Opposing Copyright Extension

Value of the Public Domain

  Cumulative Authorship of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing"
Tim Phillips

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     One very well-documented case a work of cumulative authorship is the Christmas hymn "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".  The chart shows the development through many versions of the version that is now found in the Episcopal Church's hymnal.  Besides deletions of 16 of Charles Wesley's original lines, these changes are (1) verbal changes by Whitefield (1753); (2) verbal changes by Madan (1760); (3) the introduction of a refrain by the 1782 Cambridge editors of the New Version of Tate and Brady; (4) verbal changes first attested in Kempthorne (1810); (5) re-ordering of lines by the 1826 American editors; and (6) verbal changes for the 1982 hymnal.  (The arrows in the chart may not be 100% accurate.  Some of the relevant primary sources, when they become available, may require some of the arrows to be re-drawn.  But we are confident that most of them are right.)

Works Consulted:

Richard de Courcy, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns extracted
from different Authors, London, 1775.

"E. V.", "Christmas Hymn" (query), 13 Notes and Queries,
January 26, 1850, p. 201.

Raymond F. Glover, ed., The Hymnal 1982 Companion Volume 3A,
Church Hymnal Corporation, New York, 1994.

The Hymnal 1982, Church Hymnal Corporation, New York, 1985.

"J. K. R. W", "Christmas Hymn", (reply), 16 Notes and Queries,
February 16, 1850, p. 252.

Joint Commission on the Revision of the Hymnal, The Hymnal
1940 Companion, Church Pension Fund, New York, 1949.

John Julian, ed., A Dictionary of Hymnology, Revised Edition
with new Supplement,  London, 1907.

Martin Madan, A Collection of Psalms and Hymns extracted from
various Authors, London, 1760.

John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems, the Fourth
Edition, Bristol, 1743.

George Whitefield, Hymns for Social Worship collected from
various authors and more particularly design'd for the
use of the Tabernacle Congregation in London, 1753.


If you have comments or questions, please contact Tim Phillips at <hrothgar@telepath.com>