For generations, a religious book written in the 16th century by Martin Moller has been handed down in Suzanne George’s family. On Christmas Eve, she will give a presentation from this tome of antiquity at LifePointe Church in Sedalia.
The book, somewhat shrouded in mystery, is written in German and Latin and contains three volumes or books; the oldest “Soliloquia,” written in 1587, is about the Crucifixion of Christ, “The Manuale of the Rightful Art of Dying,” was written in 1591, while the third “Evangelium” (a registry of sermons), 1,115 pages long and containing 55 woodblock illustrations, was published in 1601.
“There are three actual books by Martin Moller that are all bound together,” George, who lives in Warsaw, said Tuesday. “All of the books were written in German and Latin. A lot of the challenges is the fact that a lot of that language doesn’t exist. It’s archaic for German and Latin today.”
George knew she needed to find the appropriate people to translate the books, but didn’t know where to start.
“It took three years for me to find the people to even begin the project,” she noted.
She decided to work with “The Manuale of the Rightful Art of Dying,” and have it published first. It had to be researched, translated and edited. She said Moller wrote the book for those who are in the final stages of dying. When she decided to publish it, she added the title “Dear Soul.”
“We added that to the title because he speaks very intimately to your soul,” she said.
She said she hopes to have the oldest book, “Soliloquia,” ready for publication sometime in 2016.
“But we always seem to uncover more things to add to it,” she said.
Moller, an ancestor of George, was a pastor who was first a Catholic and then a Lutheran.
“He was actually too poor for a traditional education,” George said. “So, he did an apprenticeship to become a pastor.”
The book began as a family project for George, but once she saw the importance of it she wanted to share it publicly. Her mother, Sandra Cox, of Southern Missouri, had been the “keeper” of the book for many years.
“My mother safe-guarded it for many, many years,” she added. “There’s a lot that my mother will not share, because that’s her way of safe-guarding it. So, I respect that. I’ve known about about it for over 20 years.”
George began searching for someone to help her translate the books, even approaching the Library of Congress and major universities such as Harvard.
“It started out as a private family project, and no one in the United States could really help me,” she said. “They didn’t understand the book.”
She added that many people questioned how she could possibly own a museum-worthy book of antiquity like Moller’s. She eventually reached out to the Gutenberg Museum in Germany. The Gutenberg helped “shed more light” on the book, pointing George in a positive direction.
That direction lead back to Missouri and to Stephen Trobisch, who became the translator. Trobisch is based at Missouri State University in Springfield.
“All of the (publication) work ended up being done here in Missouri,” she added.
Translating the first book was tedious.
“On a good week he might be able to translate six pages,” she said. “Because, once again, a lot of the German is extinct today. We also had Professor Julie Johnson at MSU consult on the Latin portions of the book. My biggest concern was I didn’t want to lose anything.”
Shelia Perryman, of Kansas City, was the researcher and editor for the first book. George added that Perryman took the medieval era writings and made the book reader-friendly.
George said Professor Austra Reinis, a world-renowned expert and scholar on “the art of dying,” has also helped with the book. Reinis is on staff at MSU with the department of religious studies.
Also helping with the project was Dr. David Trobisch, the brother of Stephen Trobisch. David Trobisch is a Bible scholar and the director for Green Collection with the Passages Museum of the Bible. He works worldwide and is on staff with the Vatican, but lives in Springfield.
The Trobisch brothers helped George get the first of Moller’s books published; they own Quiet Waters Publications in Boliver.
George said her purpose for having the books translated and offering them to the public is because many aspects found in the writings are still helpful in modern times.
“There is so much there that is applicable today,” she added.
George, who was in the health care field for 35 years, has used Moller’s “Dear Soul, The Manuale of the Rightful Art of Dying” to minister to those at the end of life.
“It’s as much about how we live, as it is about how we are prepared for death,” George said. “It’s a missing link for that separation of body and soul that I think people still struggle with.”
As a way of comfort she often worked with her late son Daniel Wedlock in offering palliative readings from the book to those in the final stages of dying. George lost Wedlock this past year, at the age of 30, in a fishing accident. To honor him she plans to continue the work they began together.
“For the people I have done palliative readings for, no matter what stage they were in … we would always ask them ‘would you like me to continue?’” she noted. “They would either nod their head yes or they would open their eyes and say ‘yes.’”
George said she has no idea how long it took Moller to write the three books. He died in 1606.
“He actually went blind before he died,” she added. “In fact (Johann Sebastian) Bach he’s even done a couple cantatas based on Moller’s work. (Moller) was published over 100 times in his lifetime, because of the work he’d actually done and how important it was.”
George will have the original book, written by Martin Moller, available for viewing at 4:30 p.m. today at LifePoint Church, 2500 E. Broadway Blvd. She will give presentations at 5 and 6:30 p.m. She added that due to the antiquity of the book, security will be on hand during the viewing and programs. She will also have the recently published first book, “Dear Soul, The Manuale of the Rightful Art of Dying,” available in softcover for sale.
For more information about the books, visit George’s Facebook page at Dear Soul LLC or www.dearsoulllc.com.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.