About Pitts Theology Library

Pitts Theology Library, one of Emory University's six instructional libraries, holds a distinguished collection of theological materials, and is one of the premier theological libraries in North America. Supporting the students and faculty of Candler School of Theology at Emory University and researchers from around the world, Pitts is home to superb collections in theology and cognate disciplines, housed in a new state-of-the-art facility and served by a highly trained professional staff.

Pitts is internationally renowned for its rare book and archival collections (http://pitts.emory.edu/collections). Notable rare book holdings include the following: The Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection, the largest collection of Reformation-related materials in North America; manuscript collections of John and Charles Wesley, part of one of the foremost collections of Wesleyana in the world; the Pitts hymnody and psalmody collection, the largest holdings of hymnals in North America outside of the Library of Congress; and periodicals, monographs, and archives related to African Christianity. Pitts is also the institutional repository for many important ecclesial and scholarly organizations, including the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church, the American Academy of Religion, and the Society of Biblical Literature. The library’s collections are available in many digital repositories, the most notable of which is the Digital Image Archive (http://pitts.emory.edu/dia), a collection of over 60,000 images digitized from the rare book holdings.

The library began as a collection of materials housed at Wesley Memorial Church in Atlanta, Candler's location when it was founded in 1914. The library’s collections grew significantly in 1976 with Emory’s purchase of over 200,000 volumes from Hartford Theological Seminary, which was at the time one of the most significant theology collections in America. Library Director Channing Jeschke and Candler Dean Jim Laney worked for three years negotiating the purchase and moving of these materials, the largest transfer of a book collection between academic libraries at the time. The library building was significantly renovated in 1976 and was renamed Pitts Theology Library to honor Margaret A. Pitts and her father W. I. H. Pitts. The Pitts family, from Waverly Hall, GA, were longtime supporters of the Methodist Church and its educational institutions, and they were pivotal in supporting the Hartford acquisition and the renovation of the library building. In 2014, the library moved into a new, 60,000-square foot building, which includes open study space, group study rooms, and the Jeschke-Graham Special Collections Reading Room. The jewel of the space is the library’s 1,200 square foot exhibition gallery, with 22 custom cases to house the library’s exhibitions of its rare book and archival holdings. Exhibitions in the gallery have been celebrated in such national publications as the New York Times and the New Yorker, and are featured frequently in local media. Pitts Theology Library and the exhibition gallery are open to all researchers and visitors.

The primary emphasis in collection development is on materials related to the development of Christian history and thought. The library also acquires materials in contiguous areas that are related to the history of other religious traditions (especially early Judaism), the interpretation of Jewish and Christian scriptures (e.g., historical and philological works related to the ancient Near East, Greece, and Rome), the history of Christianity (e.g., political and social history of the lands in which Christianity spread), the development of Christian theology (e.g., philosophy, ethics, literature), and the practice of Christian life and ministry (e.g., music, sociology, psychology). While most materials collected are in English, German, French, and Latin, materials in other languages are also acquired as necessary.

The Pitts Library subscribes to more than 800 periodicals, with special strength in titles published in Africa, and typically adds over 5,000 volumes to its collections annually. The Special Collections of the library are extensive, including over 144,000 rare or special books and nearly 2,500 linear feet of unpublished archival materials. These collections include: