Posted on behalf of colleagues:

The Library of Congress announces the launch of a new Web site devoted
to the history of the hymn *Amazing Grace,* and the Library*s
Chasanoff/Elozua Amazing Grace Collection, which is comprised of 3,049
published recordings of the hymn by different individual musicians or
musical ensembles.   This site,  available at,  is a
joint venture of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound
Division, the Music Division, and the American Folklife Center. 

Since its creation in 1779 in England, *Amazing Grace* has grown in
popularity to become one of the best-known musical works in the world.
This Web site explores its history through items from the collections of
the Library of Congress, from the earliest printing of the song to
various performances of it on sound recordings.

The audio collection and database, compiled by Allan Chasanoff and
Ramon Elozua, and given to the Library in 2004,  is in the Guinness Book
of World*s Records as the largest collection of recordings of a single
musical work.  The Web site includes a number of selections from the
collection,  from gospel renditions by Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the
Mighty Clouds of Joy, an Elvis Presley recording, country versions by
Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson to rock versions by the Byrds and the
Lemonheads.  A database for the entire collection can be searched on the
site, and the complete audio collection is available for listening in
the Library of Congress* Recorded Sound Reference Center.

The Web site also contains early and unpublished recorded versions of
*Amazing Grace.* The first company to record *Amazing Grace*
(under the title *New Britain*) was Brunswick Records which in 1922
released a small series of recordings of Sacred Harp songs.  Recordings
from the American Folklife Center made by folklorists Herbert Halpert,
John A. Lomax, and Alan Lomax, amongst others, give insight into local
traditions of performance of *Amazing Grace* during the 1930s,
1940s, and 1950s. 

The Web site contains the very first printing of *Amazing Grace* in
Olney Hymns in Three Books, by Englishman John Newton, published in
1779.  The hymn describes the joy and peace of a soul uplifted from
despair to salvation through the gift of grace.  Although Newton worked
as a slave trader early in his life, he later became rector of a parish
in Olney and fought for the abolition of slavery. 
Although Newton first wrote the words to "Amazing Grace" in 1772, it
was not for another 60 years that the text was wed to the tune to which
it is sung today.  The Web site contains several examples of early
printed versions of *Amazing Grace* which use a variety of tunes and
arrangements.  The Virginia Harmony, an early shape note tune book
printed in 1831, first used the melody that we have now come to
associate with *Amazing Grace,* but did not match the tune to the
words of *Amazing Grace.*  Another shape note tune book, The
Southern Harmony, printed in 1831, contains the earliest pairing of the
words for *Amazing Grace* with the tune that we have now come to
associate with the hymn, then called *New Britain.*  Subsequent
hymnals from the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, also featured
on the Web site, show how the arrangements for the tune evolved over the

The site contains additional educational resources such as an
illustrated timeline, essays on the history of *Amazing Grace,* a
discography, and a selected bibliography.

Please direct any questions to the Library's Performing Arts Reading
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Laura Gottesman
Digital Reference Specialist
Library of Congress	
Have a question? Ask a Librarian
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