uniata College is blessed with an unusually strong collection of manuscripts and rare books. The collection is rated among the top six German-American research repositories in the nation. Use of materials from Special Collections is by appointment only; please contact the curator of Special Collections (814)641-3484 or the library director's office at (814)641-3452 at least one week in advance.
"Martyrdom, Martyrs, Martyrologies"
Click here to view the online version of our newest exhibit in the Treasure Room.
The most recent addition to our collection of rare books:
Hellwald, Friedrich von. Amerika in Wort und Bild. Leipzig, H. Schmidt & C. Gunther, c.1885.
Donated by Professor David Sowell.
This volume is a descriptive history of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. It includes 255 engravings of scenery and important sites, including views of the Juniata River.
Contact a librarian or the library office for access.
What follows is a brief summary of our holdings. See bottom of page for links to specific collections.
A.H. Cassel 1820-1908
Background: The story begins with the passion of an Eastern Pennsylvania Dunker named Abraham Harley Cassel (1820-1908). Although he enjoyed only six weeks of formal schooling, he began collecting as a youth and eventually owned one of the great personal collections of late 19th century America, at least 50,000 volumes. He stored these in his farmhouse near Harleysville, PA.
Cassel hoped that one of the newly emerging Brethren schools would secure his library intact for posterity. This was not to happen, but the major portions of his library did find safe havens in several repositories. A large fraction of his library was purchased for the new Mt. Morris College, IL, in 1881. A small but excellent selection went to the Pennsylvania Historical Society in Philadelphia, featuring rare Pennsylvania-German imprints. Finally, some 12,000 books, 4,000 pamphlets, and many manuscripts were purchased by M.G. Brumbaugh and donated to Juniata College in 1899. When Mt. Morris College folded in 1932, the Cassel Collection went to Bethany Biblical Seminary in Chicago. In turn, in 1994 when Bethany moved to Richmond, IN, its entire collection of Cassel books went with it. All the early German and German-American imprints before 1830 that had been classified and catalogued on OCLC were housed in the library of Earlham College; the remained were put into storage. Several years later, the latter portion of Bethany's Cassel collection, which consisted chiefly of 19th-century imprints, were donated to Juniata College.
Thus, Juniata currently holds perhaps two-thirds of the original Cassel Collection. Although the objects in the Cassel Collection date from the late 15th century and range over all fields of knowledge, the core of the collection is the large number of Pennsylvania-German imprints, that is to say, books published in North America in the German language. Included in the donation were scores of manuscripts from early Brethren history, including many letters written by Alexander Mack, Jr. The collected correspondence of A. H. Cassel, itself, is a valuable research source.
A Martyr's Mirror, Ephrata 1748
Special Collections: The rare books from the Cassel Collection form the core of the Library’s Special Collections. Most are housed in the Treasure Room on the library’s top floor, the result of generous donations by the family of W. Emmert Swigart. It is important to note that, in addition to the Cassel Books, the Special Collections also house important donations from J. G. Brumbaugh and W. Emmert Swigart. Therefore, it would be appropriate to speak of the Cassel-Brumbaugh collection.
The important body of pamphlets derived from the A. H. Cassel collection is housed in movable stacks, on the lower level of the library. This is a prime resource for research.
Documents relating to the Church of the Brethren: The College is the official repository for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and has selected documents from area congregations. Additionally, the library also holds a significant portion of the secondary material related to the Church of the Brethren.
The outstanding recent acquisition comes from the Snow Hill Society (“Nunnery”) of Quincy, PA, the daughter colony of the Ephrata Cloister. Early in 1997, over 500 rare music books (including MS music books and ledgers) and many manuscripts were placed in the College Archives for safekeeping. So pleased were the Snow Hill trustees with the disposition of these materials that a second donation, the estate of Frank King of New Enterprise, PA, was added. This includes the venerable Snow Hill press (thought by some to have originally been used in Ephrata) and other rare books related to Snow Hill.
Among the other highlights in the library's collection of historical documents are the extensive papers of M.G. Brumbaugh, other members of the extended Brumbaugh family, Col. Henry W. Shoemaker, W. J. Swigart, John W. Swigart, Joseph Yoder, and John C. Baker. Of special interest are five file drawers containing the correspondence of A. H. Cassel.
Use of the Special Collections and Archives: Periodically, the rich holdings of the College are searched by outside scholars, including those from overseas. More often the materials are consulted by students, genealogists, and local historians. Already, a number of researchers have used the recently acquired Snow Hill collection, for decades stored away and inaccessible.
Most Recent Gift: The most recent generous gift came in 1999 from the Mutual Benefit Group of Huntingdon, the parent company of Swigart Associates. More than 1,000 rare books were included, part of the collection of W. Emmert Swigart that had been housed in the Huntingdon offices. Among the noted volumes were fifteen copies of the famous German bibles printed by the Christopher Sauers, father and son, at Germantown, PA, in 1743, 1763, and 1776. There are many famous, and rare English language bibles as well, including several Matthew Carey editions. Many folio bibles printed in Europe are represented, along with hymnals and devotional books. The latest gift is especially strong in Pennsylvania history, a particular interest of W. Emmert Swigart. Rare county histories, volumes from the published Pennsylvania Archives, geographical studies, biographies, and publications of historical societies are found in this category.
Taken together, the Special Collections housed in several locations in the Beeghly Library of Juniata College presents a treasure trove of research materials. They attract a number of scholars from North America and from Europe each year. As more researchers discover these rare books and papers, we can anticipate increased exploration of their contents.
D. F. Durnbaugh, archivist
[Updated September 2008 by Hedda Durnbaugh, curator of rare books and historical documents)
Title page, almanac printed by Christopher Sauer, 1758
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