Rare Books and Archives Collection at The Pitts Theology Library | Living History

Posted By on July 6, 2019

old books and manuscripts worn pages hard to decipher handwriting sepia-toned photographs names all but lost to the ages mementos relics and memorabilia frozen in time shelves and more shelves history held in trust in archives it's not just about a lifeless past it's our story its living history one of the great contributors to the history of the English Bible was Charles Wesley one of the early founders of Methodism and we have here two wonderful manuscript items connected to Wesley and his translation of the Psalms manuscript items tracing early Methodism plus various versions of the Bible including of course a King James translation and more surprisingly a wicked version these count among the finds that make up one of the major exhibitions of the Pips theology library at Emory University's Candler School of Theology one of the great benefits of moving into this new building five years ago is the physical exhibition space that we have so it's a 1200 square foot gallery with 22 cases that allow it allows us to curate and display some of these wonderful items that are here in the collection we typically put on about three exhibitions a year and these are generally curated from within by our staff as well as by scholars from the University and much more broadly typically our exhibitions feature our collections but we've done a lot of collaboration with local collectors or other institutions to use the gallery to tell a full story of whatever topic it is that we're exploring we also use the gallery to highlight some of the real gems of our collection the ability to show though our special collections is broad in its scope there are a few areas where we really dig deep and really are trying to generate impressive collections Richert bo Manley Adams jr. is director of the pits theology library at Emory University's Candler School of Theology Adams takes us on a journey through time with a look at the library's exhibition that covers the history of the English Bible the title word for word since were since the English Bible in history and worship it's a display that shows examples of how the Bible in English has changed over 500 years since its first translation and subsequent printing so this is an exhibition of the history of the Bible in English and really the printed Bible in English begins here with the figure William Tyndale who was born at the end of the 15th century and is credited with the first English translation of the New Testament in a printed version what we have here is a parallel Bible on the one side you have ten Dells English translation and on the other hat side you have Erasmus of Rotterdam Latin translation and it was a rat rasmus's Greek Bible that Tyndall used to construct his first English New Testament printed in 1526 the gallery as a whole tells the story from Tindall all the way forward to contemporary times showing the many ways in which the translation of the English Bible has changed over the centuries reflecting cultural religious and social changes as well as the development of new technologies that 1526 printing of the Bible in English predates a more popular version one that many may think made for the Bible's first translation many of us when we think about the English Bible think about the King James Version which of course has been the most influential translation of the Bible into English in the history of the church the King James of course though was a later English translation there were several eight printed English Bibles before the King James and in many ways the King James which was produced in 1611 was the product of this diversity of translations and that King James himself wanted a more stable central translation for the Church of England and so in the early 17th century he convened the largest group of translators that had ever gotten together to produce an English Bible and in 1611 produced the King James Version which is significant not only as a Bible but as a centralizing force for our modern English language we have on display here in the gallery a first edition and first printing of the King James as well as many later editions of the King James as the text continued to change and be revised over the centuries and in keeping with the King James Version the exhibit features somewhat of a twist on that translation so what we have here is a 1631 printing of the King James Bible which is known as the wicked Bible now the printing of the Bible is of course a human endeavor and therefore it's prone to lots of mistakes this is a very famous mistake made in this 1631 printing here we see in the printing of Exodus 20 which is the traditional listing of the Ten Commandments the seventh commandment an important word is left out and it reads thou shalt commit adultery this of course was very scandalous and controversial at the time King Charles the first was unhappy he ordered that all of these texts be burned and he ordered the printers be brought before him and they were levied with a very heavy fine all of the texts were burned with the exception of a few and this is one of the few examples that still remains today since that time it's been more common than not to find a different take on the Bible one of the developments in the late 20th and early 21st century has been the explosion and the number of Bibles that are being produced a real proliferation not only in terms of how the Bible is translated with the form in which we find the Bible so here you see a number of examples of different shapes and genres of Bible for example you see comic book Bibles you see children's Bibles with sports balls on the bindings you see a Bible for the liberal you see the Amplified Bible an attempt to kind of bring the Bible to all of the various types of people that are out there and what you see is no longer is the translator simply driving the form of the Bible but the leader and the anticipated readership is really changing the ways in which the Bible is presented this of course is that deep influence on the way that the English language is actually rendered as people have attempted to be more and more specific and to translate the Bible into narrower and narrower and narrower vernaculars so a famous example is the so called Gullah Bible or the translation of the Bible into Sea Island Creole a dialect spoken that's often referred to go on and so you see here in this case a Bible produced that has the Gullah translation alongside the