Tag Archives: Johann Adam Eyer

Johann Adam Eyer Roster Booklet 1779-1787

Ever wonder what kind of schools your progenitors attended in the eighteenth century in Pennsylvania? The Goschenhoppen Historians are the keepers of one-of-a-kind manuscript: Johann Adam Eyer’s (1755-1837) Roster Book from 1779-1787 for Birkenseh, Hilltown, and Deep Run Mennonite parochial schools in Bucks County, Pennsylvania that tells it all…or almost all. This booklet dates from when Eyer was just beginning his career as a schoolmaster and was keeping very detailed records of his students’ attendance. The school belonging to Birkenseh Meeting House was part of today’s Blooming Glen congregation in Hilltown Township; a still unidentified school was located in the southern end of Hilltown, possibly near Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church of Hilltown, Hilltown Township; the school for Deep Run meeting house was part of today’s Deep Run East and West Mennonite Churches in Bedminster Township.

The roll book is badly stained; the title page in fragments; and parts or whole pages are missing as can be seen from the illustration. Yet its contents are especially valuable to the genealogist, as well as to researchers investigating the inner-workings of schools organized during the eighteenth century, and associated with Mennonite, Schwenkfelder, Lutheran, and/or Reformed congregations.. Although he sometimes taught two successive terms at the same school, Eyer divided the year into quarters, usually rotating his teaching among the schools. He planned his teaching time with the children according to the agrarian calendar. Children enrolled could take time off whenever they needed to help with farm work or because of illness. Although prices could fluctuate, it usually cost 7 shillings 6 pence for three months of instruction, and most students stayed the whole quarter, returning for the next. If a child was absent, Eyer recorded it next to its name, and made monetary adjustments accordingly. By keeping a list of what each child paid, he was also keeping a record of his income, which could be as high as seventy pounds in a good year.

To supplement the lack of printed textbooks, Johann Adam Eyer created illustrated Vorschriften or writing samples, and rewarded children with Belohnungen, often a drawing with an inspirational saying on it to encourage and thank the student for his or her good work. He was raised Lutheran, and knew its music and liturgy well. As a musician well schooled in theory and practice, Eyer shared his love of hymns, and singing with his children, creating the very first Notenbüchlen or tune booklets to teach Pennsylvania Dutch children the rudiments of music so that they might learn the hymn melodies sung in church and home services. The hymnals used by their parents contained no music, but only the hymn verses with the title of the hymn tune to which the congregation would sing the text. The metrics, and topic of the poetry usually determined which melodies were chosen, and the congregation knew the tunes by heart. Harkening back to Lutheran musical tradition, Eyer knew that the music would inscribe the words on the children’s hearts forever.

Henrich Honsperger attended the late winter quarter of 1780 at Birkenseh (Blooming Glen, Bucks County, PA), starting on the 7 February and ending on the 15 April 1780. The cost to his parents was a bit higher than usual at 11 shillings. On April 12, 1780, just before the close of the school quarter, he became the proud owner of the earliest known tune booklet ever made.

The title of the tune booklet informs us that the best known hymns from the Marburg Hymnal are included in the booklet: There are 73.  

Proverbs, poetry, and Biblical excerpts often decorated title pages, and educated children in spiritual and practical matters. Along the left side of the center sphere we find the Latin proverb Artem quaevis, terra alit which translates into German as Wer Etwas kan den hält man werth or in English as He who is skilled is sought after by everyone. Along the right side the phrase concludes with Den Ungeschickten Niemand begehrt or He who is unskilled is sought by no one. At the bottom of the sphere is the saying Lerne Wie du kanst allein, singer buch und Tempel seÿn or Learn how you yourself can be singer, book and temple. This is the first verse of a poem taken from page 1 of the Marburg Hymnal.

Another child whose name appears on the roll book is Elisabetha Lädtermann.  According to the entry in the roster book for the winter quarter from 15 December 1783 to 15 March 1784, she attended the Deep Run school for the entire quarter and paid 7 shillings 6 pence. Elisabetha is not listed as a student before this. However, some of the prior pages are missing.  Since Eyer made this tune booklet for her April 29, 1783, it is more than likely that she is listed on those pages no longer extant.

