A century before the great wave of nineteenth-century German immigration to America, Germans were well settled in Pennsylvania, reading books imported from their home country, printed in their native language. By the mid eighteenth century German texts circulated widely in colonial America in the form of broadsides, newspapers, and books. In 1753 Franklin observed, “Of the six printing houses in the Province, two are entirely German, two half German half English, and but two entirely English.” The Pennsylvania-Dutch (originally “Deutsch”) carried with them an indigenous print culture which they adapted after their arrival. They printed both ephemeral and long-lasting items, from medicine labels and herbal recipes to birth and marriage certificates, sacred house blessings, Bibles, and school books.
Our collection of German-American publications is one of largest in the world, and all genres of printed material are represented. Complementing our collection of taufschein (birth and baptismal certificates) and other printed ephemera is our vast collection of German language books, pamphlets, and newspaper printed in cities as far west as Chicago and spanning the 1730s through the 1890s. These materials show in printed form the diffusion, adaptation, and endurance of German-American life and culture through time.
Karl John Richard Arndt and Reimer C. Eck, eds., Gerd-J. Bötte and Werner Tannhof, comps. The First Century of German Lanauge Printing in the United States of America (Göttingen: Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliotheck, 1989). 2 vols.
Robert E. Cazden. A Social History of the German Book Trade in America to the Civil War (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1984).
Russell D. and Corinne P. Earnest. Papers for Birth Dayes: Guides to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners, vols. I and II. East Berlin, PA: Russell D. Earnest Associates, 1997.
Oswald Seidensticker. The First Century of German Printing in America 1728-1830 (Philadelphia: Schaefer & Koradi, 1893).
Klaus Stopp. The Printed Birth and Baptismal Certificates of the German Americans (Mainz, Germany and East Berlin, PA: by the Author, 1997-8). 6 vols.
Don Yoder. The Pennsylvania German Broadside. A History and Guide (Penn State Press, 2005).