The Christian Harp or What is a Shape Note Tune Book

If you saw this book at a library sale would you buy it?

Does this make you want to buy it even more?  It’s ok..

If you say no.. Don’t worry, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second glance either.

A friend of mine asked me to sell this for him.  I agreed to do it, but I was a little skeptical about it.

I’ve never see an song book sell for very much money.

Here’s my write up on it:

Up for auction is an antique book titled: The Christian’s Harp, Containing a Choice Selection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes suited to the various metres now in use among the different religious denominations in the United States: designed for the use Public and Family Worship by Samuel Wakefield, Esq.

  • This is in great condition, especially considering it’s age of 175 years.
  • Leather bound, and there is some wear around the edges of the cover, and a few marks on the front on the leather as well.
  • The previous owner wrote their name on the outside cover: The Property of Alexander Still, 1833.
  • The pages do have some discoloration and tanning – please view photos.
  • There is a bookplate on the inside cover that reads: The Property of: Alexander Still, 12th of July, 1833.  It has a preface, a chapter regarding the Rudiments of Music, and is full of musical scores and the words to the hymns.  This is copyright dated (entered into the act of Congress) 1832, published by Johnston & Stockton 37 Market St, Pittsburgh, 1832.

Here are some of the emails I received on the book:

  • Shape-note singing became popular in churches in the South in the  mid-1800’s. It was a way for congregations to more easily learn to sing and be able to sing in four-part harmony because it’s more visual.  Instead of having to know notes by where they fall on the staff, you can know what they are by the shape, making it easy for even illiterate people to be able to join in congregational singing. It is still used today.
  • Your book is a nice early example of a shape-note tune book and I’m sure there are people who regularly search for this and have it in saved searches. Contrary to the title, it has nothing to do with harp playing.
    It’s a nice piece of Americana.
  • I’ll give you $350.00 to end the auction now.
  • Nice book, do you know they are talking about it on the book boards?

The book sold for $580.00.  My friend was ecstatic, and the buyer was happy.

Which really when you sell for other people, that’s all that matters.

I did have one hitch with this shape note tune book.  The buyer asked me to use his FedEx number to send it to him.  I didn’t have any problem doing that.  I made sure I checked off  “signature required” and insured it for the full amount.  The buyer however, has on his account “signature on file” and they left it at the door and it was stolen/left with someone… etc..  I filed the proper paperwork with FedEx and the buyer left positive feedback.  BUT…

This could have gone completely wrong.  How you ask?  If the buyer would have notified PayPal.. and since there was not a signature confirmation on delivery of an item over $25o.00.. I would have been out the money and the item.  AND to top it off.. it wasn’t my item to begin with.

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