Proposed List of Editions of the Harp of Ages
Based on my research, up to this point, of the history of the Harp of Ages and its editions, I offer the following thoughts and proposed list of editions of Harp of Ages by A. N. Whitten. Your thoughts on my thoughts will be especially welcome. As they say, “two heads are better than one.”
First Edition. 1925. The original publication of Harp of Ages by A. N. Whitten, Dublin, Texas, occurred before September 25, 1925.[i] The second page of the index of a book belonging to a Sacred Harp singer identifies the printer, The Armstrong Printing Company in Cincinnati, Ohio.[ii] There is some degree of assumption that this is the first edition; it is not iron clad. The preface mentions, “It is customary in offering a new book to the public for the author to assign a reason of its need.” Yet, it is possible that an original preface will be reprinted in a second edition.
Second Edition. The second printing, between 1925 and 1939.[iii] Printings that change the songs Alabama to Am I a Soldier of the Cross and Happy Day to Happy to Meet Again will be either the second or the third edition. This is a deduction based on the two latter songs appearing in the fourth edition, rather than Alabama and Happy Day.[iv]
Third Edition. The third printing, between 1925 and 1939.[v] Printings that change the songs Alabama to Am I a Soldier of the Cross and Happy Day to Happy to Meet Again will be either the second or the third edition. This is a deduction based on the two latter songs appearing in the fourth edition, rather than Alabama and Happy Day.
Fourth Edition. Circa 1939, by A. N. Whitten, Dublin, Texas. This book appeared by or before August 18, 1939.[vi] This book expands the size of Harp of Ages from 159 numbered songs and hymns to 191 numbered songs and hymns. (Though, with the second and third editions undetermined, it is possible one of those had previously increased the size of the book.)
Fifth Edition. Circa 1946, by A. N. Whitten, Dublin, Texas, published in or after 1946. Song number 61, It Must Have Been at Easter Time Long Ago, is dated 1946.[vii] There are two printings of this with slight differences, though none apparently in the songs and hymns. The second “corrects” the index by adding the titles of five songs. These songs had previously appeared in the book but had been left out of the index. These titles are added underneath the previously printed index.
Sixth Edition. After August 18, 1949, by W. A. Whitten, Lake Charles, Louisiana. The cover changes “Published by A. N. Whitten, Dublin, Texas” to “Published by W. A. Whitten, Lakes Charles, La.” The title page changes “Published by A. N. Whitten Dublin, Texas” to “Originally Published by A. N. Whitten (now deceased) Dublin, Texas.” Otherwise, this appears to be a reprint of the last printing by A. N. Whitten’s lifetime.[viii]
Seventh Edition. 1973, by Harp of Ages, Incorporated, Muleshoe, Texas. (Source: Title page, Harp of Ages, 1973)
Eighth Edition. 1977, by Harp of Ages, Incorporated, Muleshoe, Texas. (Source: Title page, Harp of Ages, 1977)
I have not included any further detail on the 1973 and 1977 Harp of Ages’ books, since they are the best known and most readily available. Information about the earlier books is subject to change as more early printings of the book are found. This could prove more editions or printings exist than those I have found.
Currently the greatest difficulty, in my opinion, is whether we have/know what is the first edition of the book. There are no dates in the early printings. Not all four of the first through fourth editions have been identified. To my knowledge, we have three books that could qualify for the first through fourth editions. The fourth edition is known by that fact (“fourth edition”) being mentioned in the preface. That leaves two books that are slightly different that could qualify for either the first and second, or second and third editions. All of which means we need to find four different early books to be satisfied we “know” what is the first edition. At least I do, to be satisfied. Does that make sense?
[i] “Pleasant Summer,” A. N. Whitten, Glad Tidings, September 25, 1925, p. 1; Title page, Harp of Ages, 1973
[ii] Book owned by Sheldon Finlay; Armstrong printed The Sacred Harp by W. M. Cooper of 1902 and William H. Crouse’s Pilgrim's Hymnal in 1908. There is another songbook of the same period (1922) and the same size (159 songs) printed by The Armstrong Printing Company – Hymns of Zion (Austin, TX: Firm Foundation Publishing House). It would be interesting to compare the two for similarities.
[iii] No source currently available proves the specific edition number, but second and third editions must be between the first and fourth.
[iv] Book owned Joseph Weyel of San Antonio, Texas.
[v] No source currently available proves the specific edition number, but second and third editions must be between the first and fourth.
[vi] Taken together, the “Preface” of the Fourth Edition of the Harp of Ages and “Wise, Unwise, and Otherwise,” in The Dublin Progress, Friday, August 18, 1939, p. 1.
[vii] Book owned by R. L. Vaughn of Mt. Enterprise, Texas.
[viii] Pictures from Harp of Ages songbook sold on eBay, by robinsnestoriginals. Nathan Aldrich copy of the Harp of Ages.