Anabaptists: Concerning the Drawings

by the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue 5 in 2013 ]

From the Archives: Concerning the Drawings of the Early History of Anabaptism in Zurich and on Hutterian Missionaries in Switzerland

Since in Switzerland no original drawings or paintings picturing any of the early Anabaptists or what they experienced have been known up to now, the presentation of the colored drawings in this issue deserves a short comment. The manuscript codex in which the drawings have been found has been preserved in the Central Library of Zürich and bears the signature Ms B 316. It contains the reformation history written by the Zürich theologian and church leader Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575), completed 1567. It is, however, not the original manuscript by Bullinger himself, but a copy produced by the goldsmith Heinrich Thomanns, member of the city council of Zürich, in 1605/06.

The drawings illustrating the text of the reformation history, therefore, are not the pictures of an eye-witness. No individual similarities can be expected. But the scenery of the events, the Main Church (Grossmünster) or the place of the execution by drowning in the Limmat river or the “Witches Tower” where Anabaptists were held in prison and escaped, is pictured on the ground of experiences that were similar to those the Anabaptists had eighty years earlier.

The pictures of the Hutterite missionaries are from another source, i.e. the collection “Wickiana” in the same library. This collection was gathered by Johann Jacob Wick during the years 1560–1587 and contains the most divers news, letters, pamphlets, reports, illustrations, etc. It is a treasure of obscure source materials and has served as such quite often already. The last two books dealing with this collection were written by Matthias Senn in 1974 and 1975. Especially the last one contains quite a number of pictures including the reports illustrated.

The colored drawings on the Hutterite missionaries must have been made chronologically very near to the events pictured. In their quality, however, they are not different from the pictures in the Bullinger copy. The unknown artist had to illustrate the texts which had been gathered by Wick and he did so according to his imagination and on the basis of a certain traditional way, typical for his time. Nevertheless, he was nearer to the events and his imagination may stimulate our minds.

The full value of the pictures, of course, is being disclosed in connection with the texts of Bullinger’s chronicle as well as with other documents on the events. I have prepared an edition of these together with the other drawings of the Bullinger chronicle and of the Wickiana on Anabaptists and Hutterites and hope to present it to the public soon.

Heinold Fast

Brückstrasse 74

D-2970 Emden

West Germany

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