In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Notes 61.4 (2005) 958-973

[Access article in PDF]

The English and American Hymnody Collection of the Pitts Theology Library, Emory University


Collecting is a hobby many enjoy. The object may be coins, stamps, dolls, antiques, baseball cards, and many other objects of perceived value. It is the rare individual who collects hymnals. Most hymnals are not especially valuable monetarily, but some, such as the first edition of the Bay Psalm Book of 1640, are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Apart from any monetary value, however, hymnals are valuable historical documents, for they tell us the hymns that were available for singing by congregations of various religious denominations through the centuries. Hymnals express a congregation's theology, its literary and musical preferences, and its style of worship and witness, and often its cultural and societal values. Although hymnal collecting is primarily the domain of pastors and church musicians, private collections typically become part of an institutional collection through a purchase or a bequest.

Of the three largest institutional hymnal collections in North America,1 two are heavily indebted to one or more private collectors. An exception is the largest institutional collection of hymnals in the United States, that of the Library of Congress with its 16,500 hymnals, which grew primarily as a copyright depository for hymnals. The third largest—Princeton Theological Seminary's Speer Library with its 12,000 hymnals—grew for the most part from the personal collection of Louis F. Benson (1855– 1930), a Presbyterian minister generally recognized as America's greatest hymnologist.2 The second largest—Emory University's Pitts Theology Library with its 15,000 hymnals—is the result of interesting historical developments involving several private hymnal collections. [End Page 958]

The purpose of this article is to provide a basic understanding of the development of Emory University's English and American Hymnody Collection and to introduce its great potential for research.

The Background of Emory's Hymnody Collection

The major part of the English and American Hymnody Collection at Emory was acquired in 1975 with the purchase of the Case Library of Hartford Theological Seminary that included 9,000 volumes in hymnody. Hartford Seminary, founded in 1834 and one of the first in the nation, was already becoming an important center for the study of church music in the 1890s under the leadership of its professor of sacred music, Waldo Selden Pratt (1857–1939).3 As early as 1891, Pratt led the seminary to purchase the collection of Silas H. Paine, an executive at a lubricating plant in the Rockefeller Group. Paine's collection, assembled over a forty-year period, included more than 5,000 titles of English and American hymnals, compilations of sacred poetry, and books on hymnology. To further enlarge its holdings, Hartford Seminary in 1894 opened negotiations to purchase the library of the Philadelphia accountant and well-known hymnology researcher James Warrington (1841–1915).4 According to the final 1899 agreement with Warrington, his library would remain in his possession for five years while he completed his projected book, A History of Psalmody among English Speaking Peoples.5 When the time was approaching for the removal of Warrington's collection to Hartford, he apparently resisted. His collection was removed, Warrington filed suit, and the details of what followed are uncertain. The Warrington Collection was not unpacked at Hartford until 1926, and the great value of his books was not assessed until 1951, when American music scholars Irving Lowens and Allen P. Britton visited the seminary.6 The Hartford Hymnody Collection also included volumes donated by Professor Pratt and by the American Antiquarian Society. The collection came to be known as the Warrington–Pratt–Soule Collection, the last name being that of William Soule, a retired Episcopal clergyman who on a volunteer [End Page 959] basis was responsible for the organization of the collection after years of neglect.

Since purchasing the Hartford library, Emory has continued to expand its English and American Hymnody Collection. As stated in the Pitts Theology Library's collection development policy:

The primary focus of...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 958-973
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.