Heebner and Christopher Hoffmann produced many copies of this staple.

Hoffmann Binding The Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center has at least two hundred books bound by Christopher Hoffmann. Reflective of Schwenkfelder modesty and humility Hoffmann’s bindings are easily spotted. The leather is plain brown. The design is very simple: two parallel lines 1/8 inch apart on top, bottom and front edges. The back edge has two sets of these parallel lines about 3/8 inch apart. Some books have a small, decorative spray stamp in the four corners. Other has a tiny decoration applied probably by a wheel tool along the thin border line.

Hoffmann was the binder for three major Schwenkfelder book publishing projects. While exact numbers are not known, each project must have required the binding of more than a hundred copies. The first of these was the 1762 Schwenkfelder hymnal; the second was the 1763 catechism, and the last was the 1771 Vindication of Caspar Schwenckfeld.

There is no evidence that Hoffmann had any assistants or apprentices. No one is known to have taken over Hoffmann’s binding business one he retired or died. Interestingly Hoffmann did write a manual describing most if not all the procedures he applied when binding books. The manual would seem to be a resource for someone learning the trade, but the single extant copy in his handwriting bears no sign of even slight use. This book is a rare manual of bookbinding in colonial Pennsylvania.

I am always intrigued by the little scraps of paper I often find in our eighteenth century books. Some of the more interesting ones are the fees that Hoffmann charged for his services. Normally his bills conHoffmann Binding Charges_1tain two charges: one for materials and another for labor. The bill below shows the changes for a postil (a book of sermons) and for hymnals. The material for the postil cost 12 schillings and 5 pence; the binding was 7 schillings and 9 pence because the book was already “hammered” (process in binding), otherwise the cost would have been 8 schillings (3 pence more). The material for the hymnals cost 7 schillings 10 pence; the binding was 4 schilling 6 pence.

As researcher and cataloger I am always finding curious and interesting scraps of paper and other curiosities stuck into these old books in our collection. These items often give us insight into the people who once owned them or had them in their hands, which we would otherwise not have.

Allen Viehmeyer
Associate Director for Research

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Time for Tea!

How do you take your tea? Cream, sugar, lemon? Well at this party, not only can you enjoy a hot cup of tea and healthy delicious treats, but you also get the chance to learn a little history. At American Girl Teatime, young girls have the chance to bring along their favorite doll or toy and enjoy some quality time with friends and family. We meet the last Thursday of each month from 4:30-5:30pm at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center.

During each gathering of American Girl Teatime, we learn about inspiring female historical figures and later hold a discussion. Each month has a different topic and theme. At our first get together in March, we learned about the life and accomplishments of Helen Keller, and practiced how to sign the alphabet using American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet. For April’s get together, I chose a female historical figure that was left in the suggestion box by a participant. We learned about Annie Funk, a local female historical figure, who dedicated her life to missionary work, and who also gave up her seat on a lifeboat on the Titanic to save the lives of others. Again we held a conversation around how she was brave and why she is an inspiration. Girls later worked on an activity sheet based off of what we learned about the Titanic and of Annie Funk’s life.

All girls that attend this program receive a diary to keep and to write in. Along with their doll, girls bring their diaries back to each meeting and we take time to share and talk together. A small activity is also planned that relates to the topic at each gathering.

The main idea of this program is to create a comfortable atmosphere for girls to spend time with their friends, family, and dolls together and to learn about inspiring female historical figures. It is important to have role models to look up to in life, and if we take a look back at history there are quite a few role models to learn about and be encouraged by. I hope that girls have a chance to socialize and to make new friends with other girls who have common interests. Also, I wish that they leave feeling optimistic and to believe that they can reach any goal that they have for the future.

May’s American Girl Teatime is coming up this Thursday, the 29th. I hope to see returning and new faces there. All are welcome to this free program. Small donations are appreciated to support and continue other programs that the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center hosts. You will also find out who we will be learning and discussing about and partake in fun activities! If you have any comments or questions please contact me at 215-679-3103 or

History has always motivated and intrigued me to try my best in creating a better future. Any action helps… perhaps even holding a teatime program. So, how do you take your tea? You can tell me at the next American Girl Teatime!

Laura Price
Museum Educator
Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center


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Continuing to Organize the Personal Papers Collections

Over the past few months I have been busy identifying and sorting the personal paper collections held in the Closed Stacks storage area. These papers are mostly collections of correspondence, sermons, research notes, copies of manuscripts as well and records of various kinds such as deeds and account books, and some photographs. They were mostly created in the early-to-mid 20th c. either by Schwenkfelders associated with the Corpus Schwenckfeldianorum project and the Schwenkfelder Library, the Schwenkfelder Church and clergy, or Schwenkfelders associated with the Perkiomen School. Names such as O. S. Kriebel, Flora Heebner, Elmer E. S. Johnson, Selina Gerhard Schultz, Lester Kriebel and Wayne Meschter make up the creators of many of these papers. There are also collections of papers, large and small, that have been donated to the library by individuals not directly associated with the library or even with the Schwenkfelders. We have, for instance, large collections given by Civil War veteran Jacob B. Stauffer and Ursinus history professor William Parsons.

