In a letter from 1773 we find the first clue that Johann Böhner had at least started to translate Samuel Lieberkühn’s Gospel Harmony (1768) into Virgin Islands Dutch Creole. In the following years he made at least two versions before 1780 (manuscripts 321 and 322). During a conference in 1784 it was decided that J.C. Auerbach should make another version for a better connection to the audience of (enslaved) inhabitants of the Danish Antilles. We think the unfinished manuscript 3231 is from his hand. A final manuscript version, from before 1795, is also incorporated in our corpus.
In 1833 Die Geskiednis van ons Heere en Heiland Jesus Christus, soo as die vier Evangelist sender ka skriev die op is published in New York, financed by the American Tract Society. 2000 copies were distributed among 9400 Christianized slaves (Anon. 1836), so of lots of people it must have thought they had the skill to read Creole. Still it was the last printed Virgin Islands Dutch Creole text of the Moravian Brethren.
The content of the manuscripts is available in the digital Clarin-Nehol Corpus. On the Scanned Publications page, you will find the scanned version of this 1833 Virgin Islands Dutch Creole Gospel Harmony.
Audience Design and eighteenth century VIDC [dct]
On February 6, 2016, I presented a paper during the so-called Grote Taaldag/Taalkunde-in-Nederland-dag of the Algemene Vereniging voor Taalkunde, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. In this presentation I focused on the use of Bell’s Audience Design model to study the authenticity of eighteenth century Virgin Islands Dutch Creole. Of course it will eventually be a part of my dissertation.
Please feel free to send me feedback!
Cefas van Rossem
The Creole version of Lieberkühn’s Gospel Harmony is digitally available here. It was financed by The American Tract Society and was printed in New York in 1833. The edition of 2000 copies was distributed among the Christianized slaves of the Moravian Brethren on the Danish Antilles. If all copies were distributed, one out of every four to five above mentioned slaves owned a copy.
The first version was translated by Johann Böhner in or just before 1780 (coded 321). A second version, which had an interesting preface (322), was made only a short period after the first one. The third version (3231) was translated around 1790, probably by Johann Auerbach. About five years later a fourth version was made (3232). Just like 3231, this text is not complete. All manuscript versions can be consulted in the Clarin-NEHOL database.
The manuscripts are obviously written in the same tradition, but differ slightly. Manuscript 3231 seems influenced by the English translation of Lieberkühn’s Gospel Harmony. This can be due to the fact that English became the most important language in the Danish Antilles at that moment.
Manuscript 3232 and the printed version hardly differ. However, since 3232 is not complete, it cannot be the version which was used by the printer.
In 1995 Frans Hinskens published “Some of the documents concerning Negerhollands in the Archives of the Moravian Brethren in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. A first impression” in Amsterdam Creole Studies. In the fieldnotes of his visit to the Moravian Archives, which are included in our Corpus Negerhollands Texts, he mentions at least two interesting booklets.
In the new digital entrance to these archives, these works could easily be found and through the help of archivist Thomas McCullough we obtained photocopies of them yesterday.
The first booklet is the earliest Negerhollands Hymnal known: Isles, Samy & Georg Weber. Criol Leedekin Boekje voor gebriek Van de Neger broer gemeente Na St Thomas St Crux Overzet üt de Hoog deutse taal door Broer Samy Isles en George Weber, en een deel mee Assistantie Broer Johañes Van de Jaar 1749 tot Jaar 1753″. small format, 87 pp. >EN: Creole hymnal. >In Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in box: “Ms. Translations into Danish (Creolan). 1.) Hymn book for the Negroes of St. Thomas & St. Croix (Transl. by Sam Isles & Georg Weber, (1747-1753)”. (see our Bibliography above).
The translators are mentioned in Oldendorp’s history and we suspect the Johannes who is mentioned on the title page to be Johann Böhner, who translated several large texts into Negerhollands around 1780.
The second booklet is Geskiednis na die Martel=Week en tee na die Hemelvaart van ons Heere en Heiland Jesus Christus. 132 pp. >EN: History of the Passion week to the Ascension. >In Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in box: “Ms. Translations into Danish (Creolan). 2.) The Passion Week-Ascension”.
The manuscript is not dated, but since the handwriting looks like the one of Johann Auerbach, it cannot be ca 1753, as mentioned in the Moravian Archive, but must be somewhere between 1766 and 1792.
Only a few weeks ago Delpher.nl was brought under my attention. It is a new search engine which searches all books, newspapers (from the seventeenth century on) and magazines stored in the Royal Dutch Library.
A link can be found in the Recent Publications header. Click on ‘Delpher’ to see an example.