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37 posts categorized "Anglo-German"

17 March 2014

Parishes, Printing and Pietism – the Pietist Mission and German Publishing in London

Some Germans came to London as a workforce skilled in required, specialist trades; others came to try their luck and find work, often with hopes to make their fortune in the British capital, which bustled with life, diversity, and activity during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Germans would settle to live and put down roots in London near to where they worked and also to where their compatriots had already settled. In the east end of London in the late 17th and 18th centuries the sugar trade flourished, and many of the Germans settling there were confectionery bakers, with a skill which was in high demand. Generally, they were well-off, respectable tradesmen. Some of the parishioners at St George’s Lutheran Church were sugar factory owners, working in a trade where men earned good wages. 

Such wealth and status are reflected in the parish life of St George’s. With its school attached, St George’s Church in the East End of London is a good-sized building, its interior very reminiscent of protestant churches from the same period in north-eastern Germany. The parish was funded by parishioners who would have to buy or rent their seats and pews in the church. In contrast to the customary, spartan design of Lutheran churches, the comfortable family box pews of the factory owners and well-to-do families clearly reflected their wealth.

St George’s parish archives, which are held at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives reveal much about parish life and parishioners’ backgrounds. The archives are often a first port of call for genealogists researching German ancestry.

That places of worship could be built, parishes could be founded was only possible thanks to the Toleration Act  passed under William III in 1689.

Whilst German parish life was beginning to thrive in the east end of London, in Germany the Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle, and their missionary activity worldwide, were enjoying their heydays. August Hermann Francke founded the Franckesche Stiftungen in 1698 as a school for orphans and the poor. Rapidly the institution grew and expanded into a city within a city, with schools for all age groups, workshops where the orphans first trained as apprentices and then continued in employment, gardens, kitchens, a library, a pharmacy – and a publishing house. It was a whole independently-functioning microcosm, often referred to as ‘the New Jerusalem’. In the print shop, Francke and his pupils were able to have their Pietist, devotional literature published, which they then promoted as part of their missionary activities across the world.

  Ground-plan and external view of the Waisenhaus in HalleDrawing and ground-plan of the Waisenhaus in Halle, from August Hermann Francke, Segens-volle Fussstapfen des noch lebenden und waltenden liebreichen und getreuen Gottes ... (Halle, 1709) RB.23.a.16349 (copy from the Library of St George's Church).

One of the first buildings added to the original orphanage was the ‘English House’, where visiting students from Britain lodged.  Francke’s pupils also travelled to England – and then across the globe, promoting Christian knowledge as missionaries.  Gustav Anton Wachsel, the first pastor of St George’s Lutheran Church, had a background steeped in August Hermann Francke and German Pietism. His library, the foundation of St George’s Church Library, reflects that. Many titles are German Pietist works, published by the Waisenhaus in Halle, notably: August Hermann Franckens Oeffentliche Reden über die Passions-Historie, wie dieselbe vom Evangelisten Johanne im 18. und 19. Cap. beschrieben ist, gehalten von Esto mihi bis Ostern 1716 in dem Wäysenhause zu Glaucha an Halle. (Halle, [1733]; RB.23.a.16404).

Perhaps the most renowned pupil of Francke who came to Britain in the 18th century was Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen (1694-1776), court preacher to King George I. Whilst as a court preacher he was based at the Royal Chapel at St James’s, it is likely that he would occasionally have preached at St George’s too. His titles are certainly present in the St George’s collection, including the commentary on the Lord’s Prayer shown below.

Title page of Ziegenhagen's 'Kurtze Erklärung des Gebets des Herrn'Friedrich Michael Ziegenhagen, Kurtze Erklärung des Gebets des Herrn, oder des Vater Unsers, nebst einigen Anmerckungen über dasselbe. (London, 1750.) RB.23.a.16338(1). (copy from the Library of St George's Church)

This work was printed by Johann Christoph Haberkorn and Johann Nicodemus Gussen, who ran the first German printing press in London. The printing and publishing trade was one which Germans adopted and helped to flourish in 18th-century London. Publishing religious and devotional texts provided good, solid work for the printing shops, and the publications were an important medium to promote Christian knowledge, all in the tradition of August Hermann Francke and the Stiftungen in Halle.

