About the Historic Hymnal Series

The Historic Hymnal Series was developed by Vienna Woods Music Company. At Vienna Woods Music, it became abundantly clear in the late 1990’s that there needed to be a better way to access and use old hymns than trying to find them in old musty books or rely on the highly-revised hymns printed in most modern hymnals.

The Series began with The Hymnal, an 1897 publication by The Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia. All the texts and tunes were entered into Finale and an updated version of the hymnal was issued in 2002. Not only were all the hymns available in a printed form as typically printed in newer American hymnals, but extensive indices with hyperlinks were included in Adobe Acrobat format. A hymn player application was included that could play all the hymns with the sounds from a sampled pipe organ.

Not satisfied that this really did justice to the name of the series, Vienna Woods Music sought to expand the hymnal. The body of hymnals from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is very extensive and the variety of texts and tunes contained in them represents a significant body of Christian art and theology. A database was developed that could support information from a wide collection of hymnals and the arduous task of entering millions of words of text and notes was undertaken with the goal of providing the Church at large with greater access to these hymns. At the present time, there are bits and pieces of over 50 hymnals that are included in the hymnal. Six of these hymnals are essentially complete and significant work has been done on many others. For example, the complete texts have been entered to the database for 26 hymnals.

As we know, hymns contain very clear statements on the theological positions of the Church and these positions are typically based on Scripture. There are many scriptural allusions in hymnody and many additional hymns represent paraphrases of scripture. Some hymnals included references to scripture passages and these have been entered to the database. Many additional passages have been added from various sources, including some from work done by Vienna Woods Music. At a minimum, every hymn that has been set to music to date in this series has at least one scritural reference associated with it. There are now over 18,000 entries relating to the over 5,000 Bible references, potentially a highly useful tool for planning worship, personal devotions or simply for doing hymn research.