Froschauer Bibles and Testaments
This term is used for the German Bibles and Testaments published by
Christoph Froschauer. They were very popular because of the clear type,
pictorial decoration, and popular language. The following Froschauer Bibles
are known: 1524 to 1529 fol., 1527-1529 in 16 (in these two editions the
separate parts appeared at intervals), 1530 in 8, 1531 fol., 1534 in 8,
1536 fol., 1538 in 8, 1540 fol., 1542 in 8, 1545 fol., 1545 in 8, 1550
in 8, 1552 in 8, 1553 fol., 1556 fol., 1560 in 8, 1561 in 8, 1565 fol.,
1570 in 8, 1571 fol., 1580 fol., 1586 fol., 1589 in 4. Froschauer New
Testaments appeared as follows: 1524 in 8, 1524 fol., 1525 in 8, undated
in 16 (1528?), 1533 in 16, 1534 in 16 (?), 1535 Latin and German in 8,
1542 in 16, 1557 in 8, 1565 in 8, 1570 in 8, 1574 in 8, 1581 in 4.
The Froschauer Bibles and Testaments were originally reprints of Luther's
translation, altered in word order and vocabulary, more rarely in the
text itself. Until 1525 they have Swiss vocalization; e.g., Romans 12:20,
So wirstu fiihrige kolen vff sin houpt samlen. In 1527 the New High German
diphthongs, au, ei, and eu were adopted. Since the Prophets were still
lacking in Luther's translation, the Zürich preachers in 1529 issued
this part of the Old Testament in a special translation, based on the
translation of Ludwig Haetzer and Hans Denck, which had been published
in Worms in 1527, and which the Zürich preachers considered a faithful
translation from the Hebrew. Thus it came about that in 1529 a complete
translation of the entire Bible was printed by Froschauer several years
before Luther's complete Bible appeared. From the continual revision of
this combined Bible rose the actual "Zürich Bible," whose
text deviated more and more from Luther's, without, however, losing all
traces of its original dependence.
Fluri, Adolf. "Froschauer Bibles and Testaments."
Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Global Anabaptist
Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 November 2007
1536 Froschauer Bible
The Mennonite Historians recently acquired a rare 1536 Froschauer Bible
with early manuscript, fraktur family records and signatures. Christopher
Froschauer of Zurich was the printer of the Swiss Reformation. A close
associate of Ulrich Zwingli and some of the early Swiss Anabaptist leaders,
he printed many editions of the New Testament and Bible beginning in 1524
until his death in 1564. His nephew Christopher Froschauer II and heirs
continued printing Bibles and other books until 1590.
The Froschauer version was the first complete vernacular German language
edition of the Bible and so was highly prized among the Swiss Anabaptists.
Several editions of the Bible, including the 1536 edition, had beautiful
woodcut illustrations which made it very popular. For many years, the
Swiss authorities banned the Anabaptists from owning the Froschauer Bible
and New Testament, and therefore they hid it in their barns, haymows and
This particular copy came from an unknown ancestor of the Anabaptist
Schnebelli family who lived in the Zurich area. In the 1640's or 1650's,
this family moved to the Alsace and from there down the Rhein River to
the Iberscheimer Hof, just north of Worms in the Palatinate. In 1660,
there was a preacher Jacob Schnebely at Baldenheim in the Alsace. In 1696,
the Bible was owned by a preacher, Hans Jacob Schnebelli, of the Ibersheimer
Hof who signed it:
"Disze biebel Gehert Dem Haans Jacob Schnebelli Auf dem Ibersheimer
Hoff und Ist Mir zum deil worden von Meinem Schweer vatter zum (deill
worden) [this crossed out] Anno 1696. Johann Jacob Schnebly." [this
is an earlier signature]
"This Bible belongs to the Hans Jacob Schnebelli at the Ibersheimer
Hof and was received from my father-in-law. Anno 1696. Johann Jacob Schnebly."
Hans Jacob Schnebelli appears to be the preacher who lived at Mannhaim
and the Ibersheimer Hof and who assisted in the 1710 flight of Swiss Anabaptist
refugees on their way down the Rhein River to the Palatinate.
In 1708, the Bible was owned by Matthias Schnebelli at the Ibersheimerhof,
probably an unmarried son of Hans Jacob Schnebelli. Next to the title
page of the second part, is found a very rare 1708 Palatine Fraktur bookplate
with the inscription:
"Diese Biebel Gehehret dem Madteiss Schnebelli Auf dem Iversheimer
Hoff, und sie ist im Lieb so geschrieben Im Jahr Christi 1708."
