Ward C. Kessler Reformation Collection at Pitts Theology Library secured

88 acquisitions during the 1994-95 academic year, a record number of additions in a single year, according to Patrick Graham, director of Pitts Library. The Kessler Collection is an extensive body of materials that dates from the 16th-century German Protestant Reformation and includes the writings of Martin Luther and his contemporaries.

Many of the documents are seldom available for purchase, according to Graham. "This is extraordinary to add 88 pieces in one year," he said. "The Kessler Collection provides a rich resource for scholars of the Reformation and makes the history of the period come alive for clergy and laity who seek to understand the history of the Christian faith."

Emory and a relatively small number of institutions, according to Graham, are aggressively collecting materials from this period.

Graham emphasized one particularly rare find, "an exceptionally fine copy" of Martin Luther's Small Catechism, a primer for parochial religious instruction printed in 1551. While not printed during Luther's lifetime, it is a 16th-century copy and the first copy of Luther's Small Catechism purchased for the collection. The edition includes German and Latin text on facing pages, as well as sample readings and vocabulary and a list of Latin abbreviations for reading practice, and is clearly meant to be used in an elementary school setting. "There are so few of these Small Catechisms that remain," Graham said. "We've been looking for something like this for 10 years."

The collection's acquisitions are catalogued on the On-Line Computer Library Center (OCLC), an international database that is used by more libraries than any other database. Of the 88 documents Pitts added to OCLC this year, 71 are catalogued as belonging exclusively to Emory. While other libraries may later catalogue or obtain these rare materials, "Emory is making an extraordinary contribution to that database," Graham said.

The Kessler Collection was formally established in October 1987 by Richard C. Kessler, an active Lutheran layman and Atlanta business executive. Already an important Reformation collection, the Kessler Collection is becoming an increasingly valuable resource for scholarship.

-- Elaine Justice

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