About a year ago, I bumped into Brian Hehn, director of the Center for Congregational Song. We’ve known each other for a while, and it was very nice to chat again. Or rather, true to form, I talked his ear off about the work I had been doing in Hymnary.org. At the end of my monologue, he suggested that this work might be of interest to the Puentes community, and pointed me toward Dr. Monteiro. I am thrilled that she agreed to a blog post on the topic of Spanish-language hymnals in Hymnary.org.
I have always been intrigued by languages and hymnody, and consider the opportunity to contribute to Hymnary.org as one of the most meaningful of my career. As Director of Research for The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada from 2008 to 2014, I had the great privilege of witnessing the merger of The Hymn Society’s Dictionary of North American Hymnology (DNAH) with Hymnary.org. Since then, I’ve kept busy adding hymnals, proofing existing records, and adding page scans as public domain rules allow. To be clear, lots and lots of people have done the same, each with their own areas of expertise, making Hymnary.org a wonderful tool for congregational musicians and researchers alike.
A little history might be useful here, since a lot has been in motion for a very long time. The DNAH is a decades-old project of The Hymn Society that had as its goal to index all hymnals printed in North America. Begun in 1952, the work was envisioned as an American revision of John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology, first published at London in 1892 with an appendix of North American hymns added in 1907. However, American scholars felt that the body of North American hymns had grown large enough to merit a separate dictionary of its own.
The DNAH eventually capped its work, stopping with hymnals published before 1978, with over one million hymns from 4,875 collections, indexed by first line, author/translator/adapter, refrain, and title. Hymnals were indexed by denomination, title, compiler/editor, and place, publisher, and year of publication. Over the years, the database migrated from index cards to microfilm to CD-ROM before becoming a part of Hymnary.org in 2009. Some of the hymnals in the DNAH have since been supplemented with tune data (tune name, meter, incipit, composer/arranger/adapter, and other sources) and scans, although much remains to be done.
In Hymnary.org, I have worked on over 150 publications, sometimes proofing, sometimes adding data and scans, and supplementing tune records along the way. At first, I worked on English-language hymnals, but then gradually drifted toward other languages, from French to Hebrew, because I’ve long enjoyed studying them. I grew up in a semi-bicultural household in the United States; my mother was from Germany, and while she spoke German with her relatives, she did not speak it with me. Eventually, though, I did have to communicate in German with family. My accent was pretty good since I’d grown up listening to her, but my vocabulary definitely needed some work! That experience launched my interest in languages, and I studied as many as I could in high school and college.
Back to hymnals! Because I am in the United States, it became clear that Spanish-language hymnals would be of particular interest to Hymnary.org users. Several titles had already been entered as part of the DNAH and just needed to be proofed, because accents and tildes were often lost in migrations from one technological format to another. All of them needed tune data and, ideally, scans whenever possible. I’ve worked on forty-nine Spanish-language hymnals, and am in the middle of the fiftieth. Other Hymnary volunteers have contributed information as well, and together, a more comprehensive picture of Spanish-language hymnody has come together in Hymnary.org.
As of today, there are seventy-three Spanish-language (sometimes bilingual) hymnals in Hymnary.org. The oldest hymnal is Himnos para el Uso de las Congregaciones Españolas de la Iglesia Protestante Metodista (1842); a total of six date from the nineteenth century. Over thirty of them have been scanned into Hymnary.org, and a few have links to scans that are available at HathiTrust.org. Of course, hymns protected by copyright usually can’t be displayed, although users can view hymns copyrighted by Hope Publishing, with some restrictions.
If you need to see a hymn or hymnal that hasn’t been scanned, remember that libraries can help you out. Hymnary.org has a great feature on the site of every hymnal that allows you to “find this hymnal in a library,” which guides you to Worldcat.org, the largest catalog in the world. From there, you can see who owns the hymnal in question. Your nearest librarian can help you figure out how to request scans or a physical copy through interlibrary loan.
It is my hope that by providing this information in Hymnary.org, the work of Spanish-speaking authors, composers, translators, adapters, and arrangers will be collated in a useful way for both congregational musicians and researchers.
The question then becomes, what is missing? I’d love to hear from you, so that we can make greater progress in providing information about more Spanish-language hymnals. Or, if you are interested in contributing to Hymnary.org yourself, please check out the page on volunteering: https://hymnary.org/volunteer.
Tina Schneider is the library director at The Ohio State University at Lima. She is a professor with The Ohio State University Libraries and served as director of research for The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada from 2008 to 2014.