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Psalms and Hymns

This resource guide is designed to orient researchers to materials held at the society that can inform and document a study of the historic use of psalms and hymns in American Presbyterian churches. Related resource guides cover Presbyterian common worship and sacraments and occasional services. These guides are not intended to cover the theology and forms of hymnody used in contemporary churches. For information about current PC(USA) doctrine and practice, contact the PC(USA) Presbyterian Mission Agency, Office of Theology and Worship.

Overview

For a good survey of this topic, see:

Benson, Louis FitzGerald. The English Hymn: Its Development and Use in Worship. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1915.
Call number: WESTPR 1598.1
 

Journal article

Sydnor, James Rawlings. “Sing a New Song to the Lord: A Historical Survey of American Presbyterian Hymnals.” American Presbyterians 68:1 (1990): 1–13.
Call number: Ref BX 8905 .J8
www.jstor.org/stable/23332649
 

Dictionary and encyclopedia articles

McKim, Donald K., ed. Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992.
Call number: Ref BX 9406 .E56 1992
Entries: “Hymnody,” “Psalms.”

Cameron, Nigel, ed. Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Call number: Ref BR 782 .D43 1993
Entries: “Hymnology, Scottish,” “Psalms, Psalter.”

Primary Sources
Denominational Records
Please note that PHS holds a number of unprocessed archival collections related to this topic that are not described in the publicly accessible catalogs and indexes listed here. Access to these materials is restricted. Please contact the reference staff for more information.
 
Congregation Records*
The “session” of a Presbyterian church is the governing body of the local church that has overall responsibility for the administration of its worship. Matters relating to church property, such as pew rents, organs, and building funds are usually (depending on state law and local custom) found in the minutes of the trustees—usually a separate board with separate records. Local church records are cataloged solely by the city which served as the church’s post office location. You may use CALVIN, our online catalog, to locate church records, or contact  the reference staff for assistance. 
 
*Access note: It is the policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to restrict access to all official records on deposit at the Presbyterian Historical Society that are less than 50 years old. This restriction applies at the national, mid council, and congregation level. If you wish to access official records less than 50 years old, you must secure written permission from the records' owners. Please consult with the reference staff for further details.
Contemporary Publications

Psalms and Hymns Adapted to Social, Private and Public Worship in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1843.
Call number: WESTPR 1797

Psalms and Hymns for the Worship of God : Approved by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States ... Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1867.
Call number: JKPRESS 1867-15

Duryea, Joseph T., ed. The Presbyterian Hymnal. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work, 1874.
Call number: WESTPR 1157.3

Book of Hymns and Tunes : Comprising the Psalms and Hymns for the Worship of God, Approved by the General Assembly of 1866 ... Richmond: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1874.
Call number: JKPRESS 1874-1

Benson, Louis FitzGerald, ed. The Hymnal. Published by authority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1895.
Call number: WESTPR 1791.3

The New Psalms and Hymns. Richmond, Va.: Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1901.
Call number: JKPRESS 1901-10

Bibliography and Referrals

Julian, John, ed. Dictionary of Hymnology: Origin and History of Christian Hymns and Hymnwriters of All Ages and Nations. 2nd Revised Edition. London: J. Murray, 1907. Reprinted in 2 vols., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985.
Call number: Ref BV 305 .J8 1985

Reformed Liturgy and Music 14:4 (1980). Entire number devoted to use of the Psalter.
Call number: Folio UR 20.2 R 259ca, Vol. 14

Lovelace, Austin C. “The Hymnal, by Louis F. Benson.” American Presbyterians 66:4 (1988): 288–293.
Call number: Ref BX 8905 .J8
www.jstor.org/stable/23330881

Walker, J. Michael. “Louis FitzGerald Benson: The Union of Prayer and Praise.” American Presbyterians 71:3 (1993): 175–184.
Call number: Ref BX 8905 .J8
www.jstor.org/stable/23332603
 

Referrals

The Dictionary of North American Hymnology, hosted by hymnary.org in partnership with the Hymn Society In the United States and Canada

General Editor: Tina Schneider
Professor and Library Director, The Ohio State University at Lima

Researchers may also wish to view our online exhibit Learning to Sing: Presbyterian Hymnals and Psalters

Searching PHS Holdings

Researchers are encouraged to consult the society’s online and card catalogs and confer with reference staff to locate additional resources pertinent to their topics of interest. Please note that we hold a number of unprocessed archival collections that are not described in the publicly accessible catalogs and indexes listed here.

Guides to Archival Collections

CALVIN, our electronic catalog

  • Holdings are cataloged using Library of Congress Subject, Name, and Geographic headings. The following Library of Congress subject and corporate headings may be useful in locating works on psalms and hymns:

    Bible. O.T. Psalms. English. Selections 
    Hymns. English
    Presbyterian Church. Hymns
    Schools. Hymns
    Sundays schools. Hymns

    Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. -- Hymns
    Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Christian Education
    Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Publications and Sabbath School Work

Pearl, our online digital repository

Card Catalog: most published and manuscript materials cataloged by PHS prior to 1980 can be located using the card catalog in our reading room.