Crantz David

The German David Crantz was a Moravian teacher, missionary, secretary, historian, and author of several renowned books, among them Historie von Grönland (The History of Greenland), based on his 14-month stay in Greenland. Crantz began to study theology at the University in Halle in 1738. While still a student he joined the Moravians and attended a seminary in Herrnhaag in Oberhessen in 1740. A year later Crantz was among the inner circle around Count Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) and accompanied the count on his Geneva travels. The same year Crantz began to work as a teacher of children in the Moravian's main community in Herrnhut in Saxony and as a clerk for the Brethren's newsletter in Lindheim. In 1747, Count Zinzendorf appointed Crantz his personal secretary, a post he held until 1755. As Zindendorf's constant assistant, Crantz attended the governmental commission in Großhennersdorf close to Herrnhut and accompanied the count to London in 1748, where the Moravian church received Royal recognition. In 1756, Crantz was back in Herrnhut from where he accompanied the count on several occasions including travel to Switzerland in 1757. The next year Crantz worked as a German teacher in Neuwied.

In 1759, Crantz was commissioned by Count Zinzendorf to write a history of the Brethren's missionary work in Greenland. After the Danish colony of St Thomas in the West Indies, West Greenland was the second Moravian mission area. In 1733, the first three Moravian missionaries were send to the Nuukfjord originally to assist the Royal Danish Norwegian Mission founded by the Lutheran priest Hans Egede. But the same year the Moravians established their own mission station Neu-Herrnhut (Noorliit or Ny Herrnhut), which became a constantly growing congregation. When Crantz visited Neu-Herrnhut in the years of 1761-1762 to research his book, the Moravians had already established a second mission station Lichtenfels (Akunnat) south of Neu-Herrnhut in 1758. Crantz, who intended to produce a scientific and objective report, used his Greenland stay not only to interview the missionaries but also the local Inuit and the Danish merchants trading in Greenland. His history was not yet published, but when Crantz attended the synod in the German Marienborn in 1764, he was asked to write an overall history of the old and new Unitas Fratrum (United Brethren, or the Moravian Church).

In 1765, his well-known Historie von Grönland (The History of Greenland) was published in Barby and Leipzig. The two-volume book is the first book-length report of a Moravian mission area. The second volume was printed in 1770 and a further volume was planned but never realized. This first German edition is richly illustrated with eight engravings comprising two maps and seven depictions with ethnographic information. At least two of the copperplates were engraved by Andreas Hoffer in Nürnberg. The book was republished numerous times in German and translated into several European languages. A French edition was released that same year and two years later, in 1767, the first Dutch and English editions were printed. The History was also translated into Swedish, and Hungarian, but no Danish version was produced.

Besides Crantz's own observations during his 14-month stay in Greenland, his report is mainly based on the Brethren's recordings, including their diaries and annual figures for baptism and deaths. The History contains not only a detailed overview of the Brethren's missionary work in West Greenland and the revivals among the Inuit seen from a Moravian perspective, but also reliable ethnographic descriptions and insights in the 18th-century lifestyle of the local Inuit in West Greenland. Like Hans Egede's Nye Perlustration, it covers all aspects of Greenland's history, geography, fauna, flora, climate, and indigenous population including their customs, hunting methods, material culture, and religious beliefs. Crantz's Historie, like Hans Egede's Perlustration, reached not only a big reader's circle during the 18th century but for many generations served as a main source on West Greenlandic Inuit.

In addition to his writing obligations, Crantz continued to serve as minister in several Moravian communities. From 1766 on he preached in Rixdorf, today Neukölln, close to Berlin; in 1769 he returned to Herrnhut; and in 1771 he was appointed as minister in

Gnadenfrei in Oberschlesien, where he deeply engaged himself in the diaconical work. While working in Rixdorf as well as in Gnadenfrei, he wrote an as-yet unpublished history of both Moravian communities. In 1771, his basic record Alte und Neue BrüderHistorie (The Ancient and Modern History of the Brethren) was published and became another standard work on Moravian history. Several reprints and translations were made, among them a Danish edition in 1772 and an English one in 1780.

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