(This Bible belongs to the Matthias Schnebly at the Ibersheimerhof,
and this is in love so written in the year of Christ, 1708.)
And so this made the piece even more unique, since it is one of the
earliest pieces of Mennonite fraktur we have seen.
The father, preacher Hans Jacob Schnebelli, died by 1714 and his widow
Elizabeth remarred Dielman Kolb (1691-1756) of Wolfsheim or Mannheim on
St. Jacob's Day (July 25), 1714, as recorded in Dielman Kolb's family
Bible. They migrated to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1717, and settled
in (Lower) Salford Township, where Dielman became a preacher in the Skippack
and Salford Mennonite congregations. It was this Dielman's father, Dielman
Kolb Sr. (1648-1712), who was a preacher at Mannheim and who assisted
with preacher Hans Jacob Schnebelli in the 1710 flight of Swiss Anabaptists.
When the preacher Schnebelli died, his widow married the preacher Kolb's
In the meantime, the Bible found its way into the possession of Hans
George Bachman (1686-1753) when he married Anna Maria [?] Schnebelli in
1715, probably at the Ibersheimerhof. In the "Mennonite census"
lists, we find one Hans Bachman at the Ibersheimerhof in September, 1685.
According to her gravestone, Maria was born in 1698 and died in 1776,
and appears to have been the daughter of Hans Jacob Schnebelli, mentioned
above. George and Maria Bachmann's oldest child, Henrish, was born in
1717, according to their family record which we find in the Bible. They
may have immigrated to Pennsylvania in that year, along with Dielman and
Elizagbeth Schnebeli Kolb and many other Palatine Mennonites who came
at the same time. We do know they came by 1727 and settled in the Saucon
area. George and Maria's second sons, Hans Jacob Bachmann (possibly named
after his maternal grandfather), was born in 1720.
During the 1720's, the Bible settled with the Bachmann family in the
Saucon Mennonite community in what is now Coopersburg, Lehigh County,
where George acquired a tract of 300 acres by 1728. From 1717 to 1744,
the births of George and Maria Bachmann's eleven children are recorded
in the Bible as follows:
Our Son Henrich Bahmann, born 1717.
Our Son Hans Jacob Bachmann, born June 15, 1720.
Our Daughter Catarina Bachmann, born August 25, 1722.
Our Son Hans Gorg Bachmann, born November 30l 1724.
Our Son Christel (Christian) Bachmann, born May 19, 1727.
Our Daughter Mary Bachmann, born January 28, 1729.
Our Daughter Elisabeth Bachmann, born July 3, 1732.
Our Son Johannes Bachmann, born August 1, 1735.
Our Son Samuel Bachmann, born January 14, 1739.
Our Daughter Susanna Bachmann, born April 17, 1742.
Our Son Abraham Bachmann, born November 12, 1744.
[And one more birth, which must be a grandchild of Hans George Jr.]:
Esther Oberholtzer born September 30, 1792, at 7 o'clock p.m., in the
Sign of the Ram. [this record written in another hand]
George Bachmann, Sr. died in 1753, and was buried in the Saucon Mennonite
cemetery. The Bible was passed on to this son Hans George Jr. (1724-1806).
The elder Bachmann's gravestone, the oldest in the Saucon cemetery, refers
to him as the "honorable" (ehrsame) George Bachmann, records
his age, that he was married for 38 years, and that he had eleven children.
His 1754 estate inventory lists: "Two Bibles and Sundry other books,"
valued at four pounds. The Bible was rebound sometime in the 18th century.
His widow, Maria, lived another twenty-three years.
George Bachmann, Jr. was married in 1748 to Esther Oberholtzer (b.1728),
the daughter of Jacob and Barbara Oberholtzer of Deep Run, Bucks County.
The Bible records the birth of their eleven children (one son, ten daughters)
from 1749 to 1774, and the death of their youngest daughter Rebecca in
1776. These family records are in a beautiful, full-page fraktur done
in Bucks County by schoolmaster John Adam Eyer. Although the last entry
in Eyer's hand is dated 1776, the fraktur could hardly have been made
before 1779, as this is when he started his teaching career and fraktur
In August of 1778, it is thought that this old and highly prized Bible
must have been taken or hidden during the confiscations and sheriff's
auctions of twelve Mennonite households in the Saucon Congregation during
the American Revolution. The twelve men had refused to take the Test Oath
(of allegiance), were imprisoned at Easton, and had their estates confiscated
by the over-zealous sheriff of Northampton County. In September, 1778,
two of the wives, Esther Bachman and Eve Yoder, sent a petition to the
Pennsylvania General Assembly asking for some relief and stated: "all
their said personal Estate, even their Beds, Bedings, Linen, Bibles and
Books were taken from them and sold by the Sheriff to the amount of about
forty thousand pounds.´ This Bible could have been one of those
confiscated Bibles. The story of intolerance in Pennsylvania is an important
part of the Work and Hope exhibit at The Meeting House.
