Songbook Checklist

The “Checklist of Southern Sacred Music Imprints, 1850–1925,” is a dataset of sacred vernacular songbooks from the southern United States and its diasporas published between 1850 and 1925. With entries for 2,265 works, the checklist is a valuable bibliographic resource for scholars of American music, religion, and culture.

Music bibliographer Erin Fulton compiled the list by distilling Sounding Spirit’s priorities around race, place, religion, period, cultural impact, vernacularity, and accessibility into a tiered search process. In compiling this checklist to direct the digital library’s expansion, the collections of four partner archives—the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University, the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music at the University of Kentucky, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Archives and Special Collections, and the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University—served as the starting point. Working in collaboration with project director Jesse P. Karlsberg and the Sounding Spirit staff and advisory board, Fulton supplemented these holdings with other resources when this produced a richer representation of the racial, geographical, and religious diversity of southern sacred music.

The checklist assembles basic bibliographic data otherwise scattered across the catalogs of numerous repositories. The dataset also includes thirty-three data points that standard catalog records do not encompass, indicating whether each work meets criteria around audience, genre, context, or style. A detailed data dictionary accompanying the checklist defines each field of the checklist, explains how to interpret its value for a given work, and indicates the sources for that information.

The checklist is accessible as open data in the Sounding Spirit Dataverse, a repository for sharing and preserving research data hosted by the UNC Odum Institute. We encourage researchers and others interested in American sacred song to search the checklist for songbooks and hymnals of interest, and to explore the checklist’s research potential for their own scholarship.

If you have used the checklist for a project, or have any questions or corrections, we would love to hear from you at info@soundingspirit.org.

The compilation of the checklist was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities through a Foundations grant from the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program (PW-264219-19).