Johann Albrecht was the best pressman in America, according to Albrecht's fellow printer William McCulloch of Philadelphia.
Johann was indeed Lancaster's most prolific printer of the 18th century. From 1787 to 1806 he printed and published more than 100 editions of German-language books, pamphlets, and almanacs.
The local Mennonites quickly learned that Johann Albrecht was the perfect partner for their publishing projects. (Even though Johannes was Moravian, not Mennonite.)
The most popular book Johann ever printed was a brand-new 1804 Mennonite hymnal ...titled Ein Unpartheyisches Gesang-Buch (A Non-Sectarian Hymnbook). This songbook was an instant, runaway bestseller.
This book was uniquely challenging for Johann to print, because of the many pages of musical notation. The Lancaster Mennonites had requested that Johann print lots of musical notes in this songbook, and not just text.
They said that the Mennonite hymnbook printed the previous year by Michael Billmeyer in Germantown (near Philadelphia) had too much text and not enough notes. (the 1803 Zions Harfe / Zion's Harp).
Johann met this challenge by printing lots of hymn tunes in this songbook with lots of diamond-shaped notes.
The local Mennonites were pleased as punch with Johann's final result. The first edition of 1804 was followed by an 1808 edition, printed by Johann's sons Georg and Peter.
This book became the most reprinted hymnbook of any American Mennonite hymnbook. By the 1980s this book had been published 32 times.
After the first two Albrecht editions, John Baer printed five more editions, in 1820, 1829, 1841, 1848, and 1853. John Baer's sons then printed nine more editions. Beginning in 1923, numerous editions were printed by the local Amish with the imprint "Verlag von den Amischen Gemeinden in Lancaster County, Pa."
Johann Albrecht's hymnbook is now the oldest American Mennonite hymnal in continuous use ...in the galaxy. Here in Lancaster County, the Old Order Mennonites and the Amish have been singing the same German-language hymns in this same songbook for more than 200 years. And next Sunday they will sing these same songs again.
P.S. Thank You to the late Martin Ressler for being the definitive bibliographer of Ein Unpartheyisches Gesang-Buch.
Above: A young Mennonite boy named Johannes Miller received this 1804 songbook (Gesang-Buch) from his grandfather Isaac Kaufman, on February 21, 180?. Johannes Miller (born 1797) grew up to became a prominent businessman in Manheim Township where he operated a grist mill.
His grandfather who gave him this songbook, Isaac Kaufman, owned land that became today's Landis Valley Museum.
An anonymous fraktur artist created a watercolor-and-ink fraktur for Johannes' songbook, and inscribed the boy's name on the endpaper.
Above: A Matched Pair of Ein Unpartheyisches Gesang-Buch (A Non-Sectarian Hymnbook) Printed by Johann Albrecht in 1804 for the Mennonites. (The top one has Johannes Miller's fraktur on the endpaper.)