Bless this house

Posted on 5th November 2020 by simonbeattie

I am currently cataloguing some new material in preparation for the Boston Virtual Book Fair next week. Here’s one such item:

‘This elaborate house-blessing [which measures 412 × 325 mm], issued in the 1820s by Johann Ritter and Company of Reading … provides a unique poetic blessing rather than the common prose versions and the shorter poetic example already discussed.  And there are lots of fascinating woodcut illustrations.  For example, at the top a plump cherub in the clouds blows a trumpet in his right hand and holds another in his left.  Two winged cherubs border the main text, one bearing a banner displaying a cross, the other a laurel wreath and a palm branch.  Below are two birds perched on branches—common designs found on many fraktur pieces, printed and manuscript.  And at the very bottom is an unusual grouping of the products of the Pennsylvania Dutch farm and orchard—two ears of corn, some heads of spelt, or German wheat, a bunch of grapes, some fruit, and a sprig of dill.

‘The text is also unusual.  It is found in three cartouches—two at the top, asking for God’s blessing on the individual, and the main text in the center …  This intriguing piece of Pennsylvania Dutch ephemera thus gives us a vivid glimpse into the life and work of the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers and their families, for whom it was intended.  It draws upon orthodox Protestant spirituality and reflects hopes, fears, and blessings associated with the rural life of our ancestors in the farm country of Pennsylvania’ (Don Yoder, The Pennsylvania German Broadside: a history and guide ,Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005, p. 205).

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