In the Footsteps of Emanuel Swedenborg

IMG_6041.JPGVisitors to the city of Stockholm who find themselves with an hour or two to spare can enjoy a walk in Swedenborg’s old neighborhood, in the city’s Södermalm district. The memory of the Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian is kept alive in the area thanks to several public monuments in his honor and a street bearing his name. The Stockholm Metro (Stockholms tunnelbana) includes a stop named Maria Square (Mariatorget), located just one block from the square and city park. The stop exits onto Swedenborg’s Street (Swedenborgsgatan), which terminates at the square. For Google Maps coordinates go here.

IMG_6044.JPGIMG_6013.JPGMaria Square, called Adolf Fredrik’s Square in Swedenborg’s time, features a large fountain and a number of bronze sculptures, including a bust of Swedenborg made in 1973 by the Stockholm artist Gustav Nordahl. (See photos, left.) On the pedestal just below the bust is a bronze relief depicting the famous story about Swedenborg and the “angel” in the mirror. As the story goes, a girl from the neighborhood repeatedly asked Swedenborg to show her an angel.


Roses in Bloom at Summerhouse of Emanuel Swedenborg

Djpg.jpgIt’s July, and the roses are blooming in Swedenborg’s summerhouse garden at Skansen, an open-air museum in Stockholm, Sweden. The rose garden at Skansen, designed in 1964 by the landscape architect Walter Bauer, was not intended to replicate Swedenborg’s original garden. Nevertheless, with a little imagination Bauer’s formal garden may serve to evoke some sense of the flowery vista that originally led the way to Swedenborg’s summerhouse. Skansen, the world’s first open-air museum, was founded in 1891, gathering together historic buildings typical of various regions in Sweden. Today it remains one of Stockholm’s most popular tourist destinations.

Bjpg.jpgReaders of previous New Church History Fun Facts may remember that Swedenborg had the summerhouse built for the garden at his property in Stockholm, where it remained in the same location for more than a century before being moved to Skansen in 1896. According to Carl Robsahm (1735-1794), “Before [Swedenborg’s] house there was an ornamental flower bed, upon which he expended considerable sums of money; he had there even some of those singular Dutch figures of animals, and other objects shaped out of box-trees; but this bed he did not keep up in his later years. (more…)

Ornaments in the Theological First Editions of Emanuel Swedenborg

coronissmall.jpg“Emanuel Swedenborg’s theological first editions are rich with ornaments. Swedenborg sent his theological contribution into the world heavily and consistently adorned with graphic decorative touches. Yet few know of their existence. Although every theological word penned by Swedenborg has long ago been translated into English, although subsequent Latin editions, and translations into thirty-four languages, have brought his unique thoughts and experiences before the world, the ornaments that formed an integral part of his original publications have been all but lost” (Jonathan Rose, “The Ornaments in Swedenborg’s Theological First Editions,” Covenant, vol. 1, no. 4, Spring 1998).

titlepage05.jpgIn 1998, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Rose published a detailed study of the ornaments in Emanuel Swedenborg’s theological first editions in Covenant, a journal published by Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, PA. All of the ornaments from Swedenborg’s theological first editions were reproduced in this article, organized into six categories: title page ornaments, headpieces, initials, line ornaments, asterisks, and tailpieces. (more…)

Bishop William F. Pendleton Medallion and Chain (1917)

necklace.jpgOn February 9, 1917, a banquet was held in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the formation of the General Church of the New Jerusalem. The General Church (a denomination of the New Church) had been formally organized on February 6, 1897. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of a gold chain and medallion to Bishop Emeritus William Frederic Pendleton (1845-1927). Pendleton had been the first bishop of the General Church and had retired from active service two years earlier in 1915. The necklace and medallion was a gift from members of the General Church in appreciation for his many years of service. A presentation was made by Dr. F.A. Boericke:

pendletonsmall.jpg“On this twentieth anniversary of its organization the General Church wishes to present to you this chain, as a token of its love and esteem for you. By this token you may, as long as you live, be assured that the members of this General Church have ever regarded you with the very greatest affection, and that they recognize in you a most wise and considerate leader; one who has regarded the absolute freedom and welfare of the individual, as well as of the body of the Church, as a whole, both in its organization and at all times since. . . . (more…)

