the document in different resolutions

From the collection of the Deutsches Historisches Museum:

First Printing in German of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776


Reimer Eck *

German Language Printing in the American Colonies up to the Declaration of lndependence (part 1)


I. The current state of bibliographical description of the early German language printing in the territory of the United States of America

At the end of the nineteenth century, the Pennsylvania German Oswald Seidensticker, who incidentally was born in Göttingen, published the first extensive bibliography of German language printing and recorded about 1550 books, pamphlets and almanacs. He also described newspapers and some fifty broadsides. In addition to the major public collections in the Philadelphia area, he had access to several private collections, most of which have since been dispersed. Various other American researchers and bibliographers then continued to publish additions and new discoveries so that, from Seidensticker on, German-American bibliography has been a continuous process.

In the 1960s, Karl J. R. Arndt and May E. Olson started to publish their findings of German-American newspapers and periodicals in the Americas. In 1976, a third edition appeared in three volumes. Here Arndt first pointed out that a very early German version of the Declaration of lndependence had been published on Tuesday, 9th of July 1776 in Henrich Millers Pennsylvanischer Staatsbote. Again, at the instance of Karl J. R. Arndt, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft got involved in a project to go over all former research on German American printing and to sponsor the preparation and publication of a new revised and enlarged edition of Seidensticker's bibliography. In close cooperation with two of the major collections of early Americana, the Library Company of Philadelphia and the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. the Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Göttingen joined the effort as German partner by sending a trained cataloguer, Werner Tannhof to do the necessary fieldwork in the United States.

His extensive survey took him through more than one hundred different libraries, archives and private collections in the United States. American colleagues and collectors never wavered in their helpful support and advice. On this trip, that was fully financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Werner Tannhof discovered in the Library of Gettysburg College a first copy of a hitherto unrecorded broadside printing of the Declaration of lndependence in German by Steinen & Cist of Philadelphia as is on display here, certainly one of the most interesting discoveries made during this survey. The results of the fieldwork in the United States were certainly gratifying. Bibliographical notes for more than 4500 different German-American imprints had been collected. And after recording the main part of the material into a data-file in Göttingen, a two-volume bibliography, containing the exact description of 3151 German American imprints, books, pamphlets and almanacs, was published in 1989. The Pennsylvania German Society in Birdsboro, Pa. generously funded the publication of the bibliography. Thus a very interesting and successful chapter in the history of transatlantic cooperation between German and American researchers, librarians and libraries has come to a preliminary end.

The new bibliography has practically doubled the number of items originally recorded by Oswald Seidensticker in 1893. About six hundred of the entries had never been described before. In only one copy another 612 of the imprints recorded could be found which proves how rare German-American imprints from the early period have become. A considerable part of the output of the German language press of the colonies must be considered lost. This particularly holds true for the first half of the eighteenth century and especially for the broadsides and individual issues of newspapers from the Revolutionary period that are of special interest in the context of this exhibit. The nearly 1100 broadsides recorded by Werner Tannhof under the auspices of the Forschungsgemeinschaft had to be excluded from the new Seidensticker for financial reasons and still await publication. This is extremely deplorable because the broadsides in particular are material that is of primary source value for our knowledge of the every day life as well as the political activities of the German settlers in the colonies. The current American projects to record the national heritage (NAlP) may continue to add to our knowledge but the records collected in Göttingen should be of considerable value if ever published.

The libraries in Philadelphia, Worcester and Göttingen still maintain contact and they continue to add to their collections of German Americana when opportunity arises. The University Library of Göttingen forms part of the recently founded German National Archive of Printing that is sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation and is responsible for collecting the eighteenth century. Under the auspices of this program, the library can add to its small but very select collection of early German-American imprints. The majority of illustrations published here come from the Göttingen collection.




view map of  Philadelphia


* Special Subject Librarian (Anglo-American language and literature), Project Manager at the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, co-editor of the bibliography "The First Century of German Language Printing in the United States of America"



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