traditional rendering of the King James Version now in the 21st century with these many many many English Bibles you are seeing the real attempt to reach everyone where he or she is to read the Bible much of the history of the English Bible is a history that's told in England in the pre-revolutionary war period it was not allow our one was not allowed to print an English translation of the Bible in a colony so the American colonies had no printings of the English Bible in translation however in the colonial period we do find English Salters printed in America and we have a number of examples here many of these were produced by prominent aristocrats in the colonies at the time who just felt the desire or need to translate the Psalter and then distribute it to their friends so an example here is a translation of the Psalms by Francis Hopkinson who was later a signer of the Declaration of Independence who in 1765 produced his own translation of the Psalms and made a small print run of it that was distributed probably amongst his friends and colleagues we have here below another famous American Cotton Mather who produced his own translation to the Psalms so you can see at the time in the 18th century prominent English aristocrats living in the new world were distributing their own personal versions of the Psalter and we find lots of variations and different types of translations it's not until after the Revolutionary War starting in the 1780s that you have English translations of the full Bible being printed in America exhibitions are just part of what you'll find at Pitts theology library the library also houses special collections and archives we're here at the Pitts library and the Chesky Graham reading room which is the home of the special collections of the library it's in this room that researchers have access to our vast rare book collection as well as our archival holdings our special collections and is comprised really of two collections that is our rare book holdings as well as our archival collections our rare book holdings constitute about a quarter of our total holdings so the total holdings of the library for about six hundred and thirty-five thousand volumes and the rare books is about a hundred and fifty five thousand volumes our archival collections are really made up of a couple of one is archives of major organizations so for example the School of Theology the American Academy of religion the Society of biblical literature these are organizations that have placed their repository of archives here so that as they generate new records those archives live here and are available for researchers to use in addition to organizational archives we also hold the papers of prominent scholars retired pastors other dignitaries who have come in into the world of theology and have left their mark and therefore their papers and their records are significant sources for ongoing scholarly research this library in particular focus is really on printed materials and so that really goes back to the early modern period and so the the large bulk of our rare book collection really is from the 15th 16th and 17th centuries though of course we do hold manuscript items dating earlier than that it's really the early modern printing that we're kind of known for internationally the pits theology library dates back to the founding of the Candler School of Theology 1914 three years later the library which through the 1970s had a different name moved from a church location to the emory campus in atlanta it relocated again in 2014 to its current location the 60,000 square feet is comprised of five floors and each of the floors kind of has its own particular function the first floor of the library is the home to our circulating collection which are the materials that patrons can take from the library the second floor is our general kind of research and reading floor which has most of our study space for our patrons the third floor is comprised of study space in the form of classrooms as well as our exhibition gallery in our research karel room we're here on the fourth floor which is dedicated completely to our special collections which is the holdings of our archives and rare books as well as the reading room that were in now and then the fifth floor of the library is staff offices and processing area for cataloging as well as conference rooms and breaks rooms and really general staff area regular library visitors includes students faculty and staff of the Candler School of Theology but the Emory community as a whole of faculty staff and students along with the general public also have access to the building one of the projects that I'm really excited about is actually an audio-visual project so in addition to printed materials we have large holdings and all kinds of formats paintings audio-visual material we were fortunate enough to receive a donation of a large collection of audio cassettes documenting Howard Thurman the middle 20th century late 20th century theologian preacher mystic civil rights leader and we have recently digitized that entire collection it's about 41,000 minutes of audio and then in an attempt to make it as accessible and discoverable as possible we've actually secured a grant to transcribe the entire collection so not only do you have the audio to listen to but you have a full searchable transcription which allows you to match the transcription to the exact point in the audio this is a good example of what we try to do in the library which is to take collections and make them as broadly accessible this is a collection that's now available up online but also to allow people to experience these collections in a number of ways Howard Thurman of course is now known by many seminary students for his incredible writings but we're excited to allow people to rediscover Thurman in the spoken word for Thurman himself really thought that was his contribution and many people in the 1950s in the 1960s would have known Thurman through hearing him and now through the marvels of digital technology were allowed to were able to bring that back the team at pits theology library also welcomes the opportunity to share from its Special Collections where you'll find reference resources and more my name is Brandon Watson I am the curator of archives and manuscripts here at Pitts theology library I work here in the fourth floor on the fourth floor in the special collections department today I brought out some of our Wesleyan own materials arrest Lana collection reflects the period of early Methodism