The SLHC started collecting these papers during with the Corpus project in the late 19th and early 20th c. The Corpus project, in essence, was the beginning of the library as the papers and books gathered to write the nineteen volumes needed a home during and after the project. At the same time, papers were given to the library, often by the families, after the death of an individual. All of these papers are a great asset to the library because they provide detailed accounts of the lives and careers of the leading men and women in the community, as well as unique records of the history of the Schwenkfelders and Pennsylvania Germans. However, most of these collections have yet to be inventoried in a proper, archival sense; more troublesome is that many papers have yet to be properly sorted or even identified.

As a result of the size of the collections (in relation to the small size and limited time of the staff) the organization and, in some cases, the condition has been ignored and has deteriorated. Prior to the 2001 renovation, many of these papers were stored in the basement storage area known as the “Cave” or they were stored in the attic of the Carnegie library at the Perkiomen School. Due to the less than ideal conditions of this storage some papers were damaged. Nonetheless, the majority of the papers survived intact and are in good condition. The bigger problem has been that the papers were often placed into boxes without proper identification and, therefore, during and after the 2001 renovation they were quickly boxed up, then unpacked and re-boxed in acid free containers and hastily labeled. Since then it has taken all these years to finally turn my attention to figuring out exactly to whom the papers belong. Without proper labeling I have to rely on other clues such as handwriting or context to determine the creator. Sometimes I simply have to guess. As you can image it is at times a slow and frustrating process.

So far I have done rough inventories on sixty-six collections. Though it is moving faster than I expected there is still a long way to go in this stage. The next stage is to do detailed archival inventories which will be much more time consuming, but will help us better understand just exactly what we have been storing for all these years.

Hunt Schenkel – Archivist



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A New Book on the Schwenkfelders

After a long preliminary exchange of e-mails Dr. Horst Weigelt, Germany’s foremost scholar on Schwenkfelders, decided that he wanted his latest book to be translated into English and specifically wanted me to be the translator. I feel much honored that he chose me for that task. Of course, I agreed.

The pre-publication title of the book is Migration and Faith: The Flight of the Schwenkfelders from Silesia and their Emigration to America. The book is written in nine chapters and runs about 200 pages of double-spaced lines. There will be some illustrations. This book presents much new information since Weigelt’s last book published in 2007. Dr. Weigelt has spent his entire life researching and publishing on the Schwenkfelders. His dissertation appeared in 1973. It was translated into English by Dr. Peter Erb and published in 1985. His next book, Von Schlesien nach Amerika (From Silesia to America) was published in 2007 but no English version exists.


Only the English version of Migration and Faith will be published. With this volume Dr. Weigelt shows how the migration of the Schwenkfelders from their home village in Silesia to a refuge in Saxony and then finally to a permanent home in Pennsylvania brought about changes in Schwenkfelder faith and religious practices.

In the course of translating this book we have had some interesting discussions on how to translate certain words, as is normal in translation work. One of our recent discussions has been on the term “Magistrat”. Weigelt thought this might be translated as “magistrate”. I felt it was a possible translation for a person who participates in the governance of a city, but I felt that “city council” was the appropriate translation for the governing body itself. Weigelt felt that “civil” should be used instead of “city” and thus the body should be called the “civil council”. I still prefer “city council”.

The process of translating is always fascinating and always requires some give and take between the author and the translator. In the end I am certain that Weigelt and I will feel good about our efforts to bring new information and insights of Schwenkfelder culture to the broadest possible audience – and we hope you will, too.

Allen Viehmeyer

Associate Director for Research

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“The Planner in Me”

May 18, 2013 – a day that was filled with excitement, uncertainty, and mixed emotions.  For on this day, I was graduating from college.  A day that seemed so far away when I was a freshman, now already here before my eyes.  How four years flew by!  All I could think was, “Now what do I do?” I was so accustomed to having everything planned out and knowing what my next step would be for each semester.  After the ceremony and celebrations were over, I realized that I was uncertain of what my next step was going to be.  Being the planner that I am, this was an uneasy feeling.  I only knew a few things for certain.  One was that I had a degree in Education and minor in History.  Second, I wanted to teach but I always dreamed of working in a museum setting.  Three… wait, is there a third thing? That was all that I had to go off of at the time. 

