A hymn-book so rare that even the British Library has no copy has been discovered in a box in a Yorkshire public library.
The tiny 165-year-old pamphlet, of 16 hymns was produced by the Chartist movement, which campaigned for social justice in the early 19th century. The National Chartist Hymn Book was identified by Dr Mike Sanders (left), an English lecturer at the University of Manchester, after he heard about it in a collection of papers at Todmorden Public Library, in West Yorkshire.
“I was first told about it by Linda Croft, a local historian working for the Workers’ Educational Association,” he said. “I asked for the pamphlet at the library, and they gave me three boxes of uncatalogued material. I was about to give up hope until I got to the second-to-last item in the last box, and found the pamphlet with a cigar box glued on to it for a cover. It was very fragile.”
He also had three clues which helped him to confirm its origins. All were brief mentions in 1845 editions of the Chartist newspaper Northern Star. One, from January, asked readers to send ideas for a Chartist hymn book to an address in Manchester. A second, in February, stated that West Riding Chartists approved the idea of a new hymn book. Nine months later, an item said that the hymn book was now available.
Chartist historians know of two earlier attempts to produce a hymn book for the whole movement — Cooper’s Shakespearean Chartist Hymn Book, and Hobson’s Hymns for Worship.
Some of the hymns in this collection protested against child labour and slavery. One proclaimed: “Men of wealth and men of power Like locusts all thy gifts devour.”