Dorothea Miehe, Curator German Studies

03 March 2014

Charles Meyer, Bookbinder to Queen Charlotte and the Princesses

Charles Meyer, (also known as Johan Charles Frederick Meyer), was one of a select and influential group of German binders who emigrated to England towards the end of the 18th century. English book collectors (sometimes called ‘bibliomaniacs’ by contemporaries) were prosperous and could afford to have their large book collections bound or rebound with no expense spared. The royal court set them an example, for monarchs were expected to keep libraries, whether they were ‘bookish’ or not. Fortunately, George III was interested in bookbinding for its own sake, and established a workshop in Buckingham House, so there was a flourishing market for good practitioners.

The German binders, who were better educated than their English counterparts, soon cornered the ‘West End’ or luxury side of the market located near the London houses of the book-buying aristocracy. One of those favoured was Andreas Linde, ‘Book seller and binder’ to Queen Caroline and her son Frederick, Prince of Wales, and after the latter’s death to Prince George (later George III). His workshop was in Catherine Street, off the Strand. Another prominent German craftsman was Charles Meyer, who arrived in England in 1797, and set up shop around the corner in St Martin’s Lane. He was later to become ‘Bookseller and binder to the Queen [Charlotte] and Princesses.’

Trade ticket with Meyer's name and business addressCharles Meyer’s trade ticket

The British Library’s Additional Manuscript 81080 consists of a letter written by Meyer in 1805 which gives an unusual insight into his character and business. Meyer tried to build up his business by donating two blank books to an unnamed newly formed institution as an example of his work, with the request that he be employed: “Should the Society not be already engaged with a Comisionair of Books both of foreign and English Litteratures or a Binder, I then would solicit the favour of Your Honored Sir, to propose me.” The tone is quite pressing but polite and humble. Meyer refers to his “thankfull Heart” and “gratitude for the ceind encouragement I have received from so many distinguished Persons since I have been in this Country.”

First page of Meyer's letter, beginning 'Honoured Sir!'An excerpt from Meyer's letter, British Library Add MS 81080

Meyer’s book-collecting patrons were certainly distinguished. They included Thomas Grenville, Alexander Douglas, 10th Duke of Hamilton, Charles Townley and Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater, but it was his connection to the royal family which marked the height of his success.

Bindings historian Charles Ramsden described Meyer’s cover on Princess Elizabeth’s book of prints Cupid Turned Volunteer (London, 1804; BL 83.k.15), as “a lovely specimen... with blue morocco spine and surround, blue silk sides, paper appliques and yellow silk doublures”. His tooling has been described as “heavy, compact and with a deep relief” which is keeping with the German tradition, but in this work, it is his strong sense of design which is paramount. The book was added to the library of George III, and perhaps it was this example of his craftsmanship which won him his royal warrant. 

Bookbinding with gold tooling on a blue background and and a central vignette off veiled female figurew
Meyer's binding for Cupid turned Volunteer 

Meyer appears to have integrated well in his new environment. By the time of his death in 1809 he was living with his common-law wife Elizabeth East in the newly-developed Michael’s Grove in Brompton. His fellow binder and friend, William Clifton (who witnessed his will), lived in the next street, Yeoman’s Row.

P. J. M. Marks, Curator of Bookbindings


Charles Ramsden London Bookbinders, 1780-1840 (London, 1956) 667.u.43

British Book Trade Index

21 February 2014

Handel – Händel – Hendel: Anglo-German composer

Today we celebrate the 329th birthday of George Frideric Handel, or Georg Friederich Händel, a composer whose life epitomises the virtues of Anglo-German relations at the time of the Hanoverian succession. Born in Halle on 23 February 1685, Handel spent the last 36 years of his life in London, at 25 Brook Street. Though his social circles in London were mainly English-speaking, and most of his music sets English or Italian words, Handel remained German in his core. He would write private notes to himself in German on his manuscripts and, perhaps through frustration at his English acquaintances demonstrating their ignorance of the umlaut and mispronouncing him ‘Mr Handel’, he often signed his name ‘Hendel’.

