Last week I received several antique hymnals for my birthday. My sister, Beth, gave me a 1933 copy of “The Wonderful Message” from the Hartford Music Company of Arkansas. I’m not sure she realized this, but the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away” by Albert Brumley first appeared in this song collection. Paul Wagenknecht gave me a copy of the the “Kirchen-Gesangbuch” or Church Songbook, printed for the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church in 1862, and is completely in German. Paul’s father was a Lutheran pastor, and this had been in his collection.
When I was talking with Paul about the hymnal, he asked how many hymns were in my collection, and I didn’t have an answer. I’ve been collecting them haphazardly for so many years that I haven’t really cataloged them. The collection ranges from oblong singing-school books, to nearly ancient text-only books, to paper camp-meeting books, to more modern hymnals I’ve used in the churches where I’ve been employed. I also have some facsimile copies of the Sacred Harp and other shaped-note books. I think the earliest one I have was published in 1835 – 185 years old. I keep that one and a couple of other special ones in archival boxes since they are so fragile.
Over the weekend I started toying with ways to catalog the collection. I want it to be available online, easy to maintain, but with enough information that would be meaningful. The first thing I did was set up a Google Spreadsheet with the following columns:
- ID (for my purposes)
- Type (oblong tune book, text only, etc.)
- Publication Date
- Cover Photo(s)
As I made my list of the items I wanted cataloged, I kept coming up with more and more things to add. I would love to include a listing of the contents, but that seems a bit ambitious. As I was researching the various hymnals, I found that there was lots of information online about some of these. It would be nice to include those links. I soon found that a simple spreadsheet wasn’t going to be sufficient.
With all of the information I wanted to include, I figured a simple website might be the best, with each hymnal getting its own web page. It couldn’t be sorted or filtered like a spreadsheet or database, but it could be searched.
What I settled upon was a combination of the two. I’m going to use the Google Spreadsheet API to populate individual pages, but then supplement that with photos and links to other information on the page itself.
So, I’ve got the spreadsheet set up, and I’ve got a Google Site called Tom’s Hymnals set up. I haven’t created the individual hymnal pages just yet, but I’ll work on that coding once I get more data in the spreadsheet.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing a bit more research using Google Books. I figured that if the hymnal is listed there, I could provide a link to the book so users could have a preview, such as the one below:
I’ve set up a special bookshelf called “Hymnals I Own” and have been adding to that bookshelf every time I find one that matches one in my physical collection.
It’s been fun re-acquainting myself with my collection. There are some interesting items here, and some very old ones. This is obviously going to be an ongoing project, but I hope it does leave me so that I can answer Paul’s question next time he asks.