Hollis, J.W.
Series of Letters written by J. W. Hollis, printer of Winchester, Virginia to Joseph Funk, early American composer, Harrisonburg, Virginia,1832-1836

9 letters, 17 pages, quarto, written in ink, in a legible hand, the letters were bound in an album at some point, the foredges were trimmed, with the loss of some text, however the missing text can generally be deduced. 8 of the letters were written in 1832, one was written in 1836.

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An unusual correspondence in which a Shenandoah Valley printer discusses editorial matters with Joseph Funk, a Shenandoah Valley composer, who authored several Shenandoah Valley tune-books. Eight of the letters in this series between J. W. Hollis and Joseph Funk discuss various editorial changes to Funk’s A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, which Hollis printed in 1832. The letter from 1836 was written during the period Funk was working on The Confession of Faith, which Hollis printed in 1837. The letters discuss the editing and revising of Funk’s Genuine Church Music, in considerable detail. The letters, from a Southern printer, to Funk, a pioneer American composer, are of considerable interest to scholars of American music and hymns.


Joseph Funk (1778-1862) was a pioneer American music teacher, publisher, and an early American composer. He invented a shape note system in 1851 for the Harmonia Sacra.

Funk was born April 6, 1778 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry and Barbara (Showalter) Funk, and a grandson of Bishop Heinrich Funck, a German Palatine settler of Bernese Swiss descent. Bishop Funck came to America in 1719, and was the first Mennonite bishop in America. As a boy, Joseph moved with his parents to Rockingham County, Virginia, and spent the rest of his life there. Funk married Elizabeth Rhodes in 1804, and the couple had five children. After her death, he married Rachel Britton, and they raised nine children.

He was a member of the Mennonite Church. In 1847, he established the first Mennonite printing house in the United States, at Mountain Valley, Virginia (renamed Singers Glen in 1860). Funk and his sons were active in organizing and teaching many singing schools in Virginia. Funk died December 24, 1862, and is buried in Singers Glen. Funk compiled and published seven books and periodicals:


Ein allgemein nützliche Choral-Music (1816)

A Compilation of Genuine Church Music (1832)

The Confession of Faith (1837)

A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (1847)

The Reviewer Reviewed (1857)

The Southern Musical Advocate and Singer’s Friend

J. and D. Brenneman, Hymns


The 1847 fourth edition of Funk’s A Compilation of Genuine Church Music was the first publication by Joseph Funk and Sons at Singers Glen. The name was changed to Harmonia Sacra in 1851. The book is still in use by Mennonites today. The Southern Musical Advocate and Singer’s Friend was a 16 page monthly periodical published by Funk from 1859 to 1861. It was a forerunner of The Musical Million and Fireside Friend, a periodical published by Funk’s grandson, Aldine S. Kieffer. Joseph Funk’s sons continued the printing business after his death. The Ruebush-Kieffer Company purchased the press in 1878.



“Winchester, February 7, 1832

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 18th ultimo came duly to hand, and should have been acknowledged ere this but for the constant press of business with which we have had to struggle – rendered the more laborious by the continued indisposition of one of our hands. This will account for the fact, that as yet but three forms of your work have been completed. T-morrow we receive an additional hand, and I then hope to accomplish one form per week regularly.

In your letter of the above date you point out the errors in the first form which had escaped my observation – and you suggest that in these cases the copy may be incorrect. I will not attempt to shield myself at expence of the copyist, but must confess that upon examination I find the copy correct the errors, therefore, are my own.

The effect of this, however, was to stir me up to double diligence in revising the proof-sheet of the second form – and in this I had vainly hoped all errors had been detected. But alas! Your letter of the 1st instant has proved to me how presumptuous my expectations have been, for you point out one of many errors which it contains. – I say presumtious, because my predecessors in this office (Mr. Davis), who is acknowledged, universally, to be one of the most correct, (if not the most) printers in    the United States, has acknowledged that it is impossible for a man to detect all the errors in music unless he be perfectly master of the science: and in the work which he printed for Messrs. Clayton & Carvell (The Virginia Harmony) there are many errors. It was, therefore, downright presumption in me to expect to accomplish that which he could not. Yet I acknowledge that I have had variety enough to cherish the idea. … on my part whether or not – a few errors may exist. I do assure you such is not the fact. At least so far as your work is concerned, my anxiety to be correct has led me to ”consume the midnight oil” in revising and re-revising each successive proof-sheet. My want of success mortifies me not a little. Nor does it afford me any consolation to learn that no musical work has ever yet been published (at least I am so informed by masters of the science) in which some errors did not exist.     

