Second only to the Bible was the huge volume known as the Martyr’s Mirror in the homes of the early German settlers of Pennsylvania. This book is an account of the terrible persecutions suffered by Christian martyrs in every century from the birth of Christ to 1659 A.D. These experiences of those who suffered for their faith sustained many who were forced to endure the privation and suffering of frontier life in America.
The Mirror was originally written by Theilman J. Van Bracht of Dort, Holland in 1659, in the Netherlandish language German Mennonites in Pennsylvania appealed to their brethren in Europe to supply a German translantion, but when this was not forthcoming a group of Pennsylvanians set themselves to the tremendous task of translating and publishing the book which contains more than 1,000 pages. Heinrich Funk and Dielman Kolb, prominent men in the Mennonite Meeting of Franconia were appointed to supervise the undertaking.
The work was done at Ephrata. In much the same manner that medieval monks worked in writing rooms recopying ancient manuscripts on scrolls of parchment so too the cloistered Brothers in Wisdom in Zion at Ephrata went into seclusion and set themselves to their task.
Fifteen brothers were assigned to do the work. One translated the Dutch into German, four others set type in the Ephrata press, four worked the presses, while six were employed in manufacturing the paper. In this way the work was completed in 1749. Today the Ephrata prints of the Martyrs’ Spiegel command fancy prices on the book marts as rare Americana. College Libraries, museums, and collectors are the chief customers.
The first English translation was made by I. Daniel Rupp in 1837. It was published under its English title by David Miller, near Lampeter Square in Lancaster County. Another translation was made by J.F. Funk a descendant of the Heinrich Funk who served as one of the two supervisors of the Ephrata publication.
Dielan Kolb, who served with Funk in the translation and publication of the Ephrata “Mirror” was a minister in Mannheim, Germany before he came to America. His brother, Martin Kolb, was a minister at Salford in Montgomery County as early as 1707. Dielman came a few years later. He was married to a daughter of Peter Schumacher. It was Dielman Kolb who prevailed upon Christopher Dock to publish his Schul Ordung. His greatest achievement in life was his work on the Martyr’s Mirror.