Most booklets were bound in a paper wrapper. Elisabetha’s is a marbelized binding. The size is typical, i.e ca. 4 x 6.5 inches. The title page is written in Fraktur, German script, and Roman script and includes basic music instruction. The notes in red against the black staves perpendicular to and flanking the central sphere are ornamental as well as instructive.

  1. On the left are Semitones along with their names. By learning the note sequences, the singing scholar learned to hear the pitch, and to sight sing the music.
  2. 2.On the right Thirds encompassed within an octave are given, and Intervals are identified by note name.

There are 79 hymn titles with musical incipits in this Notenbüchlein, most of which come from the Marburg Hymnal.

Maria Fretz is listed in Johann Adam Eyer’s roll book for Deep Run, Bedminster Township late Winter term of scholars from 30 January to the last day of April 1786, along with Christian Fretz. There is a note that 15 shillings were paid, and that the children completed the quarter on the 4th of May. 7 shillings 6 pence was normally the payment per child per quarter, so the 15 shillings fee was for both children.

This particular manuscript appears to be the first tune booklet where Eyer used birds as decorative elements. This is an early example of pressed paper board cover with a leather spine. The title page is glued onto the inside cover.   There are 115 tunes to hymns, some of which come from the Marburg Hymnal. Of the 182 pages in the tune booklet, only 31 are devoted to the hymn titles and tune incipits. The rest are blank.

On page 35 of the tune booklet we find two hymns:

  1. Transcription
    In dir ist Freude, In allem Leiden (Der Du wahrer Heiland bist ) Durch dich wir | haben, Himmlische gaben, (O du süsser Jesu Christ, Hilfest von Schanden Redest | von banden, der dir vertrauet, Hat wohl gebauet, Wird ewig bleiben, Halleluia | Zu deiner Güte, Steth unser Gmüthe, An dir wir kleben, Im Tod und Leben | Wird ewig bleiben, Halleluja
  1. Translation
    In the midst of suffering you are great joy, Oh true Savior. Through you we have a foretaste of heavenly delights. O sweet Jesus Christ, you keep those who trust in You free of evil, and bondage. He who trusts You has chosen wisely, and will live forever. Halleluia! Our beings depend upon Your goodness. We cling to You in life and death, [and] will live forever. Halleluia !

The hymn In dir ist Freude is found first in Johann Lindemann’s Amorum Filii Dei decades duae, published, perhaps at Erfurt in 1598 in a collection of twenty hymns entitled Weyhenachten Gesenglein or Little Christmas Songs. The text, which appears without any indication of its authorship, has been attributed to Lindemann. The tune originates in one of many balletti (dance-like songs) written by Giovanni G. Gastoldi (ca. 1554-1609), a priest and composer employed by the Gonzaga Family in Mantua, Italy.  Johann Sebastian Bach based one of his well-known organ preludes on Gastoldi’s melody.

  1. Transcription
    Fliegel fliegel fliegel Her fliegel gleich den winden O wie wirds der seelen schwer | in dem Leib der Sünden die sie schaut mit furcht und grauß, daß sie drum auß diesem | Hauß, Heut noch wünscht zu gehen aus
  1. Translation
    Take wing, take wing, take wing just like the wind. O how difficult it becomes for the soul to be trapped in a mortal sinner, whom it views with fear and horror, and longs this very day to depart its human dwelling.

 Fliegel, Fliegel, Fliegel Her Gleich den Winden is the first verse of a hymn entitled Sehnliches Verlangen der Seele nach dem Himmel und seeliger Erlösung or The Soul’s Desire for Heaven and Blissful Redemption. It is sung to its own melody, and was published as Nr. 569 on page 532 in a Protestant song collection entitled Evangelisch Lieder=Schatz, Oder Glossirtes grosses Würtembergisches Gesang=Buch…published in the second of six volumes by Carl Gottlieb Ebertus in Tübingen in1731.