Portrait of Handel in a decorative border
Handel, from the Walsh and Randall edition of Alexander’s Feast (BL RM.7. f.5)

The tercentenary of George I’s arrival from Hanover to the British throne affords a good opportunity to reconsider Handel’s connections with the royal family, in which his shared nationality certainly played an important part. In fact, Handel enjoyed the patronage of three British monarchs during his lifetime: Queen Anne, George I, and George II. Employed by George I when he was still the Elector of Hanover, Handel had the advantage of knowing the new king before his coronation in 1714. While he was employed as court composer to the Elector of Hanover, he spent much of his time in London, and wrote a birthday ode for Queen Anne.

When George I arrived in London, he did not speak English and maintained a German-speaking court, which gave Handel a distinct advantage over many of his fellow musicians in London. Although he was not appointed Master of the King’s Musick, Handel was favoured by George I and his family, while the appointed Master was left to compose music for smaller, less significant occasions. As a foreigner, Handel was not entitled to hold a court position, and he was appointed ‘Composer to the Chapel Royal’ with a pension rather than a salary, composing only for significant events. He also tutored the royal princesses, for which he was paid the princely sum of £200 per annum. Handel went on to compose the coronation anthems for George II, including most famously ‘Zadok the Priest’ which has been performed at every British coronation since, as well as the Music for the Royal Fireworks and the Water Music.

  Original manuscript of Handel's 'Zadok the Priest'
The opening bars of  Handel's manuscript of ‘Zadok the Priest’ (RM.20.h.5)

Handel’s connections with the Hanoverian succession form the subject of a new exhibition at the Foundling Museum, which runs until 18 May 2014. As well as several loans from the British Library’s collections, the display draws heavily on the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, held at the museum, as well as significant loans from Lambeth Palace, Westminster Abbey, the National Portrait Gallery and the Bate Collection.

After Handel’s death in 1759, his amanuensis and manager John Christopher Smith inherited all his music manuscripts, which were later presented to George III. They formed part of the Royal Music Library, which was presented to the British Museum Library by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1957. They now form one of the greatest treasures of the British Library’s music collections, and plans are now well underway for all of the Library’s holdings of Handel’s autograph manuscripts to be made freely available through our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Nicolas Bell, Curator, Music Collections, with Katharine Hogg, Librarian of the Gerald Coke Handel Collection at The Foundling Museum

14 February 2014

‘Tonight put on perfection…’: the Valentine’s Day wedding which gave us the Georgians.

In February 1613 London was en fête in preparation for a royal wedding. A pageant on the Thames, mock sea battle and firework display in which St. George fought a dragon which exploded with a roar and vanished were staged to precede the great event: the Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of James I, was to be married to Frederick, the Elector Palatine.

Although the bride’s mother, Anne of Denmark, had initially looked down on this Protestant match and predicted that her daughter would be known merely as ‘Goody Palsgrave’, she was gradually mollified, and on Sunday, 14th February  she gathered with the king and the court to witness the ceremony in the chapel of the Palace of Whitehall. The 16-year-old princess, dressed in cloth of silver and adorned with pearls and diamonds, was given away by her father to a bridegroom clad in silver and capable of pronouncing his vows in a service conducted wholly in English, although the young couple normally conversed in French.

The wedding was the occasion for a masque designed by Inigo Jones  featuring Native Americans, small boys dressed as baboons, and a water pageant representing the ‘Marriage of Thames and Rhine’, organized by Sir Francis Bacon. Literature, too, was not forgotten: Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men, presented ‘before the Princess Highness the Lady Elizabeth and the Prince Elector Palatine fourteen several plays’ including The Tempest, and poets and ballad-makers composed numerous epithalamia, the most famous of which was John Donne’s Epithalamium on the Lady Elizabeth and the Count Palatine being married on St. Valentine’s Day .