It was after this incident that the fraktur family records for George
and Esther Bachman was made by John Adam Eyer. The Bible could have been
returned to, or reclaimed by the family after the confiscations, or simply
hidden during the whole affair. The fraktur was probably one of John Adam
Eyer's earliest pieces and is a very fine example of his work. Its design
is seimilar to the April, 1780, Abraham Landes Vorschrift Booklet Cover
done by Eyer, now in the Free Library of Philadelphia Rare Books Department.
Why would a Deep Run schoolmaster have made a fraktur record for a family
from the Saucon Mennonite community? There is no evidence that Eyer taught
at the Saucon school. The Esther Oberholtzer Bachmann's family was from
the Deep Run community and would have known of John Adam Eyer.
A transcrption of the Bachmann family record follows:
Diese Bibel gehoret Johann George Bachmann, sie hat meinem Vatter
George Bachmann gehort, und nach seinem Todte ist sie mir von allen
Meinen geschwistern Ver-Ehret worden.
Anno 1724 den 30ten November, bin ich Joh. George Bachman, Laut Meiner
Eltern Geburts-Register, Auf diese Welt gebohren worden. Und en 16ten
November 1748-alter zeit-hab ich mich In den Heil. Ehestand begeben
Mit Esther Oberholtzerin des Jacob Oberholtzers und seiner fr. Barbara
Tochter. Sie ist auf diese Welt Gebohren worden den 16ten may 1728.
In Unserer Ehe hat uns der Herr mit Nachfolgenden kindern gesegnet:
This Bible belongs to Johann George Bachmann; it belonged to my Father
George Bachmann, and after his death it was given to me by all of my
brothers and sisters.
Anno 1724, the 30th of November, I Joh. George Bachmann, as is recorded
on my parents [family] birth register, was born into this World. And
on the 16th of November 1748 - old style - I entered into Holy Matrimony
with Esther Oberholtzer, daughter of Jacob Oberholtzer and his wife
Barbara. She was born into this world the 16th of May, 1728.
In our married life, the Lord blessed us with the following children:
Then follows the birth records of eleven children which we will abbreviate
Maria, born August 22, 1749.
Jacob, born October 15, 1750, at 4 o'clock p.m., in the Sign of the
Barbara, born July 6, 1752, at 9 o'clock a.m., in the Sign of the Scales.
Rachel, born January 7, 1754, at 7 o'clock p.m., in the Sign of the
Esther, born March 8, 1756, at 1 o'clock p.m. in the Sign of the Twins
Anna, born October 14, 1758, at 10 o'clock p.m., in the Sign of the
Lidia, born October 14, 1761, at 8 o'clock a.m. in the Sign of the Steer.
Susanna, born January 9, 1763, at mid-day, in the Sign of the Scorpion.
Elisabeth, born April 22, 1765, at 8 o'clock a.m., in the Sign of the
Catarina, born March 5, 1770, at 10 o'clock p.m., in the Sign of the
Rebecca, born May 20, 1774, and died April 29, 1776.
Sometime after this fraktur record was made, possibly when George Bachman
Jr. died in 1806, the Bible was passed on to his daughter Barbara, married
to Isaac Stoudt. It was then passed down in the Stoudt family for more
than a century to J. Kennedy Stout of Washington, D.C., who owned it in
1914. In that year, it was noticed by Historian John Baer Stoudt, of Northampton,
Pa., and the family records found it in, were published in the Pennsylvania
Genealogical Magazine, Philadelphia, Pa. It again went unnoticed for many
years. Somehow, it later came into the possession of Ferdinand and Matilda
Kotzbeck Hetzel of Bristol, Bucks County, late German immigrants and unrelated
to the Stouts, and finally to her grandson Paul Hetzel of Philadelphia,
who was the last owner of the piece. Mr. Hetzel remembers his grandmother
Matilda faithfully readying from the ancient Bible when he was a boy.
In December 1990, it was sold by the last owners at auction, after
they tried to obtain more information about it from several Philadelphia
area museums and libraries. With contributions made by several MHEP members,
this organization purchased what is now the most significant piece in