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English Country Psalmodists and their Publications, 1700–1760

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

David Hunter*
University of Texas at Austin


The singing of metrical psalms, canticles, some anthems and a few hymns in the ‘old way’ constituted almost the sole musical activity in English parish church services after the Restoration. By the start of the eighteenth century a reform was under way. Parish clerks ceased to line out the psalms for the benefit of congregations. As the clergy and gentry generally disdained to assist the improvement of music and only the wealthiest urban churches could afford organs, congregations took their lead from choirs trained by itinerant singing-masters. Church music became divided between the art music of cathedrals, chapels and rich parishes and the popular psalmody performed elsewhere.

Copyright © 1990 Royal Musical Association

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This paper is a distillation from a larger piece of research undertaken during the time I worked for the Hymn Tune Index project, directed by Nicholas Temperley, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Another version was read before the Oxford Bibliographical Society in December 1985.Google Scholar

1 Temperley has provided a full examination of the social and musical significance of the changes in The Music of the English Parish Church, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 1980).Google Scholar

2 The term ‘psalm book’ was used by printers and publishers to refer to complete editions of the metrical psalms with or without musicGoogle Scholar

3 According to Prys Morgan, ‘From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period’, The Invention of Tradition, ed. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (Cambridge, 1983), 43100, ‘William Williams of Pantycelyn, the great Methodist leader and creator of modern Welsh hymnody, virtually launched the second Methodist revival in 1762 with his hymn book’ (p. 74)Google Scholar

4 For bibliographical details of the books see Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church; his ‘The Origins of the Fuging Tune’, Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, 17 (1981), 132, Temperley and Charles G. Manns, Fuging Tunes in the Eighteenth Century (Detroit, 1983); and their The Hymn Tune Index (Oxford, forthcoming).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 No psalmody book shows any innovation in type fount. William Pearson's creative urge was spent with the introduction of the ‘new London character’ in 1699, though that did not prevent him from advertising the eighteenth edition of John Playford's Whole Book of Psalms, 1729, as printed from the ‘new t'yd note‘Google Scholar

6 William Tans'ur, Royal Psalmodist Compleat (1745), Notice to the ReaderGoogle Scholar

7 See Temperley and Manns, Fuging TunesGoogle Scholar

8 For an earlier consideration of some of the evidence see Temperley, ‘The Origins of the Fuging Tune‘Google Scholar

9 For a reproduction of the typeface see Donald W Krummel, English Music Printing 1553–1700 (London, 1975), 138Google Scholar

10 Harry G. Carter, History of the Oxford University Press (Oxford, 1975), 323Google Scholar

11 Krummel, English Music Printing, 136–7.Google Scholar

12 Ibid., 136 Krummel remarks that the type was used ‘seldom if ever in the eighteenth [century]’ and says that ‘several persons have told [him] that they once saw the face .. but none could remember exactly where’Google Scholar

13 Hearne, Thomas, Remarks and Collections, ed. Rev. Herbert Edward Salter (Oxford, 1914), ix, 29 June 1727 Miss Phillips, the Librarian of the Local Collection in Reading Public Library, kindly directed me to this reference, unindexed in the book itself.Google Scholar

14 For further income data see Joseph Massie's ‘Estimate of the Social Structure and Income, 1759–1760’, quoted in Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century (Harmondsworth, 1982), 386–7Google Scholar

15 Frederick George Edwards, ‘The Tune “Bedford”’, The Musical Times, 49 (1908), 165–8.Google Scholar

16 W[illiam] B[ennett], ‘Birmingham's First Music Engraver’, Birmingham Post (11 August 1935)Google Scholar

17 The publishing history of Daniel Warner's works is rather tortuous. His first book was A Collection of Some Verses Out of the Psalms of David, 1694, printed in the Savoy by E. Jones and sold by the author, Henry Playford and Anthony Boys Two editions of it appeared with Henry Hunt named as compiler, the first in 1698 printed by J Heptinstall for H Playford and A. Boys, the second in 1700 printed by J Heptinstall for A. Boys and J Hare This cannot be the work listed by the printer Pearson as ‘Warners Bookes’ in his deposition as part of a case brought against Playford in 1703 (see Cyrus Day and Eleanore Murrie, ‘Playford versus Pearson’, The Library, 17 (1937), 427–47) Also listed there are ‘Directions to sing psalms by Mr Warner’. H Playford ceased to trade as a music publisher in 1707. In that year W & J. Marshall published Warner's A Further Guide to Parish Clerks. A year later they published his A New Guide to Parish Clerks, being ‘an addition added to the further guide’. As no copies of these editions are known to exist we must rely on the entries given in the Term Catalogues (Edward A. Arber, The Term Catalogues (London, 1906), iii, 554, 598). Copies of these two books reprinted by J. Marshall in about 1710 are extant The copy of A Further Guide states on the title-page that The Singing-Master's Guide to his Scholars is just published and a copy of that also exists, printed by William Pearson for the Company of Stationers, and sold by Joseph Marshall, dated 1719 In all there are at least six Warner publications, only four of which have survived, and two of those are not first editionsGoogle Scholar