International Swedenborg Congress, London, England (July 4-8, 1910)

speakersplatformsmall.jpgIn 1910 the International Swedenborg Congress was held in London, England, to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the Swedenborg Society. The Society had officially been instituted on February 26 in 1810 for the purpose of translating and publishing the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. About four hundred representatives came to the Congress from countries around the world, including England, the United States, Canada, Australia, India, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and Holland (see Swedenborg Society, Preface, Transactions of the International Swedenborg Congress, 1910).

openingreceptionsmall.jpgThe Congress began with an opening reception on July 4 and concluded on July 8. Most of the events took place in King’s Hall, a large room in the famous Holborn restaurant (see photos). Papers and addresses on Swedenborg were given under the general categories of science, philosophy, and theology. An exhibition of Swedenborgiana, which included portraits, manuscripts, books, curios, etc., was on display at the Swedenborg Society building at 1 Bloomsbury Street in London. On Wednesday, July 6, over nine hundred members of the Congress attended a garden party (see photo, below) (more…)

Swedenborg First Editions Owned by August Nordenskjold (1754-1792)

nordenskjold.jpgAugust Nordenskjold, born in Finland in 1754, was one of the earliest promoters of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg in Sweden. At some point approximately twenty-six first edition volumes of Swedenborg’s writings, containing Nordenskjold’s signature, were acquired by John Pitcairn (1841-1916). The books were on exhibit in the John Pitcairn Archives for many years, located in the former garden house at Cairnwood, Pitcairn’s estate in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. They are now being relocated to the Swedenborgiana collection at the Swedenborg Library in Bryn Athyn (email communication. Lisa Parker Adams, 3/31/10). These books are all similarly bound, but the date of the binding is unknown. About half of the signatures are curiously rubbed out. Place names (Stockholm, Gothenburg) and dates accompany the signatures (see photos below).

No definitive record has been found to indicate when Pitcairn purchased the books, but he may have bought them in England in 1877. His diary entry for August 4, 1877 mentions a visit to Henry Wrightson, “an old bachelor born 1803. He has a passion for collecting the original Ed’s of Swedenborg. . . . He has a complete set & many volumes of the original Editions of Swedenborg” (John Pitcairn. Transcript of Diary entry. 4 August 1877). C. T. Odhner, in his biography of John Pitcairn printed in New Church Life, describes this same visit, and adds that “Mr. Pitcairn purchased from Mr. Wrightson a great number of original editions for the Academy’s library, many of them sumptuously bound” (C.T. Odhner, “John Pitcairn: A Biography,” New Church Life 1917, 518).

allbooks.jpgbookplate.jpgAugust Nordenskjold was introduced to Swedenborg’s writings as a young man in Stockholm, and he shared his new beliefs with his father and brother. In the 1780s he superintended Sweden’s mining operations in Finland, and was elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (see C.T. Odhner, “The Early History of the New Church in Sweden,” New Church Life 1911, 164). (more…)

Helen Keller Letter about Swedenborg (Oct. 10, 1926)

Kellerdesk.jpg“Of one thing I am sure; any effort is worth while that brings comfort to limited, struggling human beings in a dark, self-centered age; and Swedenborg’s message has meant so much to me! It has given color and reality and unity to my thought of the life to come; it has exalted my ideas of love, truth and usefulness; it has been my strongest incitement to overcome limitations. The atmosphere Swedenborg creates absorbs me completely. His slightest phrase is significant for me. His Divine Love and Wisdom is a fountain of life I am always happy to be near. I find in it a happy rest from the noisy insanity of the outer world with its many words of little meaning and actions of little worth. I bury my fingers in this great river of light that is higher than all stars, deeper than the silence which enfolds me. It alone is great, while all else is small, fragmentary. Were I but capable of interpreting to others one-half of the stimulating thoughts and noble sentiments that are buried in Swedenborg’s writings, I should help them more than I am ever likely to in any other way. There is a year of hard work before me; but I should like to begin it with the feeling that I had rendered my fellowmen such a spiritual service” (Helen Keller. Letter to Rev. Paul Sperry. 10 October  1926).

