Feb 14, 2015

Blumfield Township Library

Blumfield, our Blumfield, the one with the Township Library, is located in Michigan. It is not to be confused with Bloomfield where my Australian cousin Barbara lives, who is just over for a short visit from her Northern Queensland Bloomfield, not too far from Cooktown, her Bloomfield having two "O"s and crocodiles and is, so she tells us, generally wet and warm and tropical. But the confusing similarity of Blum and Bloom made our find in Panorama City so exciting and so intriguing.

Blumfield Township (Michigan) was a small community of German emigrants who left their fatherland after the failure of the March Revolution in 1848. They have been called the Forty-Eighters and some say they had a certain influence on the development of the American Civil war and the Anti-Slavery movement.

"Bibliothek des Township Blumfield / Dieses Buch ist an den Director des Schul districts zurueckzuliefern am letzten Samstag eines jeden Monats. Der Empfaenger ist verantwortlich fuer jeden dem Buche zugefuegten Schaden waehrend er es in seinem besitze hat." 

Some Forty-Eighters made Blumfield their new home. Books furnish a home, libraries furnish a community. Those who founded a township in Michigan and gave it a German name, they would not leave their books behind. Because a community without a library is nothing, and a German community without German books is even less. The director of the school district serves as librarian, this makes it comparable to a school library. The books are intended to educate their children. They brought them to what was to become Blumfield and created a library. Today, nothing is left of this library except a few books which display this bookplate. A pretty strict regime of care and return transpires from the wording:

Library of the Township Blumfield / This book is to be returned to the director of the school district on the last Saturday of each month. The recipient is responsible for any damage done to the book while it is in his possession.

The German wording (Spechen Sie deutsch?) produces some anxiety, because the language already shows clear traces of Englification, it is already a little rusty and musty, not least because the printer works without Umlaute, there is talk of district and Township. On the other hand, the bookbinder in Detroit, who attaches his own label to the inside back cover, prints some English that has, to my ear, a distinct German ring: Bookbindery == Buchbinderei. (Buchbinder Saenger (Sanger) is listed in Detroit address books for 1855 and 1876)

Bookbindery by Ernst C Saenger, No 120 Fort Street, between Antoine and Hasting Str. All Orders Prompty Executed 

Library labels and bookbinder tickets are sweet little fellows. I was drawn to this book by the bright yellow labels. I considered removing them from this book and insert them into an album of similar ephemera. But a closer look taught me better: This book and its labels belong together and tell a story of emigration, of political and philosophical culture, of radical education and "bookbindery" in Michigan around 1860. In its pages the book provides a famous academic polemic about Christianity and science. K√∂hlerglaube und Wissenschaft. Eine Streitschrift gegen Hofrath Rudolph Wagner in G√∂ttingen. Carl Vogt, scientists and politician who engaged with Marx and Darwin, presents in its pages a radical materialist vision, according to which the brain excretes thoughts in much the same way in which the kidneys excrete urine. You would be hard pressed to find a book more incompatible with the tradition of Christian education decorated with library marking which points to a scholastic use. Materialist double strength poison approaching a school library somewhere in rural Michigan, that seems pretty remarkable. The book, with all its labels, which document its travels and the hopes which were placed in it a long time ago, is for sale on our website and offers a rare opportunity to hold in your hands the original object that once brought German radical thinking to the shores of Lake Huron and further afield.