I'm not even sure how it all started, this passion for antique hymnals. I can't look back and remember my first purchase. Seems like I've had them as long as I can remember. The "background" of my blog demonstrates how much I love them, since it's a picture of part of my collection. Here's another.
I started out as a music major in college. Music has always been a passion, and once I came to know the grace of God in Christ, church music in particular has been an interest. Over the years I've compiled over 250 old hymnals, dating as far back as 1831.
Some of my favorites include that 1831 edition, Village Hymns For Social Worship by Asahel Nettleton, which has a rich history. I'm also fond of my 1847 edition of The Psalmist, which was compiled by a group of Baptist leaders including several of the founders of our Southern Baptist Convention. The fun part is that there is a page in the front with the signatures of those men, several of whom I consider "heroes" of the faith.
I'm also quite fond of an 1875 publication called Brightest and Best for the Sunday School. Compiled by hymnary legends Robert Lowry and W. Howard Doane, this happens to be the first publication to contain Fanny Crosby's "To God Be the Glory", one of my favorite all time hymns.
I could literally spend hours talking/typing about these things; about the rich history of songs within the church; about the wide variety of those songs; about the "battles" that have been fought (just like today) over old vs. new; about the lessons these old books have taught me about the expansive and expressive nature of worship. I think everyone would benefit from getting a little perspective on these things.
Most of us are pretty narrow minded when it comes to church music, thinking only in terms of what I like, what I heard growing up, etc. It's good to remember that there have been more songs written for worship in the church than any one person could ever even know, from every generation, from every language, from ever part of the world. We ought to look at the bigger picture.
And that's what these books help me do; look at the big picture. These books are more than just a hobby. They remind me of the amazing heritage of the church, and every time I look at them, every time I pick up one of these books, it connects me to just one small piece of that heritage. What a gift.