Emory Report

February 9, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 20

Pitts' rare book collection jumps
over the 90,000 volume mark

Pitts Library has passed another milestone as an international center for theological research. The library's special collections recently acquired its 90,000th volume.

Pitts is the second-largest theology library in North America with more than 480,000 volumes. Its rare book collection is the size of many entire theology libraries.

The library staff celebrated the achievement with Pitts Librarian Patrick Graham and Dennis Norlin, executive director of the American Theological Library Association. At the gathering, Graham said the library has grown through a combination of factors: the ongoing generosity of Margaret Pitts of Waverly Hall, Ga., and others; the vision and leadership of Graham's predecessor, Channing Jeschke; and the support of Candler Dean Kevin LaGree and previous deans.

Graham presented two volumes selected as Nos. 90,000 and 90,001 because they represent important aspects of the special collections. As No. 90,000, he selected a defense of tithing published in London in 1685 by Thomas Comber, an influential Anglican priest. Comber's two-volume work was bound as one, which was common, and now has a new binding due to deterioration of the original.

"The work represents one of Pitts' most important collections, English religious history from the Restoration in 1660 to World War I in 1914," Graham said. The collection also includes materials in church history, liturgical practice and interpretation of scripture.

As No. 90,001, Graham showed an American pocket hymnal its owner would have carried to worship or church meeting. It was published in New York in 1855 for use in the Methodist Episcopal Church, the northern branch of divided American Methodism.

The hymnal is typical of its day, Graham said. Made to fit in palm or pocket, it contains no music, only texts. Its red leather binding is embossed and centered on the cover is a small vertical rectangle in which the owner's name is stamped in gold.

This acquisition represents Pitts' outstanding hymnody collection of more than 14,200 pieces. According to Graham, archivists at the Library of Congress consider Pitts to have one of the two foremost research collections of hymnody in the nation.

-Elaine Justice

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