German-American Birth and Baptismal Certificates, 1700-1900 | Newberry

German-American Birth and Baptismal Certificates, 1700-1900

Approximately 1,200 printed variants of German-American birth and baptismal certificates collected by the late Professor Klaus Stopp, a bibliographer and authority on printed fraktur. Designed as richly decorated broadsides meant to publicize births and baptisms in the Pennsylvania Dutch community, the certificates - sometimes called Frakturs, after the type and handwriting style used in them - were created with templates and then filled out and painted based on a purchaser’s request. Drawing on the illuminated manuscript tradition, early certificates feature gorgeous, hand-painted woodcut borders, displaying songbirds, tulips, and crowns, while later 19th-century certificates mimic gravestones, commemorative plaques, and lithographic posters. Printed fraktur texts announce births and baptisms, with names and dates added by hand, but the certificates also include Christian poems and, in some cases, additional information like death date. Reflecting developments in print technology over 200 years and serving as a valuable demographic resource, the Stopp Collection will appeal especially to scholars and members of the public interested in art history, print history, genealogy, and the religious history of America.

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