Following up on key themes in The Word in the Wilderness, this new podcast welcomes you into the world of manuscript production, popular piety, and spiritual culture in early German Pennsylvania and beyond.
The second season of Cloister Talk has concluded. Listen to Seasons One and Two below, and look for new episodes beginning on Monday, May 3, 2021!
Episode 1: The History of Studying Pennsylvania Germans and Their Illuminated Manuscripts
Ein Unpartheyisches Gesang-Buch… (Lancaster, PA: Johann Albrecht, 1804). M2116 M54. Courtesy of The Winterthur Library, Winterthur, DE.
This episode introduces listeners to trends in the study of Pennsylvania German illuminated manuscripts, commonly called "Fraktur."
Episode 2: What is "Fraktur"? Type, Script, and Art
Michael Baurenfeind, Volkommene Wieder-Herstellung, der bischer Fehr in Verfall gekommenen gründlich-u: Zierlichen Schreib-Kunst… (Nuremberg: s.n., 1716), Z43 B35 F. Courtesy of The Winterthur Library, Winterthur, DE.
This episode explores the many meanings of the word "Fraktur" in its European and American contexts and considers how best to deploy the term when discussing the manuscript art of the Pennsylvania Germans.
Episode 3: Who Were the Pennsylvania Germans, and Why do They Matter?
Johann Arndt, Sechs Bücher vom Wahren Christenthum… (Philadelphia: Georg W. Mentz und Sohn, 1834). BR120 A74w. Courtesy of The Winterthur Library, Winterthur, DE.
Pennsylvania German religious, spiritual, and cultural traditions were extremely complex. This episode offers a quick primer on many of the various German-speaking groups that resided in early Pennsylvania and explores their connection to the devotional manuscript arts.
Episode 4: What is "Manuscript Culture"? Reframing Pennsylvania German Manuscript Studies as a Sub-field of Book History
German children’s picture dictionary (untitled). Germany: s.n., ca. 1836. AG27 G37. Courtesy of The Winterthur Library, Winterthur, DE.
The study of Pennsylvania German illuminated manuscripts has long lacked a coherent theoretical and methodological foundation that situates the enterprise into wider scholarly conversations about religion, language, text, and culture. This episode proposes new approaches to unlocking the meaning of Pennsylvania German manuscripts, grounded in recent advancements in study of the history of texts as material artifacts.
Episode 5: Manuscript Culture Beyond Pennsylvania: Traditions in Asia, the Islamic World, Early Modern Europe, Great Britain, and the Americas
Ioseph de Casanova, Primera Parte del Arte de Escrivir Todas Formas de Letras. Escrito, y Tallado por el Maestro Ioseph de Casanova, Notario Apostolico, y Examinador de los Maestros del dicho Arte en la villa de Madrid, Corte de su Maestad, y natural de la villa de Magallon, Arçobispando de Zaragoça. Madrid: Diego Diaz de la Carrera, 1650, page 54. 11 3/4" H x 8 1/4" W. Z 43 C33 cep 3. Courtesy of the Hispanic Society of America, New York, NY.
Think that the Pennsylvania Germans were alone in their embrace of calligraphy and manuscript illumination as part of their spiritual enterprise? Think again. In this episode, learn about other cultures and communities around the world that employed the manuscript arts as culturally-resonant components of their popular piety long after the so-called "Age of Print" was well underway.
Episode 6: "The Root of Wisdom is to Fear the Lord": Wisdom Literature and Pennsylvania German Manuscript Culture
Hoch-Deutsches Reformirtes ABC- und Namen-Büchlein für Kinder welche anfangen zu lernen. Verbesserte Ausgabe. Philadelphia: Conrad Zentler, 1816. PF3114 H68. Courtesy of The Winterthur Library, Winterthur, DE.
Old Testament wisdom literature looms large over the Pennsylvania German manuscript arts. Learn about the historical significance of the wisdom literature as part of Pennsylvania German popular piety, and why the wisdom books provided such rich source material for scribes.
Episode 7: "Eines Christen Reise": Origins of The Word in the Wilderness
Joh. Bunian (John Bunyan), Eines Christen Reise nach der seeligen Ewigkeit… (Ephrata, PA: Drucks und Verlags der Brüderschafft, 1754). EL2 .B942p. GE 754. Courtesy The Rosenbach, Philadelphia.
