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First Dictionary of Hymnology for more than a Century is launched

Date: 22/10/2013

Pop hymns, slave songs and traditional favourites like Jerusalem feature among more than 4,000 entries in the first Dictionary of Hymnology published in over 100 years. Compiled by academics at Durham and Bristol universities, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology has taken 12 years to write.

Famous hymns featured in the dictionary include Nearer My God to Thee, by Sarah Flower Adams, which is claimed to be the last song played by the band on the Titanic before it sank in the North Atlantic in April 1912. Other well-known hymns making an appearance in the dictionary include Jerusalem and the FA Cup Final hymn Eventide (‘Abide with me’) by WH Monk.

The dictionary has been compiled by Professor Dick Watson, at Durham University, and Dr Emma Hornby, at the University of Bristol. Featured on Radio Four's Today on Saturday (18 October), it was formally published online last Sunday.

John Julian's original A Dictionary of Hymnology was first published in 1892, with a Second Edition in 1907. All previous attempts to update the edition have ended badly; between 1936 and 1971 three editors attempted the task, all dying before completion.

Professor Watson said: This is the Everest of hymnology and one of the most sensational aspects of this is that we've done it and survived.

The dictionary features the traditional hymns that most people will know and love, but it also looks at the huge wealth of hymnology that exists across a range of genres from slave songs to ‘pop’ hymns in the USA.

People love hymns, and they are right to do so. For those that have them close to their hearts, this should be a delight as well as a remarkable source of information.

Dr Hornby said: It was an enormous challenge to get the Canterbury Dictionary to this stage, involving hundreds of experts from across the globe, dedicated to making the Dictionary as comprehensive and compelling as possible.

It will be published online in the first instance to allow for additions and corrections – and for updates at regular intervals in the future. Hymn-writing doesn't stand still so the Dictionary will endeavour to represent the best of new hymnody as well as incorporating new discoveries relating to older subjects.

The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology also includes feature articles on major figures and movements in worldwide hymnology. The dictionary has over 300 contributors from 30 countries. It is intended that the dictionary will be an essential reference resource for scholars worldwide, with information on the hymns of many countries and languages, and a strong emphasis on the historical as well as the contemporary.

To register for an introductory trial and for more information go to the Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology.


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