March 12

hymn books

I haphazardly collect old and new hymn books. I bought these two from the historical library at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA, while doing some research there. The open book is The Sacred Hymnal, a shape note tunebook from the Ruebush Kieffer Co., the main focus of my recent research efforts. Edited by J. H. Hall, J. H. Ruebush, and W. H. Ruebush, the book was published in 1899 and intended for worship services, prayer meetings, Sunday school, revivals, and other religious meetings. It contains 200 hymns divided into 7 sections: worship, man’s ruin and redemption, the Christian life, the Christian church, young people’s department, the life beyond, and miscellaneous.

The other book is Sacred Songs No.1, edited by Ira D. Sankey, James McGranahan, and George C. Stebbins. The book is in round notes and published by the Biglow and Main Company of New York in 1896. Sankey and Philip Bliss were instrumental in the formation of gospel music, publishing their first collection of songs for gospel meetings in 1875. The book includes many new songs along with “useful and popular pieces,” making it “practical and desirable.” Many sacred and gospel music publishers in the late 19th century issued new songbooks on a regular basis, suggesting that the public sang regularly from the published books and had an appetite for new songs. The editors express their hope that the book will be useful in churches and prayers meetings, as well as in the home so that “the good old-time custom of singing the praises of God in the home may again be revived.”


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