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Review from Pastoral Music Magazine

01 March 2014

In 1892, John Julian, an Anglican priest who wrote several books about hymns, created a Dictionary of Hymnology, which he revised with a Supplement in 1907. Published in two volumes, with 1,768 pages of small type and multiple authors, it has been the standard and trustworthy English language reference for hymnody since then. Numerous attempts throughout the twentieth century were made to update or replace it. Finally, in November 2013, after more than a decade of work, The Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology was launched as its replacement. J. R. Watson, Emeritus Professor of English and Emeritus Public Orator at the University of Durham, who received his doctorate in English literature from the University of Glasgow and wrote The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) and An Annotated Anthology of Hymns (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), is the editor. He began to work on this project in 2001. Emma Hornby, Reader in Music at the University of Bristol with a doctorate in early music from Worcester College, Oxford, began her editorial work with the Dictionary in 2003 and later became co-editor. The editors were assisted by Jeremy Dibble, music editor; Colin Gibson, Australasian editor; Margaret Leask, Canadian editor; Carlton Young, U.S.A. editor; and James V. Jirtle, IT consultant. Whereas Julian's work was published in print, the Canterbury Dictionary appears as an online resource (/), to be updated twice a year with corrections and additions, which editors may create themselves or which readers can request. A print edition is being discussed. After a home page, the website is laid out by categories: General, Hymns, People, Eras, Places, Traditions, and Collections. The lists under these categories give a sense of what is included: under "General" Hymn types (57), Hymnology (17), Literary Topics (28), Musical Topics (49), Organizations (35), Place Overviews (65), and Tradition Overviews (94); under "Eras" the categories include Pre-l000 (112), 11th-14th Century (103), 15th-16th Century (189), 17th Century (271), 18th Century (539), 19th Century (1556), 20th Century (1440), and Modern (428). Readers can browse articles alphabetically, enter search terms, and find news, subscription information (individual-about $91.00 a year in U.S. dollars-or institutional, with introductory offers), plus (under "FAQ") questions and answers.

Like Julian's work, this is a dictionary or, more accurately, an encyclopedia. It is not a database of hymns or hymn tunes. The home page says it contains two million words, more than 4,000 individual entries, and more than 300 authors from over thirty countries writing on hymns of the Judeo-Christian tradition, from the earliest years to those written today. There are articles (as the site notes) on individual hymns, authors from many countries, hymnals, organizations, and themes as well as information on hymn tunes and their composers. The entries cover a multitude of hymn traditions from all the world's continents, regions, and denominations, and it is ecumenical and international.

I have read and scanned only some of these entries, have watched the Dictionary develop, and was recruited by Carlton Young-the U.S.A. editor-as an author. From everything I can tell, this is a worthy successor to Julian's work. Like Julian, or any resource of such scope with multiple authors, there are bound to be mistakes. One can assume they will be found and corrected because the authors and editors have attempted to be as accurate as possible, to state things as well as possible, and to cover the hymnological waterfront as promised.

If all of the editing is as competent and demanding as Carlton Young's has been, the Dictionary will be trustworthy indeed. Young laid out a perceptive set of articles for the United States, found authors to write them, worked with them in detailed ways to make sure the data were correct and clear, and kept the hymnological center in focus with a fierce determination.

Anybody who is interested in hymnody and the interdisciplinary complex it pulls together-scholars, historians, theologians, musicians, pastors, writers, composers, and lay persons who want to know something about the authorship and circumstances that surround hymns and hymn tunes-will find this an indispensable resource. Academic libraries, especially those associated with the Church, should certainly have it. Individual churches would be wise to have it. While not a database or bibliography that will replace hymnal companions, hymn indices, or other related reference works, it includes bibliographical references throughout and complements the other resources by bringing together a breadth of hymnological detail and perspective that is not available anywhere else. We can be profoundly grateful.

Paul Westermeyer

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