[1820s]. Original calf-backed marbled boards, 7 x 10 inches. "Universal Church" stamped in gilt on spines. Five Volumes, with first page indexes, approx. 225 pp., plus 8 additional loose leaves. Signatures loose, page numbers erratic, covers well worn. Text pages have been printed with staves, musical notation and lyrics are added in ink. Manuscript music, in various hands, consisting mostly of hymns, with some secular pieces from the origins of the Universal and Unitarian churches. Three of the books are titled for "treble" [two with a printed label, one hand-written] and two of these have a similar song set, although they include some different titles in different order, so that the books do not appear to be a completely matched set for choristers. One book has the word "tenor" written in ink on the rear board, with the ink ownership name of David West on the front pastedown, and "Lyander W. Webb, 15 August 1824" at the head of the index page. The fifth notebook is unmarked on the outside, but has a manuscript note on the front pastedown: "Lyander W. Webb one of the members of the Universalist Church Choir." Some titles from these volumes: Surry, Thanksgiving, Miriams Song, Canaan (several versions), Lancaster, Dedication, Exaltation- approximately twenty-five titles per book. The loose sheets have secular tunes, primarily musical notation without lyrics, with a few of the titles being: Hail Columbia, "Nora's Song in the Poor Soldier," Washington's March, Yankee Doodle, The Plough Boy, and Ramah Droog (from the comic opera). Hail Columbia was originally written for and performed at Pres. George Washington's first inauguration in 1789.
One book includes the hymn "Union" with words by "Rev. A. Kneeland" and by W. Dixon. Abner Kneeland (1774-1844), a pioneer evangelist and minister, was a powerful, if inconsistent, advocate of Universalism for a quarter of a century beginning with the Winchester Convention of 1803. Kneeland, Hosea Ballou, and Edward Turner combined efforts to compile a new Universalist hymnal, with Kneeland contributing about a third of the hymns, "most of which have been judged to be inferior." After he left the Universalist fellowship in the 1830s, he became the last man to be convicted of blasphemy in the state of Massachusetts. [see his brief biography in the Unitarian Universalist Dictionary online]
Another tune called "Mount Vernon" comes from the psalms of David and was originally written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748), known as the founder of English hymnody. "This life's a dream, an empty show; But the bright world to which I go Hath joys substantial and sincere; When shall I wake, and find me there?" Item #65150
Lyander W. Webb, whose name appears in two of the notebooks, may be Lyander Westram Webb (1805-1858) who was born in Philadelphia. Rev. Abner Kneeland was pastor of the Lombard Street church in Philadelphia from 1818 until his move to New York City in 1825. Webb later moved to Baltimore, Maryland where the 1850 Census lists him as an engineer.