“B” from ABC Book at Ephrata Cloister

Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.

The arts — particularly hand-drawn illustrations and music manuscripts — played an important part in the daily lives of the members of Ephrata Cloister, founded in 1732 by Conrad Beissel (1691–1768) in Lancaster County. The religious community created its own distinctive fraktur, ornate illuminations for manuscripts, wall charts, and bookplates. The highest form and best-known example of Ephrata Cloister fraktur is the Christian ABC Book, completed in 1750, at the communal society’s zenith. The Christian ABC Book was most likely based on ABC copybooks with European origins dating to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Although both Sisters and Brothers created fraktur, the Christian ABC Book was probably created from designs inspired by Beissel himself. One scholar contends that North American fraktur “reached its greatest perfection” at the Cloister. Human figures in Ephrata-style garb, flowers, religious images, and folk symbols appear among some of the letters. The image of John the Apostle, author of the book of Revelation, appears in the letter B. Donations are being sought for the continuing conservation of this unique book, and individuals are encouraged to write: Ephrata Cloister Associates, 632 West Main Street, Ephrata, PA 17522; telephone (717) 773-6600.