Dieses Harmonische Melodeyen buch gehöret Elisabeth Oberholzer Sing Schüler in der Plumstädt Schule geschrieben d 1ten November A Dominii 1803

Dieses Harmonische Melodeyen buch gehöret Elisabeth Oberholzer Sing Schüler in der Plumstädt Schule geschrieben d 1ten November A Dominii 1803

Item Info

Item No: frkm031000
Title: Dieses Harmonische Melodeyen buch gehöret Elisabeth Oberholzer Sing Schüler in der Plumstädt Schule geschrieben d 1ten November A Dominii 1803
Creation Date: 11/1/1803
Scripts/Text: Fraktur; German script
Language: German
Weiser Number: 195
Physical Description: 40 p; 18mo; oblong format
Material: Stiff paper wrapper; aid paper; gall ink; thread
Category: Tune Booklet (Notenbüchlein)
Media Type: Manuscripts
Source: Rare Book Department

Accompanying Materials Laid or Tipped In:

One quarter sheet of wove paper on which is written in capital block letters: SING AND PLAY | FOR GOD IN YOUR HEARTS | ELISABETH OBERHOLZER | SINGING STUDENT IN THE PLUMSTEAD SCHOOL | WRITTEN NOVEMBER 1, 1803 (?)

27 in a circle crossed out; 30 in a circle crossed out; 31 in a circle; 10 in a rectangle; 1802/03 crossed out; 1803


Stiff paper wrapper

Biographical Note:

David Kulp (1777-1834), formerly known as the Bucks County Brown Leaf Artist, studied under Johann Adam Eyer (1755-1855) from 1782-1786, and like him became a school teacher. He taught at the Deep Run and Plumstead schools from 1801 to ca. 1819. Kulp had a copybook that he kept from 1806-1822, and challenged anyone to exceed his writing skills: “David Kulp, his hand and pen, Beet [sic] it if you can.” As a Fraktur artist and penman, he designed and wrote with controlled architectural preciseness, but never lost the natural artistic flow of the work.

Full Title Translation:

This Harmonious Tune Booklet Belongs to Elisabeth Oberholzer Singing Scholar in the Plumstead School Written 1 November in the Year of Our Lord 1803

N. B. See also FLP B-10

N. B. See also Borneman Ms 30 (FLP B-20)

Physical Description:

[1-2] 3 [4] 5-39 [40]


Scope and Content:

This tune booklet was made for Elisabeth Oberholzer on November 1, 1803 by her school teacher David Kulp when Elisabeth was a student and singing scholar at the Plumstead School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Another tune booklet (See Borneman Ms. 30/ FLP B-20) was made for Jacob Oberholzer at the Deep Run School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1803. A brief comparison of the title pages shows that the design is exactly the same; decorative elements are identical with the exception of ornaments used in the borders; handwriting matches. The hymn tunes and titles are exactly the same up to Nun Lobt und danckt Gott Psalm 105. Because of differing numbering systems in both booklets, the latter hymn is found in Borneman Ms. 31 Hymn Nr. 87, and on page [53] in Borneman Ms. 30, No. 22. Thereafter a few additional hymns with their tunes are added to Borneman Ms. 31, but the order of Borneman Ms. 30 prevails, and all hymns and tunes from Borneman Ms. 30 are contained in Borneman Ms. 31. The latter, which is the smaller of the two tune booklets ends at Nr. 138 Komm heiliger geist, Erfülle die H[ertzen]:... located on page [77] in Borneman Ms. 30.

The one hundred thirty-eight hymn titles and tune incipits in the Elisabeth Oberholzer Tune Booklet are formatted four to a page, each being numbered consecutively. The staves are drawn by hand. No rudimentary musical instruction is included, so perhaps Elisabeth already had a basic knowledge of musical practice. This would seem to be the case because key signatures now appear for A Major and Eb Major, requiring an understanding of keys beyond the more simple signatures of one or two sharps or flats. The melodies are consistently notated in the soprano clef with key and time signatures included. Almost no ornamentation is included, the notes appearing mostly in half note values.