The summer months consisted of working as a nanny and job searching, which I found to be a relentless task.  My uneasy feelings began to return around August when my nanny position was coming to its season conclusion and once again my next step was a mystery.  Needless to say, the job searching and interview process continued. 

It was then that I came across the position as a museum educator at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center.  After reading the job description it hit me that I could have the opportunity to work in a museum and teach; how perfect!  I decided to apply, unsure of my chances.  To my surprise, I was called for interviews and chosen for the position! I was ecstatic when I found out the news.  Finally I knew what my next step would be and what direction I was going in.

The week before my first day at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, I attended my first homecoming as an alumni.  A common conversation starter used by many, including myself was, “What are you doing now?”  I felt personally relieved because I finally had a response to this question.  When I told friends that I would be a museum educator I was often asked, “That is great… but what is a museum educator?” I was surprised how many times I was asked this question by friends and even family members.  For their sake I only gave a brief response.  However after a few weeks of being a museum educator, I realize that it deserves more explanation.

As the museum educator at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center, I have several responsibilities to fulfill.  First, I am a teacher here.  I have a classroom with its own library and resources.  I teach Family and Homeschool Workshops on a monthly basis.  I feel warmth in my heart when my homeschool students recognize me as their teacher.  I put plenty of planning and preparation toward these workshops.  Today, I look back and am thankful for many of my education and history courses that I took and how they help me as I write multiple lesson plans, use state and national education standards, and create activities for my students. 

Another responsibility my position fulfills is reaching out and becoming involved with schools in the area.  I am developing new programs to be offered here at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center and also planning upcoming ones such as the Groundhog Lodge for Children.  I also gave a tour and planned an activity for a Cub Scouts group.  These are only a few of the tasks that I take responsibility for, but I am finding that the list can go on and on.

I guess it is true when people say it takes around six months to find a job after graduation.  I fit into this case.  I find myself to be fortunate because my first job really fits my “checklist” that I stated earlier; that I wanted to teach but I also wanted to work in a museum setting.  Finally I again know what my next step will be.  The “planner” in me is at ease and I can continue all of the planning that the museum educator must do… plan, plan, and plan!

Laura Price, Museum Educator

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This is only the beginning …

Image   A look at the personal papers collections in the SLHC stacks that still need inventories                                             

            At the last SLHC Board dinner I gave a synopsis of most of my cataloging and inventorying work. The reason for doing this, it turns out, was to show the Board the breadth of material that I have been working with in order for them to understand the progress of my work from my initial undertaking twelve years ago; in 2001 I began to catalog the library and archives collection not knowing what I was getting into. Truthfully, coming equipped with a limited archival and no library training, I was not sure how to even begin the process of this job, and I had no extended experience to draw on. Luckily I had a template, so to speak, in the library’s own cataloging systems and, because of this (without trying to be glib), what I came to learn was that as long as you can find it, it does not matter how it is organized; there is no single standard. After all, look at how many cataloging classification systems there are: LOC, Dewey, Cutter, etc. Archival work is altogether even more of an art form in that the “profession” is still coming into its own out of the library science field. Many archivists, including myself, come from history backgrounds. Anyway …

My initial idea for presenting this topic at the dinner emerged also out of a frustration of trying to explain just what it is I do all day at my desk. I too wanted to give the Board something that they could digest (other than the dinner) in a short period of time, as we only have five minutes to talk to them every six months. As I prepared my report that Monday morning I realized quickly just how much “stuff” that we do have in our collection. Of course, I have always been aware that we have a lot of “stuff” but never, incredibly it may seem, taken the time to look at the numbers all at once. The false perception that we are “small institution” (staff-wise, building-wise, Pennsburg is a small town, etc.) comes from the fact that we often, sub-consciously, compare the SLHC to bigger institutions. Yet this is not necessarily true. The amount of material in the collection reported at the dinner comes across as immense (for a “small institution”).

Here is the synopsis of my report:

          SLHC Fall Board Report


                                                                         October 7, 2013

I. Library:

IA. Cataloging:

1. Books:

Approximately 24,910 books in our collection


            17,760 books entered into PastPerfect:

                        Fully cataloged:

                        (Open Stacks= 4,880)

                     (Closed Stacks=5,262)


Total, fully cataloged= 13,256

Total, cataloged but needing checking=4,504

Not entered (approximate numbers):

Approximate # books not entered into PastPerfect

On shelves in Closed Stacks and office=app. 2,150 (43 shelves, 50 books each)

Total un-cataloged in stairwells= 5,000 (boxes in south stairwell=app. 2,000 ((200 boxes average 10 each)), and north stairwell ((Fritz Richter))=app. 3,000 books (30 boxes app. 100 in each)

Total, app. # need cataloging=7,150

    IB. Inventorying:

                2. Newspapers: 179 boxes, issues mostly inventoried (but in Word program)

                3. Periodicals: app. 9,000 individual volumes, mostly inventoried (not

    re-inventoried since de-accessions. Still have to inventory bound volumes

    in Closed Stacks)

                4. Schwenkfeldians, Schwenkfeldiana, Perkiomen Region: weeded

    out extra copies, library has tried to keep 5 of each volume.

