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Joseph Funk (1777-1862). Die Allgemein Nutzliche Choral-Music. Enthaltend: Auserlesene Melodien, Welche Bey Allen Religions Verfassungen Gebrauchlich Sind. . . . Verfasset von Joseph Funk (The Universally Useful Choral-Music Book. Containing Melodies Which Are Used in All Denominations. . . . Written by Joseph Funk). Harrisonburg: Laurentz Wartmann, 1816.
Joseph Funk was the best known of several publishers of sacred music residing in the Shenandoah Valley in the early nineteenth century. A year before Funk's Die Allgemein Nutzliche Choral-Music appeared, Rockingham County printer Ananias Davisson had issued a hymnal entitled Kentucky Harmony, which introduced to a southern audience a new musical notation called the "shape-note." This notation gave different shapes to notes of different pitch, making it possible for untrained singers to read the music. Davisson's successful hymnal inspired Joseph Funk, a Mennonite teacher and farmer of German descent who lived in the Rockingham County community of Mountain Valley (later Singer's Glen), to embark on his publishing endeavors. His first venture into the shape-note field, depicted here, was printed in Funk's ancestral tongue at Harrisonburg by Laurentz Wartmann, who probably also printed Davisson's Kentucky Harmony. Funk's later compilation, A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, Comprising a Variety of Metres, All Harmonized for Three Voices, published in 1832 at Winchester, appeared in English, as did all subsequent editions of the work.
Funk's songbooks were printed by others until 1847 when Funk established his own press near Harrisonburg, becoming the first Mennonite publisher in the United States. His hymnal, issued from 1851 onward as Harmonia Sacra, went through no fewer than twenty-five editions, with more than 80,000 copies sold. Following Funk's death in 1862, a grandson formed a partnership, called the Ruebush-Kieffer Company, which continued publishing the Harmonia Sacra well into the twentieth century.