English and American Hymnody and Psalmody Collection

Pitts Theology Library has one of the largest collections of hymnals, hymnbooks, and psalters in North America. Particularly strong in this collection are English and American publications prior to the year 1920, although all other areas of hymnody are collected as opportunity permits. Pitts Theology Library acquired the Warrington-Soule-Pratt collection in 1975 from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT. Regarding the development of this collection, Harry Eskew writes:

The major part of the English and American Hymnody Collection at Emory was acquired in 1975 with the purchase of the Case Library of Hartford Theological Seminary that included 9,000 volumes in hymnody. Hartford Seminary, founded in 1834 and one of the first in the nation, was already becoming an important center for the study of church music in the 1890s under the leadership of its professor of sacred music, Waldo Selden Pratt (1857–1939). As early as 1891, Pratt led the seminary to purchase the collection of Silas H. Paine, an executive at a lubricating plant in the Rockefeller Group. Paine’s collection, assembled over a forty-year period, included more than 5,000 titles of English and American hymnals, compilations of sacred poetry, and books on hymnology. To further enlarge its holdings, Hartford Seminary in 1894 opened negotiations to purchase the library of the Philadelphia accountant and well-known hymnology researcher James Warrington (1841–1915). According to the final 1899 agreement with Warrington, his library would remain in his possession for five years while he completed his projected book, A History of Psalmody among English Speaking Peoples. When the time was approaching for the removal of Warrington’s collection to Hartford, he apparently resisted. His collection was removed, Warrington filed suit, and the details of what followed are uncertain. The Warrington Collection was not unpacked at Hartford until 1926, and the great value of his books was not assessed until 1951, when American music scholars Irving Lowens and Allen P. Britton visited the seminary. The Hartford Hymnody Collection also included volumes donated by Professor Pratt and by the American Antiquarian Society. The collection came to be known as the Warrington–Pratt–Soule Collection, the last name being that of William Soule, a retired Episcopal clergyman who on a volunteer basis was responsible for the organization of the collection after years of neglect.

See Harry Eskew's essay for more information on the hymnody collection: "The English and American Hymnody Collection of the Pitts Theology Library, Emory University".

In addition to print materials, the library also collects manuscripts related to the creation of hymns and hymnody collections. For instance, we have the scrapbooks of the prominent Methodist hymn writer, Fred Pratt Green (MSS 166); the papers of the Sacred Harp composer, Raymond Hamrick (MSS 323); and the papers of hymnody collector James Warrington (MSS 395).

A Sampling of Books from the Hymnody Collection

1612 BOOK 1779 NEWT
Henry Ainsworth, The Book of Psalmes: Englished both in Prose and Metre with Annotations, 1612 John Newton, Olney Hymns in Three Books, 1779
1878 TEMP A 1902 CROW
J. B. Herbert and H. Taylor, Temperance Battle Hymns, and Red, White and Blue Ribbon Songs, 1878 J.H. Hall, W.H. Ruebush, and J.H. Ruebush, Crowning Day, No. 5 , 1902

Selected works from this collection have been displayed in the library. The following links go to pages detailing these exhibits.

"Living Hope": The Testimony of African American Spirituals and Hymns (2000)

Sacred Harp (2006)

Singing Faith: A Tercentenary Celebration of Charles Wesley (2007)

Sacred Harp (January 2010)

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (2014-2015)