Hymnal Blasphemy

hymnal 1

I’ve mentioned before that I collect hymnals. I prefer older, antique hymnals, but I’m just as interested in newer versions, particularly if it’s from a congregation with which I’m not as familiar. One of the first things I’ll do when visiting a church is grab a hymnal to see what they are using.

On occasion I’ll Google the term “antique hymnal” to see what comes up on eBay or other sites just to see if there are some interesting hymnals available. Recently these searches have found something that really makes my skin crawl. I think the phrase is “Antique Hymnal and Ephemera Crafts” and I’ve come across this blasphemy most often on that bastion of bad taste, Etsy.com. No, I won’t be posting any links because to me that would be just like posting a link to porn.

Crafters are using old hymnal pages to create all manner of evil, from wreathes…




…to roses…



…to gift wrapping…

2012-03-05_0758 Continue reading “Hymnal Blasphemy”

A Hymnal Database


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. Continue reading “A Hymnal Database”

Carols Ancient and Modern

Ancient and Modern

I collect hymnals – the older the better. It’s fascinating to see how musical tastes have changed over the years, and see which hymns were included or excluded.   Language changes and various issues (such as temperance) rise and fall from prominence.

As far as Christmas Carols go, in addition to my Oxford Book of Carols, there are three hymnals that have held my attention.  I actually possess one of these, and I’ve just found copies of the other two online.  I guess that will have to do, if I can’t actually own the physical copies.

The first of these is Hymns Ancient and Modern, and is a general hymnal rather than being specific to Christmas.  For many years it was the primary hymnal of the Church of England, and is a standard reference for hymnology.   Anne Dudley put together an excellent CD of Advent and Christmas music based on tunes from the hymnal and entitled it Ancient and Modern.  I was able to acquire a copy of Ancient and Modern on eBay.  I think mine is the 1916 edition, and it’s a small pocket version with only the words to the hymns – no music (pictured above.)

In the mid-to-late 20th Century there was a revived interest in ancient melodies for worship. I noticed this in our most recent Presbyterian Hymnal, which included more plainsong chants and hymns with ancient origins. These next two hymnals are even older than Hymns Ancient and Modern. Continue reading “Carols Ancient and Modern”