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'Charlestown Hymn-book'

John Wesley's first hymn-book, prepared during his ministry in Georgia, was published at Charleston SC in 1737 as A Collection of Psalms and Hymns. (He published another with the same title on his return to London the following year, and a third in 1741. The latter, enlarged in 1743, was frequently reprinted, while the Charleston book was forgotten for many years. Only two copies are known to have survived.) The 1737 book was probably the first hymn-book ever published in America and reflected the *Moravian influence Wesley had encountered on the way to Georgia and also the effect of Isaac Watts on English hymnody. It included 37 hymns by Watts, 6 by George Herbert , 3 by Joseph Addison and one by Thomas Ken ; also 9 by Wesley's father and 5 by his brother Samuel. Charles Wesley's contribution was still in the future. In August 1737 one of the charges brought against Wesley in Savannah was that he had introduced 'compositions of Psalms and hymns not respected or authorised by any proper judicature.'

The site of Lewis Timothy's print shop on King Street, where the hymn-book was printed has now been identified and a historic marker was unveiled in February 2004.

Sources

  • WHS Proceedings, 3 pp.57-63; 14 pp.3-5; 31 pp.186-93
  • Carlton R. Young, 'John Wesley's 1737 Charlestown Collection of Psalms and Hymns', in The Hymn, vol.41 no.4, October 1990, pp.19-27

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Publication

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