Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature (Monograph)

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Harold S. Bender. Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature: A Bibliography of Mennonitica Americana 1727-1928. Goshen, Indiana. Published by The Mennonite Historical Society, 1929, [xxii],181 pp.  No.1 in the series “Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History.”

Title page
Harold S. Bender

Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature: A Bibliography of Mennonitica Americana 1727-1928, is an enumerative bibliography listing a little over 1200 monographs and 108 serials. Its purpose is to “list of all the books, pamphlets, and periodicals, including all reprints, by Mennonites in the United States and Canada from the time of first settlement until the end of the year 1928 (Preface).”  It sold for $3.00 and only 500 copies were printed.

The compiler, Harold S. Bender (1897-1962), was the most dominant American Mennonite historian in the period from the mid-1920s to his death in 1962. On his appointment in 1924 as professor of Mennonite History at Goshen College, Bender found its library resources slender and set out collecting Mennonite publications. This was done often by visiting Mennonites in many different USA states and in Ontario and asking them for donation of old books. He also visited book sellers where he found only a few Mennonite books, collectors, and publishers. These efforts enabled Bender to make the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College the premier American Mennonite collection. To assist his collecting he first developed a checklist of American Mennonite publications and this developed into his publication: Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature.

The original publication of the bibliography was in the pages of the 1927 and 1928 issues of Mennonite Quarterly Review. The organization of the bibliography is first by denomination, "The Mennonite Church," "The General Conference of Mennonites of North America," and "Other Mennonite Groups," then chronological and alphabetical by author. Eight appendixes, author and title indexes follow. There are illustrations of five title pages at the beginning of the book and a key to location symbols of rare books.

In America with its lack of interference by governments in religion and thus the absence of government records on Mennonites which are found in many European jurisdictions the publication output by Mennonites themselves becomes the primary source for Mennonite history. By the 1920s the published output by and on Mennonites was of such an extent that a well organized bibliography was needed and Bender’s Bibliography filled this gap. It was received with enthusiasm by librarians and researchers for it was remarkably free of errors and contained some interesting annotations on some works, making the bibliography much more useful than just a list. It encouraged other institutions to develop their Mennonite libraries and spurred others to look for items missed by Bender. The inclusion of several appendixes in which he added items and made corrections indicated that he worked continuously improving the bibliography even as it was in production.

Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature is recognized as providing good coverage of the publications from early years of Mennonites in America and of publications from the heartlands of American Mennonite settlement but it missed rather many on the publications by Mennonite immigrant groups settling in USA and Canada from Russia from 1875 on.

For several decades Bender’s bibliography was the standard in its area. However, by the 1950s some excellent specialized bibliographies such as John A. Hostetler's Annotated Bibliography on the Amish (Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 1951) began to be published and in 1977 with the more comprehensive two volume Mennonite Bibliography 1631-1961 by Nelson Springer and A. J. Klassen (Herald Press, Scottdale, Pennsylvania) it had been superseded.

This bibliography has been reproduced in 1981 on microfilm by University Microfilm International of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a facsimile reprint was published in 2000 by Martino Publishing, of Eastford Connecticut, USA.

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Author(s) Victor G Wiebe
Date Published April 2010

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Wiebe, Victor G. "Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature (Monograph)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2010. Web. 24 Apr 2018.

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Wiebe, Victor G. (April 2010). Two Centuries of American Mennonite Literature (Monograph). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from

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