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May 7, 2001

Pitts collection reaches 500K

By Eric Rangus


The Pitts Theology Library celebrated the acquisition of its 500,000th volume with a ceremony that included two guest speakers, May 1, in the library’s Durham Reading Room.

Dennis Norlin of the American Theological Library Association and Randy Maddox, professor of Wesleyan theology at Seattle Pacific University, joined Candler School of Theology Dean Russell Richey and Pat Graham, director of the Pitts Library, at the podium to commemorate the occasion.

“This milestone,” Graham said, “represents an occasion for thanksgiving and reflection, a time to lift our eyes from the labor of this day, to look about more broadly and be reminded of the aim of our work.”

With a half-million volumes, the Pitts Theology Library is the second-largest theological library in North America, behind only the Burke Library at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, which contains 595,000 volumes.

No single publication pushed Pitts over the top. Graham added three books to the library’s collection—all written by members of the Candler faculty.

The trio of books is: God Don’t Like Ugly: African American Women Handing on Spiritual Values, by Teresa Fry Brown, assistant professor of homiletics; The Soul of Congregation: An Invitation To Congregational Reflection, by Thomas Frank, director of Methodist studies and associate professor of church administration and congregational life (click here for story); and Vol. 2 of The Methodist Experience in America: A Sourcebook, which Richey co-edited. Those books represented numbers 499,999, 500,000 and 500,001 in Pitts’ collection.

“We felt it appropriate that these [new acquisitions] be Methodist productions,” said Richey, who downplayed his inclusion among the three by never mentioning it. “There’s a huge portion of our whole collection that grows out of the Methodist sense of the importance of the printed word.”

In his five-minute address, Norlin spoke of the three roles of a theological library: preserving the past, securing the present needs of faculty and students, and anticipating the future. Emory’s theological library, Norlin said, scores well on all counts, particularly in looking toward the future.

“No other library has taken such a lead in things like online cataloging and digital collections,” Norlin said.

In his keynote address, Maddox, whom Richey called “one of the premier interpreters of [John] Wesley of our day,” spoke for 40 minutes on the Methodism founder’s 1747 book Primitive Physick, which has been variously viewed as an important collection of holistic medicine, an explanation of the connection between the healing of the body and the renewal of the spirit, and a “an absurd, fantastic compilation of uncritical folk-lore,” as one book cited by Maddox claimed.

Wesley was trained in medicine in addition to theology, and he wrote Primitive Physick as a guidebook to cure ailments ranging from baldness to measles to obesity.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Maddox said, Wesley’s work was called into serious question. He quoted an excerpt from The British Medical Journal that said, “There is nothing in the book of value whatsoever.”

It was historians later in the 20th century who put Wesley’s work in the context of his times. Maddox said Wesley culled his information from medical textbooks of the day (not from knocking on doors and speaking to old women, as is sometimes claimed) and was forward-thinking in many ways. He did not advocate bloodletting, for example, as many doctors of the day did.

In conclusion, Maddox said, Wesley’s main concern, and one of the main reasons he wrote Primitive Physick was that medical care should be accessible to all, not just the well-to-do.


Back to Emory Report May 7, 2001