Old hymnals still popular
Books first published in 1902 and 1927 remain good sellers for MennoMedia, serving conservative churchesBy Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
For actual church worship services, the Ausbund is still used by a vast majority of Amish congregations. Luthy said the book has been printed 55 times since the 1742 original was pressed in Germantown, Pa. These days 10,000 copies are printed in Lancaster, Pa., almost annually.
“The compiling and publishing of new hymnals by Amish people is very common in the past 25 years,” Luthy said. “I quickly counted about 150 in our holdings in our historical library. Only Amish-compiled cookbooks are done more frequently.”
Modern printing techniques can replicate results typical of the turn of the 20th century, said Terry Graber of Newton, Kan., production director for MennoMedia, the publisher for Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.
“The two older hymnals MennoMedia still carries and sells are very close to the original printings,” Graber said. “Probably the only real changes have been to update the copyright page.”
He said the 1902 hymnal was first made with brass alloy castings, with a raised score and text that printed directly to the paper. Hand labor was used to fold large sheets into sections, and sewing was done by hand.
Today, high-resolution scanners turn original pages into digital files that go directly to modern printers.
“The final appearance is probably very close to what it looked like a hundred years ago,” Graber said. “What is different is that all materials are manufactured in a factory using automated manufacturing systems that are lightning fast in comparison to what might have involved more hand labor.”
For Burkholder and other singers using the books, it is key that while production methods change, the end result shouldn’t.
“The content and construction of these two books is important to us,” Burkholder said. “Any changes would likely decrease their acceptance among us.
“We do sense the need of adding more songs to our singing reference but would question the wisdom of adding songs to the present books.”
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