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A friend who saw yesterday’s Expository Songs announcement asked what resources I use to learn more about hymns and hymnwriters. It might be of general interest, so I’ll post it here as well:

Hymn Stories

Books of hymn stories are typically targeted to a popular (non-academic) audience.

Hymnology

Hymnology books tend to involve more rigorous academic research. Often they’re more focused on an era or on a broad overview than on individual hymn stories. Some are easier reading than others.

  • A Dictionary of Hymnology, 2 volumes, John Julian:┬áThis 1957 book is the authority in the field. It’s not that it has zero mistakes, but it was certainly far and away the most accurate up to that point and to this day most of it still holds up fairly well.
  • Hymnary.org:┬áThis website is a modern-day successor to Julian.
  • Abide With Me: The World of Victorian Hymns, Ian Bradley: Focuses on England, with only one U.S. chapter; it’s a moderately slow-paced but fascinating read.
  • The English Hymn, J.R. Watson: I haven’t read this one all the way through yet.
  • Sing with Understanding, Harry Eskew and Hugh McElrath: This is fairly academic and, I think, was it’s intended as a textbook.
  • A Survey of Christian Hymnology, William J. Reynolds and Milburn Price: This must have been a textbook, because it’s rather dry and a rather plodding read.

Biographies