Friday, March 2, 2012

Old-Time Religion, Old-Time Hymns, Old-Time Hymnals

Free Catalogue of Antique Hymnals
So stated an email to hundreds of university libraries. . . but Marash Girl got to wondering . . . why is it that she loves hymns, and the hymnals recording those hymns?  Why did she purchase antique hymnals from a library that no longer wanted them?  Why did she carefully catalogue the hymnals? 
And why Marash Girl's fascination with hymnals?  Do the hymns she loves most have their beginnings with Rev. Trowbridge, missionary from Boston venturing into the Ottoman Empire in 1825?  Or with the Protestant Missionaries in Marash, (Turkey)a bit  later in the 19th Century? Or with her great great grandfather Rev. Sarkis Bilezikjian in 1865, first minister of the first Armenian Protestant church in Marash, Ottoman Empire?  or with her Uncle Vartan (Rev. Vartan Bilezikian) in 1895? Or in Watertown, Massachusetts at the United Armenian Brethren Evangelical Church in the early 1940's?  Not sure.  But what she does know is that she loves hymns and has loved them ever since she was a wee one and would hear her little churchful of survivors (survivors from the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Ottomans), many of them old (they seemed to her then), widows all dressed in black, joyfully singing in Armenian, Turkish, and English:  "This is my Story, This is my Song.  Praising my Savior All the Day Long, This is my Story, This is my Song; Praising my Savior all the day long."  All of their sorrows were left behind when they sang.

That song had been translated from the English that the Missionaries brought to Marash into Armenian.  The hymnal Marash Girl grew up with (and the hymnal she most loves) was written in Armenian, Armeno-Turkish, and English as well, by the Rev. E. E. Elmajian, who gathered these old-time hymns into one volume: SPIRITUAL HYMNS OF WORSHIP - HOKEVOR YERKER BASHDAMUNKI - RUHANI IBADET ILAHILERI [IN ENGLISH, ARMENIAN & ARMENO-TURKISH].  581 hymns in harmony (treble & bass clefs) in all three languages, plus 15 responsive readings, topical index, index of first lines & titles, everything in all three languages. [Elmajian had fled into the mountains during the genocide of 1915-1918  in order to escape death,  had lived on berries and leaves for years in the (Tarsus?) mountains until he learned sometime in the 1920's that the war was over and it was safe to return to civilization.]

Whenever Marash Girl is happy, she sings hymns; and whenever she's in trouble, she sings hymns.  They bring joy to her life; they serve as prayers more eloquently than any prayer she could utter.

And so when Marash Girl (as proprietor of was offered a large collection of antique hymnals, she could not refuse. She offers them to you with the following question:  Whence cometh your love of hymns?

To request Marash Girl's catalogue of over 350 antique hymnals, please email


Post a Comment