A Bibliography of Critical Material on Shape Note Singing

Compiled by John Bealle jbealle@tso.cin.ix.net | Second Edition | February 1998

This list has arisen from the need to collect, in one place, bibliographic references to materials on shape note singing. Although it is considerably more complete than any previous lists on the subject, it is not exactly a systematic effort. Rather, the intent has been to take advantage of computer software, keeping abreast of an expanding subject area that attracts scholars from diverse fields. The first edition of 1994 included only the bibliography section and was issued only at a computer web address. This edition adds and corrects several hundred entries to the bibliography and includes a subject index.

Design of the Web Edition The computer version of the bibliography, like the printed edition, consists of two large sequential lists--one the bibliography with items arranged alphabetically by author's surname, the other an index containing subjects arranged alphabetically by top level subject. Both lists are stored in alphabetical chunks each with its own URL.

The Web user enters the bibliography at an index address. This contains alphabetic hypertext links to sections of the bibliography and to the subject index. But it also contains links to nine broad subject groups that give an overview of the classification system and point to specific areas.

Criteria for Inclusion The database is intended as a list of secondary literature related to the nineteenth century shape note movement, its origins, its religious context, and its current forms. Although tunebooks themselves are not meant to be included, primary critical sources related to them are included. Recordings are not included, but notes to recordings are. I intend to include material from the sacred harp newsletters, but have not yet done so. I have also included unrelated works by some significant writers. Local histories, music histories, religious histories, and theological works are included if they address relevant subjects.

The material in the database is not wholly duplicated by online services provided in libraries. This is partly because the subject has attracted serious attention in diverse fields such as religion, musicology, folklore, and hymn study and partly because current online tools cover only contemporary material. Following the lead of topical databases in the sciences that also supplement online services, I have sought to tailor this list to the interests of shape note scholars and enthusiasts and to provide for easy expansion and change. For now, I will maintain the database and issue periodic revisions.

It should be said that many references have been taken from other bibliographies, inheriting any errors they contain. Some of these errors have been corrected since the first edition appeared, but undoubtedly others remain. This unfortunate circumstance, however, goes without apology: the emphasis has always been on inclusiveness.

Indexing Irregularities There are some notable peculiarities in the method of indexing used. To allow for easy expansion, I have conflated the function of "see" and "see also" in a manner that should be self-evident. Entries for tunebooks and their compilers are not always duplicated so that, for example, "Southern Harmony" and "Walker, William" contain some identical and some unique entries. And finally, there are undoubtedly instances where I have been over-generous in assigning an entry to a subject.

Contributing Entries to the Bibliography It goes without saying that the list will benefit substantially from corrections and additions. Many entries in this edition have been sent to me; I am most grateful to Arlie Prokop for entries on West Gallery music and on the Wesleys. I will continue to keep abreast of current and past scholarship, but I will happily accept contributions from others.

About the Author John Bealle is an independent folklore researcher who has taught at Indiana University, the University of Alabama, and Miami University. His work addresses the history of American folklore revival. This bibliography is in large part an outgrowth of his 1997 book, Public Worship, Private Faith: Sacred Harp and American Folksong (Athens: University of Georgia Press).