The error you mention in “Castle Street” is, I find, on referring to the copy, also mine. I am well aware that notes of different shapes. That is fa, mi, la sol should not be on the same space or line – how it escaped me I cannot tell, - it certainly was not for want strict attention, nor yet for want of knowledge of the fact you mention. I can now see it at a glance.

I would state to you that I have discovered and corrected several errors in copy, but for the fear that you would think I offered it as some palliation for those I have made. I shall therefore content myself till I have again the pleasure of seeing you, when I will point them out.

In the third form, which you have probably received ere this, I am sorry to say there is an error in the metre of “Zion.” You had marked the tune for insertion without giving the metre. This I did not notice until after the tune was in type; I then went to all the music masters within my reach, but they could not class it, saying that the plan was new and entirely unknown to them. Under such circumstances, what could I do? – To distribute the types again, in order to complete my form (having just types enough for one form), would have been hard. In addition to this, I was very much hurried. Observing that you had classed 2 10’s & 2 11’s as metre 13, I dubbed Zion (which is 2 10s & 2 11’s) as metre 13 also – I observe in your letter of the 1st you have classed it metre 34.

You suggest the propriety of numbering the verses, lest those of one tune should be taken for the other. I presume you to allude to cases where a part of a tune (or half a line) is given at the bottom of a page. For the sake of uniformity I would object to this. Besides, there is no absolute necessity for this, as in all cases the verses at the bottom belong to the tune which is finished there – and not to the one which is commenced …”


[Winchester, undated, Postmarked March 22, 1832]


“Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 20th has this moment [come] to hand, wherein you acknowledge the receipt of [the] 6th and 7th forms. You point out three errors. … is the word Magdeburg – which, in the letter authorizing insertion, is so written, but in the book containing … index it is written “Magdaburg.” Observing the in[con]sistency, and being unable to print it both ways fortunately concluded both were wrong, and Madgeburg, (the name of one of the Hanseatic cities…) was what you intended. I shall not agai[n] however, presume to alter.

The error in the tenor of “Lisbon” is mine – that [in] the bass is your’s – how they escaped three revisi[ons] of the proof sheet I know not.

I was not aware of the turning over of “Wiltsh[ire”] until your letter was received. I regret it – in t[he] case it might have been avoided, certainly Bu[t] the 8th form (now printing) I will forward to you tomorrow…

Be assured, dear sir, that although the latter f[orm] may have more errors than the preceding forms, it [is not?] owing to any decrease of attention on my part – I w[ill] revise the proof three times.   

In conclusion, I must candidly confess my income[petence] to fulfill the task correctly – I have tested it fairly. Cou[ld] you make an arrangement with any of the teachers [of] this place to revise the proof-sheet it would, dear sir, move a mountain weight from the shoulders of your sincere well-wisher J.W. Hollis”


“Winchester, July 8, 1832

Dear Sir:

I received yours of the 6th this morning. … the tunes you desire me to omit is “Amanda,” which[h] was already printed, as you will perceive the form which accompanies this. With regard [to] the payments, Mr. Funk, it is a matter with wh[ich] I have nothing to do: I have never doubted yo[ur] ability nor your readiness to make them, no[r] have I ever heard it doubted by others. … I have but few tunes left and they are su[ch] as I cannot use, without dividing on the odd [pa[ge] I fear I shall be detained two or three days in consequence, until more can be received…”


“Winchester July 30, 1832

Dear Sir :-

Your letter of the 27th inst. Enclosing matter for the first form, came safely to hand on Saturday last – (and I must acknowledge the due receipt of your favors of the 16th and 19th instants).

You have received ere this, the twentieth form fr[om] the contents of your last I find that that you confidently e[x]pected the fifth. But, sir, in your letter of the 16th you d[i]rected me to proceed with the nineteenth and twentieth in your letter of the 19th you say “If you have not comm[e]nced the 20th, go on with the fifth,” &c. When that letter came [to] hand (Saturday, July 21) there were five pages of the 20th form type; had there been but 2 or 3 I would cheerfully have de[tec]ted them and set the 5th. I trust the difference is not mater[ial].

The first form of the book shall be ready for your re[view] on Monday the 6th August, if Providence grants me life and health. The characters for the poetry we have not, but … the substitutes you suggest will answer every purpose.  My dear sir, might we not insert the copy-right at all eve[nts] the grant is a matter of course – there can be no doubt… the form is, I believe, unvarying. However, this may [be] determined when we see you.

