Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs


Music has been an essential component of Christian worship throughout the ages. This exhibition provides an index of the diversity of its expressions during the past five centuries.

Sixteenth-century materials include hymnals and liturgies from the Reformation and editions of metrical psalms in England. From the seventeenth century, there are items as diverse as the Ainsworth Psalter (1612), John Playford’s polyphonic psalter (1677), and a service book compiled by Gottfried Vopelius (1682). The work of Charles and John Wesley constitutes a focal point in the eighteenth century. But the exhibition also features books and a manuscript letter by Isaac Watts and the first printing of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.” On this side of the Atlantic, there are early prints by significant American figures such as William Billings and Lowell Mason, a variety of nineteenth- and twentieth-century shape-note hymnody, and a sampling of important sources of African American spirituals and hymns. Taken together, these materials provide a glimpse of the wealth of resources available at Pitts Theology Library for performance, teaching, and research in church music.

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