KellerandMacy.jpgThis is a portion of a letter written by Helen Keller in the fall of 1926 to Rev. Paul Sperry, a minister in the General Convention (now The Swedenborgian Church of North America). Sperry had first heard of Helen Keller through his Sunday school teacher, John Hitz, a friend of Keller and the man who introduced her to the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. In August of 1926, Sperry had written to Keller to ask if she would consider writing a book about Swedenborg. He had to wait until October for her reply, not because she was in any way ignoring him, but because she wanted to carefully consider whether she could meet such a challenge (more…)

The Naming of Bryn Athyn (1899)

bastation.jpg“Huntingdon Valley, Pa.-Correspondents will please note: There is no such post office as Bryn Athyn. Letters so addressed will be apt to go to the Dead Letter Office at Washington. It is now the name of the nearest railroad station, however (formerly ‘Alnwick Grove’), and when the community has largely increased we may hope for greater postal and other conveniences. But of the future no man knoweth” (“Church News: Reports and Letters,” New Church Life 1899, 159).

When this notice appeared in New Church Life in 1899, the name “Bryn Athyn” had recently been chosen for the fledgling New Church community in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The intended meaning of the name was “hill of unity”—”Bryn” being the Welsh word for “hill,” and “Athyn” meaning “cohesion” (or so the community members believed). Today, however, if you look in The University of Wales Dictionary, said to be the most comprehensive and extensive dictionary of the Welsh language, you will find the word “Bryn,” but not the word “Athyn.”

spurrellarchivenote.jpgIt all began in 1898, when a “Village Association” was formed to take care of the wide variety of civil affairs facing the developing New Church community. During the previous decade, hundreds of acres of farmland had been purchased by John and Gertrude Pitcairn for the purpose of founding a New Church community and school, and the new settlement needed infrastructure. It also needed a name, and on September 10, 1898, a special meeting of the Village Association was called to discuss this matter. (more…)

200th Anniversary of the Birth of Emanuel Swedenborg (January 29, 1888)

swedenborgportraitjan10.jpg“More than two hundred persons, among whom were a great number of ladies, assembled yesterday in the Gala-rooms of the Grand Hotel [Stockholm] in order to celebrate the bi-centennial of the birth of Emanuel Swedenborg. . . . Noteworthy among the participants were the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baron Hochschield [sic], the Lord Chamberlain Baron Carl Jevard Bonde, the President Woern, the Professors Baron Nordenskjold, Victor Rydberg, [Hugo] Gylden, Members of the Academy of Science, higher officials, prominent physicians, members of the Diet, manufacturers, merchants, members of the New Church in this place, and others” (January 30, 1888 entry from Stockholm’s Dagblad (Newspaper) in New Church Life 1888, 41).

cherrystreetjan10.jpgAcross the Atlantic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, members of the Academy of the New Church were also celebrating the bicentennial of Emanuel Swedenborg’s birth. The festivities took the form of a public meeting held at their old building on Cherry Street (see photo, left). (more…)

Founders Day (January 14, 1904)

menu1904.jpgThe Academy of the New Church began its formal existence on the 19th of June, 1876, but January 14th, 1874, was regarded as the unofficial beginning of the organization and celebrated as Founders Day for many years.  On January 14th, 1874, John Pitcairn wrote a check for five hundred dollars in order to defray the costs of a proposed publication to begin “a reformatory movement in the New Church” (New Church Life 1911, 189). Two days earlier, a group of men had met at the Atlantic Garden restaurant on Diamond Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and formulated the idea for this movement. Those present were Frank Ballou, Walter C. Childs, William Henry Benade, and John Pitcairn (see photo, below).

foundersjan10.jpgFounders Day celebrations did not begin until 1894, and initially the John Pitcairn check, dated January 14th, 1874, was used to determine the celebration date. It was not until 1917 that John Pitcairn’s diary was consulted and the restaurant meeting date of January 12th became the new Founders Day celebration date. (more…)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

saintcarddec09.jpgThe staff of would like to wish all of our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The three holiday cards included here are from the Glencairn Museum Archives in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. The first card was created by Lawrence Bradford Saint (1885-1961) and sent out by his family in 1920. Saint was a stained glass artist who worked on the Bryn Athyn Cathedral project from 1917 until 1928, when he left to work on the Washington National Cathedral. The figures on this card bear some resemblance to a stained glass Christmas window he made for Bryn Athyn Cathedral in 1919.

tuerkcarddec09.jpgThe second card was sent to John and Gertrude Pitcairn in 1887 by Rev. F.W. Tuerk and his wife, Maria. Tuerk was the pastor of the Berlin (now Kitchener) society in Ontario, Canada. The card uses the unique New Church dating system in place at the time (more…)

