The Most Substantial Collection of Hymn Tunes Published During John Wesley’s Lifetime WESLEY, John. Sacred Harmony. or a Choice Collection of Psalms and Hymns, Set to Music in Two and Three Parts for the Voice, Harpsichord & Organ. London: John Wesley, 1781. Full Description:
Sacred Harmony. or a Choice Collection of Psalms and Hymns, Set to Music in Two and Three Parts for the Voice, Harpsichord & Organ.
London: John Wesley, 1781.
. Sacred Harmony. or a Choice Collection of Psalms and Hymns, Set to Music in Two and Three Parts for the Voice, Harpsichord & Organ. [London: John Wesley, n.d.c.a. 1781].
First edition (?). Baker's Variant A with the "T. Bennett sculp. Holborn Hill" printed on the foot of page 349. Octavo (7 x 4 1/4 inches; 180 x 110 mm). , 2-349, [5, index] pp. With engraved title-page, and engraved music throughout. We could find no other copy of this edition at auction, and other than this copy, the earliest edition at auction was the 1788 edition which sold in 1978..
Full contemporary speckled calf. Spine stamped in gilt with harp motif. Red morocco spine label, lettered in gilt. Spine with some cracking to leather and chipping to the head and tail. Corners rubbed and bumped. Rear free endpaper coming loose. Previous owner's signature on front free endpaper, dated 1788. Engraved title with a small old stamp "JW" (John Wesley?) on top margin. Still a very good copy.
"According to Frank Baker's Union Catalogue there were apparently five printings of S[acred] H[armony] 1780. Baker states that it 'was first published January 1780.' There is an existing copy with John Wesley's autograph with the date of Janu. 10, 1780 in his own hand... Baker lists four additional printings which he labeled [A]. [B]. [C], and [D]. He suggests the date of 1780? for [A] whose engraver is "T. Bennet Sculp. Holborn Hill." No dates are suggested for [B]. [C], and [D]... The Wesley-autographed edition and [A] and [B] all have the same pagination." (From the introduction to the 2020 reprint of Sacred Harmony by S.T.Kimbrough, Jr.).
"There has been considerable speculation regarding the year of the first printing of S[acred] H[armony] 1780. Richard Green in [A Bibliography... of the Brothers Wesley, 214] surmised: 'The most careful inquiry has led to the belief that it was not published until 1781.' He summarizes a number of date suggestions, even as early as 1761 by George Osborn, but appears to give credence to the date 1781 supported by William Sugden and C. D. Hardcastle, since seemingly the first announcement of Sacred Harmony appeared on the cover of the Arminian Magazine in 1781. Carlton R. Young has suggested that Nicholas Temperley has followed Green's proposal of the year 1781 as the most probable date of the first printing. (From the introduction to the 2020 reprint of Sacred Harmony by S.T.Kimbrough, Jr.).
"Sacred Harmony (1781) was the most substantial collection of hymn tunes published during John Wesley’s lifetime. The selection of tunes it contained was very similar to the earlier Sacred Melody [Select Hymns] (1761, 1765), with a few additions. However, its appearance in 1781 represented two significant changes from the earlier collection. First, the change from ‘Melody’ to ‘Harmony’ in the title is an important acknowledgment of the practice of singing in parts that was commonplace in eighteenth-century Methodism. Second, the publication of the substantial Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists in 1780 marked a major milestone in Methodist hymnody, to which Sacred Harmony can be understood as a musical response." (The Museum of Methodism).
"While Charles Wesley was a prolific writer of hymns, his brother John was on a constant quest for the best tunes to fit the texts of his brother, as well as the texts of scores of other authors. Strongly influenced by the singing tradition of the Moravians, which he first experienced on board ship during his voyage to America in 1735, he linked numerous tunes from continental Europe and Great Britain with English-language texts and textual translations. In addition, he and Charles favored a few meters of tunes that were essentially unknown in English-language hymnody but were well known in Germany and central Europe. John published three collections of tunes beginning in 1742 with A Collection of Tunes Set to Music, As they are commonly Sung at the Foundery. The second collection of tunes was published nineteen years later: Select Hymns with Tunes Annext: Designed Chiefly for the Use of the People Called Methodists (1761)... The third collection of tunes by John Wesley was titled Sacred Harmony (1780). It was intended as a companion to the 1780 texts-only publication Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists. The full titleof S[acred] H[armony] 1780 reveals immediately a major difference of this tune collection from the two published previously by John Wesley. It reads Sacred Harmony, or a choice Collection of Psalms and Hymns Set to Music in two or three parts for the Voice, Harpsichord & Organ. The previous tune collections were prepared only for monodic singing, i.e., music with only one melodic line, a single voice part. This was very much like an early baroque style with one singer and continuo accompaniment. Early on, John Wesley expressed his preference for this style of singing, especially for congregations. However, by 1780 he had changed his view, perhaps influenced by the vocal and the choral styles of singing which George F. Handel popularized in his oratorios. In fact, on the cover of S[acred] H[armony] 1780 there is a printed example of a hymn to be sung in two parts. The present writers view is it was essentially published for Methodists who increasingly sang harmonized/accompanied versions of the tunes in S[elect] H[ymns] 176l." (From the introduction to the 2020 reprint of Sacred Harmony by S.T.Kimbrough, Jr.).
ESTC T155276. Green, A Bibliography... of the Brothers Wesley, 214. Baker, Union Catalogue, 164.