Last April, a woman called the Penn Libraries from California saying she had in her possession an English Bible that had belonged to Francis Daniel Pastorius (1651-1720). Pastorius is credited with being the founder, in 1683, of Germantown (now part of Philadelphia), which became the new home for thirteen Quaker and Mennonite families who emigrated from Krefeld, Germany in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity. Pastorius also drafted and signed, with three other Quakers, on behalf of the Germantown Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, the first protest against African-American slavery made by a religious body in the English colonies. The original 1688 Petition is now held by Haverford College and can be viewed on their website.
Pastorius was one of the few intellectuals in the Philadelphia region at this time, with a substantial library (probably the largest before James Logan, according to historian and librarian Edwin Wolf II) and a penchant for borrowing books from others. In addition to being the leader of the Krefelders, as they referred to themselves, Pastorius, who was trained in the law and practiced it regularly in service to the new settlement, also taught school and wrote numerous works. Some scholars consider his most important work to be the Beehive, a massive commonplace book in which he gathered together, like a bee, selections from the hundreds of books he had read. It has been in the collections of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania since 1949, the gift of Charles Sharpless Pastorius (1866-1950), and has recently been digitized and made available to the public as part of Penn in Hand.
The owner of the Bible, Glenda Marks, told us that she had inherited it from Lillian Pastorius Reynolds (1907-1991), whom she referred to as a “dear friend of our family for seventy years.” Ms. Marks engaged David Szewcyzk, of Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts, to confirm the provenance of the Bible and appraise its value. The Bible, which is lacking the engraved title page as well as the beginning of the Old Testament, turned out to have been published in Oxford by the University Printers in 1706. It is a quarto bound as an octavo (see below for an explanation of this format), in a Pennsylvania German binding of calf leather over wooden boards, unusual for an English Bible of the period.
After the appraisal, Ms. Marks contacted Penn about acquiring the Bible for the collections. We asked for the opportunity to see it ourselves and a few days later the Pastorius Bible was delivered to the Kislak Center for our consideration. I began by unwrapping the Bible, which Szewcyzk had described in his appraisal as being “in serious need of restoration.”
It reminded me of the condition of the Beehive manuscript when it arrived at Penn. The Bible, like the Beehive, is reminiscent of a ruin, albeit an important and fascinating one that should not only be preserved, but also conserved, so that future generations of scholars can use it without fear of damaging it further.
The Life of Francis Daniel Pastorius, The Founder of Germantown (1908) by Marion Dexter Learned, still the standard biography of Pastorius, includes a list of Pastorius’s books as prepared by Pastorius himself in his manuscript Res Propriae, now in the Pastorius Papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Among the books listed under Quartos is “An English Bible, printed at Oxford.” Interestingly, there is “An English Bible printed at Oxford” listed as well under Octavos. Did Pastorius have two English Bibles, both printed at Oxford? The inventory of the effects of Pastorius, made after his death, reproduced in facsimile in Learned’s biography, lists “a English Bible in 4° and an other in 8° with a combined value of 2 pounds 10 shillings.
So clearly he had two. Why would Pastorius own not just one, but two English Bibles?
Like other humanist intellectuals of the period and due in part to his legal education, Pastorius knew how to read and write in a range of languages, both classical (Greek and Latin) and modern (French and Italian), in addition to German, his mother tongue. Pastorius’s multilingualism, and a related fascination with languages and their usefulness in understanding and communicating with other linguistic, cultural, and spiritual communities, was important throughout his life.
During a European tour that lasted from June 1680 to November 1682, Pastorius traveled to England. His interest in William Penn and his scheme for the colonization of Pennsylvania—a subject of heated debate in Pietist circles at the time of Pastorius’s return from his travels—may well have encouraged him to learn English, the official language of the province. When Pastorius was given the power of attorney to represent those interested in acquiring land in Pennsylvania on April 2, 1683, he translated the German document into English, revealing his increasing facility with the language at this early date. Once he arrived in Pennsylvania, while he used German to communicate with the other settlers in Germantown, he continued to improve his English, writing and publishing in both German and English and even Latin, depending on his perceived audience, which for some works was European. His New Primmer (Printed by William Bradford in New-York, and sold by the author in Pennsilvania, 1698), written, according to its title page, not only for the Youth of this Province, but likewise for those, who from forreign Countries and Nations come to settle amongst us, shows him working to unite the various groups settling in new province linguistically. Continue reading