A Dictionary of Hymnology/Preface to the First Edition

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1963883A Dictionary of Hymnology — Preface to the First Edition1908John Julian


The first pages of this "Dictionary of Hymnology, Setting forth the Origin and History of Christian Hymns of all Ages and Nations, with special referenoe to those contained in the Hymn Books of English-speaking Countries," were completed more than ten years ago. Since that time, there has been a constant and rapid production of official and quasi-official hymn books of great importance in all English-speaking countries. To meet this emergency, and to make this work both trustworthy and exhaustive, constant revisions and additions were imperatively called for, which have considerably enlarged the work and delayed its publication.

2. Hymnological works, both historical and critical, and in several languages, have also been published during the same period. A careful study of these works—many of which are by distinguished scholars and experts in the various languages and departments—and a laborious and critical testing of their contents, have consumed a vast amount of time, with the result of great practical advantage to the Dictionary as a whole.

3. The Appendix (Parts I. and II.) also became a necessity; and, together with the "Cross Reference Index to First Lines" (pp. 1307–1504), the "Index of Authors, &c." (pp. 1505–1521), and the "Supplemental Index" to each (pp. 1593–1616), must be carefully consulted by the hymnological student.

4. Where it could possibly be avoided, nothing has been taken at second-hand. Minute technical accuracy has been aimed at, and, after great labour and inevitable delay, has, it is hoped, in most instances, been attained. The pursuit of this aim has very frequently demanded, for the production of one page only, as much time and attention as is usually expended on one hundred pages of ordinary history or criticism.

5. The MSS. used in this work number nearly ten thousand, and include (1) those in the great public libraries of Europe and America; (2) those in private hands; (3) those in the possession of the Assistant Editor; and (4) those of the Editor.

6. The Books, Magazines, Newspapers, Broadsheets, &c, collated and examined, have been too numerous to count. The Editor's collection of MSS., Books, Pamphlets, &c, will, on the publication of this work, become the property of the Church House, where they will be available for consultation.

7. The total number of Christian hymns in the 200 or more languages and dialects in which they have been written or translated is not less than 400,000. When classified into languages the greatest number are found to be in German, English, Latin, and Greek, in the order named. Other languages are also strongly represented, but fall far short of these in extent and importance. The leading articles on National and Denominational hymnody given in this work furnish a clear outline of the rise and development of this mass of hymn writing. Arranged chronologically they set forth the periods when hymn-writing began in various languages, and the subjects which engaged the attention of the writers. It will be found that whilst the earliest hymns, as the Magnificat, the quotations in the Pastoral Epistles, &c, are in Greek, it required less than 170 years for the addition of Syriac to be made to the roll of languages. Latin followed in another 200 years. In another 50 years, the first notes in Early English were heard. German was added in the 9th cent.; Italian in the 13th cent.; Bohemian in the 15th cent., and others later, until the roll numbers over 200 languages and dialects. Careful attention to the chronology of the subject will also bring out the facts, that whilst Clement of Alexandria (p. 238) was singing in Greek, Bardesanes (p. 1109) was inspiring his followers in Syriac, later on we find that the finest of the early poets were writing contemporaneously—Gregory of Nazianzus (p. 468) and Synesius (p. 1108) in Greek; St. Ambrose (p. 56), Prudentius (p. 914), and St. Hilary (p. 522) in Latin; and Ephraem the Syrian (p. 1109) in Syriac. Still later, as the roll of languages is increased, the grouping of names, countries and languages within given periods, will yield rich materials for the use of the historian and the divine.

8. In the following pages are set forth the countries where, the periods when, the languages in which, and in many instances, the men by whom the doctrines and ritual teachings and practices of Christianity were first enshrined in song; and by whom and in what languages and countries the greatest developments have taken place.

9. English readers especially will find that one of the leading features of this Dictionary is the effort made to bring this mass of historical, biographical, doctrinal, devotional, and ritual matter as fully as possible within the grasp of those who are acquainted with no other language but their own. Linguistically the English language is the key-note of this work, and the hymns contained in the hymn-books of English-speaking countries, and now in Common Use, are its basis.

10. Personal acknowledgment has been made with deep gratitude to more than one thousand correspondents for valuable assistance rendered by them in the production of this work. In addition to the Contributors whose signatures are appended to their respective articles, special reference has to be made to the assistance of Miss Stevenson in compiling the "Indices of Authors, Translators, &c"; to the invaluable services of Mr. W. T. Brooke, whose acquaintance with early English hymnody is unrivalled; to Major G. A. Crawford, the compiler of the elaborate and complete "Indices of Cross Reference to First Lines, &c.," whose aid in revision from the first, and whose technical acquaintance with and accuracy in correcting the Press have been of eminent value; and to the Rev. James Mearns, whose assistance has been so extensive, varied, and prolonged, as to earn the unsolicited and unexpected, but well deserved and cheerfully accorded position of Assistant Editor of this work.


Wincobank Vicarage,
December, 1891.