From your silence with regard to 2 or 3 last for[ms] I fear you have found them incorrect; I would rath[er] you had communicated the fact to me, if such be the ca[se] a knowledge of the fact is less disagreeable than this suspe[ct] …”


“Winchester, Aug. 16, 1832

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 14th instant was received yesterday, with the tables enclosed. The only difficulty in the composition of these tables which I apprehended from the first, was and is the want of dashes. If I can accomplish it at all, I must necessarily (owing to the scarcity of dash[es)] patch or piece it very much, thereby destroying the regularity or beauty of its appearance. I di[d] not and do not doubt that I can complete it resorting to patch work – but I was aware that owing to this fact, its appearance, when done would not be creditable to the workman – and therefor[e] it was that I endeavored to avoid it. I have made a calculation of the different columns this morning and find that I will be obliged to cro[p] them much in order to get the first 6 in the leng[th] of the page. In the 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th & 6th columns, I have to contract the words major key and minor k[ey] thus:- maj. key – min. key; and also after maj. key I mu[st] insert the note instead of the letter f-a-w – and so of after min. key. These words occur but once in each colu[mn] and I hope this contraction will be unobjectionable [es] pecially as they appear in full in the first column … I believe I stated that it was impossible to print it as written – if so it was a mistake, I had made one or two hasty and ineffectual attempts ere that letter was written; but having nothing else to do, I afterwards went more deliberately about it, and I flatter myself I have succeeded to your satisfaction. I have even vanity enough to suppose that I have improved it, in this: - by carrying out the leaders [- - - -] in the intervals where the semitones occur, from one staff to another. I know not that you will understand me – but a glance at the table (a proof sheet of which you will receive with this) will detect it. Having been waiting for copy for nearly two days, I yesterday took a proof of the five pages which accompany this, and corrected them. I believe you will find all the errors enumerated in your letter in the first three pages, corrected e[except for the word Time, which I will alter before it goes to press] – you, however, missed several. Should the table, or any other part of the matter be incorrect, you will please mark the errors and send them to me immediately – I wish the form to go to press on Tuesday next, expecting to receive the intervening pages on Saturday.

I concluded you were ill, not hearing from you on Tuesday; and, believe me, sir, I rejoice to know that you are convalescent. The attack, I trust, had its origin in nothing more serious than the fatigue of your late journey. My own health thank God, continues “the even tenor of its way” – that is, I am neither well nor ill. – The physician would fain persuade me that I am in a decline , and recommends a relaxation from business: - I do not believe him …

I am very much pleased to hear that the 25th for[m] is errorless (excuse my coining) ; I hope to hear the same report of the 5th in your next …”


“Winchester, Septr 18, 1832

Dear Sir,

By this day’s mail I received yours of yesterday, with copy enclosed. I do not think the matter sent will fill the form – indeed I would rather it should not exceed the 7th page, since it concludes the elucidation. The index ought, of course, to commence on the odd page, and it would look better if the preceding page was entirely blank. – Should it not exceed the 7th page, I will go on to print the form with the 8th page blank, unless you receive this in time to instruct me otherwise. In the hope, however, that you will be able to answer this by Saturday’s mail, I will keep the form until that time, and submit to your decision whe[n] provided the matter sent should not exceed th[e] 7th page, I shall leave the 8th blank or commenc[e] the metrical index upon it. –

Allow me, sir, here to point out to you two singular errors in y[our] last letter, which may have an important bear[ing] upon your selections of music for the remain[ing] forms. In the 2d paragraph of your letter you … “The metrical Index, which will occupy, I presume[e] three pages will be next; then there would [be?] seven pages left on the 4th form for music” – No, only five pages left – a mistake of two pages. … the General Index will occupy two pages and the errata one, which only five pages left for music – leaving but ten pages in all for music, instead of fourteen, as in your calculation. Ten pages I think I can set up, so that there will be no difficulty about the indexes.

I hope you will be able to furnish the balance immediately – I am very anxious to finish the composition at least two weeks from this date. We (or rather Mr. Brooks) have lately undertaken a heavy job (printing Lottery tickets); we ought to commence on the 1st October, and promised to do so, expecting to complete your work by the middle of this month. Before we can begin however, I shall be obliged to go to Baltimore, Philadelphia, or perhaps, New York, to get the necessary materials, which will occupy one or two weeks. Under such circumstances, I know you will send it on as soon as possible…”


“Winchester. Sept. 28, 1832

Dear Sir,

I must in a few words acknowledge the receipt of all your letters together with the copy to complete the work. With this you will receive the third form I have my fears, I know not why, that there is something[g] wrong about it. I have read it the fourth time without detc[t] ing any thing, but still the impression remains. Pray [re]lieve my anxiety by return mail.