In this final episode of the first season of Cloister Talk, learn about the research and writing process that led to the publication of The Word in the Wilderness: Popular Piety and the Manuscript Arts in Early Pennsylvania.
Cloister Talk Season Two Teaser Trailer!
Birth, baptismal, and marriage certificate (Geburts, Tauf, und Trauschein) for Elisabeth Groffin Kraussin [Elisabeth Krauss]. Watercolor and ink on wove paper. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1823. FLP 1213. Courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
Season Two of Cloister Talk: The Pennsylvania German Material Texts Podcast debuts on Monday, January 4, 2021. In this trailer, learn about what questions and topics will be explored in the upcoming season, and about what primary sources you can expect to learn in the new episodes.
Episode 8: The Pirate Bible: An Epic Tale of Looted Germantown Bibles, and What It Reveals About Pennsylvania German Religion in a Vast Atlantic World
Biblia, Das Ist: Die Heilige Schrift Altes und Neues Testaments … Germantown, PA: Christopher Saur, 1743. FLP Call No. Pennsylvania German Collection – Germantown 1743. Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
Pennsylvania German religious culture existed within a vast, complex, fluid, and interconnected world of German-Protestant spirituality and text exchange. Perhaps no artifact better exemplifies this heritage than a Pennsylvania-printed Bible held at the Free Library of Philadelphia that was once captured by pirates on its voyage to Europe! Listen to this remarkable story—and learn what it has to teach us about early American religion and history of the book.
Episode 9: Manuscripts in Focus: Penmanship Samples
Carl Friedrich Egelmann, penmanship sample, “Kleines Alphabet,” in Deutsche & Englische Vorschriften für die Jugend (Reading, PA: Carl Friederick Egelmann, 1831), leaf 9. 6” H x 8” W. Rosenbach call no. A 831d. Courtesy of The Rosenbach, Philadelphia. Photograph by the podcaster.
Pennsylvania German manuscript penmanship samples are some of the most engaging, text-rich, and religiously-significant devotional documents created during the Long Era of Manuscripts in early Pennsylvania. This episode offers an in-depth introduction to the manuscript genre.
Episode 10: Manuscripts in Focus: Tune Books
Johann Adam Eyer, songbook, 1790. Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania. 2012.0027.015. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle. Courtesy of Winterthur Museum.
Music has always figured prominently in Pennsylvania German religious culture, making it unsurprising that the musical and calligraphic arts intersected in potent ways during the Long Era of Manuscripts. In this episode of Cloister Talk, take a journey into the rich musical heritage of German Protestantism and its expressions in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Episode 11: Manuscripts in Focus: Birth and Baptismal Certificates
Carl Friedrich Egelmann, Geburts und Taufschein (birth and baptismal certificate) of Sara Anna Huber, Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Douglass Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1835-1840. Ink and paper. 11 15/16” H x 9 11/16” W. 1980.0048. Museum purchase. Courtesy of Winterthur Museum.
Religious rituals and the commemoration of life events found rich expression in Pennsylvania German print and manuscript culture, especially on documents known as birth and baptism certificates. This episode of Cloister Talk offers a detailed analysis of the certificate genre and considers how it connects to other Pennsylvania German material texts.
Episode 12: Johann Gottfried Weber and Johannes Bard: Two Characters in the 18th-century Transatlantic World of Manuscripts
Johann Gottfried Weber, image of calligrapher’s hands at work, Allgemeine Anweisung der neuesten Schönschreibkunst des Hochgräflich Lippischen Bottenmeisters und Aktuarius (Duisburg am Rhein: Helwingschen Universitäts Buchhandlung, 1780), pl. 2. (Arca Artium Collection, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.)
Pennsylvania Germans figured prominently in a transatlantic world of copying and exchanging artistic, devotional texts. This episode of Cloister Talk examines intricate and remarkable artifacts of this culture of copying, drawing on resources from the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library in Winterthur, Delaware.
Episode 13: A Lesson in Early Modern Linguistic Theory with Johann Merken, and Its Implications for the Study of Material Texts
Josephus Champion, scribe; and George Bickham, engraver. “Commerce,” in The Universal Penman (London: Printed for the Author, and Sent to the Subscribers…), pl. 115. (Arca Artium Collection, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota.)
