The “Last” Hymnal

I love hymnals.  What can I say?

I’m sure my wife wishes she could believe that Choice Gospel Hymns (1923) would be my last hymnal.  She has nothing against song books, but – you see – we’re running out of room in my office to store them.  As of today I have seven bookshelves full of hymnals and books on various aspects of church music.  From a recent buying and hunting spree there are an additional ten books at my feet, waiting to be catalogued.  I have another four boxes (sixty or so books) that I’m not looking to keep (more on that later).

Choice Gospel Hymns is a very important book for me right now.  I’ve spent years developing a collector’s list of hymnals from the churches of Christ in the United States.  I’ve talked with hymnbook compilers and editors, church music experts, songleaders, and music teachers – all to get their personal list of the pivotal, defining books from which the church has sung.  I’ve had most of them for years now, but in the past few months I’ve gotten closer and closer to my goal: to own every one of them on the list.  Granted, the three earliest ones (1865, 1882, 1882) had to be reprinted, but I still owned them, I could still look at them and hear the voices of past generations of worshiping saints.  Choice Gospel Hymns, however, had continued to evade me.  No matter where I looked, I couldn’t even find much record of the book, let alone a copy for sale.  Last week that changed.  Unless something goes terribly awry, in a few days’ time my list will be complete.  I will be able to put a check mark next to “1923 Choice Gospel Hymns (Charles Mitchell Pullias, Gospel Advocate Co.).”

No, Choice Gospel Hymns won’t be the last hymnal I buy (in fact, I wrote to two publishers today for more information on their upcoming books), but it will feel good to have a complete collection.

P.S. I still have to buy Hymns for Worship, Revised (1995).  I already have the original (1987), so it doesn’t really count that I don’t have Revised.  Does it?  Oh well, maybe that will be my “last” hymnal.

8 thoughts on “The “Last” Hymnal

  1. Of course! What was I thinking? Especially when you added the minutes and I realized it was an auction. Congratulations!


    • Neil, stay tuned for Sumphonia’s book, “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs”. It contains some 840 titles, 290 of which are either new hymns or ancient Sacred Harp-era stuff that’s revived. I just picked up their prototype supplement and have the recordings and it is very good. The hymn writers have done a phenomenal job….Glenda Schales, Charli Couchman, et al.

      One of the neatest improvements with this book is its “phrased notation”, where the music is laid out around the music, and there are no chopped off sentences due to the constraints of the page layout. This means sometimes with real short phrases, there is a wider page margin. It makes a lot of sense. I wonder if this is the first hymnal to adopt this sort of notation?

      Mr. Levi, do you have one of these supplements? If not, I actually have an extra you’re welcome to.


      • Tim,

        Thanks for helping me keep up with informed replies to folks while I’ve been out! Somehow a new baby in the house doesn’t give a new father time for “extra-circulars” like blogging. I appreciate your reply to Neil regarding Sumphonina’s up coming hymnal.

        When you say “sacred harp-era stuff,” what does that mean to you? I’ve been to some Primitive Baptist singings and the actual “Sacred Harp music” is very different from what churches of Christ typically sing today. Does Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual actually have the fuging tunes that – to me – characterize Sacred Harp?

        I’ve heard about the “phrased notation” that Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual songs uses. I’m really anxious to see it and – maybe – it will help people see the poetry that they’re singing and better enable them to comprehend its meaning (I’m all for “singing with understanding”!).

        I would love, love to have a copy of the supplements. If you’d consider mailing it to PO Box 119, Floydada, TX 79235 I’ll try to make sure something nice comes back to the return address on the package. 🙂


  2. Interested in learning more about your collection – and the ACU singing school (can I attend?).

    I also have developed an interest in old hymnals and songs; long story, but I’ll try to be brief. Wanting to learn songs in “Songs of the Church” which I did not know or we do not sing, I searched for the LCC (LCU) Meistersingers (CE Cox) tape recordings of selections. I saw some of them were not in our 1977 printing, and confirmed they are in the original 1971 printing. In searching for a 1971 copy, I looked at many other old hymnals, and this was the start of my interest. Would be great to see a list of what you have on your shelves! Thanks, MDM


    • Morris,

      Thanks for reading I haven’t been as active as I’d like to be on getting material up on the blog, but I’ve got lots of material to share when I can carve out some more time.

      Recordings seem to be the way that most people learn new songs, even if the musical notation is provided in the hymnal. The latest offering along these lines is from RJ “Sonny” Taylor ( He has over 400 songs recorded from his new hymnal “Songs of Worship and Praise.”

      In my whole (always growing collection) I’ve got over 23 linear feet of book shelves, just for my hymnals. Some are passed down through family, others picked up in travels, yet others bought on-line. I complied the list of “definitive” (pivotal?) hymnals from churches of Christ and used that to finish my collection.

      Yes, you may come to the Singing School! We welcome all new and perspective students. On the right side of this blog you’ll find a link to the Singing School page ( Come join us! Write me if you need more information than you see on the site.

      Also, you can check out my profile (also linked on the right side of this page) to look at the shelves in my library. It’s a task-and-a-half to organize it all, but I’m making progress.


  3. I enjoy reading through your blog from time to time. I have been collecting your list of Significant COC hymnals. I, too, cannot find Choice Gospel Hymns. Where did you find your copy?


    • Kent,

      I’m sorry to just now be getting back to you. I purchased Choice Gospel Hymns through eBay. It’s always hit-and-miss, but that’s the best place I know of to find older hymnals. About 10 years ago, they went for $1-$5 (plus S&H). Now they’re $10+.

      Happy hymnal hunting!


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