300 Years of the Bohemian Bible in Halle

Digitization of 16th-18th century prints in Czech language in the library of the Francke Foundations

Titelblatt der tschechischen Bibel
Title page of the Bohemia Bible

65 Czech-language prints from the 16th to 18th centuries, totaling 25,325 pages, from the holdings of the Library of the Francke Foundations are to be digitized in a project, funded by the state of Saxony-Anhalt.

The project was developed on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the printing of the Bohemian Bible in Halle, an anniversary that is in a line of tradition with the other major Bible anniversary in the state of Saxony-Anhalt: 500 years of the September Testament in Martin Luther's translation.

August Hermann Francke's endeavor was to provide the oppressed Lutherans in Bohemia and Moravia as well as the exiles in Barby on the Elbe and in Lusatia with books in their native language. Under Francke's co-worker Heinrich Milde (1676-1739), who was responsible for the Eastern European contacts of Halle's orphanage and the care of Bohemian exiles, Halle developed into an important printing house of religious literature in Czech language. An edition of the New Testament appeared as early as 1709. Between 1715 and 1724, further Czech books were then printed, with a total of more than 39,000 copies said to have been printed. The culmination of Milde's publishing activity was the printing of the Czech Bible in 1722, modeled on the Kralice Bible of 1613. Copies were secretly distributed in Bohemia and Moravia and even reached the Baltic States and Russia.
In addition, Milde himself collected books in Czech, which he had acquired on his travels in Bohemia or had received as gifts from the Bohemian exiles. Milde had a habit of writing notes in his books. Thus we learn with whom he was in contact, whom he met on his travels through Bohemia, what books exiled Bohemians from Barby gave him, and much more. In this respect, these handwritten notes make each print unique.
The Czech books printed in Halle and the books from Milde's possession are in the Library of the Francke Foundations and represent a unique corpus of sources on Bohemian history and emigration. These prints are to be digitized and made accessible worldwide in the Digital Collections of the Study Center. These are ten prints published in Halle in the 18th century and 55 books in Czech language from the 16th-18th centuries from Heinrich Milde's private library, which he bequeathed in his will to the library of the orphanage, now the Library of the Francke Foundations.