Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 4. German Books at Germantown, Pennsylvania

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXIX. Book Publishers and Publishing

§ 4. German Books at Germantown, Pennsylvania

With the German language, however, the case was far different. Andrew Bradford printed Conrad Beissel’s Das Büchlein vom Sabbath in 1728, ushering in German printing in this country. In 1738 Christopher Saur or Sower established at Germantown what is the oldest extant publishing firm in the United States. Sower won his place in publishing annals by his three editions of the Bible, in 1743, 1762, and 1776. Not until 1782 was our first Bible in English published, by Robert Aitken at Philadelphia. But even more remarkable than Sower’s editions of the Bible was the issue of Van Bragt’s Martyr Book by the Ephrata brethren in 1748 and 1749, which, in an edition of about 1300 copies of a massive folio of 1512 pages on thick paper, was the largest book until after the Revolution. Up to 1830 German printing was carried on in some 47 places, and of these at least 31 were in Pennsylvania, while in actual output and in intellectual stirring the balance was even greater in favour of that colony than these figures would indicate. Moreover, Germantown was the first place to gain wide recognition for itself as a paper manufacturing centre.