Spohn Collection of Ephrata Imprints Digitalized

In 2019 the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietists Studies at Elizabethtown College purchased the Clarence E. Spohn Collection. Spohn, a life-long resident of Ephrata, worked at the Ephrata Cloister from 1968-1996, serving as Museum Educator from 1988-1996.  The collection includes rare imprints from printers active in Ephrata from 1745 to about 1830, as well as artifacts pertaining to the Ephrata community (Ephrata Cloister), records and notes pertaining to legal transactions about the property, and Spohn’s copious research notes.  The collection is the single most important grouping of imprints from the various printers who worked at Ephrata, including the Cloister press and the Baumann and Ruth presses that followed. Because of his extensive work at Ephrata Cloister, Spohn’s research notes are a rich source of information about the imprints and the Ephrata community. Among the objects are a rare woodblock engraving of the Ephrata seal used in printing and a rare wooden communion chalice and bread plate (paten).  The collection is housed at the Hess Archives in the High Library at Elizabethtown College.  Hess Archives recently digitalized fifty-nine of the imprints and have made them available through Brethren Digital Archives. They can be accessed by way of the High Library’s research guides at: https://libraryguides.etown.edu/spohn.

The imprints include a rare liturgy printed by the Ephrata brothers in 1785 for the Moravian congregation in Lititz. The only other known copies are in the Moravian Music Foundation library in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and in the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Another imprint, Das Andencken etlicher Heiligen Martyrer (The Memorial of a Few Holy Martyrs), has special importance for Mennonites and Brethren. It is a small volume of two martyrs stories from the Dutch Mennonite Martyrs Mirror, translated into German by Bro. Theophilum, which was the spiritual name for Alexander Mack Jr., the youngest son of the founder of the German Baptist Brethren. Printed in 1745, the book was one of the earliest imprints of the Ephrata press. It was printed at about the time that Alexander Mack Jr. left Ephrata with his friends Israel and Gabriel Eckerlin, who were expelled by Conrad Beissel, the founder of Ephrata. By 1748, Mack had rejoined the Brethren in Germantown. This little book was a precursor to the complete translation of the Dutch Martyrs Mirror printed by the Ephrata brothers in 1748.  Among the other Mennonite related imprints available are the first and second printings of Mennonite bishop Christian Burkholder, Nützliche und Erbauliche Anrede an die Jugend (1804); and two printings of the Mennonite prayerbook, Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht (1785) and (1808).

Edsel Burdge, Jr., research associate, Young Center

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