Theta Alpha Nativities

tanativity.jpgTheta Alpha, an organization for New Church women, began making Nativities in 1941, and continued the tradition until the early 1990s. The Nativities were sent to families who did not live near a New Church congregation. This was part of a larger initiative by Theta Alpha to send religious materials throughout the year to children who could not attend New Church schools. The women of Theta Alpha were inspired in their production of Nativity sets by Emanuel Swedenborg’s concept that children are especially receptive to visual images, and can be introduced into deeper concepts by means of them.

tapaintedfigures.jpg“Children [in heaven] are taught especially by images suited to their natures, images that are unbelievably lovely and full of wisdom from within. In this way, there is gradually instilled into them an intelligence that derives its essence from goodness” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell ¶335).

talatexmodels.jpgThe Nativity figures made during the 1940s were constructed from wire and crepe paper, but in 1951 Theta Alpha began a new initiative and started making chalkware figures. The sets assembled that first year included Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, one sheep, a manger, and a stable. They were initially made by teams of women working in the basement of Bryn Athyn Cathedral. Gypsum plaster (plaster of Paris) was poured into molds (see photos, below) and allowed to dry; then, after the figures had been extracted from the molds, they were carefully painted by hand (see photo, above). (more…)

Follow the Star: The Tradition of the Creche (Nativities Exhibit)

whitehouse1957jpg.jpgVisitors to Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn can learn how Christians around the world have adapted the Nativity scene to represent their own cultures through a new exhibit featuring more than 30 crèches from 20 countries. A special section on New Church Nativities includes the “Representation” made by Winfred S. Hyatt (circa 1925), another variation of which was set up in the East Room of the Eisenhower White House in the 1950s (see photo); the original Nativity figures made by Bernice Stroh Sandström (circa 1937); and chalkware Nativity figures made by Theta Alpha, an organization for New Church women. Theta Alpha began making Nativities in 1941 to send to families who did not live near a New Church congregation, and kept up the tradition until the early 1990s. (See our next New Church History Fun Fact for more information on the Theta Alpha Nativities.)

An early New Church Nativity scene, at the Cherry Street Church in Philadelphia, was described in New Church Life in 1889:

“On Christmas Eve, instead of the usual tree, the spaces on each side of the platform in the Hall were occupied by wide tables on which were arranged representations, taken from the literal sense of the Word, of scenes at the birth of our LORD. On the left was a landscape where were flocks of sheep whose attendant shepherds, in attitudes expressive of awe and astonishment, gazed at the angel who announced the glad tidings of the babe in the manger. (more…)

Francis Bailey, Revolutionary War Printer (1744-1817)

printingpressnov09.jpg“FRANCIS BAILEY/The First/American New Churchman/1784/The First/American Publisher/of the Writings of/EMANUEL SWEDENBORG/1787/A bright example of active love/and of doing good to others” (Francis Bailey tombstone).


baileynov09.jpgFrancis Bailey, Revolutionary War printer and New Churchman, was a remarkable individual. He was born in 1744 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, displaying a special talent for mechanics at an early age. In his twenties he decided he wanted to learn the art of printing, but was not willing to apprentice; instead, he spent three weeks learning the basics from his friend Peter Miller, at the Ephrata Cloister religious community. He quickly set up a printing shop in Lancaster, later moving his business to Philadelphia in 1778. He was appointed printer to the State of Pennsylvania and began to edit a daily paper titled The Freeman’s Journal.(Click on “I accept these terms” to see a painting of Bailey in the Cincinnati Art Museum.) 

Bailey was a deacon in the Presbyterian Church when James Glen of Scotland came to America in 1784 and delivered a series of lectures on Emanuel Swedenborg at Bells Book Store in Philadelphia. A number of Swedenborg’s books arrived in Philadelphia from England after Glen had already left the city, and Bailey ended up buying some of them. Becoming convinced of the truth of Swedenborg’s teachings, Bailey used his profession to produce the first publication of a New Church work in America, A Summary View of the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem Church (1787). In 1789 he sent out a proposal for publishing True Christian Religion serially; he obtained about fifty subscribers, including Benjamin Franklin, a fellow Philadelphia printer. Two other signers of the Declaration of Independence were also subscribers: Robert Morris and Thomas McKean. (more…)

Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, Church and Cemetery

churchoct09.jpg“On this site stood 1830 to 1913, the House of Worship of the Delaware County Society of the New Jerusalem Church, instituted in 1828. This tablet is set up as a memorial of the Society and its faithful members. To acknowledge a God and not to do evil because it is against God, are the two things by virtue of which religion is religion. Divine Providence No. 326. NEW JERUSALEM TEMPLE.”

