Cataloger’s Corner: 1743 Bible designed by Christoph Sauer

by Allie McCormack, Rare Books Catalog Librarian for Baylor Libraries

Hello! I’m Allie McCormack, the Rare Books Catalog Librarian for the Baylor Libraries. Though you may not be familiar with my title, I think I have one of the best jobs on campus. I create bibliographic records for the rare, historical, or otherwise “special” books at Baylor—meaning that I get a sneak peek of everything before it’s put on the shelf. The Texas Collection invited me to write about some of my favorite items from their collection, so I’ll be posting a series of guest entries about some of the oldest, rarest, and most interesting things I’ve cataloged for them.

The first book I want to share with you is a copy of the first Bible printed the American colonies in a European language: a 1743 Bible designed by the famed Pennsylvania printer Christoph Sauer. The first Bible printed in the colonies, the so-called “Eliot Indian Bible,” dates to 1663 and was in a dialect of Algonquian, a language spoken by Native Americans in Massachusetts.

Sauer was born in Germany and immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1724, settling in the aptly-named Germantown among other families from his homeland. At first, Sauer imported Bibles and other religious books directly from Germany, but he started his own printing and publishing business in 1735. Only 1,200 copies of this Bible, based on Martin Luther’s translation, were printed. It would be another 40 years before an English-language Bible was printed in North America.

Side view of Christoph Sauer's 1743 BibleRemarkably, The Texas Collection’s copy appears to be in its original leather binding. You can see here the remnants of the original brass clasps. The thin leather strips they were attached to break very easily. It’s not obvious in this photo, but a later owner tried to reattach them with staples!

Title page of Christoph Sauer's 1743 BibleThis next image shows the impressive title page. The typeface used is called Fraktur. We may find it hard to read, but it was the preferred font for German printers through the end of World War II. Jack-of-all-trades Benjamin Franklin was the main supplier of printed texts to Pennsylvania German communities before Sauer, but he only used Roman typefaces (think Times New Roman). Sauer imported type from Frankfurt for his business, and German readers responded enthusiastically to the familiar style.

First pages of Christoph Sauer 's 1743 BibleHere are the first pages of the Bible: the index and the “First Book of Moses.” Note that it’s not called Genesis in this Bible. Similarly, Exodus is referred to as the “Second Book of Moses” and so on. If you look closely, you’ll see that not all of the text is in Fraktur. Sauer used Roman type to show cross-references and allusions in Scripture. Using two different typefaces like this isn’t uncommon in German printing, though Fraktur is almost always used for the main body of text.

Interior of Christoph Sauer's 1743 BibleI’ll leave you with an unexpected surprise I found in this book—pressed flowers! It’s not unusual for me to find plants, newspaper clippings, receipts, and other ephemera in the books I catalog, but I rarely see more than one per volume. This Bible had three flowers that I noticed, and there are likely more hidden between the pages. The curators and I chose to leave them in to document how owners throughout the years used the book. If you come across something like this as you explore special collections materials, please be sure to ask a librarian before removing it!

If you’d like to look at another book printed by Christoph Sauer, make an appointment to see this Psalm- and hymn-book from 1753 held by Crouch Fine Arts Library. To find early Bibles and Biblical commentaries held by the Baylor special collections libraries, follow this link. If you’d like to look at other rare German books, these are available at the Texas Collection, while there are many more across campus.

A Distinguished Visitor: Thomas W. Streeter at The Texas Collection

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Student

In late November 1941, the most respected authority on materials relating to Texas visited Baylor University’s Texas Collection as part of his duties as a member of the McGregor Fund Committee. Thomas W. Streeter applauded The Texas Collection’s holdings in a letter to Guy B. Harrison and generously donated several items from his personal collection to the library.

Thomas Streeter was a successful businessman from the Northeast who harbored an interest in the collecting of rare materials relating to American history. His business ventures took him to Texas, which he utilized as an opportunity to add maps, broadsides, and various other items to his collection. By the end of his life, Streeter had assembled the largest known private collection of Texana.

Streeter meticulously compiled and published his Bibliography of Texas 1795-1845 in three volumes between 1955 and 1960. The work contained more than 1,600 entries including maps, novels, and musical scores along with pamphlets and government documents. His bibliography is widely considered the foremost authority on early Texas imprints and The Texas Collection owns many of the items he included.

Five of these items came from Streeter personally in 1941 after his visit to The Texas Collection. He came to Waco as a representative of the McGregor Plan, a program Baylor University participated in throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s. The program, founded by philanthropist and bibliophile Tracy W. McGregor, assisted libraries not located near major institutions to purchase rare books they would otherwise not be able to access. The school paid $500 each year and the McGregor Plan matched their funds and acted as the go-between for the schools and rare book dealers. Streeter served as a member of the committee which administrated the program after McGregor’s death in 1936.

Photo of: A new map of Texas, with the contiguous American & Mexican states (1836)
A new map of Texas, with the contiguous American & Mexican states (1836)

The Texas Collection acquired significant rare Texas materials through the library’s participation in the McGregor Plan. After his visit, Streeter sent several items he felt would fill in the gaps he perceived in The Texas Collection’s holdings. He donated an 1836 map of Texas entitled “New Map of Texas with the Contiguous American and Mexican States.” The map, published by S. Mitchell, included boxes of text containing information on the general state of Texas, its land grants, and rivers.

Photo of the title page of Title page of Nuttall's Journal of Travels...
Title page of Nuttall’s Journal of Travels… (1821)

Streeter also donated a pamphlet from the Secretary of the Treasury of the Republic of Texas to President Houston and a Mexican imprint detailing financial transactions after the war with Texas. Streeter included a pamphlet, “Lecture on the Subject of Re-annexing Texas to the United States,” delivered in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1845. This item gives a well-reasoned argument in favor of annexation from a northern perspective and is unique because most northerners opposed the annexation of Texas as a slave state into the Union. The Baylor Lariat identified the last item, Thomas Nuttall’s Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory, as the most valuable in the donation. Even though the work did not directly mention Texas, Streeter still felt it was worthwhile in its description of the territory now adjoining Texas.

Although Streeter did not publish his famed Bibliography of Texas for several more years, his visit to Waco and personal donation remain an important part of the story of The Texas Collection. The library continues to purchase Streeter items today and hopes to enlarge its holdings of these rare items in the years ahead.

Bibliography:

“Documents Given Texas Collection.” The Daily Lariat, December 11, 1941. Accessed January 24, 2017. http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/lariat/id/32823

McGregor Plan Records, Accession #171, Box 1, Folder 9, The Texas Collection, Baylor University. (unpublished collection, in processing)

Streeter, Ruth Cheney. “Streeter, Thomas Winthrop.” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 26, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fst73.

Streeter, Thomas W. Bibliography of Texas 1795-1845. Portland, ME: Anthoensen Press, 1955. Reprinted, revised and enlarged by Archibald Hanna with a guide to the microfilm collection Texas as Province and Republic: 1795-1845. Woodbridge, CT: Research Publications, Inc., 1983.