A BRIGHTER dawn is breaking. That is not a comment on the
arrival, after more than a century, of a successor to Julian's
Dictionary of Hymnology, but the new work's first entry; and
yet you won't find it in print - so far. If you do, it will
probably add up to ten volumes.
In 1907, Canon John Julian of York Minster, and his publisher,
John Murray, struggled to fit the second edition of his great work
of reference into a single volume of 1768 pages, using minuscule
Since then, many of the hymns that he discussed have passed out
of use - the first hymn entry in 1907 was "A beautiful land by
faith I see". But, on the other hand, the "hymn explosion" has been
heard here and in distant lands afar. The Canterbury
Dictionary of Hymnology, published this week, has burst the
bounds of a single printed book and is flinging wide its banner on
the internet. Like a great and mighty wonder, perhaps.
So its publishers, Canterbury Press (aka Hymns Ancient &
Modern Ltd, our proprietors) are hoping. The book contains two
million words, and more than 4000 individual entries. More than 300
authors from more than 30 countries have contributed.
And it has all had to be paid for. Benefactors include the
Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the
British Academy. The introductory annual subscription for
individuals in the UK is £59; one month is £19.
The dictionary includes articles on individual hymns, authors,
hymnals, organisations, themes, hymn tunes, and their composers. It
covers hymn traditions from all the world's continents, regions,
and denominations (are they sure?), the publishers say; and it is
ecumenical and international in coverage.
The editors are Dr J. R. Watson, a Professor Emeritus at the
University of Durham, and Dr Emma Hornby, a senior lecturer in
music at Bristol University.
Canon Julian's book first appeared in 1892, and soon had to be
supplemented, because hymnological studies had made "great strides
in many directions". The "huge task" of bringing it up to date
again was previously considered im-possible, Dr Hornby says.
"Several editors of earlier attempts died without completing the
Now, in a sense, editors will never have to. Modern technology
has proved better adapted than movable type to hymnody's
ever-rolling stream, and publication online will allow, the
publishers say, "regular additions, amendments, and corrections".
Each entry is followed by an email link to enable subscribers to
"Request a correction or addition to this article".
So, how daunting was the task that the editors faced? Canon
Julian devoted the best part of six pages of tiny type in double
columns to the prolific 19th-century High Anglican author and
translator J. M. Neale, listing 66 hymns "now in C. U. [Common
Use]" before throwing in the towel and referring readers for the
rest to his Index of Authors and Translators (which "but feebly
represents" Neale's influence).
In Canon Julian's 11-page um-brella entry "Wesley Family, The",
he listed about 500 hymns by John and Charles as being "in C. U.",
with a word or two to indicate the subject-matter of each.
The new dictionary does not seek to replicate these long lists,
although lists there are; but for Neale, for example, Dr Leon
Litvack's 1500-word entry includes more than 50 hyperlinks to other
articles, including individual ones for scores of the hymns. More
than 100 hymns are cross-referenced in Bishop Timothy
Dudley-Smith's article on Charles Wesley; while 27 are
cross-referenced in the article by the Revd Christopher Idle about
Bishop Dudley-Smith, a well-known hymn-writer himself.
The dictionary is being launched with a conference that is
drawing delegates from as far afield as South Korea, New Zealand,
Canada, and France. About 60 are expected this weekend for a
two-day conference in Bristol; and there will be a concluding
service in St Mary Redcliffe on Sunday at 6.30 p.m., when local
singers will be joined by a visiting Methodist choir from Chicago,
and Bishop Dudley-Smith will preach the sermon.
The opening service of the conference will be in the New Room,
Bristol, a chapel built by John Wesley himself.