The Second Major Revision of the St. Louis Hymnal.
Compiled and translated by Matthew Carver, 2010.
Compiled and translated by Matthew Carver, 2010.
I. Revision of the Hymn Information.
When more than sixty years ago the fathers of our synod, constrained by their circumstances, embarked upon the publication of a new hymnal, it was their intent to adopt the hymns in their original form. For the textual versions they resorted to the old hymnals, predominantly those of Saxony which came out before the age of hymn decadence, which they had previously used in their divine services, and which they assumed to contain authentic exemplars. Since it was a foregone conclusion among them not to change the form of a hymn, the hymns were adopted in the version as they found them. But in 1863, when the St. Louis parish, erstwhile owner of the hymnal, offered it to the synod as a gift, it was recognized that the hymnal was in need of revision, “since in the current edition,” as it says in the corresponding synodical report, “there are not only many typographical errors, but also errors in respect to the text as well as in the ascription of authors, as new hymnological research has shown.” And since the St. Louis parish, well aware that a revision would be brought forward, in transferring the rights of the hymnal included in their stipulations no hindrances to that, but only specified that in future revisions the hymns should not be changed counter to the author’s original text,” the synod in assembly resolved to revise the text and hymnological notation under the hymns wherever necessary.
That first revision, however, cannot be regarded as final, since at the time the latest sources for many hymns could not yet be attested, and instead old hymnals were resorted to. Not until the ’sixties were the sources of hymn composition of all ages developed in widest scope. At that time libraries also began to make their great treasuries of hymn collections available to hymnologists so that they were able to gain access to the original texts in their first printings or documentarily authenticated reprints. As a result, the means of assistance in the field are now far more plentiful at present than fifty years ago when our hymnal was revised. In time Philipp Wackernagel, the greatest hymnologist in the century of hymnology, stepped onto the plain with his monumental work, Das deutsche Kirchenlied von den ältesten Zeiten an bis zu Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts. He was followed by Fischer with his Kirchenliederlexikon and his not yet completed work, Das Kirchenlied des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, not to mention many other works which all contributed their part. The Hymns of our church can be reproduced in original fidelity. These men have brought a great deal of valuable material to light, long perpetuated errors were corrected by them, and new information given, so that the purity of the text can now be guaranteed to a much higher degree than half a century ago.
From the decision of our synod in 1863 to undertake a revision of the hymnal, it was recognized that it should be done so as to bring the hymns ever closer to their original form, and that they acknowledged and esteemed the research in the historical arena. The fact that our hymnal still has many imprecise renderings despite that revision, and is therefore out of date, finds its explanation—and excuse—in the former state of hymnological science, as stated above. What is said concerning the outdatedness of our hymnal in connection to the text form applies even more so to the historical and biographical apparatus under the hymns.
Having been notified of the outdatedness of our hymnal, the delegate synod that convened this year in Fort Wayne appointed a commission on the hymnal assigned the task of presenting at the next synod specific suggestions in connection to the revision of our hymnal at the next, and before that to publish them in Lehre und Wehre. According to the synod’s instructions, the commission’s task is to  begin with the hymnological notes,  be continued with the exact indication of melody, the correction of the punctuation, and expansion of hymn content, and  be concluded, where necessary, with the restoration of the original text. For the expansion of the hymn content and the revision of the text, the commission is to be guided by the stipulations laid down in the transferral of the rights of the hymnal in 1863. In the announcement of transferral, these read: “In order that said synod might provide for the further editions of indicated hymnal, and that no hymn already present therein might be omitted or altered counter to the author’s original text, and that it might be enriched only with hymns wholly free of suspicion and recognized as pure by the collective evangelical Lutheran church faithful to her confession….”
Lehre und Wehre Vol. 54. 1908. (p. 354.)
Continued in another post.