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
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
"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.
to February 9, 1998 contents page