Saturday, July 29, 2006

O For a Thousand Books... Part 2

I purchased nine more hymnals today, as well as Everybody’s Song Book, which contains many hymns (along with school songs from Cornell, Harvard, Yale, and Rutgers, and other secular songs).

While at the Commons, I visited the Bookery, where I got the first two Catholic hymnals for my collection; one of these is also the first French songbook I have. The gentleman working there suggested I look at another used bookstore: Phoenix Books, which I can now heartily recommend to any bibliophiles in the Ithaca area. He said they usually have a good selection of religious books. (Many used-book stores place hymnals in the religion section.)

Phoenix actually had the hymnals in the music section, next to opera scores, textbooks on Gregorian chant, and histories of Western music. I was unprepared for the great number of hymnals they had. So I had to face an interesting, heretofore unstated, question: am I collecting hymnals or hymns? Many of the books they had were old and not in particularly good condition. A practical question then is, do I want to deal with the upkeep of these worn-out books now, right before I leave the country? If the hymns they contained looked worth it, I probably would have. But on a first lookover (all I had time for, as the bookstore was only open for 40 minutes after I arrived), I didn’t see anything particularly promising which I don’t already have in my collection. (I will go back and look again sometime, when I have more time.) Even one of the books in relatively good condition, a collection of songs and arrangements for men’s voices, didn’t really catch my attention.

Conclusion: for now at least, I’m collecting hymns. More precisely, I am collecting both hymns (the texts) and hymn tunes; the distinction is important for many reasons, but the practical meaning for my collection is that I have two hymnals without any music included, which I purchased because the selection of lyrics looked very good.

I started this collection because I wanted to discover hymns I had not known, and to have available many I have loved since youth but are less common. The actual book itself carrying the hymns is less my concern. I guess this is consistent with the greater emphasis I tend to place on knowledge rather than the medium of conveying that knowledge.

The current state of the collection:
  • 34 hymnals, 32 with music included
  • 2 collections of a mix of hymns and secular songs (one of these in shaped notes)
  • 2 survey books of hymnody, with both historical essays and large numbers of hymns

It also appears there is honest confusion about who wrote the tune “Manoah”—Rossini or Haydn? In earlier hymnals it could be attributed to either. (And as I’ve mentioned before, I have at least one hymnal that attributes it to both, at separate times.) I don’t think any of my more modern hymnals attribute it to Haydn. The Cyberhymnal, which generally seems to be well-researched, lists Rossini as the composer, with no further commentary. However, the Christian Classics Ethereal Hymnary (which I’d never seen before tonight) lists both. It would seem that the only way to solve this mystery is actually to find a place where either Haydn or Rossini used this tune. Does anyone out there know of one?

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