18 A response to Dr A H Mann's request for information in Notesand Queries, XII/3 (1917), 76–7, stated that ‘The Timbrells were Huguenots who came over from France during the persecution by Louis XIV., and settled at ‘Tiverton near Bath,“ where several members of the family lie buried’ Correspondence with the current rector has failed to confirm thisGoogle Scholar

19 John Timbrell, son of Joseph Timbrell citizen and musician, was entered apprentice to Thomas Milbourne of the Stationers' Company on 8 May 1693 (see Donald F McKenzie, Stationers' Company Apprentices 1641–1700 (Oxford, 1974), 112), and William Hall Timbrel ‘of Charing Cross Printer’ was freed by redemption on 7 July 1772 (see D F. McKenzie, Stationers' Company Apprentices 1701–1800 (Oxford, 1978), 351)Google Scholar

20 William Tans'ur, The Beauties of Poetry (Cambridge, 1776).Google Scholar

21 See Hunter, David, ‘Music Copyright in Britain to 1800’, Music and Letters, 67 (1986), 269–82, and ‘Copyright Protection for Engravings and Maps in Eighteenth Century Britain’, The Library, 9 (1987), 128–47, for details of the legislation.Google Scholar

22 Barnes, William, Harmonia-sacra-nova (1763)Google Scholar

23 E Rimbault Dibdin, ‘Liverpool Art and Artists in the Eighteenth Century’, Walpole Society, 6 (1917–18), 63.Google Scholar

24 Roger North on Music, ed John Wilson (London, 1959), 29Google Scholar

25 Analysis of the occupations of masters listed in McKenzie, Stationers' Company Apprentices 1701–1800, reveals that 24 copper-plate or rolling-press printers or engravers belonging to the Stationers' Company between 1701 and 1760 took on apprentices, but only three – William Benning, John Pine and Edward Ryland – engraved or printed music, and that was not their main business John Walsh (not a member of the Stationers' Company), who was the most prolific publisher of music, did take on apprentices (see William C Smith, A Bibliography of the Musical Works Published by John Walsh 1695–1720 (London, 1968), p x) There was at least one school of engraving for map makers. It is described in detail by Tony Campbell in ‘The Drapers’ Company and its School of Seventeenth Century Chart-Markers', My Head is a Map, ed Helen Wallis and Sarah Tyacke (London, 1973), 81106 The independence of rolling-press printers has been noted by McKenzie in his The Cambridge University Press 1696–1712 (Cambridge, 1966), 93, and by Iain Bain, ‘Thomas Ross & Son, Copper- and Steel-Plate Printers Since 1833’, Journal of the Printing Historical Society, 2 (1966), 4Google Scholar

26 See Hunter, David, ‘The Printing of Opera and Song Books in England, 1703–1726’, Notes, 46 (1989), 328–51, and ‘“A Note on the Cost of Music Printing in London in 1702” Revisited’, Brio, 26 (1989), 71–2Google Scholar

27 See, for example, the claim in the advertisement in the Kentish Post of 28 October–1 November 1738, where the second edition of Tans'ur's Melody of the Heart is described as ‘corrected by the Author according to his original Manuscript, with large and useful Additions’Google Scholar

28 For further details, see Hunter, ‘Music Copyright‘Google Scholar

29 For a full exploration of the Act's significance, see Hunter, ‘Copyright Protection‘Google Scholar

30 For the operation of the law of copyright in America in relation to music during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries see Lowens, Irving, ‘Copyright and Andrew Law’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 53 (1959), 150–9, and D McKay and R Crawford, William Billings of Boston (Princeton, 1975), 221–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar

31 See Crump, Michael, ‘Stranger than Fiction The Eighteenth-Century True Story’, Searching the Eighteenth Century, ed Michael Crump and Michael Hams (London, 1983), 5973Google Scholar

32 See Temperley, Nicholas, ‘John Playford and the Metrical Psalms’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 25 (1972), 331–78Google Scholar

33 For another of Bedford's virtuous failures, the Weedon concerts held in London in 1702, see Day, Cyrus and Murrie, Eleanore, ‘English Song-Books’, The Library, 16 (1936), 395–7Google Scholar

34 Henry R. Plomer, A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers who were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1668 to 1725 (London, 1922) and A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1726 to 1775 (London, 1932).Google Scholar

35 See Sterenberg, Alan, ‘The Spread of Printing in Suffolk in the Eighteenth Century’, Searching the Eighteenth Century, 35.Google Scholar

36 Research in the provincial newspapers was undertaken for the Hymn Tune IndexGoogle Scholar

37 The books advertised were John Bishop, Book of Psalm Tunes, 3rd edn, and John Church, An Introduction to Psalmody, both published by John Walsh in 1730, and, in 1739, editions of A Supplement to the New Version of Psalms and of Playford's Whole Book of PsalmsGoogle Scholar

38 See Books and their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England, ed Isabel Rivers (Leicester, 1982), and John Feather, The Provincial Book Trade in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge, 1985)Google Scholar

39 For a study of the spread of primarily letterpress printing, using the computerized database of the Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue, see Mitchell, C Jim, ‘Provincial Printing in Eighteenth Century Britain’, Publishing History, 21 (1987), 524.Google Scholar

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