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[There have been significant additions to Mennonite scholarship between 1958 and 1988 on this subject. Read the article within the the context of the 1950s.]

Manuscripts from ancient and modern times form the most important source material for the study of Anabaptist-Mennonite history. Only a little of this material is privately owned; most of it has been preserved in archives and libraries. After archivist Ludwig Keller had given the impetus by his books on Anabaptism, a beginning was made in collecting and examining this valuable material.

That found in Zürich, as far as it concerns the 16th and 17th centuries, was published and utilized in the works of Emil Egli and by Cornelius Bergrnann in his book, Die Täuferbewegung im Kanton Zurich bis 1660. A volume of Zürich Täuferakten was published in 1952, extending, however, only to 1533.

The State Archives of Bern contain court records of extraordinary scope and value. Ernst Müller has worked through much of it in his book, Die Bernischen Täufer, and in the 1950s Delbert Gratz for his book, Bernese Anabaptists. Much that is of importance for research was contained in Vol. 80 of the so-called Unnütze Papiere, an enormous folio volume of manuscripts; likewise the volume Kirchenwesen II, 131, De Anabaptistis Varia, and the three large manuscript volumes, Kirchenwesen II, Dutch 85, English 86, and French 87 of Abraham de Losea. A mass of manuscript material on Anabaptist matters is contained in the Turmbücher, the Mandatenbücher, the Missivenbücher, the Täufer-Urbar, as well as the Rats- und Chorgerichtsmanuale. Various volumes of manuscripts (Kontrottbücher, etc.) and a bundle of court records from the 19th century report on  the Anabaptists  of that period.   Much valuable material for the history of the Anabaptists is also located in the Fascicles Misc. Hist. Helv. I, II, III, VII, VIII, XI, XIII, and XIV. Much of the Bern material has been microfilmed by the Bluffton University Historical Library.

The manuscripts in the city archives of Basel have been worked through by Paul Burckhardt in his book, Die Basler Täufer. There is here a large bundle of court records, Criminalia, which deals with Anabaptist history in the 16th and 17th centuries. The materials concerning the 18th and 19th century Edward Thurneysen has covered in a general historical survey in "Die Basler Separatisten im 18. Jahrhundert," in Basler ]ahrbuch, 1895 and 1896. (See also the article Basel.) The manuscripts of more recent times were copied by the theological student Peter Dirks in 1914 for the archives of the Mennonitisches Lexikon. Their value lies chiefly in the line of family history.

In 1920 the directors of the Verein für Reformationsgeschichte decided to have all the Tauferakten (court records concerning Anabaptists) published, which have been preserved in the archives and libraries of German-speaking Europe. This is being done in the series, Quellen zur Geschichte der Wiedertäfufer (after World War II Täufer), which has published the court records of Württemberg, Bavaria, Alsace, Baden, Palatinate, Switzerland, Thuringia, Saxony, Silesia, and the Lower Rhine. The first volume was published in 1930: Herzogtum Württemberg, by Gustav Bossert, Sr. (Leipzig, 1930, XVI and 1199 pages). Later volumes appeared as follows (to 1957): Markgraftum Brandenburg (Bayern I) by Schornbaum 1934; South German and Hutterite documents in Glaubenszeugnisse I by Lydia Müller 1938; Baden-Pfalz by Krebs 1951; Imperial Cities (Bayern II), by Schornbaum 1951. By these publications the rich treasures in Anabaptist manuscripts preserved in various archives and libraries in these countries will be made easily accessible. This will give opportunity and occasion to thoroughly investigate the manuscripts of the last decades of the 16th century as well as those of the 17th and 18th and will make them available for proper research. Those that have been preserved in the Generallandesarchiv in Karlsruhe, have been copied by Christian Neff and are now in the archives of the Lexikon. The records of the 16th century were utilized by Christian Hege in his book, Die Täufer in der Kurpfalz (Frankfurt, 1908). The Hesse manuscripts were published in 1951 by the Historical Kommission für Hessen und Waldeck. The Swiss documents are being published by L. von Muralt in a series called Quellen zur Geschichte der Täufer in der Schweiz; Zurich appeared as Vol. I in 1952.

The exceedingly rich manuscript source material of Austrian Anabaptism was treated and listed by Robert Friedmann in a very valuable work (Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte XXVI, 1929). The manner in which he describes and evaluates the peculiar importance of these Anabaptist manuscripts, found in "books" and letters or lost, deserves the profoundest respect.

The [[Amsterdam Mennonite Library (Bibliotheek en Archief van de Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente te Amsterdam)|library of the Mennonite Church in Amsterdam]] contains an uncommonly rich collection of important manuscripts (letters) and court records on the history of the Dutch, Swiss, and German Mennonite congregations. They are carefully listed in the Inventaris der Archiefstukken, Vols. I and II (1883-1884). The records of Germany and Switzerland are contained in Vol. I, Nos. 1248-1745, Vol. II, Pt. I, Nos. 2571-2862, and Pt. II, Nos. 680-867. Their publication is earnestly desired in the interest of historical exploitation. The Historical Committee of the General Conference Mennonite Church has microfilmed most of these materials and made them available for research in America.

Some valuable manuscripts on the history of the Swiss Anabaptists and Mennonites are found in private possession. The task of collecting them and preserving them for the brotherhood has been undertaken by the Swiss Mennonites. A large part of their collection has been published by M. Pohl in the Christlicher Gemeindekalender, 1906-1911, and by Christian Neff, 1929-30, under heading, "Geschichtliche Beitrage aus den Mennoniten-Gemeinden."

There is also some manuscript material of historical importance among the Mennonite families in Hesse and the Palatinate. It has in part been published in the Christlicher Gemeindekalender, 1925 ("Lebensbild von David Kaege von Offstein"), and in the Mennonitische Blatter, 1907, p. 51 f.; 1912, p. 2 f.; and in the Gemeindeblatt, 1929; most of it, reposing in the archives of the Lexikon, still awaited publication in the 1950s.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 247 ff.

Author(s) Christian Neff
Harold S. Bender
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Neff, Christian and Harold S. Bender. "Manuscripts." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 27 Oct 2021.

APA style

Neff, Christian and Harold S. Bender. (1957). Manuscripts. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 October 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 471-472. All rights reserved.

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