Johann Adam Eyer recorded in his Roster Book, 1779-1787 not only the names of the children who attended the Birkenseh, Hilltown, and Deep Run Mennonite schools in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but also inadvertently those for whom he had begun to create tune booklets so that they could learn to sing the melodies used in the hymns at church service, and at private house get-togethers. The document is a witness to his enormous talents as a teacher, frakturist, administrator, and visionary. His concept was a practical and useful one, and inspired many other teachers to create tune booklets for their students in which only the melody line of frequently used hymn tunes was written out. Each scholar had a booklet, usually 4 x 6.5 inches in size. The teacher created a title page describing the purpose of the booklet, and containing the name of the student, the school attended, and the date of the title’s creation. The empty spaces on the title page were filled in with flowers, birds, and other elements common to Pennsylvania Dutch decorated manuscripts. These titles are absolutely beautiful, and probably inspired the singing scholar to greater endeavors as he or she learned how to read music and sing the tunes that either the instructor or student would copy into the booklet.

The “singing schools” or singing classes that resulted from this one brilliant idea of Johann Adam Eyer flourished in Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties, Pennsylvania from about 1787 to 1845. Singing became a part of the school curriculum, and “singing schools” became popular.

Cory M. Amsler, ed. Bucks County Fraktur. Kutztown, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Society, 1999.

“Johann Adam Eyer” in Russell D. and Corinne P. Earnest’s Papers for Birth Dayes: Guide to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners, 2nd ed., vol.1, East Berlin, Pa.: Russell D. Earnest Associates, 1997.

Giovanni Gastoldi. In dir ist Freude Retrieved 2 March 2016 from ChoralWiki

Marburger Gesang=Buch zur Uebung der Gottseligkeit in 649 Christlichen und Trostreichen Psalmen und Gesängen Hrn. D. Martin Luthers. und anderer Gottseliger Lehrer, Ordentlich in XII. Theile verfasset, Und mit nöthigen Registern auch einer Verzeichniß versehen, unter welche Titul die im Anhang befindlichen Lieder gehörig: Auch zur Beförderung des so Kirchen= als Privat= Gottesdienstes, Mit erbaulichen Morgen= Abend = Buß= Beicht= und Communion=Gebätlein vermehret. Germanton, Gedruckt und zu finden bey Christoph Saur, 1762.

Mary Jane Lederach Hershey. “The Notenbüchlein Tradition in Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Community Schools,” in Cory M. Amsler, ed., Bucks County Fraktur. Kutztown, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Society, 1999.

Johann Lindemann. In dir ist Freude Accessed 2 March 2016 from The Online Library of Liberty, a project of Online Liberty Fund, Inc. at http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2057&chapter=197647&layout=html&Itemid=27

Sehnliches Verlangen der Seele nach dem Himmel und seeliger Erlösung in Evangelisch Lieder=Schatz, Oder Glossirtes grosses Würtembergisches Gesang=Buch . . . vol. 2, Tübingen: Carl Gottlieb Ebertus Verlag,1731, 532, Nr. 569. Accessed 22 March 2016 from Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=dk9FAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA532&lpg=PA532&dq=die+sie+schaut+mit+furcht+und+Grauß&source=bl&ots=Tf6fjByxZb&sig=Wky6O2_KacljdyLYTrTwcENnXHg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi64p7N79XLAhUKKB4KHUj7B2IQ6AEIHjAA#v=onepage&q=die%20sie%20schaut%20mit%20furcht%20und%20Grauß&f=false

John Joseph Stoudt. Early Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts. New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1964

Frederick Weiser. “I A E S D the Story of Johann Adam Eyer (1755-1837) Schoolmaster and Fraktur Artist with a Translation of his Roster Book 1779-1787,” in Ebbes fer Alle-Ebber Ebbes fer Dich.Breinigsville, Pa.: 1980, 435-506.

My thanks to Janine Pollock and Joe Shemtov at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA; Bob Wood and Aron Heckler of the Goschenhoppen Historians at Green Lane, PA; Forrest Moyer of the Mennonite Heritage Center at Harleysville, PA;  Jeanne Solensky, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera Librarian at Winterthur Library, Wilmington, DE; and Roberta Weisberg Chief Cataloger at Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, DE.

Johann Adam Eyer Roster Booklet, 1779-1787 Blog Post including transcriptions; translations; and photo images © 2016 Del-Louise Moyer