Digital Collections Spotlight #6: David Nitschmann (Ep.) Papers

Posted May 19, 2020 in Digital Access

Digital Collections Spotlight #6: David Nitschmann (Ep.) Papers
By Thomas J. McCullough, assistant archivist

As part of a new series of posts, we’re highlighting different collections from the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, that have been digitized and are accessible online. Check out our earlier posts in this series at

The papers of Bishop David Nitschmann were digitized in May 2018 and are freely accessible online (here)! Check out the images below for a few samples of the fascinating documents preserved in this collection.

Travel diary, kept by David Nitschmann during his journey from America to Europe, during which the Moravian ship was captured by Spanish privateers and taken to San Sebastián /// Ref. No. PP ND (Ep.) 14
The “Little Strength,” carrying Nitschmann and other Moravians, was commandeered by Spanish privateers and taken to San Sebastián, on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. On this day [May 19] in 1744, the traveling party was now back on track, aboard a new ship sailing towards London. And then the unthinkable happened. Nitschmann writes in his diary, “On the 19th, two French capers (privateer vessels) came to us and took us captive again…” Access the full document here.

Records documenting the history of emigration from Moravia /// Ref. No. PP ND (Ep.) 7.3
Pictured here is the first page of a list of “Families and individuals who emigrated from Moravia between the years 1722-1754, from memory. Recorded in Bethlehem, September 1756” | [Original title] „Famillien und einezlen Phersohnen, welche aus Mähren ausgegangen von A. 1722 an, bis in die Jahre A. 1754 und so weiter: was mir davon im Gedächtnis geblieben. In Bethlehem 1756 Monaht September geschrieben.“ Access the full document here. Read more about those who moved to Herrnhut in the 1700s in Felix Moeschler, Alte Herrnhuter Familien : die mährischen, böhmischen und österreichisch-schlesischen Exulanten : anlässlich des 200jährigen Jubiläums der Brüdergemeine am 17. Juni 1922 (Herrnhut : Commissionsverlag der Missionsbuchhandlung Herrnhut, 1922-1924).

Moravian relations with other mission organizations /// Ref. No. PP ND (Ep.) 8
Letter, sent by the congregation in Herrnhut (“die sämtliche mährische und bömische Brüder auf der Herrenhuth”) to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in London. It was hand-delivered by David Nitschmann, Johann Töltschig, and Wenzel Neisser. Colin Podmore describes the letter as “an attempt to establish interconfessional contact and solidarity.” Access the full document here. Learn more about this particular letter in Colin Podmore, The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 9.

Moravian hymns in multiple languages /// PP ND (Ep.) 27
The Moravian hymns “Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein” (HG 2279:3), “Geschöpfgen zur Geburt gebracht” (HG 2279:4) and “So singt die seel’ge Assemblée” (HG 2188:16) in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Danish, Swedish, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Bohemian (Czech), Hungarian, “Wallachian” (Rumanian), Latvian, Estonian, Dutch-creole, “Amina”, and “Acra”. Pictured are the three hymns in Hebrew. Access the full document here. Learn more about Moravian hymnody in Nola Reed Knouse, ed., The Music of the Moravian Church in America (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2008).

Certificate of the consecration of Bishop David Nitschmann /// Ref. No. PP ND (Ep.) 16.1
On March 13, 1735, in Berlin, Daniel Ernst Jablonski consecrated David Nitschmann as the first bishop of the Renewed Unitas Fratrumi. Both men were involved in the consecration of Count Zinzendorf as a Moravian bishop about two years later. Here, on this certificate, we can see a wax Moravian seal that features the Agnes Dei (“Lamb of God”). Access the full document here. Peter Vogt writes of this historical moment: ” The consecration was carried out by Daniel Ernst Jablonsky, Prussian court preacher at Berlin, who was a grandson of Jan Amos Comenius and also one of the two bishops of the surviving Polish branch of the Brethren. One reason for this step, by which the episcopal succession of the Ancient Unity was effectively passed on to the 𝐵𝑟𝑢̈𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑒, was the need to provide valid ordination for Moravian missionaries overseas. The implications, however, reached far beyond that, setting the stage for the 𝐵𝑟𝑢̈𝑑𝑒𝑟𝑔𝑒𝑚𝑒𝑖𝑛𝑒 to become an independent church.” Quoted from Peter Vogt, “How Moravian are the Moravians? The Paradox of Moravian Identity,” 𝐽𝑜𝑢𝑟𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑜𝑓 𝑀𝑜𝑟𝑎𝑣𝑖𝑎𝑛 𝐻𝑖𝑠𝑡𝑜𝑟𝑦 18, no. 1 (2018): 89.