Tunebooks in General:

The idea of creating such a booklet to teach children the rudiments of musical notation so that they could learn to sing the melodies used in the hymns at church service seems to have been Johann Adam Eyer’s (1755-1837), David Kulp’s teacher. The hymnals used by their parents contained no music, but only the hymn verses with the indication “Mel.” and the title of the hymn tune to which the congregation would sing the text. The metrics, and topic of the poetry usually determined which melodies were chosen.

Eyer’s concept was a practical and useful one, and inspired many other teachers to create tune booklets for their students in which only the melody line of frequently used hymn tunes was written out. Each scholar had a booklet, usually 10.2 x 16.5 cm in size. The teacher created a title page describing the purpose of the booklet, and containing the name of the student, the school attended, and the date of the title’s creation. The empty spaces on the title page were filled in with flowers, birds, and other elements common to Pennsylvania German decorated Fraktur. These titles are absolutely beautiful, and probably inspired the singing scholar to greater endeavors as he learned how to read music and sing the tunes that either the instructor or he would copy into the booklet.

The “singing schools” or singing classes flourished in Bucks, Lehigh, Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties, Pennsylvania from about 1787 to 1845. Singing became a part of the school curriculum, and “singing schools” became popular.


Hand-drawn; hand-colored; hand-lettered. The main text in Fraktur and German script is enclosed within a circle and in the center of the document. Two lines in Fraktur are written along the outer perimeter of the circle, one on each side: Lerne Wie du kanst allein [left side of circle] Singer buch Und Tempel seÿn [right side of circle]. The phrases are taken from the first verse of a poem found on page one of the Marburg Hymnal. Another phrase Singet Und spielet dem Herrn in Euren Hertzen (Sing and Play Unto the Lord in Your Hearts) appears at the top of the circle and is separated from the tune booklet titles by double red horizontal lines infilled with yellow. The circle is flanked on each side by a stylized symmetrical long-stemmed flower. Two flower buds extending in opposite directions and connected by a tendril fill the space above the circle at the head and below the circle at the tail of the page. The entire document is framed by a decorative border. N. B. The upper horizontal bar of the border was never ornamented, and consists of only the solid background color red.

Associated Names: Oberholzer, Elisabeth
Provenance: Borneman, Henry Stauffer, 1870-1955
Oberholzer, Elisabeth


Joel D. Alderfer. “ ‘David Kulp, His Hand and Pen, Beet It if You Can’: The Bucks County Brown Leaf Artist Identified” in Cory M. Amsler, ed., Bucks County Fraktur. Kutztown, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Society, 1999, 151-165.

“David Kulp” in Russell D. and Corinne P. Earnest, Papers for Birth Dayes: Guide to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners. East Berlin, Pa.: Russell D. Earnest Associates, 1997, 2nd ed., vol. 1, 479-481.

Mary Jane Lederach Hershey. “The Notenbüchlein Tradition in Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Community Schools” in Cory M. Amsler, ed., Bucks County Fraktur. Kutztown, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Society, 1999, 146.

Marburger Gesang=Buch zur Uebung der Gottseligkeit in 649 Christlichen und Trostreichen Psalmen und Gesängen Hrn. D. Martin Luthers. und anderer Gottseliger Lehrer, Ordentlich in XII. Theile verfasset, Und mit nöthigen Registern auch einer Verzeichniß versehen, unter welche Titul die im Anhang befindlichen Lieder gehörig: Auch zur Beförderung des so Kirchen= als Privat= Gottesdienstes, Mit erbaulichen Morgen= Abend = Buß= Beicht= und Communion=Gebätlein vermehret. Germanton, Gedruckt und zu finden bey Christoph Saur, 1762.

Creation Place Town/Township: Creation Place Note:Based on location of school
City/Town/Township:Plumstead School, Plumstead Township

Image Dimensions Width: 9.4 cm
ShelfMark: FLP Borneman Ms. 31
Creator Name: Kulp, David, 1777-1834, attributed to - Decorator
Kulp, David, 1777-1834, attributed to - Scrivener

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