Tag Archives: Böhner

Joh. Christoph Auerbach translator of third Gospel Harmony?

From about 1780 on  Lieberkühns 1769 Gospel Harmony was translated five times into Negerhollands. The first two, both from about 1780 (321 and 322 in Clarin-NEHOL), were without doubt translated and written by Johann Böhner. Of the third and fourth translation (3231 and 3232) it was clear that Johann Böhner was not the writer. The texts are probably from around 1790, about five years after Böhner’s death. The fifth translation (3110, not in Clarin-NEHOL) is the printed version from 1833 which had a circulation of  2,000 to be distributed among the Christianized slaves.

Preliminary examination of the handwriting of the letter in which the missionary Joh. Christoph Auerbach (Van Rossem & Van der Voort 1996:  8-9) presents metalinguistic information about the languages of the Danish Antilles, show that it resembles the one used in manuscript 3231.  Manuscript 3232 looks a little different, especially the initial [s] differs from the one in the letter and in 3231.

Auerbach (1726-1792) arrived in the Caribbean together with Oldendorp in 1766. In Commented Edition of the Original Manuscript of C.G.A. Oldendorp (Herrnhut 2002) his name appears a few times  in the second part/3, from p.1666 on. The most important metalinguistic remark, from 1767, is:

“Auerbach, der zum Dienst am Evangelio unter den Schwarzen, sobald er ihre Sprache könnte und insonderheit zur Besorgung der Rechnungbücher und anderer schriftlichter Sachen bestimmt war, trat gleich in diese Arbeit ein, legte sich auf die criolische Sprache die er bald fasste, (…)” (Oldendorp 2002: II, 3, p. 1682)

This quote means that Auerbach learned the language in the Danish Antilles and mastered it quickly. Unfortunately we do not have other information about his knowledge of Negerhollands, apart from the very interesting letter from 1774.

Auerbach passed away in Friedensberg, St. Croix on January 21, 1792. If he is the translator of text 3231, we can be certain it is from before that date.  If he spend his last year mostly on St. Croix, this may be the answer to the question why manuscript 3231 seems to show more English elements than the other Negerhollands Gospel Harmonies.

Please compare the examples yourself in the added file.

Auerbach 3231 3232


Unknown Negerhollands Manuscripts Library KITLV

Only a few months ago I found out that in 2008 about 18 notebooks with texts of the German missionary translator Johann Böhner were presented to the library of the KITLV (see last weeks post).

On Friday January 10th I investigated these texts. It was amazing, among other reasons, because the late Hans den Besten already examined some pages of these texts in 2007, discussed them with Sirtjo Koolhof in an e-mail correspondence and considered them of high interest.

The note books contain in total about 1280 pages of twentieth century transcriptions of eighteenth century liturgical texts. Of one of the eighteenth century Gospel Harmonies, 3.2.2. according to the code Peter Stein introduced in 1986, and which we use in our Clarin database, a typoscript is preserved.

All manuscripts were unfortunately anonymous, no writer, transcriptor or owner were mentioned, nor in the notebooks, nor on the covers. The originals of these manuscripts are stored in the Unitäts Archiv in Herrnhut, Germany, and as far as we know, no letters or bills considering these texts exist to search for a provenance. Like Hans den Besten wrote in one of his related e-mails, I ask myself: Did D.C. Hesseling, who did not use these texts for his 1905 publication, got renewed interest and ordered these transcriptions? Did he plan a new publication? It seems unlikely he transcribed these extensive texts himself. The notebooks  seem to be made by a Dutch and not a German manufacturer however…..

I hope to publish a few photographs and a list of contents of these notebooks soon.

Example of an opened page in manuscript 3.2.2. by Johann Böhner.

Negerhollands 322