Shape-Note Hymnal: THE VIRGINIA HARMONY, 1831
Clayton, David L., [compiler] and James P. Carrell, [compiler and composer]. THE VIRGINIA HARMONY; A New and Choice Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes, Anthems and Set Pieces, in Three or Four Parts, Some of Which Have Never Been Published. Prepared for the Use of Singing Societies, Teachers of Sacred Music, and Individual Instruction. To Which is Prefixed an Introduction Explanatory of the System, and a Series of Progressive Lessons. Winchester, [Va.]: Printed by Samuel H. Davis, 1831. Oblong 12mo. xiv, -167 pages. Original calf spine over plain paper-covered boards paneled with strips of ruled paper. 13.5 x 23 cm. Shallow strip (one centimeter deep at most) torn from the base of one leaf with partial loss to the final stave on each page (pp. 149-150). Else a good copy. Professional tissue repair to the front joint; shallow chip to head of the spine; moderate wear and rubbing to boards. Tissue repair to the upper edge of the front free endpaper. Tears to three leaves repaired with tissue (no loss); one small corner chip to another leaf professionally filled (impacting final stave with no loss of notes); a few other minor tears and chips not affecting printed matter; light creases to the first two leaves. Moderate foxing throughout.
Provenance: Attractive manuscript bookplate of an early owner, Katharine Mawyers, on front pastedown.
FIRST EDITION. An early Southern shape-note tune book. In addition to the nearly 200 songs, there is an essay on "The Rudiments of Music" explaining the use of shape notation for singing (p. [v]-xiv), "A Dictionary of Musical Terms" (p. ), and a title index (p. 167).
The book is notable, in part, for the inclusion of one of the first printings of the melody now associated with the hymn, "Amazing Grace." The tune here appears under the title, "Harmony Grove" (p. 19), with the lyrics to the Isaac Watt's hymn, "There is a Land of Pure Delight." Several years later, William Walker published an arrangement of "Harmony Grove" as "New Britain" in The Southern Harmony (1835), and the tune was there paired with the words of John Newton's famous hymn for the first time. Music historians cited The Virginia Harmony as the earliest printing of the tune until 1990, when the melody was discovered, under a different name, in The Columbian Harmony (Cincinnati, 1829), another rare tune book. (See Turner, Amazing Grace: The Story of America's Most Beloved Song, pp. 118-122.) David L. Clayton (1801-1854) was a Presbyterian elder. James P. Carrell (1787-1854), a Methodist preacher born in Lebanon, Virginia, was a singing teacher and composer, who contributed several original tunes to this volume. Due to their frequent use and the thin paper on which they were printed, Southern tune books of this period are usually found in poor condition, when they are found at all. This is a remarkable survival, even the noted imperfections. OCLC locates fourteen institutional copies (several imperfect) and American Imprints adds two others, but the work seldom surfaces in the trade. No auction sales are recorded by ABPC or RBH. NUC locates only the second edition of 1836. Haynes 3546. American Imprints 6553.
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