so beginning with John Wesley his brother Charles Wesley other early Methodists in England as well as Tracy Methodism through to today the first item is the diary of John Wesley from when he was here in Georgia John Wesley only came to Georgia one time that was in the year 17:36 he was here for about 18 months into 1737 he wanted to bring some of his practices of of primitive Christianity that he had developed in in Oxford with his community there to Georgia to try to create a new Christian community among Native Americans but he was installed as the rector that the pastor of the church in Savannah Savannah was a colonial city very small at the time that John Wesley arrived the diary reflects John Wesley's daily life in in Savannah it has hour-by-hour descriptions of his activities so for instance he might have a period of private prayer or meeting with people in the church or or working on his learning German these are all described in the journal itself so you can really pinpoint what John Wesley was doing on any given day part of the diary is actually written in a coded shorthand and so John Wesley in a sense was able to conceal some of his activities if someone else were to happen upon his diary that coded shorthand was actually not known until not the Year 1969 when a scholar of early Methodism found a key to interpret it and and now they're able to translate it wasin also shares a letter Wesley wrote in 1738 to his mother following his visit to Georgia when John Wesley went to Georgia he met up with a group called the Moravians and he was on the boat to Georgia with meridians and they had a very strong impact on his spiritual and theological development so when he came back to London from Georgia he met up with an individual named Peter bowler and bowler really coached him and and and made him see his faith in a different way and so in May of 1738 John Wesley had a very powerful religious experience that religious experience led him to want to meet with that person named count sins and Dorf who was the head of the meridians in Germany and so one of the letters I brought out describes John Wesley's trip into Germany traveling through Germany down down the Rhine and actually meeting Peter bowlers father and then counts ins endorphin ahead of the meridians he describes Zinzendorf in very christ-like terms and then and the community there is was really impressing upon him so he was really impressed by the community there so the the letter itself is a letter to his mother and his mother played a very strong theological a very strong role in his theological development within the special collections area you'll get to see another unique fine tied to Wesley the pulpit we have here in the Special Collections Reading Room was used by John Wesley as he preached to minors in Wales it was sent over to us by an alumnus of Emory College in the year 1886 so it it predates the school of theology but it was part of Emory College and before you even make it into the Special Collections Reading Room you may spot Wesley himself that is a likeness of the theologian just before his death as you're approaching the Special Collections reading room on the fourth floor you'll notice in the hallway there's a oil painting of John Wesley a profile portrayal of him dated to around the Year 1795 Henry Edric the this would have been painted in his life in the year before he died and in 1791 we think we are one of the most substantive collections of theological materials in North America Pitts theology library has one of the largest collections of theological materials according to Adams in part because of the partnerships the library has secured one is we work really hard to partner with other libraries through systems like interlibrary loan and consortium lending agreements so that our patrons here are not limited by our physical Holdings as one of the larger libraries in the country of course we do we tend to lend out a lot more materials than we borrow but we really try not to limit our patrons to what we physically hold here the digital age of course has brought all kinds of new forms of access and so I think what's really incumbent upon libraries in the 21st century is to see themselves less as silos of large collections and more as kind of nodal points to bring people together so I'll give you an example of this that my colleague Brandon and I have been working on we hold large a large collection of manuscript letters written by John and Charles Wesley well there are about five or six other libraries in North America that also have large collections of manuscript letters from John and Charles Wesley instead of just holding on to our letters why not work with those other institutions to create an online repository where one person can go and see all of these letters virtually brought together as a collection so I think in the future while libraries need to work hard to build their own collections and we certainly continue to do that there's a real onus on libraries to kind of bring people together and bring collections together so that we can all mutually benefit from what these incredible institutions hold collaboration also is at play when it comes to the buildings library space in general the vision of building this library five years ago was to move away from or to move away from that guess the the kind of quiet austere reading room and to view libraries as more of a collaborative workspace that incorporates digital technologies that incorporate small group study rooms so a really a vision of a library is space that allows people to engage these collections in a kind of social and collaborative way and so while we we think this is a very quiet library and we still keep people quiet when they're working here and there's a lot of unique spaces in this reading room is one of them that allow people to work together so the reading room itself now is set up for individual researchers you can see there are six desks in here but these tables move around and we've often combined them into a large seminar space and so classes from the school theology or for other units of Emory can come here to work together kind of in a space but also to engage the collection so this is really I think when we are at our best and we we do our best is to allow the collections to play a role in learning whether that's you know here in a classroom space for students at the school theology or if that's online through digital exhibitions the ability to kind of bring these collections to live one of those collections