This is part of our Take a Closer Look series. This regular feature offers a behind-the-scenes view of some of our hidden treasures in our library and what they reveal about our shared past.
In 1806, two young men, Ambrose Henkel and his brother Solomon, started one of the first German language presses in the South. The press began as an amateur operation in the New Market home of their father, Paul, a prominent Lutheran minister. The first publications were crudely printed and had blurry illustrations, but the brothers eventually became skilled printers.
Many of the people living in the Valley of Virginia shared a German heritage, and the early Henkel materials were printed in German and then later in English. The Henkel Press eventually became an important source for Lutheran devotional material, newspapers, song books, and children's books. The press was always more than just a business venture, and the family believed that it was a way to preserve their culture, language, and religious beliefs.