The British Library holds several first editions of poems composed for the occasion, including Abraham Aurelius’s In nuptias illustrissimi principis Frederici V. comitis Palatini et illustrissimae lectissimaeque virginis Elizabethae (London, 1613;  1070.m.5 (2.), pictured below) and the Epithalamium et gratulatio  by Joannes Gellius of Gellistoun (Heidelberg, 1613; 837.k.8 (2)).

Title-page of Abraham Aurelius’s In nuptias illustrissimi principis Frederici V. comitis Palatini et illustrissimae lectissimaeque virginis Elizabethae
The choice of date for the union of ‘these young turtles that were coupled on St. Valentine’s Day’, as the bride’s father described them, proved auspicious. The arranged marriage developed into an exceptionally happy one, despite the vicissitudes which they were to encounter. On New Year’s Day 1614 Elizabeth produced her first child, a son, whose arrival was celebrated by the Scots poet John Forbes in a Latin ode.

Title page of John Forbes, 'Genethliaca Friderici v. Comitis Palatini Rheni, et Elizabethæ ... primogeniti filij'John Forbes, Genethliaca Friderici v. Comitis Palatini Rheni, et Elizabethæ, Jacobi Magnæ Britanniæ regis filiæ unicæ, primogeniti filij, nascentis Cal. Jan. ... 1614. (Heidelberg, 1614) 837.k.8 (1)

Even before the wedding it had been rumoured that Frederick might soon rise in the world. King James disclosed to the Spanish ambassador that he might do so  ‘in respect of the crown of Bohemia, because they pretend it to be elective’. This came to pass in October 1619, when the new King and Queen of Bohemia ceremonially entered Prague, welcomed by the townspeople and four hundred Hussite  peasants rejoicing at the replacement of the Habsburg oppressors by a Protestant monarch. Crowned in St. Vitus’s Cathedral and lodged in the palace of Hradcany, the couple delighted their new subjects when, two months later, the Queen gave birth to a son, her third, named Rupert in honour of an earlier Elector Palatine. Yet within a year the Thirty Years’ War had broken out and, with a Bavarian army advancing on Prague, the ‘Winter King and Queen of Snow’  were forced to flee with such haste that the infant prince was almost left behind and was hurriedly thrown by a courtier into the back of the departing coach.

James I, attempting to negotiate a Spanish marriage for the Prince of Wales, felt unable to offer a refuge to the fugitives and their family (which finally numbered eleven), and in April 1621 they fetched up in The Hague as guests of a distant relative, the Prince of Orange, which became their permanent home. The defeat of the King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, at the battle of Lützen on 6th November 1632 dealt Frederick a blow from which he never recovered, and on 19th November he succumbed to the plague, leaving his wife bereft of ‘the best friend that I ever had, in whom was all my delight’, as she wrote to her brother Charles I.

Determined to stay and fight for her eldest son’s right to inherit, Elizabeth did not return to London until 1661, after the coronation of her nephew Charles II, in her 66th year. Here, before removing to Exeter House, she was the guest of William, Lord Craven, who had generously supported the Stuart cause for many years, leading to the sequestration of his Berkshire estates. With the Restoration, these were returned to him; he owned a splendid house in Drury Lane, and he and Elizabeth were often seen together at the theatre, leading to rumours that they had contracted a secret marriage. Although this is unlikely, the Earl undertook the building on his estates at Ashdown of a house in the Dutch style as a hunting lodge and refuge from the plague. The British Library possesses an engraving (pictured below) by Knyff and Kip (Maps K.Top.7.42) of ‘Ashdowne Park in the county of Berks’, which came to the Library  from  George III’s collection in 1829.

Engraving of Ashdown House and surrounding forested parkland

Ashdown House is now owned by the National Trust, and one can imagine, walking through the park on a fine spring day in agreeable company, the pleasure that Lord Craven found in planning it to delight his guest. Sadly, Elizabeth never saw the building; she died in 1662 before it was completed, but not before, in June 1660, her youngest daughter Sophie, Electress of Hanover, had given birth to the future George I, founder of the Hanoverian dynasty.

Susan Halstead,  Curator Czech and Slovak Studies.

