Thoughts While Cataloging

Converting our hundred year old traditional library catalog of 3×5 paper cards to an electronic form is a formidable and seemingly never ending task.
For the past eight years or more much of the work has been faithfully carried on by volunteers for whose staunch efforts we are ever grateful.
Cataloging the library is an adventure – hard telling what that next book or manuscript is going to be. These days I am cataloging bound manuscripts. Taking these manuscripts in hand is always an awe inspiring experience. I think about the hand that created the book by writing out each word letter by letter. I think about all the people who have taken the book into their hand and spent hours perusing its messages.

I am unaware of any other Pennsylvania German group that has preserved such an extensive amount of written material about their personal and group history. It seems that Silesian Schwenkfelders and their descendants have always been aware of their history and found ways of preserving it for the coming generations.

Re-cataloging the books and papers means that all of these materials will be examined thoroughly for condition and content. Notations will be made about who copied the manuscript and when that happened. Ownership signatures record the people who passed the book or manuscript down to the next generation.

Part of the collection of devotional material copied by Schwenkfelder Balthasar Hoffmann (1687-1775) between 1698 and 1701


Balthasar Hoffmann

Devotional material copied by Schwenkfelder Balthasar Hoffmann (1687-1775) between 1698 and 1701


The manuscript books in our collection preserve the religious and social heritage of the Schwenkfelders who migrated here from Silesia in the 1730s. The number of manuscript books in our collection that were copied prior to the 1730 is amazing. I have never counted them; however cataloging them gives me a very good idea of just how many there are. Even more astonishing is the realization of how many manuscript books the immigrant Schwenkfelders had packed in their baggage. These manuscripts include writings by Caspar Schwenckfeld, and especially the writings and letters by Silesian Schwenkfelders: George Heydrich, Balthazar Jäckel, Gerhardt Hauptman, Martin John, George Weiss, Balthasar Hoffmann, and several others. Their writings include devotional tracts, confessions of faith, sermons, and hymns. Schwenkfelder immigrants Abraham Wagner and Christopher Schultz even brought some of their own hand copied schoolwork with them! These manuscripts had to have been their most precious possessions – not to be abandoned for lack of room in their luggage.
I am unaware of any other Pennsylvania German group that has preserved such an extensive amount of written material about their personal and group history. It seems that Silesian Schwenkfelders and their descendants have always been aware of their history and found ways of preserving it for the coming generations.
Allen Viehmeyer, Heritage Headlines, February 2011

About schwenkfelder

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the Schwenkfelders and the history of southeastern Pennsylvania and the Perkiomen Region. The Heritage Center offers educational programming and tours, exhibits, workshops, and events throughout the year. Our blog is maintained by museum educator, Rebecca Lawrence, SLHC staff and guest bloggers.
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