The history of material texts naturally intersects with the history of language—and linguistic theory. Drawing on fascinating artifacts held at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, this episode of Cloister Talk offers useful transatlantic intellectual-historical context for the place of German language (spoken, written, and printed) in the early-modern European world.
Episode 14: The Pennsylvania Pilgrim: Fireside Poet John Greenleaf Whittier's Interpretation of the Pennsylvania German, Quaker, and Early Abolitionist Francis Daniel Pastorius
John Greenleaf Whittier, The Pennsylvania Pilgrim, and Other Poems (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872). From the collection of the podcaster. Photograph by the podcaster.
The famous Quaker Fireside Poet John Greenleaf Whittier had a special passion for Pennsylvania history, which he expressed in his famous poem “The Pennsylvania Pilgrim.” Learn about Whittier’s interest in Pennsylvania religious heritage, his interpretation of the famous Pennsylvania settler Francis Daniel Pastorius, and what Whittier’s nineteenth-century poem reveals about collective memory of the United States.
Episode 15: "Errand Into the Wilderness": What Pennsylvania German Illuminated Manuscripts Mean in American History
Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker, Pennsylvania in American History (Philadelphia: William J. Campbell, 1910). Courtesy of the German Society of Pennsylvania Library. Photograph by the podcaster.
A key topic addressed in The Word in the Wilderness: Popular Piety and the Manuscript Arts in Early Pennsylvania is how a deeper understanding of the spiritual underpinnings of the Pennsylvania German manuscript arts can add nuance to our interpretation of early American religious and cultural life. This episode of Cloister Talk explores that issue in greater depth, using Samuel Pennypacker’s book Pennsylvania in American History and intellectual historian Perry Miller’s famous work Errand Into the Wilderness as case studies for our analysis.
Episode 16: Afternoon Tea with Alexander Lawrence Ames: Answering Your Questions about Writing The Word in the Wilderness, and a Life Spent in Libraries and Museums
Henry T. MacNeill, postcard, “The Tea House at Downingtown,” A917.481 P536 v.11, Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
Writing The Word in the Wilderness: Popular Piety and the Manuscript Arts in Early Pennsylvania, especially sharing the book’s ideas with audiences from across Pennsylvania and around the world, has truly been a journey undertaken in community. At the conclusion of Season 2 of Cloister Talk: The Pennsylvania German Material Texts Podcast, it’s time to sit back, relax, and reflect on the book, the primary sources that made its analysis possible, and what The Word in the Wilderness and Pennsylvania German illuminated manuscripts have to teach us today. Make a hot cup of tea and settle in for a fascinating discussion! This final installment of Season 2 features personal reflections on the process of writing the book, and the fascinating world of historical museums and special collections libraries.
Cloister Talk Season 3 Teaser Trailer
Christian Beschler, illuminated manuscript, “Gott, du bist noch heut so reich” (God, you are so rich today), Upper Mahoney Township, Northumberland County, 1799. FLP 721. Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
Listen to the Cloister Talk Season 3 teaser trailer to learn what themes, topics, and discussions lie ahead later this spring and summer!
Episode 17: Cloister Talk Live! The Faith That Binds: A Conversation on Anabaptist Bookbindings with Chela Metzger and Erin Hammeke
Upper cover of Ausß Bundt/ Das ist: Ettliche schöne Christenliche Lieder, undated. Inscribed by Hans Herr, Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Photograph by the podcaster. Volume dimensions: 18 x 11 x 9 cm.
How can material artifacts be wielded as tools for unlocking the lived experiences of past spiritual-devotional cultures? In this inaugural episode of Cloister Talk Live!, join book conservators Chela Metzger (University of California Los Angeles Library) and Erin Hammeke (Duke University Library) for a conversation about Swiss-Anabaptist bookbindings in early Pennsylvania—and what the books reveal about past personal and social relationships with God. The interviewees also discuss the state of book history as an interdisciplinary enterprise and offer advice for what it might take to bring historians, material culture scholars, and conservators together, to make optimal use of interdisciplinary expertise in analyzing and interpreting material texts.
