Printing the Ausbund – Part Six

words by: Elam Stoltzfus


—   PART SIX   —


With the 1922 Kutztown Publishers 2,000 copies finally bound and ready for sale, the Amish Book Committee sold these Ausbund hymnals to people all across the country. By 1935, there were not many books left from the 2,000 that were printed 13 years earlier. The big question again loomed: who will print the Ausbund for us? Because of the difficulty in printing the 1922 edition, the Committee decided to look for a new printer.

Fortunately, there was a successful printing operation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and the Committee decided to use Lancaster Press for their next Ausbund printing. Before proceeding, the Amish Book Committee met with the Diener-Versammlung (the ministers and leaders) to seek their support and direction.

Lancaster Press wanted to have new Ausbund plates made by electrotyping the text of the hymnal. Electrotyping is a chemical method that forms metal parts for reproduction. This became a standard method for producing plates for letterpress printing in the late 1800s. However, this was a costly process to prepare the printing for the 1935 edition.


90 year old printing plates for the Ausbund


Lancaster Press asked the Committee for $1,530.61 for the electrotype process. Once again we find the Committee short on funds with the question, “Who will pay for this process?” 

The Committee came up with a plan to cover the cost of electrotyping and printing: they would split the cost 15 ways and ask different Lancaster Amish districts to raise the funds. The Committee asked each district for $142.05 each, and 13 districts sent money for the costs. 

The money raised from the Lancaster church districts, along with a gift from the will of Amos B. Fisher of $2,130.70, provided the Committee with enough funds for Lancaster Press to print 2,000 copies of the Ausbund in 1935.

Lancaster Press was a small press like Kutztown Publishers, so they also sent them to another company to bind the Ausbund. For several years the printed books were transported to Reading for binding. Later the binding was completed in Philadelphia.

From 1935 to 1994, Lancaster Press printed 22 editions of the Ausbund. During this period, the Committee placed an order for new Ausbunds every year. Every few years the orders kept getting larger and larger. By 1994, the Committee had placed an order for 9,000 books.  

Over the course of the 20th century, Lancaster Press printed 123,000 Ausbund hymnbooks. Let’s stop for a moment and think about what it would look like if we stacked all those Ausbunds on top of each other. Each Ausbund is approximately 2 inches thick. Combined, these 123,000 books would soar to the height of 20,500 feet. That is 190 feet taller than Denali (Mount McKinley), which is 20,310 feet tall!

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Elam Stoltzfus currently serves as caretaker of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead in (Berks County) Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. In 2018, he traveled to Germany to document the history of the Stoltzfus family—this research is documented in German Lutherans to Pennsylvania Amish: The Stoltzfus Family Story. To order a copy of this book, you can mail a $30 check to Elam Stoltzfus, 1700 Tulpehocken Road, Wyomissing, PA 19610.



Sources of research and quotes: History of the Amish Book Committee; Benuel M. Fisher, research and preface; Muddy Creek Farm Library; Amos B. Hoover; Stephen F. Stoltzfus Journal & Ledger; Wikipedia.




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