German Script Course

June 4 – 15, 2018

Registration is limited to 15 participants. 

This intensive course on learning to read German script is now in its 48th year and is the longest-running course of its kind in the country. The course is taught by Dr. Paul Peucker, Lanie Yaswinski, and Thomas McCullough, experts and experienced instructors in reading and writing German script.

Former participants include more than 450 college professors, graduate students, genealogists, curators, archivists and hobbyists from various backgrounds. They represent such academic fields as history and German, American studies, musicology, religion, anthropology, art history, sociology, genealogy, technology and other subjects.

After two weeks of intensive studying, practicing, and reading and writing participants will be able to read German manuscripts dating from the 17th through the early 20th centuries. The course includes many texts selected from the extensive holdings of the Moravian Archives. We will also spend considerable time learning to write German Kurrent script, based on contemporary teaching methods.

The goal of this course is not to learn the German language or to study Moravian history but to read the German script; however, we offer a learning experience that takes advantage of the historical setting of the Bethlehem community. Texts are chosen to illustrate the early history of Bethlehem and the work of the Moravians within their context.

By touring the historic districts of Bethlehem and nearby Nazareth, participants will experience the setting in which the events from the study material took place. We are convinced that captivating texts prove helpful in overcoming initial difficulties with German script.

New: we also offer a one-week refresher course for people who have taken the course in the past.

Study Material

We work with color reproductions (not b&w photocopies!) of documents taken from our own collections. The textbook Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents 2nd ed., (Woods Cross, Utah 2013) by Roger P. Minert is included in the registration fee.

Some examples of course readings:

  • diary of a German girl, 1943
  • Petition to Count Castell, 1571
  • Report about the Liberty Bell passing through Bethlehem, 1777
  • Account of the first Christmas in Bethlehem and the naming of the town, 1741
  • Pages from church registers (baptisms, marriages, funerals)
  • Pages from account books (18th and 19th centuries)
  • Travel diary of John Ettwein about a visit to New England, 1767
  • Passport for dismissed Swedish soldiers, 1631

Each participant is also encouraged to bring along a text that he/she would like to discuss during the course. We will have opportunity to discuss these texts during the last morning of the course.

Study Method

The first sessions are devoted to writing the individual script letters and words. Though not the intent of this seminar, learning to write texts in German script helps in recognizing how the individual letters are written. During the morning sessions texts are read within the group with everyone taking turns deciphering the texts. During the second week, we will discuss a writing method that was used by teachers in Bethlehem during the eighteenth-century.

Registration is limited to fifteen students.

There are no organized classes during the afternoons. This time is devoted to preparing for the next day’s lessons; most students choose to do their “homework” in groups. Thus the course combines classroom learning, group study and individual preparation. The preparation time in the afternoon will take circa four hours. It is not recommended to plan other activities during the course.

Upon successful completion of the course each student will be presented with a certificate of participation.


In order to successfully follow the course a good reading ability of modern German is needed; two years of college German or the equivalent has proven to be a minimum. Conversational German ability is not required and prior knowledge of German script is not necessary. All instruction is conducted in English, but we advise students to bring along a quality German-English dictionary.

Time & Place

The 2018 course will be taught from Monday, June 4, until Friday, June 15.

Classes begin each day at 9:00 am and last until 12:30 pm. There are no classes on the weekend.

Classes are held in the reading room of the Moravian Archives, located at 41 W. Locust Street, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. During the course of the seminar the reading room will be closed to all other researchers. The Archives is located on the north campus of Moravian College.

Course Fee

The fee for the script course is $785.00 and includes the following instructional materials

  • Color reproductions of German texts
  • Handouts
  • Writing pads
  • Binder for storing instructional material
  • Quills
  • Textbook: Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents by Roger P. Minert, 2nd ed. (Woods Cross, Utah 2013)
  • Coffee, tea during breaks

We require a deposit of $100.00 upon registration. Your registration becomes active after receipt of the deposit.

The deposit will be fully refunded towards cancellations prior to May 1, 2018. For cancellations made between May 1 and May 21, 2018, we will return $50.00 of the deposit. The deposit for the course is non-reimbursable for cancellations after May 21, 2018.

Housing costs are not included. 


There are various hotels, airbnb’s, and guest houses in the Bethlehem area. In the past, many participants stayed in dormitories at Moravian College (the room rate is a one-time fee of $55 per guest, plus $15 for each night for single-room accommodation). These air-conditioned dormitories are located within walking distance of the Moravian Archives and include small kitchens, access to laundry, cable and wireless.

For more information on these dormitories, contact Moravian College (Amanda Merson,, 610.625.7051).

All German Script attendees are eligible for housing at Moravian College. If you rather stay in a hotel, please contact us for recommendations.

The housing registration period is April 1-May 1. Please note that the registration for housing is separate from registration for the course. To register for campus housing please complete this form.

For specific questions contact Amanda Merson at mersona@moravian.edu610.625.7051


Registration for housing is separate, see above.

To register, complete the form below. You can pay your deposit of $100 (or the entire course fee) during the submission process. If you’d rather send a check, you may send it to:

Moravian Archives
41 W. Locust St.
Bethlehem PA 18018-2757.

Make checks payable to Moravian Archives.