Episode 18: Cloister Talk Live! Volksbibliothek: A Conversation with Dr. Maria Sturm and Bettina Hess of the German Society of Pennsylvania Library
Image of the exterior of the German Society of Pennsylvania at 611 Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1907. 25. Stiftungsfest des Badischer Unterstutzungs-Verein abgehalten am Mittwoch, den 24. Juli 1907 auf Genengers Washington Park (AE 3000.1). Courtesy of the Horner Memorial Library, German Society of Pennsylvania.
Few library spaces glimmer with the sense of historicity and culture that the Horner Memorial Library at the German Society of Pennsylvania exudes. In this episode of Cloister Talk Live!, join historian and former German Society of Pennsylvania Library Committee Chair Dr. Maria Sturm, along with Society Librarian Bettina Hess, for an introduction to the historic library, its collections, and its work to make German-American history and culture accessible to all. Sturm and Hess highlight some of the fascinating holdings of the Library and reflect on the significance of the Library to understanding Philadelphia’s ethnic heritage.
Episode 19: Cloister Talk Live! Exploring the Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department, one of the Great Collections of Pennsylvania German Text Culture, with Janine Pollock and Caitlin Goodman
A view of the Elkins Room and Charles Dickens Desk at the Parkway Central Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, ca. 1947. RBD Archives, Free Library of Philadelphia.
The Parkway Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia is a majestic urban monument to literacy, learning, and robust civic discourse. What is more, the Rare Book Department at the Free Library ranks as one of the nation’s most important repositories of rare books, manuscripts, and other treasures of the history of human civilization. Its vast Pennsylvania German collection supported the interpretive work undertaken in The Word in the Wilderness. In this Cloister Talk Live! episode, librarians Janine Pollock and Caitlin Goodman welcome us into the world of the Rare Book Department and reflect on the significance of stewarding special collections in a public library environment.
Episode 20: Cloister Talk Live! At The Rosenbach: The Other Pennsylvania Germans? A Discussion of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Jewish Community with Judith M. Guston
A view of the parlor at The Rosenbach, where many portraits of members of the Gratz family painted by Gilbert Stuart and Thomas Sully are displayed alongside a Gratz family desk and bookcase. Photograph by the podcaster.
The multicultural life of early Pennsylvania included a vibrant Jewish community. Judith M. Guston, Curator & Director of Collections at The Rosenbach, discusses early Jewish settlement of the colony and the remarkable Gratz family holdings at The Rosenbach today, which document that early heritage. Ms. Guston also comments on the theoretical and methodological challenges of adopting a material culture approach to the study of past religious and spiritual life, and the meaning of early Pennsylvania’s religious plurality for American society today.
Episode 21: Cloister Talk Live! From The Rosenbach’s West Library: Religion and Early American Material Texts, from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Mexico City
A view of the West Library at The Rosenbach, where many textual artifacts of early American history sit on the shelves. Photograph courtesy of The Rosenbach, Philadelphia.
Rare books at The Rosenbach showcase the incredible religious diversity throughout the Americas in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. This episode of Cloister Talk brings us to the atmospheric West Library at The Rosenbach, to examine a few material texts that witness this early history, including The Rosenbach’s iconic copy of the Bay Psalm Book as well as its remarkable Doctrina breve, printed in Mexico City.
Episode 22: Cloister Talk Live! Books Along the Brandywine: A Conversation with Emily Guthrie, Formerly of The Winterthur Library
The Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library in Winterthur, Delaware. This view shows the historic du Pont family mansion, including the conservatory where the family grew flowers and drank afternoon tea. Photo by the podcaster.
Emily Guthrie shared rare holdings from The Winterthur Library's rare book collection with students in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. Photo courtesy of Emily Guthrie.
Nestled amid the rolling hills and verdant landscape of the Brandywine River Valley in Delaware, The Winterthur Library brims with rare books and manuscripts documenting material life in America, including early German Pennsylvania. Join Emily Guthrie, who until recently served as Director and NEH Librarian at The Winterthur Library, for a conversation about this remarkable repository of American history and culture, and how the Winterthur Library fits into the work of the Winterthur Museum and its surrounding 1,000-acre country estate. Ms. Guthrie, who recently took over as Librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia, introduces us to the rich collections of Pennsylvania German rare books and manuscripts that reside in The Winterthur Library and tells us about her old side-gig as a shepherd and goatherd on the Winterthur estate. Well-known as one of the most prominent cultural institutions specializing in American history, the Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library comes to life in dynamic new ways in this special episode of Cloister Talk Live!
