Pitts Theology is the premier theological library in North America. As one of Emory University’s instructional libraries and a unit of Candler School of Theology, Pitts supports the students, staff, and faculty of Candler and Emory and researchers from around the world. Pitts is home to physical and digital collections in theology, religious studies, and cognate disciplines, curated and made accessible by a highly trained professional staff.
The mission of Pitts Theology Library is to acquire, organize, preserve, interpret, and provide access to information resources that support the present and future teaching, research, and service missions of Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and the public.
The library was originally a collection of materials housed at Wesley Memorial Church in Atlanta, Candler’s location when the school was founded in 1914. The library’s collections grew significantly in the mid 1970s with Emory’s acquisition of over 200,000 volumes from Hartford Theological Seminary, an acquisition that was at that time the largest transfer of a book collection between academic libraries in American history. The original library building on Emory’s Atlanta campus was significantly renovated in 1976 and 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, the Jeschke-Graham Special Collections Reading Room, and the library’s 1,200 square foot exhibition gallery. 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.
Pitts’ primary collecting interests are in 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, the interpretation of Jewish and Christian scriptures, the history of Christianity, the development of Christian theology, and the practice of Christian life and ministry. The library’s primary collections are works in English, German, French, and Latin, but the library actively acquires materials in other languages as necessary.
Pitts is recognized internationally for its rare book and archival collections. Pitts’ Special Collections holds over 155,000 volumes of rare books, including the following collections: 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, among the largest holdings of hymnals in North America; and periodicals, monographs, and archives related to expressions of Christianity in Africa. 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, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.
Many of the library’s collections are available in digital repositories, the most notable of which is Pitts’ Digital Collections site.
What is the “Pitts P”?
We use the Pitts “P” as the printer’s device of the library, an emblem that represents the resources we collect and the work that we do to maximize their impact. The device is based on an illuminated initial letter, a common feature in early printed books. The typeface P represents the texts we collect, the “resources” one may normally associate with a library. As with the hand illuminations on initial letters in printed books, though, the illumination around the letter does more than decorate, it brings the letter to life and sets the printed text apart as unique and significant. The vines around the “P” represent the work of the library that grows the impact of our print, manuscript, and archival resources. This impact is present in the library’s exhibitions, instruction, cataloging, patrons services, outreach, and many other efforts to help patrons learn and grow from our materials. These efforts are not mere “decoration” in service of the printed text. Rather, they are integral to the work of the library.