In the years after hymn singing entered the Anglican church, the individual churches were using a variety of songbooks or hymnals. There began a movement to create a single hymnal that could be used by all of the churches. Hymns Ancient and Modern was born.
Publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern
Novello & Co published the first edition in 1861 which included 273 hymns. In 1868 they published an appendix. However, the publishing moved to William Clowes and Son who published a revised (2nd) edition in 1875.
In 1889 Charles Steggall added supplementary hymns and it was published again. 1904 saw the publication of a “new and revised” edition. Unfortunately the people preferred the previous version. So the Steggall edition published again in 1906 became The Complete Edition. Through subsequent editions and supplements published in the following years even to this day Hymns Ancient and Modern is the basis for many other hymnals.
From the title page of this copy, a new addition to my collection, it appears to be the 1906 Complete Edition.
The cover is a very soft leather, but age is taking a toll on this petite hymnal.
The Hymnal Contents
I was particularly interested in the layout. It appears to follow the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in its service order. Look at the Contents page to see the arrangement. Then the very full ‘Helps to the Use of Hymns Ancient and Modern’ is impressive.
You can see that this edition contains 638 hymns, and I found a few familiar hymns among them. I didn’t look too closely as I was trying to limit my handling of the book while I took these photos.
I noticed something very interesting. There was a time when hymnals were personal. Individuals brought them to church with them along with their Bible and their prayer book.
Lessons for Us
In these days, perhaps it would benefit us once again to own and bring our own hymnals to worship. And in churches that are primarily using more contemporary songs displayed on screens, it seems it would benefit each family to have a hymnal to be able to read and sing the rich heritage of our faith in their homes.
If you know me, you will know that I love both the older hymns and the newer songs. However, I would suggest that having a hymnal next to your Bible at home would help develop a richer understanding of our faith as we teach both scripture and hymns to our children. I even like the ‘old’ idea of a family gathering and singing together. Do any of you recall those days? What did they mean to you?
It is fantastic that we have such a rich heritage of hymnody. However, it is imperative that we not write off the newer expressions of faith. Remember in 1861 these were Hymns Ancient and Modern. May our worship continue to involve the best of that which is ancient AND modern.
PS: For an American hymnal published in 1904, see The Baptist Hymn and Praise Book. For more information on Hymns Ancient and Modern, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymns_Ancient_and_Modern .