Johannes Ernst Spangenberg (circa 1755-1814), also known as the Easton Bible Artist, worked as a schoolmaster travelling through Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Northampton Counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania and Hunterdon and Sussex Counties in New Jersey between approximately 1774 and 1812. While it is not known when Spangenberg arrived in America, he is known to have sworn an oath of allegiance to the newly independent United States immediately following the Declaration of Independence; he served in the Northampton County militia during the American Revolution (see Earnest and Earnest, Papers for Birth Dayes: A Guide to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners, vol. II (East Berlin, PA., 1997), pp. 717-719).
Spangenberg's painting manner is distinctive. His palette is characterised by rich brick red, olive green, teal blue and mustard yellow and his painting style is defined by exuberant, highly stylized flowers of varying sizes often centered by male and female figures, often with some architectural setting, and all drawn in the same scale. The revelers centering the debit and credit book illustrated here are typical of Spangenberg's decorative vocabulary. Spangenberg's frequent inclusion of trumpet-playing, merry-making humans has been attributed to close ties the musically-inclined Moravian community of Northampton County, though the explicit connection to this group has not been definitively determined (see Earnest and Earnest, p. 717); one of the early uses of the book whose frontispiece is illustrated here appears to have been as a songbook.
Approximately ten bookplates attributed to Johannes Ernst Spangenberg are presently documented (see Earnst and Earnest, pp. 718-719). These survivals, all dated, appear to have been made in a series of distinct time periods, with bookplates dating principally between 1788-1791 and 1812. The example illustrated here, dated 1790 on an interior songbook page, represents a previously unknown example of the artist's work.