    5. Maps: app. 250 individual maps sorted by region in map case drawers

    6. Microfilm: app. 160 reels, not counting the Silesian Collection

    7. Obituaries: “Gottshall” obituaries: 6,329 entered, so far

                8. Postcards: 1,913 total, arranged by location

II. Archives:

IIA. Inventorying

1. Personal papers, basic manuscript inventories started:

George DeBenneville, Chester Hartranft, Balthasar Heebner, Carl Heinze, Johann Friedrich Heinze, Balthasar Heydrich, Balthasar Hoffmann, Christoph Hoffmann, E. E. S. Johnson, Martin John Sr. and Jr., Krauss brothers, Christoph Kriebel, Abraham Schultz, Amos Schultz, David Schultz (not counting land drafts), Jonas Schultz, Joshua Schultz, Melchior Schultz, J. D. Souder (notebooks), Charles and Frederick Waage, Abraham Wagner, George Weiss, Christoph Yeakel

Other personal paper inventories planning to start:

H. W. Kriebel, Lester Kriebel, O. S. Kriebel, William Parsons, Friedrich Schneider, Christoph Schultz , J. J. Stoudt

2. Photographs: 2,900 inventoried and scanned

 (898 portraits and 2,002 images)

3. Deeds: 5,845 records inventoried

4. Land Drafts: 1,260 drafts

5. Loose Vault manuscripts:

VS inventory: 1,793 manuscripts

VSA-VSZ: 1,420 manuscripts

VOC: 222 manuscripts

6. Diaries/Account books: 432

7. Prints

Broadsides: 330

Certificates: 160

Taufscheins: 530

Posters and engraved portraits and structures: 235

8. Scrapbooks: 94

9. Minutes: various collections of minutes relating to the Schwenkfelder church

and library

10. Pastepaper books: 17 total, all in Vault-Archives

            11. Book box project: 620 books boxed and inventoried. Many of these

            Books are Vault folios which are also cataloged into PastPerfect


I tell myself often that I have two jobs, librarian and archivist, and I am not going crazy …

Hunt Schenkel



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A Week in the Life of the Executive Director…

 Being the Executive Director at a small museum and archives means I am involved with a wide range of activities.  In addition to administration work, I find I am also involved with helping in nearly all aspects of operations here from the sublime to the mundane.

DaveOver the past week or so, for example, I was helping our new Educator, Laura Price, get settled in and started in her new job.  This included, on her very first day here, helping coordinate and attend (and even a little teaching) the Home School workshop which had 5 children attending.  Part of the class was in the Meeting Room where Curator Candace Perry talked about Fraktur and artist Arline Christ talked to the children about the artwork inspired by Fraktur currently on exhibit: Elements of Fraktur, Studio B “Artist Members on the Road.  Later in the week, I was removing the round tables and setting up chairs in preparation for the Exile Society meeting and program on Sunday.

In addition to this, I also was matting and framing Frakturs for the new exhibit we’re installing: The Samuel W. Pennypacker Collection.  Once matted and framed, Curator of Collections Candace Perry laid them out in the Fraktur Gallery and I then hung them on the walls: some 40 or so Fraktur!  I also found myself beginning to mount and cut the labels for the exhibit.

While all this was happening, I was pulling together the next issue of the Heritage Headlines, the Heritage Center’s quarterly newsletter.  I was writing articles, collecting articles from staff, setting it all up in Publisher software, finding images (taking some pictures myself) and proofing, proofing, proofing!

I also had the pleasure to welcome a group tour and talk to them about Schwenckfeld and the Schwenkfelders; meet with the planning committee for the Penn Dry Goods Market event (coming up in May, 2014); schedule staff reviews which are due by the end of October; set up the Putz tables and railing around the Putz; talking to a contractor about installation of a door monitor; meeting with the Board of Governors of the Exile Society of which I am President; and prepare for the Exile Society meeting which I was leading including the presenting of updates on the Viewheg Monument treating and cleaning project (in Twardocice, Poland) and the progress on the Berthelsdorf, Germany Schwenkfelder Gemeindehaus restoration.

Yes, it was a week filled with the varied tasks required of an Executive Director at the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center!

Dave Luz, Executive Director

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