In one of your late letters you express an earnest desire that the work may be completed by next Wednesday. My dear sir, it is impossible – wou[ld] have been impossible under other circumstances. .. I have never witnessed such a press of work before, we are now struggling under. Do no not imagine th[at] we have undertaken any regular work, and that [it] is interfering with yours. It is a run of small job work, from the substantial friends and supporters of the establishment – such as we could not possibly turn away, or postpone. We have all the force o[ur] office can accommodate, and are pushing all hands till 10 and 11 o’clock every night. I trust we will be ready for the wagon on to-morrow two we[eks} (Saturday, October ). Of this however I will advise [you] positively hereafter.

In the metrical index I observe the words ma[jor] and minor inserted with the names of the tunes that will be in the 4th and 26th forms; please advise me of their classes … “Heavenly Vision” has no metre prefixed. … Your arrangement, or calculation of space, proves very correct; generally; on the 28th page, however (the 1st of music) you direct 2 tunes (“Milan” and “London”) one of which, only, is there inserted, because of the “Bastard Title” (technically speaking). – This, I presume, you have overlooked entirely as there is no allusion to it in any of your letters. In the absence of instruction on this point it is inserted in the following words and manner: -


“A Compilation of

Genuine Church Music.”


Such is the form which custom sanctions – you will, I think approve it. “Milan” is the tune there inserted, containing only 4 or 5 four-line verses in all. Could you not add 4 more verses, that I may have eight-line verses at the bottom?  My reason is, that as it now stands the “Bastard Title” must be sunk too low on the page to please my eye at least.

My dear sir, if I have omitted to answer any queries contained in your late letters, pray excuse me, for really I have so many matters to think of that I am scarcely capable of acting or saying; and I am confident I have forgotten one-half of the things I wished to say to you…”


“Winchester, Oct. 3, 1832

Dear Sir,

Your letter of yesterday declaring my fears gr[ow] less with regard to the 3d form afforded me inspeakab[le re] life and gratification, and I thank you for yo[ur] prompt answer.

With this you will receive the fo[urth] form – concerning it I have no fears – I may be mistaken. I had consulted M[r] Hart with regard to the tunes inserted.. this form, and learned to distinguish [the?] modes. We commenced printing this … on Monday – a considerable portion be[ing] done before your letter was received, pre[vented] me from consulting Dr. Hill on the subject[t of] your motto: of course you would not [want?] it inserted in a part only. I gave y[ou] to understand in my last that this form would not go to press before I received your [an]swer; but I found the press unoccupied on [that] day, and thought it a pity to lose the time .. regret your motto was not timely received, [I] think it would have been very appropri[ate] … The 26th form will contain “Heavenly Vision”, “Conversion”, “Delight,” “Bath Abbey” “Queensborough,” General Index & Errata:- “Christian Soldier, only, of those designated by you, is omitted. Excuse brevity, bad pen, thick ink and great haste…”


“Winchester, March 17, 1836

Dear Sir,

A day or two since we received your letter 9th inst (post marked 12th) and take this early opportune[ity of] replying – we should have written long since, but in expectation of seeing you in Winchester it was de[layed] from time to time. We received the music books sen[t by] stage, but have not as yet sold any of them. Previou[sly] their arrival there was much inquiry for them, but has so happened they have not been called for since … there is no doubt they will speedily obrain general [cir] culation in this quarter. The enclosure of $ 80 came safely to hand we made a memo of its [re]caption on the margin of your paper, which we [sup]posed you would notice … Mr. Mason’s fee is not yet paid, [he was] in Washington at the time it was received, and h[as] been absent ever since; as soon as he returns [we] shall attend to your request in that matter … Mr. Clayton’s book is now out; it contains 200 pages is printed on paper of much better quality than [y]ours. He sells it at $ 1 per copy, or $ 75 per hundred. [it] is considerably improved in all respects – there are [s]till some figured tunes in it – say eight or 10. We [h]ave no copy of it in the office, or we would (not [bein]g ourselves acquainted with the character of the tunes) [ha]ve it examined and send you further information [on] that subject. We have not seen a bound copy; [we?] believe, however, the binding to be inferior to [you]rs. Mr. Balch was here nearly all the winter, [bu]t is now at Halifax C. H. Va. His name is [Sam]uel H. Balch.

Not having referred to our agreement, we do [no]t know whether, as you suggest, the time has arrived … the balance coming to us is due, nor indeed, [are?] we prepared to say what that balance is; having [ye]t no regular account of what has been paid … we have left that account entirely in your … hands; if however, it puts you to no inconvenience, it will be a great favor to us if you … discharge it. If not due, a reasonable deduction [can?] cheerfully be made. We are much in want [of] 150 against the 25th inst. …”