English Hymnal

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The English Hymnal was published in 1906 for the Church of England under the editorship of Percy Dearmer and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The preface to the hymnal began with the statement, "A collection of the best hymns in the English language." Much of the contents was used for the first time at St Mary's Primrose Hill in north London, and the book could be considered a musical companion to Dearmer's book on English ceremonial, The Parson's Handbook.

The high quality of the music is due largely to the work of Vaughan Williams as musical editor. The standard of the arrangements and original compositions made it one of the most influential hymnals of the 20th century. The hymnal included the first printing of several arrangements and hymn settings by Vaughan Williams. Among the most famous is Sine Nomine, a tune to For All the Saints. The hymnal also includes many original plainsong melodies (in plainsong notation).

The book is a characteristic green colour and is traditionally associated with the High Church or Anglo-Catholic movement within Anglicanism. When the book was published, High and Broad churches used Hymns Ancient and Modern, and Evangelical churches normally used the Hymnal Companion to the Book of Common Prayer. The hymnal has, however, been adopted not only in various movements of Anglicanism but also in several other denominations in Britain, such as some Roman Catholic churches.

A new edition of the musical content of The English Hymnal was issued in 1933, which principally had better accompaniments by JH Arnold to the plainsong melodies, and a supplement to the Hymnal, English Praise, in 1975.

The New English Hymnal appeared in 1986, and its supplement, New English Praise in 2006 - both under the imprint of the Canterbury Press, now SCM Canterbury Press

See also[edit]


  • English Hymnal with Tunes, 2nd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1933).
  • Andrew Wilson-Dickson, The Story of Christian Music:From Gregorian Chant to Black Gospel: An Authoritative Illustrated Guide to all the Major Traditions of Music for Worship (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 234.
  • Strengthen for Service, Essays on the Centenary of the English Hymnal edited by The Reverend Canon Alan Luff (London: SCM Canterbury Press, 2006]

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