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.