Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of The Hymnal
Cover image of The Hymnal
Share this Title:

The Hymnal

A Reading History

Christopher N. Phillips

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

Understanding the culture of living with hymnbooks offers new insight into the histories of poetry, literacy, and religious devotion.

It stands barely three inches high, a small brick of a book. The pages are skewed a bit, and evidence of a small handprint remains on the worn, cheap leather covers that don’t quite close. The book bears the marks of considerable use. But why—and for whom—was it made?

Christopher N. Phillips’s The Hymnal is the first study to reconstruct the practices of reading and using hymnals, which were virtually everywhere in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Isaac…

Understanding the culture of living with hymnbooks offers new insight into the histories of poetry, literacy, and religious devotion.

It stands barely three inches high, a small brick of a book. The pages are skewed a bit, and evidence of a small handprint remains on the worn, cheap leather covers that don’t quite close. The book bears the marks of considerable use. But why—and for whom—was it made?

Christopher N. Phillips’s The Hymnal is the first study to reconstruct the practices of reading and using hymnals, which were virtually everywhere in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Isaac Watts invented a small, words-only hymnal at the dawn of the eighteenth century. For the next two hundred years, such hymnals were their owners’ constant companions at home, school, church, and in between. They were children's first books, slaves’ treasured heirlooms, and sources of devotional reading for much of the English-speaking world. Hymnals helped many people learn to memorize poetry and to read; they provided space to record family memories, pass notes in church, and carry everything from railroad tickets to holy cards to business letters. In communities as diverse as African Methodists, Reform Jews, Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and Unitarians, hymnals were integral to religious and literate life.

An extended historical treatment of the hymn as a read text and media form, rather than a source used solely for singing, this book traces the lives people lived with hymnals, from obscure schoolchildren to Emily Dickinson. Readers will discover a wealth of connections between reading, education, poetry, and religion in Phillips’s lively accounts of hymnals and their readers.

Jump to
Quick Add
The Hymnal

Christopher N. Phillips

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy
Related

Related Books

Cover image of Kiddie Lit
Kiddie Lit

Beverly Lyon Clark

$30.00
Quick Add
Kiddie Lit

Beverly Lyon Clark

Publication Date
Binding Type
Cover image of Thrill of the Chaste
Thrill of the Chaste

Valerie Weaver-Zercher

$26.95
Quick Add
Thrill of the Chaste

Valerie Weaver-Zercher

Publication Date
Binding Type
Preorder
Replayed

Henry LowoodBRedited by Raiford Guins

$50.00
Quick Add
Replayed

Henry LowoodBRedited by Raiford Guins

Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Making Machines of Animals

Neal A. Knapp

$60.00
Quick Add
Making Machines of Animals

Neal A. Knapp

Publication Date: May 9, 2023
Binding Type
Preorder
Cover image of A Centaur in London
A Centaur in London

Fabian Kraemer

$60.00
Quick Add
A Centaur in London

Fabian Kraemer

Publication Date: April 25, 2023
Binding Type
Reviews

Reviews

Unlike modern hymnals, which are larger and heavier and more expensively produced, older hymnbooks were affordable and designed to be read. People dog-eared them, wrote notes in them, learned to read with them and gave them as gifts to children and relatives. These homely little volumes, Mr. Phillips rightly contends, filled an important and mostly overlooked role in forging America's Anglo-Protestant worldview and shaping America's literary sensibilities.

... continual thought-provoking insights transcending national boundaries.

A well-researched, clearly written book on a relatively neglected subject. Enlightening and useful.

About

Book Details

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue: Looking for Hymns
Introduction: A Reader’s Hymnbook
Interlude 1. The Wide, Wide World of Hymns
Part I. Church
1. How Hymnbooks Made a People
2. How to Fight with

Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue: Looking for Hymns
Introduction: A Reader’s Hymnbook
Interlude 1. The Wide, Wide World of Hymns
Part I. Church
1. How Hymnbooks Made a People
2. How to Fight with Hymnbooks
3. Hymnbooks at Church
4. Giving Hymnbooks, and What the Hymnbook Gives
5. Devotion and the Shape of the Hymnbook
Interlude 2. Philadelphia, 1844
Part II. School
6. Hymnbooks and Literacy Learning
7. How Hymnbooks Made Children’s Literature
8. How Hymns Remade Schoolbooks
9. Singing as Reading; or, A Tale of Two Sacred Harps
Interlude 3. Henry Ward Beecher Takes Note
Part III. Home
10. Did Poets Write Hymns?
11. How Poems Entered the Hymnbook
12. The Return of the Private Hymnbook
13. Emily Dickinson’s Hymnody of Privacy
Epilogue: The Hymnological Decade
Glossary of Bibliographic Terms
Notes
Index

Author Bio