First Hawaiian Hymn Book, 1823

Hawai‘i State Archives

Both photos contain Na Himeni Hawaii; He Me Ori Ia Iehova, Ke Akua Mau ca. 1823 Kahn Collection 9/2


A foremost priority for the missionaries was establishing a written form of the Hawaiian language. In 1822 they began translating books into Hawaiian. However, the selection of letters for the Hawaiian alphabet was not finalized until 1826.

Those earlier printings contained the letters “r, t and v” , sounds which were commonly heard in the Hawaiian language. These letters were later rejected from the final Hawaiian alphabet.

Na Himeni Hawaii; He Me Ori Ia Iehova, Ke Akua Mau, was the first Hawaiian hymn book printed in 1823 by the missionary press. Most of the hymns are original compositions written by the British missionary William Ellis and American missionary Hiram Bingham. Similiar to the hymnal used by some Hawaiian churches today, the book contains only the words and no musical notation.

The proud original owner of this copy had it bound and covered in a Hawaiian striped kapa cloth 180 years ago.