This little book had its origin in two papers prepared at the request of the editor of The Sunday School Times, and printed in that journal in the autumn of 1897. They are now, by his courteous permission, substantially reproduced here. As there recorded, the collation covered ninety-eight hymn-books, and is now brought down to cover nine more not then at hand or since published. It is interesting to note that this enlargement of the material effected no change in the list of the best hymns, except in some cases a change in their relative order, and the addition of one more hymn to their fellowship.
But the better part of the book is the hymns themselves. As far as practicable they are printed as their authors wrote them; such accepted alterations as it seemed necessary to adopt being referred to in the notes. The text of the hymns reproduces in all respects that prepared by the editor for "The Hymnal'' of the Presbyterian Church, published in 1895. Each hymn is preceded by the title given to it by the author, which often helps us to read the hymn from his point of view; and the hymn is followed by a very brief sketch setting forth something of its history, and by notes intended to explain any words which are not at once clear, as well as to call attention to the Scriptural allusions of the hymn.
A word of apology, perhaps, should be spoken for the simplicity of these annotations. They must be understood as intended to appeal to the minds of the children, who, it is hoped, may be encouraged to lay up these hymns in their memories; it being the intention of the publishers to issue the pages containing the hymns and annotations apart from the preliminary discussions, for use as a textbook, with that desirable end in view.