Schon Gesangbüchlein

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Schon Gesangbüchlein, an old hymnal whose full title was Ein schon ge-/ sangbüchlein Geistlicher lieder / zusamen getragen, Auss dem Alten und / Newen Testament, Durch frome Christen / und liebhaber Gottes, welcher hie für / etliche getruckt seindt gewesen, aber / noch vil darzue gethan, wel-/ che nie im truck auss- / gangen seindt. / (Ornament) // In welchen auch ein recht leben vnd funda- / ment des rechten Christli- / chen glaubens ge- / lehrt wirt. / / Colossern. iii. // Lehrend vnd ermanendt euch selbst mit / gesangen und lobgesangen, vnd geist- / lichen Liederen in der gnad, und / singend dem Herren in ewe- / rem hertzen. This is apparently the hymnal of the German-speaking Anabaptists of the Lower Rhine area, although none of its editions give any indication of the place of printing. The first edition title page printed at the head of this article must have appeared after 9 March 1563, and before 30 June 1565, since it contains a hymn telling of the martyrdom of Jörg Friesen who was executed on 9 March 1563, at Cologne, but does not contain the hymn telling of the martyrdom of Matthias Servaes, executed on 30 June 1565, at Cologne, which appeared in the second edition. It contains, besides a preface of two pages, 123 hymns on 212 folios, and 3 folios of an index and conclusion. Five of its hymns appeared in the first edition (1564) of the second part of the Ausbund, called Etliche schöne Christlich geseng. The fact that the title of the first edition carries the phrase "[hymns], some of which were printed before, but many more added to, which never have appeared in print," does not require that a previous edition of the entire book had appeared, but rather indicates only that "some were printed before," probably in small leaflets or pamphlets as the custom was. The second edition must have appeared between 30 June 1565, and 5 January 1570, since it contains the Servaes hymn but not the hymn telling of the martyrdom of Arent von Essen, who was executed on 5 January 1570. It contains 133 hymns on 234 folios, and the second edition has 16 new hymns. On folio 203a of the section reprinted from the first edition the following note appears before the added hymns: "Several new hymns, which previously were not in and now are added by pious Christians." The title is almost identical with that of the first edition. The second part of the Ausbund (1583 ed.) also contains five of the added hymns of this second edition. The third edition appeared between 1570 and 1583, since it contains the hymn on Arent von Essen, while the Ausbund of 1583, which contains a total of 22 hymns from it, clearly depends on it, according to Wackernagel. It contains 141 hymns on 243 folios, including six hymns by L.(eenaerdt) K.(lock). The fact that Klock's first hymnal, called Vier en twintig schriftverlijcke Liedekens, was not published until 1589 does not require dating the third edition after that year. The title of this edition is as follows: Ein schon ge/sangbüchlein, darinn/ begriffen werden vielerhandt/ schöner Geistlicher Lieder auss/ dem Alten und Newen Testament,/ durch fromme Christen zu-sammen gezogen. // In welchem auch ein recht le-/ben und Fundament dess rechten/ Christlichen Glaubens ge-/lehrt wirdt. // Jetzo von newen widerumb vbersehen,/ ahn vielen orthen gebessert, und mit/etlichen newen Liedern/ver-mehret etc./ Colossern 3./ Lehrendt und vermanendt euch selbst mit/gesangen und lobgesangen und Geist-/lichen Liedern in der gnadt, vnd/singendt dem Herren in ewe//-rem Hertzen.

This edition was in octavo format; the first and second editions were in identical smaller format.

The hymns contained in Ein schon gesangbüchlein are of both Swiss and Dutch origin, so that this hymnal represents a true merging of the two main streams of Anabaptist life and tradition. Rosella Duerksen comments further as follows:

The influence of the German Volklsied in Anabaptist hymnody is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the gesangbüchlein. Here the imitation of lines and phrases from secular texts reaches its height, and the folk tune is borrowed without restraint. First lines of hymns that are copied outright from secular love songs are such as Ich stund an einem Morgen, or Ich sag ade wir zwey wir müssen scheyden, or Von deinetwegen bin ich hie. The language used is basically High German, coupled with heavy borrowings from the speech of the Low Countries. In subject matter the hymns are similar to those of the Ausbund, concerning themselves with stories of martyrdoms as well as with a wide range of doctrinal and devotional topics.

The only known copy of the first edition was located in 1956 in the Stadtbibliothek of Trier, Germany, by J. P. Classen of Winnipeg. Microfilm copies are in his possession and in Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, Indiana). The second and third editions, copies of which were then in the Prussian State Library in Berlin, were used by Wolkan in his careful descriptive analysis of this hymnal in his Lieder (90-118). Wackernagel reprinted the title of the third edition together with an exhaustive bibliographical collation in his Kirchenlied (I, 484), using the Berlin copy. Wolkan showed that the preface (found in all three editions with minor typographical variations) was an almost word for word translation of the preface of the Dutch Anabaptist hymnal of 1562 called Veelderhande Liedekens, from which also at least 8 hymns were translated. Wolkan asserts (102) that the greater part of all the hymns in Ein schon gesangbüchlein are translations from the Dutch, and that only some 23 are German originals. He is certain that the collection was made somewhere in the region of Cologne near the Dutch border. If so, it was most probably printed in Cologne or nearby. It is almost impossible to determine which of the two hymnals, the Swiss Geseng or the German Schon gesangbüchlein, was printed first. It is quite possible that both were printed in the same year and that neither borrowed from the other. Wolkan speculates that the German book may have gotten its Swiss hymns from a corrupted manuscript, since the text of the same hymns varies so substantially (though in minor points) in the two books that it is scarcely likely that one copied directly from the printed form of the other. Both could have translated their German versions of Dutch hymns directly from the Dutch Veelderhande Liedekens. The German book used many Dutch hymns, the Swiss book only five. These five hymns are, however, found in identical German form in the two books, with only slight editorial revisions in the Swiss book.

See also Hymnology of the Anabaptists


Classen, J. P. "Editions of the Ausbund." Mennonite Life 12 (1957): 47 ff.

Duerksen, Rosella. "Anabaptist Hymnody of the Sixteenth Century." (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, NY, 1956).

Duerksen, Rosella. "Early German Anabaptist Hymn Books." Mennonite Life 12 (1957): 61-63, 96.

"Ein schon gesangbüchlein Geistlicher lieder." (imprinted manuscript), which claims to know 5 editions.

Author(s) Harold S Bender
Date Published 1959

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Bender, Harold S. "Schon Gesangbüchlein." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 15 Jun 2021.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. (1959). Schon Gesangbüchlein. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 June 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 507; vol. 4, pp. 472-473, 1148. All rights reserved.

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