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J. W. Hollis to Joseph Funk Letters

Identifier: SC 0242

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The J. W. Hollis to Joseph Funk Letters, 1832, 1836, are comprised of nine letters written to Funk by his publisher J. W. Hollis of Winchester, Virginia. Eight of the letters date to 1832 and discuss in considerable detail various editorial changes to Funk’s A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, which Hollis printed that same year. The last letter dates to 1836 and is co-written by J. W. Hollis and Robinson, his business partner. During this time, Funk was working on The Confession of Faith, which Hollis printed 1837.

The letters primarily concern editorial suggestions to Funk’s seminal work A Compilation of Genuine Church Music (later Harmonia Sacra). Hollis and Funk are corresponding frequently to discuss editorial changes and suggestions, including numbering verses, shape notes, copyright, and layout. Hollis also address Funk’s concern with the many errors he has found in the proof-sheets, writing on February 7, 1832 that “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.”

In addition to editorial suggestions and errors, the letters discuss Funk’s payment to Hollis and future in-person meetings for which Funk would travel to Winchester. Outside of business matters, the letters are generally pleasant in nature as Hollis updates Funk on his health and sends his regards to Funk’s family.

The last letter, dated 1836, by Hollis and Robinson discusses payment and account settlement with Funk. It also includes elements of general news and gossip.


  • 1832
  • 1836


Access Restrictions

Collection is open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

Several complete and thorough biographies have been written about Joseph Funk, his family, and his contribution to the American music, printing, and publishing industries. As such, this biographical note does not serve as an exhaustive rehashing of previous scholarship. Researchers are encouraged to review the bibliography for additional resources on Joseph Funk.

Joseph Funk (1778-1862) was born the eleventh child of Henry Funk and Barbara Showalter Funk in Berks County, Pennsylvania. His family migrated to Rockingham County, Virginia around 1780 and settled several miles northwest of Harrisonburg, at the eastern foot of Little North Mountain, in the small hamlet of Mountain Valley. The Funks, for the most part, worshipped in the Mennonite faith. Funk was a staunch supporter of the religion and two of his brothers were leaders in the church. Funk was married twice, first to Elizabeth Rhodes (d. 1813) with whom he had five children, and second to Rachel Britton (d. 1833) with whom he had nine children. Funk was a land owner, farmer, school teacher, singing teacher, and most notably a composer and publisher. In 1832, J. W. Hollis of Winchester published Funk’s first edition of religious hymns, A Compilation of Church Music (known as Harmonia Sacra beginning with the fourth edition). Joseph also developed a shape note system for use in Harmonia Sacra. In 1847, Funk founded Joseph Funk & Sons under which name he began a print shop and bindery; it was the first Mennonite printing house in the United States. Joseph lived the remainder of his life a widower in Singers Glen, Virginia (formerly Mountain Valley). The name change occurred in 1860, just two years prior to Funks death, in homage to the community’s celebrated musical trailblazer. The Joseph Funk home, located on Rt. 613 in Singers Glen, still stands and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


0.2 cubic feet (9 folders)

Language of Materials



The J. W. Hollis to Joseph Funk Letters, 1832, 1836, are comprised of nine letters written to Funk by his publisher J. W. Hollis of Winchester, Virginia. The letters discuss in considerable detail various editorial changes to Funk’s works A Compilation of Genuine Church Music and The Confession of Faith, which Hollis printed in 1832 and 1837 respectively.


The collection is arranged chronologically, with each letter foldered individually with its corresponding transcription.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Michael Brown Rare Books, LLC on August 1, 2017.

Other Formats Available

Due to minor text loss along the edges of the pages, Special Collections staff transcribed each letter. The letters are foldered with their corresponding transcription.

Related Material

Eastern Mennonite University’s [Harrisonburg, Va.] Menno Simons Historical Library is home to original Joseph Funk correspondence, 1837-1848, to his daughter and son-in-law Mary and John Funk.

Joseph Funk & Sons Correspondence, Ms2008-074 - Special Collections, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.

Funk Family Correspondence, 1833-1860, Mss. Misc. Boxes F, Mss. Octavo Vols. F, American Antiquarian Society, Worchester, Ma.


  • Fretz, A. J. A Brief History of Bishop Henry Funck and Other Funck Pioneers. Elkhart, In.: Mennonite Pub. Co., 1899.
  • Funk, Frances. Joseph Funk: A Biography. Locust Grove, Va.: Frances Fulk, 1984.
  • Horst, Irvin. Joseph Funk: Early Mennonite Printer and Publisher. Goshen, In.: Mennonite Historical Society, 1957.
  • Two Notable Shaped-Note Leaders: Joseph Funk by John W. Wayland and Aldine S. Kieffer by Weldon T. Myers, William B. Blake, and B. C. Unseld. Wytheville, Va.: Bookworm & Silverfish, 1995.

Processing Information

Physical evidence suggests that these letters were bound at some point – the edges have been trimmed resulting in uniformly shaped pages and there are holes with remnants of string along the letters’ left edge suggesting they were previously stitched together in a bound folio or album. As a result, minor text loss is exhibited along the edges of the letters. As such, Special Collections staff completed full transcriptions to aid the researcher in reading the letters.

A Guide to the J. W. Hollis to Joseph Funk Letters, 1832, 1836
Tiffany Cole
August 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

880 Madison Drive
MSC 1704
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612