Hymns of Spiritual and Social Revival in the Early United States
Books and Music from the Nutter-Metcalf Hymnological Collection
This careful selection from the Nutter-Metcalf Hymnological Collection at the Boston University School of Theology Library reflects the enormous changes that were taking place during the formative years of the United States, that is, in late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century. The age was to witness the rapid development of urban centers and industry, along with all the consequent social benefits and ills: the Temperance Movement, the abolition of slavery, the Civil War, the growth of literacy, and improved education and technological advances that would make written materials much more widely available than before. Early in the nineteenth century, Protestant churches in the northeast were to experience the Second Great Awakening. Both "back east" and on the rapidly expanding frontiers of the Old West and the Southwest, burgeoning populations would see the rise of camp meetings, religious revivals, and new initiatives for foreign missions and education, including the establishment of the American Bible Society, American Tract Society, American Board of Foreign Missions, Sunday School Union, and YMCA.
The role of hymns
A great number of hymns and tunes were composed because of, and in their turn contributed to, the enthusiasm of this age. Works for congregational singing were both more numerous and available farther afield by the mid-nineteenth century than ever before. Also, thanks to the efforts of composers, compilers, and publishers, participation in and expectations for such hymn-singing were rising. By the second half of the century, thousands of original hymns and tunes had become mainstays of congregational worship in North America. Significantly, this repertoire came to include items for specific audiences, such as children and youths, soldiers and sailors, and abolitionists. Patriotic and even nationalistic or secular "hymns" became common in increasingly ecumenical, compendious, and widely-marketed collections.
The Nutter-Metcalf collection is an amalgamation of hymnological works donated separately by two alumni of Boston University. Charles Sumner Nutter (1842-1928) graduated in 1871, the year in which the Boston Theological School merged with the University. Nutter, a Methodist minister, collected hymnals and wrote both hymns and authoritative books on hymnology. He was Librarian of the New England Methodist Historical Society from 1915 until his death. In 1913, he was appointed Lecturer on Hymnology and Church Music at Boston University School of Theology, and presented his "hymnic library" to the school. The other Boston University alumnus, Frank Johnson Metcalf (1865-1945), gradated in 1886 and went on to work in the U.S. War Office. He, too, collected hymn books and wrote valuable books on hymnology. Metcalf was an avid historian and a member of the American Historical Association. He collaborated on
An Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications, and made contributions to the study of local history in Massachusetts.
Scope of the collection
The core of the Nutter-Metcalf collection is composed of hymnody of the First and Second Great Awakenings, and of subsequent, nineteenth-century revivals in the United States. The holdings comprise some 2,500 items from the period 1566-1940, including psalm and hymn books, sacred poetry, religious biography, histories of hymnology, a sampling of reference works, and accounts of particular hymns, denominational or other compilations, and hymn writers. The collection represents a broad array of Christian communities, and is particularly rich in Methodist holdings. The books chart the evolution of the modern, Protestant English hymn - from translations of the Psalter to Watts's lively paraphrases, from the Wesleys' vigorous works to the flowering of hymnody during the Evangelical Revival and the First and Second Great Awakenings, and Victorian retrospection and enthusiasm. Many of Nutter's books bear their owner's valuable inscriptions concerning individual hymns, stanzas, authors, and composers.
The books selected for this project begin chronologically with late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century collections of the Second Great Awakening, which moved beyond the influential works of Watts, the Wesleys, and their successors to adopt words and tunes by new authors and composers. These are followed by camp-meeting compilations, school songbooks, temperance hymnals and other gatherings of revival and patriotic music, and gospel hymns, up to and beyond the Civil War.
However, also included are many works falling outside these parameters, which nonetheless increase the scope of our selection and provide a fair picture of the Nutter-Metcalf collection, as well as a few books from Boston University School of Theology Special Collections. Thus, on the one hand, we have chosen notable treasures showing the transition from early British to American, and from psalmodic to hymnodic, practice. On the other hand, we have gathered productions of a traditionalist bent, such as hymn books inspired by the Oxford Movement, collections seminal to new denominations and sects, and a few later nineteenth-century revivalistic compilations.
In contrast, poetic and other anthologies have largely been omitted - unless they are deeply significant - as have scholarly discussions, unless they are short and unique, or biographical. A few books that are atypical of the world represented here have been included (e.g. vernacular, congregational Catholic hymn books), so as to suggest the collection's fuller contours and limits.
The Nutter-Metcalf collection notably contains many books produced in New England by such well-known publishers as Isaiah Thomas. These oblong songsters preserve early hymns and tunes (the latter often in several voices) of many British and American authors and composers. Many are prefaced by materials that provide musical instruction and directions for congregational singing, affording a yet wider perspective on the devotional world of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Several of these, and other items in the selection, are titles occurring in
Early American Imprints. Pertinent pre-1820 musical publications have been submitted to the RISM project (
Répertoire Internationale des Sources Musicales) at Harvard University.
This selection of works from the Nutter-Metcalf Hymnological Collection represents a retrospective cataloging and preservation project conducted in the period 1997-2000. The aim was to provide our online library database with Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2r) and Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Books (DCRB)-compliant, Library of Congress Machine-Readable Catalog (MARC) bibliographic descriptions at as full a level as possible for each work described. The aim was also to offer richness in subjects, uniform titles, and other access points, particularly in name headings (for authors, composers, printers, stereotypers, engravers, and others), which were to be Library of Congress Name Authorities Cooperative (NACO)-authorized wherever feasible. The success of the project has afforded scholars the opportunity to obtain deeper levels of information, by means of which significant variations between editions of a given work might be perceived at the initial stages of research. It has also more fully exploited the potential of online catalogs as research tools (i.e. as a means of performing sophisticated electronic searches) than has oftentimes been the case.
The Nutter-Metcalf Hymnological Collection project was generously funded by the Lilly Endowment, and academically approved by Boston University School of Theology and the Trustees of Boston University. We gratefully acknowledge our debt to them, and, in addition, give sincere thanks to the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, and to the staff of IDC for their encouragement and assistance.
Raymond Van De Moortell, Boston University, School of Theology Library; Brian Frykenberg, James Ford Bell Library; and Dawn Piscitello, Boston University, School of Theology Library