These words were written on a stone monument erected in 1915, in memory of the Upper Darby church building that had been demolished a few years previously. The church (see photo, top) had been vacant since the late 1800s when the congregation worshipping there became inactive. The historic cemetery surrounding the church remained intact until the late 1960s and 70s, at which time the effects of years of vandalism could no longer be ignored, and it was decided to remove the bodily remains and try to resolve the issue of headstones. Many of the headstones had been irreparably damaged, so a decision was made to bury the ones that could not be saved, and offer the undamaged ones to their descendants (Communication from Philip Alden to David B. Glenn, 8/31/1978). The bodily remains were transferred to an unmarked grave in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Delaware County (

baileyoct09.jpgThe Upper Darby cemetery was the original resting place of some of the most notable individuals in the history of the New Church in America: Francis Bailey (d. 1817), Rev. Richard De Charms, Sr. (d. 1864), Rev. David Powell (d. 1855), and Rev. James P. Stuart (d. 1882). The headstone of Francis Bailey still exists and is currently located at the Swedenborgian Church at Temenos in West Chester, Pennsylvania. (more…)

Bryn Athyn Cathedral Altar Copy of the Word

wordonaltaroct09.jpgAt worship services in Bryn Athyn Cathedral in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, the visual focus of the congregation is a large copy of the Word on the altar in the sanctuary. On sunny mornings the Word is bathed in a soft violet light created by stained glass windows on either side of the altar. Additional light is provided by seven golden lampstands. Although Bryn Athyn Cathedral’s copy of the Word has been the focus of services since the building’s dedication in 1919, many are not familiar with its interesting history, which dates back to the sixteenth century.

genesisoct09.jpgnewtestoct09.jpgThe text was printed by Christophe Plantin, a well-known Renaissance printer and publisher, in Antwerp in 1584. It was originally part of the Academy of the New Church library collection, and is now on permanent loan to the Cathedral from the Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. Plantin’s Bible is interlinear, with Hebrew and Latin occurring together in the Old Testament, and Greek together with Latin in the New Testament (see photos). (more…)

New Academy School Buildings (1901-1911)

benadehall.jpg“Visitors to the Bryn Athyn of four months ago would hardly recognize the present perspective and those who knew our institution in Friedlander street, Philadelphia, will rub their eyes and wonder if this is, indeed, the same old ‘Academy’” (Editor, New Church Life 1904, 569).

Those individuals who have recently visited the new buildings on the campus of Bryn Athyn College, in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, may find that the above sentiment, expressed over a hundred years ago, speaks equally well to the present day.

library.jpgIn 1901, a new building was erected for the Academy of the New Church College and Secondary Schools (see photo, top) on land that is now occupied exclusively by the Academy Secondary Schools. It would eventually be given the name Benade Hall (1910), in honor of the Rev. William Henry Benade.  A dormitory for girls, Glenn Hall, was built the same year, but was occupied by the boys until 1904 when their own dormitory, Stuart Hall, was constructed. The dining hall and heating plant were also built in 1904. In 1909 work began on the combined library and museum building (now the Fine Arts Building, see photo, left), and the elementary school (De Charms Hall, now part of the Secondary Schools). (more…)

Fun Facts Worth a Second Look

From time to time new photographs surface following the publication of a New Church History Fun Fact. Each Fun Fact is researched and written within a very limited time frame, making it likely that new materials will come to light at a later date. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of this project is the additional information we periodically receive from our readers.

Every Fun Fact sent to our subscribers via email also exists permanently on the website, where the material can be continuously updated. We are pleased to provide links to three previous Fun Facts that have recently had striking new photographs added.


decennialhotelsecondlook.jpg  Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Academy of the New Church at Seaside Resort (1886)



swedenborghousereplicasecondlook.jpg  Replica of Swedenborg House at St. Louis World Fair (1904)



bronzebustsecondlook.jpg  Bronze Bust of Swedenborg Disappears from Lincoln Park, Chicago; Police Baffled (1976)



The editors of would like to thank Marvin B. Clymer, Academy of the New Church Archives, Bryn Athyn, PA, for locating and scanning the new material. Photo credits for the photographs in this New Church History Fun Fact can be found at the end of each of the three Fun Facts listed.

