8vo., (7 x 4 ¼ inches). Fine engraved frontispiece portrait, fine engraved plate (some browning and spotting). Contemporary quarter brown mottled calf, paper boards, smooth spine gilt (generally quite worn).
Provenance: With the modern bookplate of Franklin & Marshall College to the front pastedown; blind stamp of Historical Society of the Reformed Church in the U.S., Lancaster, PA to p. 3.
First edition. An excellent example of Pennsylvania Dutch printing. This book was published in Ephrata, a community in Lancaster County that was once the seat of the Mystic Order of the Solitary, a semimonastic order of Seventh-Day Dunkers. Founded by Johann Conrad Beissel in 1732, Ephrata began as a hermitage for a small group of devoted individuals. At its high point in the mid-18th century the cloisters housed 80 celibate members, supported by an estimated 200 family members in the region. Beissel’s theology was a hybrid of pietism and mysticism, and he encouraged celibacy, Sabbath worship, Anabaptism, and the ascetic life, yet allowed room for families, limited industry, and creative expression. The community became known for its self-composed a cappella music, Fraktur calligraphy, and a complete publishing center which included a paper mill, printing office, and book bindery.
“In all his works Boehme spoke as a prophet... Convinced that he wrote under direct inspiration, he claimed that he changed nothing once it was written. The obscurity of his style is the expression of his mode of insight – full of bold metaphors, alchemical terms, number symbolism, and Neoplatonic conceptions – and reveals his background in Luther, Paracelsus, Kaspar Schwenckfeld, and Valentin Weigel... By placing cosmogony at the center of his theology, Boehme reveals his debt to the Lutheran tradition, and especially to Paracelsus and the Protestant mystics of the sixteenth century. But he is more explicit and detailed than his predecessors. One far-reaching effect of this theology was profound reference for nature and closeness to it. Nature is given positive reality; its study gains justification; its observation – if rightly used as an avenue to the invisible realm beyond it – is an act of devotion” (DSB II pp. 222-3). Shoemaker 8118. First Century of German Language Printing in the U.S. 2533.