The Brothers and Sisters of the Ephrata Cloister created a treasure trove of Early American music. Conrad Beissel, their brilliant, spiritually-androgynous leader, wrote some of the earliest music in colonial America. Beissel's ethereal, other-worldly choral compositions survive today in song books that were penned and printed at the Cloister.
In 1747 the Brothers printed a landmark book of American musicology, the Turtel-Taube (Turtle Dove) hymn book. In this book, Beissel explains his unique theories of music composition. This is the first American essay on music harmony. The book also includes the lyrics to hundreds of hymns sung at the Cloister. Many of these hymns were composed by Beissel, who wrote their lyrics and scores.
In the previous year, 1746, three Brothers had worked most of the year to produce an ornate hand-written music book, on which this printed music book is based. The Cloister gave that manuscript music book to Ben Franklin, who in turn gave it the the Mayor of London. In 1927 that hand-written Turtel Taube book was purchased by the Library of Congress, where you can see it Here and Here.
The book I show here, on my site, is the second printed edition (1749) of this iconic Turtle Dove music book. The margins of many pages in this printed edition have hand-written musical notation, penned by anonymous Cloister scribes.
Above: An anonymous Cloister scribe penned music notation onto the margins of this Turtle Dove book.
Below: "Sing-Arbeit": This is the first page of Conrad Beissel's dissertation on choral harmony, which is printed in this hymn book as a preface to the hymns. This work is the first treatise on music harmony published in America.
Above: An anonymous Cloister scribe penned music notation onto the Turtle Dove hymn book's margins. He or she also inserted these manuscript music pages, looseleaf, between the pages of this book.
Below: This is the first hymn printed in the Turtle Dove hymnbook.
Above: A cloistered Turtel Taube printer gets slightly exuberant with his printers' ornaments. (Looks like letterpress exuberence was O.K. there, as long as it was ascetic exuberence.)
Below: In 1747 this species of Turtel Taube (Turtle Doves) sang their songs in the apple trees at the Ephrata Cloister, competing with Beissel's chorales. White-robed reenactors continue singing at the Cloister today. So do these turtle doves.