19th Century Australian Hymn Publications as a Source for Religious and Cultural History


  • Diane Gome


The hymns of colonial Australia have been largely neglected by scholars. Yet hymns are, and for many centuries have been an important, if not essential part of the Christian life. This was no less true of colonial Australia than of any other time or place. Indeed, hymns were published in this country in remarkable quantities from 1808 onwards in order to fulfill a variety of purposes: in the church, for official occasions, in schools, at social gatherings and in the home. An important premise of this paper, which seeks to give no more than an introductory overview of colonial hymnals cited in major libraries is that hymns in fact provide interesting and often significant historical source material. For the present purpose, "hymn" is taken to mean a song of praise and thus incorporates the genre of "psalm". It usually embraces both poetry and music, but on occasions may not involve music at all. The hymn is generally, although not always, associated with religion. Only hymns intended to be sung and contained in hymn books will be considered.