is cause for celebration for Adams another thing that we're known for internationally is our richard c kessler reformation collection which is really a flagship collection and outside of germany I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a better collection of materials related to Martin Luther and the Reformation x' that began in the early sixteenth century in Germany a few prized items within that collection that were known for internationally would include the so-called September Testament which is the first edition of Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament from Greek into German a significant text not only as a Bible but also as a kind of beginnings of a modern German language also within that collection are some early Lutheran hymnals documentation of the fact that the Lutheran tradition from its beginning was a hymn singing tradition which is very different than some other of the reforming traditions as Luther himself was a hymn writer hymns as Adams reveals had a part too in Bible translations so one of the major influences on the development of the English translation of the Bible particularly the translation of the Psalms was the use of the text liturgical II in church that is the Bible was not simply read but it was often sung what we have here is displays of materials from the famous English hem writer theologian and minister Isaac Watts who in the early 18th century became famous for his translations of the Psalms Watts his Psalms were so influential that they eventually became some of the most beloved hymns of the church we might think of a hymn like joy to the world which is a hem creation of watts but is in many ways a translation of the songs as well this case includes not only some of Watts as significant translation of the Psalms but some personal copies were owned by watts so this text here for example is a 1719 printing of Watson's translation of the Psalms and here on the opening we have an inscription in the hand of watts that reads to mrs. Hart top signed Isaac watts and we know that mrs. Hart top and her husband were early supporters and Friends of watts and actually were responsible for getting him his first job in music so here we have a nice personal connection of the great hymn writer and translator Watts here dedicating his book to one of his early patrons the library's word for words since were since exhibition includes a display relating to a translation of Psalms one of the challenges in translating the Bible and particularly translating the Psalms is the desire to remain faithful to the original in this case Hebrew text but also to produce a translation that reads nicely or in the case of the Psalms sings nicely in this 1612 Salter we have a great example of that this is what's known as the Ainsworth's altar because it was translated by a Henry Ainsworth and Ainsworth recognized this challenge of both remaining faithful but also producing what we might think of as a metrical Psalm a psalm that seems sings quite well and so what Ainsworth does here is produced two Psalms in two parallel columns on the one side you have the very wooden literal faithful to the Hebrew psalm and on the other side you have his metrical song which is a song that is maybe looser in its translation form but is more easily sung by a congregation Ames where Salter is quite significant in our American context because this book produced in 1612 was the Salter that the pilgrims brought with them in 1620 when they sailed from Amsterdam where Ainsworth was to New England and settled here so this became the Salter of the pilgrims in their first settlement here in America generations to come will benefit from having access to such records and that's largely because of the library's preservation methods I think as a major academic library we have a number of responsibilities and at the forefront of our mind particularly as a rare book library is the preservation of materials for future generations to have access to it's incumbent upon us as those who are fortunate to have the resources to collect these materials to protect them so that they can survive so you take a 500 year old book and we work to make sure that it's available for the next 500 years but beyond simply preservation we recognize that the digital age affords us all kinds of opportunities to preserve but also to make accessible these materials and so we work very hard to take advantage of technologies that not only allow us to digitize and put these things up online but also allow us to gather a community of scholars that can help people really understand what they're looking at so for example it's one thing to take a sixteenth century German book and scan it and put it online for everyone to see it's quite another thing to accumulate a group of scholars who can annotate that text for the general public and let them know what they're reading translate it for them and provide some context to it so as a library we see preservation not merely as making sure that the object continues to exist which of course we work hard to do but also preserving the impact of that item may have had 500 years ago unfortunately we live in an age where the technologies allow us to do that so we worked very hard to make sure that people have access in as full a sense of that word as we can possibly understand it I would say we're not nearly where we need to be and that's because on the one hand you could just scan lots of books but that doesn't we try to do it in a much more deliberate way so what we try to do is pair scanning and making available materials with good proper metadata discoverability and long-term preservation plans so we want to make sure that when we put something up online first of all you're able to find it second of all you're able to read it or view it in an accessible way and third that the item that is the digital surrogate itself will continue to exist for generations to come so there is a kind of preservation need that also accompanies the digital so in terms of where we are know most of our rare book collection most of our archival holdings are not available online it's something that we're working really hard to remedy but we want to make sure that we do that in careful and sustainable way so that these materials continue to be available safeguarding the past it all adds up to an investment in the future thanks for watching go to AIB tv.com forge / donate to support programming like this your contributions may be tax-deductible

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