05 February 2014

A King's grammar fit for a Prince? Immigration concerns and an early Georgian marketing ploy

When George I came to the British throne, some of his new subjects worried that many other Hanoverians would follow in his wake to live at the British taxpayer’s expense. Greedy courtiers seeking money and influence seem to have been more feared than poorer migrants, although the mishandled crisis of the ‘Poor Palatine’ refugees in 1709 had raised concerns about mass immigration of unskilled workers.

The German translator and language teacher Johann König/John King was not a Hanoverian (or Palatine) newcomer; little is known of his life, but writing in 1715 he claimed to have lived and worked in Britain for some 30 years. He recognised even before 1714 that Germans were increasingly visiting and settling in Britain and in 1706 he published the first edition of his Englischer Wegweiser, a grammar, phrase-book and guide for Germans wishing to learn English. In its preface he describes Germans as “not the least considerable” of the “vast concourse of Foreigners that resort to this Flourishing Kingdom”.

Parallel English and German title pages of König's grammar bookKönig's original grammar: Ein volkommener Englischer Wegweiser fur Hoch-Teutsche … = A Compleat English Guide for High-Germans … (London, 1706). Shelfmark 1490.l.11.

König presumably saw this influx as a positive thing, not least for his business as teacher and translator. So it’s not surprising that he also saw the potential of the Hanoverian succession to bring more Germans to Britain as a good business opportunity. In 1715 he published a longer and more detailed version of the Wegweiser, this time under the title A Royal Compleat Grammar = Eine Königliche vollkommene Grammatica, obviously hoping to appeal to new Hanoverian immigrants by flaunting a royal connection. He seems to have aimed the work at those seeking professional, court or government careers: it includes such features as a long list of court officers (including obscure posts like the Clerk of the Poultry, or Schreiber übers Geflügel) and sample letters to be addressed to royal or noble patrons, neither present in the original Wegweiser.

Title-page of 'A Royal Compleat grammar' with a frontispiece portrait of George the firstKönig, Johann, A royal compleat grammar, English and High-German, das ist, Eine königliche vollkommene Grammatica in englisch- und hochteutscher Sprach … (London, 1715) 236.d.15.

Apparently lacking official royal patronage himself, König seeks to justify the title of his new book with a fulsome dedication to George I in which he describes, “my Endeavours of Enabling Your Majesty’s Subjects, mutually to converse with, and communicate their thoughts to, one another”. He also expresses the hope that his book “may be of Use to His Highness the Duke of Cornwall.” This could be taken as a rather insulting assessment of the future George II’s proficiency in English, but at least König was tactful enough not to mention that the grammar could also have been of use to the new king himself; spoken English was never George I’s strong point.

The Royal Compleat Grammar was never reissued in the same form, but its more detailed approach to grammar was reflected in the eight editions of the Englischer Wegweiser, much augmented by other hands, which were published between 1740 and 1795. Unlike the 1706 Wegweiser and the Royal Compleat Grammar, both published in London, all but one of these later editions bore a Leipzig imprint.

Whether because the expected flood of jobseeking Hanoverians never came, or whether because there was a better market for such a textbook in Germany later in the century than in newly Hanoverian Britain, it seems that König’s royal marketing ploy did not translate into a bestseller in George I’s new kingdom.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

22 January 2014

German Parish Life in London and an East End Church Library

With the Hanoverian Kings came the people…  And with the people came trades, professions, active community life and parishes – and these Germans needed places of worship.

The British Library has housed the St. George’s Church Library since 1995; its acquisition and ongoing investigations into the collection have shed an illuminating light on the history of German life in London during the Hanoverian period.

Bookplate from the St George's Lutheran Church libraryA bookplate from one of the St George's Church Library books: J. H. Daub, Christliche Stimmen von den Bergen, (Essen, 1838) RB.23.a.16559.

The kings of German origin attracted more Germans to come to London in their train – or perhaps Germans had always been coming?  Other contributors to this series might be able to comment further on  this, but certainly many Germans came, and they settled by preference together, within certain areas of London which were themselves as large as small cities, where they could follow their trades, and where parish and social life had already been established.