Questions and comments may be addressed to the editors at

The Rules of Life

rulesoflifestar.jpgIsaac Pitman (1813-1897), knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894, is famous for having developed a widely used form of shorthand, now referred to as Pitman shorthand.  In 1837 he published a small pamphlet on the subject titled Stenographic Sound-hand. Of interest to our readers is the fact that one of the texts he chose to use as an illustration of his shorthand method was Emanuel Swedenborg’s “Rules of Life.” Pitman, a member of the New Church in England, was very active in the dissemination of Swedenborg’s theological works.

rulesoflifemonel.jpgSwedenborg’s Rules of Life have been used by various New Church organizations since at least the mid-nineteenth century. Although they have been attributed to Swedenborg, no actual document containing them has ever been found among Swedenborg’s books and papers. The sole reference for the Rules is in the text of a eulogy for Swedenborg delivered by Samuel Sandels. In his address, Sandels states that he had found the Rules of Life among Swedenborg’s manuscripts, and proceeds to list them.*  The translated Rules are as follows (although it must be noted that slight variations exist between different translations): (more…)

Swedenborg Bust by Preston Powers (1879)

ssswedenborgbustjuly09.jpgAccording to Jonathan Bayley, Hiram Powers (1805-1873), the most famous American sculptor of the nineteenth century, “spoke of his great wish to do a statue of Swedenborg, which he wanted to make somewhat worthy of its subject. At different times of his life he returned to this idea, but something occurred again and again causing it to be deferred.

“Fully aware of his father’s wishes and ideas, at last this wish was carried out by Mr. Preston Powers, so far as the beautiful and noble bust is concerned, which now stands in the Swedenborg Society’s large room” (Jonathan Bayley, New Church Worthies or Early but Little-known Disciples of the Lord in Diffusing the Truths of the New Church, 1884).

In 1865, Dr. John Spurgin, President of The Swedenborg Society, London, had written to Hiram Powers to see if he would be interested in executing a statue of Swedenborg. The Society had proposed the idea of having a statue of Swedenborg placed in some prominent place in order to increase public awareness of his name, and encourage further investigation into his works. In response to Spurgin’s letter, Powers expressed his willingness to undertake the project, indicating that it would take him about two years to complete. (more…)

Up and Down the Nile: The Beginning of a New Church Museum (1878)

dahabiyahjune09.jpgIn the winter of 1878, the Rev. William H. Benade (1816-1905 ) and John Pitcairn (1841-1916) were traveling in Egypt, one stop on an extended tour they had begun the previous June. Their purpose was to visit Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land, spreading word about the New Church and the newly formed Academy of the New Church in Philadelphia. In Egypt they spent three months on the Nile traveling in a dahabiyah, the traditional Egyptian houseboat (see photo, top). Their boat, the Sylvia, left Cairo on January 10, 1878, traveling as far south as Abu Simbel.

diaryamarnajune09.jpgOne unexpected result of this tour was the beginning of the Academy’s museum. An entry in Pitcairn’s diary illustrates their gradual introduction to the antiquities market in Egypt:

“Arrd. Luxor 9 O’c. this morning . . . Called and paid our respects to the Am[erican] Consul an Egyptian named Ali Effendi Abu Murad. Long shebooks, coffee. Invited him to dine with us tomorrow evening. Purchased some Antiquities. This is the principal place for the manufacturing of antiquities. We are beginning to be able to judge between the genuine and the immitation [sic] . . . A great many vendors of Antiquities ply their avocation here. One of them took us to his house to show us a sitting figure, about a foot high for which he asked ₤30 Also a Roman head cut out of basalt . . . When we arrived at his house he gave a signal to the women who all disappeared, according to the custom. We were then ushered in to a house better than the average. The outside mud walls had no windows but we first came into a small court or yard where there were tame pigeons and two children playing. We were then conducted up stairs to a sort of portico or verandah where we were asked to be seated, a rug was placed on the mud floor and the Antiquities were placed before us” (John Pitcairn. Diary entry. 7 March 1878. Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA). (more…)

The Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents (Green Books) Available Online

greenbooksapril09.jpgThe question of what to do with Emanuel Swedenborg’s possessions arose shortly after his death in 1772. “In London, where he had been living, his signet ring and some other valuables were gathered up and sent along with some papers and clothing back to Sweden in case any of his relatives wanted them. The remaining items were given to various friends. A bundle of letters to Swedenborg from Voltaire, Rousseau and others was not considered worth saving and was tossed into the fire! When the box of Swedenborg’s effects arrived in Stockholm two of his heirs, who were bishops in the Swedish Church, tried to have his papers burned as trash” (Marvin B. Clymer, “Academy Collection of Swedenborg Documents,” New Church Life 2009, 18). The Swedenborg family subsequently made the decision to donate his manuscripts, diaries, and papers to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Soon afterwards, members of the New Church began to study and organize the material held by the Academy of Sciences and to seek out additional materials that had not yet been found. By the beginning of the twentieth century, a great deal of work still remained to be done.

alfredstrohapril09.jpgIn 1902, Alfred H. Stroh (see photo, left), who had recently received a Bachelor of Theology from the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA, was sent to Sweden to oversee the copying of several of Swedenborg’s unpublished scientific manuscripts, as well as a phototype of part of the Spiritual Diary (see New Church Life 1902, 657). Stroh began to find other unknown Swedenborg documents, and quickly became devoted to researching and publishing Swedenborgiana. (more…)

Swedenborgiana and Gifts from Heaven

oldlibraryapril09.jpgOliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only on the history of pin-heads.” From the beginning, the Academy of the New Church Library (now the Swedenborg Library) has made the effort to be as complete as possible in the area of Swedenborgiana. Rev. W. Cairns Henderson once defined Swedenborgiana as “the Writings, in print and in reproduction of the mss.; Swedenborg’s own works in the same two forms; books used by him, documents concerning Swedenborg and literary material relating to him; New Church collateral literature, both books and pamphlets; and New Church periodicals” (New Church Life 1957, 20). Room 17 on the fourth floor of the old library (now the Fine Arts building) housed part of the Swedenborgiana Collection for many years.

room17april09.jpgRoom 17 (see historic photo, left) contained books known to have been owned by Swedenborg and books quoted from or referred to by Swedenborg, as well as translations of these works. This collection also included contemporary books that mentioned Swedenborg or his work.

“It was in 1890 that particular attention began to be paid to the preservation of original editions of Swedenborg, to the photolithographing of the mss., and to the collecting of New Church collateral literature. (more…)

Painting with Light: The Revival of Medieval Glassmaking in Bryn Athyn (2009)

exhibitmar09.jpgGlencairn Museum’s new exhibition, “Painting with Light: The Revival of Medieval Glassmaking in Bryn Athyn” (open through July 25th, 2009) is organized into the following sections: “Tracing and Design,” “Finding the Color,” ”Glassblowing,” “Painting and Assembly,” and “The King Window.” The exhibition features a number of original windows, as well as glassmaking tools and equipment, including a glassblowing bench used in the Bryn Athyn glass factory (which closed in 1942 due to World War Two). 

hyattmar09.jpgThe rich colors and exquisite composition of the stained glass windows made for Bryn Athyn Cathedral and Glencairn, beginning in the 1920s, have been inspiring worshipers and visitors for decades. “Painting with Light” tells the story of the artists and craftsmen who set out to recreate the splendor of the stained glass made for Gothic cathedrals by reviving the lost techniques of the medieval glassmakers. (more…)

Tabernacle Model at Glencairn Museum (1921)

tabernaclefeb09.jpgA central feature of Glencairn Museum’s Ancient Near East Gallery is a scale model of the Tabernacle of Israel. Built over a ten-year period, beginning in 1921, this model was an ambitious educational project designed for the benefit of, and with the help of, the children at Bryn Athyn Church School, in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. The Tabernacle project was conceived of and directed by the Rev. George de Charms, whose book, The Tabernacle of Israel (1969), describes in detail the building of the model and the religious significance of the Tabernacle.

highpriestfeb09.jpgThe Tabernacle model was crafted through the efforts of the entire elementary school in Bryn Athyn. The children were first prepared with a yearlong series of special worship services, during which they learned about the Tabernacle’s structure and significance. At these services the children were asked to bring one piece of precious jewelry each, as a donation from their families to help fund the project. This event was intended to reenact the donations given by the Israelite families during the construction of the original Tabernacle (Exodus 35:20-29). The children’s donations, together with an initial contribution of $15, were enough to pay for the materials, including the gold, silver and brass metalwork. (The total cost was calculated to be around $1,500.) In later years, one participant recalled with humor the frustration she felt as a little girl at having to give up her favorite silver spoon for the project. (more…)

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