Episode 23: Cloister Talk Live! Incense Hill: A Conversation with Kerry Mohn and Michael Showalter of Historic Ephrata Cloister
A scene from Historic Ephrata Cloister, 2016. Photograph by the podcaster.
Few landmarks of early Pennsylvania heritage inspire awe and capture the imagine quite like Historic Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County—a place of architectural beauty, spiritual devotion, mystical exploration, musical accomplishment, and tremendous historical significance to early-American book production and the manuscript arts. Ephrata Curator Kerry Mohn and Museum Educator Michael Showalter guide us through the history and significance of Ephrata and help us place the site within the wider context of early American religion and material culture.
Episode 24: Cloister Talk Live! A Mystical Heritage: A Conversation with Allen Viehmeyer and Candace Perry of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center
Das erste Teil der geistlichen Gesenge /von den wercken Jhesu Christi: und erstlich Von seiner gnad-reichen zukunfft und heiligen Menschwerdung. 1566. This volume has a Schwenkfelder provenance, having been inscribed by Maria Hübner in 1794. VR12-8 / L2004.0999.311. Courtesy of the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center, Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.
Mysticism is a central (if complex, debated, and often misconstrued) part of the religious DNA of early German Pennsylvania. The theology and devotional practice of the Schwenkfelders—a German-speaking sectarian group present in the colony—connected to early modern European mystical tradition in important ways, and the religious community practiced a rich manuscript tradition. This episode of Cloister Talk Live! takes us to the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center to dive into the Library’s astounding rare book, manuscript, and decorative-art collections. Curators and scholars Candace Perry and Allen Viehmeyer introduce us to the institution’s holdings, consider how they relate to the material culture of other Pennsylvania German groups, summarize the state of Schwenkfelder studies today, and suggest new directions for the field.
Episode 25: Cloister Talk Live! Dr. Franklin’s Library: A Conversation with James N. Green, Librarian Emeritus of the Library Company of Philadelphia
Samuel Castner, Jr. (1843-1929), compiler. Views of the various buildings of the Library Company of Philadelphia (“Franklin Library in 1800, and five others”), Castner Scrapbook v.17, Education 1, page 30, A917.481 P536 v.17. Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company of Philadelphia is the thriving epicenter of early American book history, and the inspiration of librarianship in America. James N. Green, Librarian Emeritus of the Library Company and a scholar of early American book history, introduces us to the history of the Library Company, the contours of its Pennsylvania German collections, and possible futures for the fields of material texts, Pennsylvania German studies, and cultural heritage preservation broadly conceived. Sharing personal memories of his long and distinguished career in librarianship and the history of material texts, Green also reflects on the unique library ecosystem that defines the Philadelphia region, the foundation of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL), and the evolving civic role of libraries.
Episode 26: A Second Cup of Afternoon Tea with Alexander Lawrence Ames: Answering Questions about The Word in the Wilderness, and Some Closing Reflections on the Book
John Derstine Souder (1865-1942), fraktur illuminated manuscript, “Die Blumen stehen hier,” Telford, Franconia Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1939. Modeled on a nineteenth-century Pennsylvania German manuscript. Shelf Mark FLP 105. Courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Book Department.
At the close of Season 3 of Cloister Talk, sit back and relax with a hot cup of tea to reflect on Pennsylvania German manuscript culture and popular piety in early America, and future directions for the study of early American cultural and intellectual history. Reader and listener-submitted questions considered in this episode include the implications of The Word in the Wilderness for our understanding of the changing place of cursive handwriting instruction in American schools today, shifting approaches to the scholarly study of Pennsylvania German calligraphy and manuscript illumination advocated in The Word in the Wilderness, and possible reasons for the long decline of traditional illuminated manuscript culture in German Pennsylvania. The episode closes with some personal reflections on next steps forward for the field of Pennsylvania German material texts within the context of closely-aligned scholarly disciplines. Make a hot cup of tea, get cozy, and settle in for an enjoyable conversation as the paperback version of The Word in the Wilderness makes its debut!