The history of St. George’s Lutheran Church and its church library provides answers to many questions about the numbers, trades and faith of the Germans in London.  The church was the fifth German church foundation in London.  In the 19th century, the peak period for German settlement in Britain, there were eleven German parishes in London alone – one of them, of course, was the Royal Chapel at St. James’s Palace – and there were 14 German-speaking congregations across Britain.  They were almost all Protestant churches.  Parish life at St. George’s was highly influenced by August Hermann Francke’s Pietist movement and its missionary aims.  Several named pastors and preachers came from the Francke’sche Stiftungen in Halle; their missionary activity is reflected in their fervent publishing output of sermons and religious treatises, highlighting another trade Germans pursued in London: printing and publishing.

As part of this series of blogs, we shall be highlighting some notable items from the St. George’s Church Collection and providing insights into trades including printing and publishing pursued by the German community.

The Lutheran parishes in London were small German worlds within a world.  My own favourite item from the St. George’s Collection reflects this:

Title page of 'Kirchen-Geschichte der deutschen Gemeinden in London' with original ownership stamp of G. MaetzoldKirchen-Geschichte der deutschen Gemeinden in London, nebst historischen Beylagen und Predigten von D. Johann Gottfried Burckhardt, Pastor der deutschen Lutherischen Gemeinden in der Savoy.   (Tübingen: bey Ludwig Fues, 1798) RB.23.a.16354.

This was one of the items found amongst the original church library books in the vestry of St. George’s Lutheran Church, and it harks back to the church’s early days.  The provenance note has always touched me. The item was owned by Pastor Maetzold, and the church organist, who declares himself as a friend of the parish, donates it to the library – thus this little book spans more than two hundred years of German parish history in London.

Dorothea Miehe, Curator German Studies


Dorothea Miehe, ‘Kurze Geschichte einer Rettungsaktion: die Bibliothek der St. Georgs-Gemeinde in Spitalfields, London’, German Studies Library Group Newsletter, no. 22 (July 1997), pp.7-11. ZK.9.b.1089

Dorothea Miehe, ‘The St George’s Lutheran Church Collection’, in Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa, Bd. 10 (Hildesheim, 2000) §2.110-118, pp. 84-85.  RAR 027.04, and online at

13 January 2014

Anglo-German centuries: a 'History in Objects' for 2014

The British Library’s current major exhibition, Georgians Revealed, marks the accession of the Hanoverian Dynasty to the British throne in 1714, ushering in the Georgian age. This is one of a number of events in both Britain and Germany  celebrating this anniversary, while later in the year both countries will also commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

The 200 years between these dates saw the growth of a sizeable German community in Britain and of significant political, cultural and personal links between the two countries (or between Britain and the various states which made up Germany for much of the period) and their peoples.

Of course there had been links between Britons and Germans long before 1714:  the British monarch is still known as ‘Defender of the Faith’ because of Henry VIII’s engagement with Martin Luther, and the Steelyard, headquarters of the Hanseatic League in mediaeval  London, is commemorated to this day by a street name and plaque

However, the formal political union between Britain and Hanover from 1714 to 1837, the  political and dynastic ties that persisted into Victoria’s reign and the growing influence of German culture and science in 19th-century Europe made for a different and closer relationship. And while 1914 by no means marked a completely clean break, for the rest of the 20th century Anglo-German relations would be cast in a very different mould from that of the Georgian and Victorian eras.

So, to mark the joint anniversary of 1714 and 1914 we will be presenting over the course of this year a series of themed blog posts examining Anglo-German relations specifically between those two dates through different items from the Library's collections: a kind of ‘History in Objects’ like those promoted by the British Museum in recent years. Some posts will relate to well-known figures and events, although their Anglo-German connections might be less familiar. Others will highlight lesser-known stories, such as the trades followed by German immigrants in Britain, German influences in the history of the Library’s own collections, or the huge celebration of Friedrich Schiller’s 100th birthday held in London.

Montage of books and manuscripts
Some collection items with an Anglo-German story to tell...

We hope you will join us over the coming year to find out more and explore two centuries of Anglo-German ties.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

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