Olney Hymns: In Three Books


Olney Hymns was compiled by John Newton, the author of "Amazing Grace" and rector of a parish in Olney, England, and William Cowper, a poet and close friend of Newton. The book contained the first printing of "Amazing Grace," which is numbered "Hymn 41" and begins at the bottom of page 53. The profits from the hymnal went to the benefit of Olney's poor. Olney Hymns later was published in New York in 1790 and in Philadelphia in 1791. In his preface to the book, Newton argued that hymns should be simpler than poetry and should be accessible to common people: “There is a stile and manner suited to the composition of hymns, which may be more successfully, or at least more easily attained by a versifier, than by a poet. They should be Hymns, not Odes, if designed for public worship, and for the use of plain people. Perspicuity, simplicity and ease, should be chiefly attended to; and the imagery and coloring of poetry, if admitted at all, should be indulged very sparingly and with great judgment.”

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Publication Information

Printed and Sold by W. Oliver, London


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Physical Description

427 pages : portraits ; 17 centimeters


  • Preface signed by John Newton
  • Book I: On select texts of scripture. Book II: On occasional subjects. Book III: On the progress and changes of the spiritual life.

Last updated: September 18, 2015