Brethren Historical Library and Archives

Hidden gems: Abraham Harley Cassel (1820-1908)

Described as “the foremost Pennsylvania German bibliophile and a widely known authority on the literature of the Germans in America…,” Abraham Cassel was a 19th-century Pennsylvania German book collector and antiquarian whose personal collection in his home in Harleysville, PA, - the “Cassel Library” –served as the major informational source for Martin Grove Brumbaugh’s History of the German Baptist Brethren (1899). Brumbaugh also dedicated the book to Cassel.

A descendant of Johann Christoph Sauer and Peter Becker, Cassel’s collection contained over 8,000 books and more than 40,000 pamphlets, manuscripts, and other ephemera. M. G. Brumbaugh stated that “Our history was engraved and preserved on the shelves of his library. He kept safe our records as a denomination.”

Abraham Harley Cassel’s library was eventually distributed among several Brethren-related colleges and Bethany Theological Seminary, with a large portion also going to The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Cassel standing in front of his home in Harleysville, PA, site of the “Cassel Library.”
Courtesy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives

Cassel standing in front of his home in Harleysville, PA, site of the “Cassel Library.”

A portrait of Abraham Harley Cassel.
Courtesy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives

A portrait of Abraham Harley Cassel.

Abraham Cassel examining a Sauer Bible. Note some crowded shelves of his collection in the background.
Courtesy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives

Abraham Cassel examining a Sauer Bible. Note some crowded shelves of his collection in the background.

Cassel holding a Sauer Bible on his front porch in Harleysville, PA, c. 1900. (Robert C. Bucher Collection)
Courtesy of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives

Cassel holding a Sauer Bible on his front porch in Harleysville, PA, c. 1900. (Robert C. Bucher Collection)