The Pennsylvania German Broadside: A History and Guide (Pennsylvania German History and Culture)

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9780271026794: The Pennsylvania German Broadside: A History and Guide (Pennsylvania German History and Culture)

Co-published with the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania German Society

Fifteenth-century Germany was the birthplace of movable type and of one of its powerful consequences, the broadside. These mass-produced printed sheets allowed both the Renaissance and the Reformation to spread with previously unimaginable speed, and when German immigrants made their way to North America, the cultural significance of the broadside followed. Don Yoder’s The Pennsylvania German Broadside examines the history and legacy of these printed sheets within the Pennsylvania German community.

The author defines a broadside as any piece of paper printed on one side that is intended to be given away or sold. Where some experts have narrowed the definition of the broadside to focus primarily on song and ballad broadsides, Professor Yoder’s definition encompasses a much wider range of material. In this more comprehensive approach to the medium, not only “street literature” but also such documents as elegies, spiritual testaments, and certificates of birth, baptism, confirmation, and marriage are all considered legitimate broadsides that tie the individual to the culture of the community. After tracing the migration of the broadside from Germany to America, the author dedicates each of ten chapters to a specific broadside subject, including medical broadsides, political and military broadsides, sale bills, posters, house blessings, and “letters from heaven.” All German texts have been translated or paraphrased for the reader’s convenience.

Professor Yoder recently donated a vast collection of Pennsylvania German broadsides to the Library Company of Philadelphia. A selection of these artifacts, part of the Roughwood Collection, will go on display in September 2005 as the centerpiece of a broadside exhibition at the Library Company. More than a catalogue of the exhibition, this book explores the history and cultural significance of the broadside, illuminating the ways in which it both reflected and influenced Pennsylvania German life.

Intended for historians, folklorists, collectors, and general readers, The Pennsylvania German Broadside features more than 200 illustrations and an engaging, accessible text.

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About the Author:

Don Yoder is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania. He is past president of the American Folklore Society and co-founder of the Pennsylvania Folklife Society.

Review:

“Don Yoder delves deep into the history of this elaborate form of printing, providing German terminology along with more than 200 elaborate illustrations and photographs. This beautifully designed hardcover book would be an attractive addition to any history buff’s coffee table.”

—Lisa Kellar, Pittsburgh City Paper



The Pennsylvania German Broadside exudes the passion that Yoder has as collector, historian,and folklorist for this material and this culture. In addition, it is the story of a scholar’s lifelong dedication to his work. . . . If the paper ephemera of all American communities had such a devoted collector and analyst who was willing to labor such challenging material throughout and entire career, the study of American culture, past and present, would be much richer for it.”

—Leonard Norman Primiano, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

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