Article by Carl P. Daw, Jr. in A People's History of the School of Theology.
Boston University School of Theology proudly and rightly calls itself “The School of the Prophets,” but it could equally well call itself “The School of the Hymn People.” Hymn-relatedness, after all, is firmly woven into the spiritual DNA of the Wesleyan tradition in which this school was founded, and it has manifested itself in notable men and women throughout the school’s history.
The combined collections of Charles Nutter (1842-1928) and Frank Metcalf (1865-1945) total more than 2500 volumes and form the core of the hymnological resources in the STH Library. Nutter graduated from STH in 1871, the year in which the Boston Theological School merged with Boston University. When not serving as a Methodist minister, Nutter collected hymnals and wrote both hymns and authoritative books on hymnology. (In 1913, he also taught hymnology at BU.) The other donor, Frank Metcalf, an 1886 BU alumnus, worked in the U.S. War Office and, like Nutter, collected hymnals and wrote on hymnology. Almost half of their combined collections dates from before the end of the Civil War and includes such treasures as a copy of the 1612 Ainsworth Psalter, the musical version of the Psalms that the Pilgrims brought with them on the Mayflower, as well as several 16th-century Genevan psalters. In addition to its obvious support for studies in sacred music, this collection assists studies in practical theology, in English and American language and literature, in sociology (especially through comments in prefatory material and through illustrations), and in the history of American book production. In the late 1990’s a Lilly Foundation grant supported full-level descriptive cataloging of most of this collection, including all of the pre-1800 materials. Some idea of the significance of the Nutter-Metcalf Collection in larger hymnological circles can be gained from the fact that in 2004 the commercial publisher IDC reproduced on microfiche 561 titles dating between 1566 and 1890, which they are marketing to other libraries.
A link to BU Libraries Search, searching the cataloged items in the Nutter-Metcalf Hymnal Collections.
This collection of approximately 900 volumes belonging to The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada was formerly housed at Union Theological Seminary in New York and came to STH in 2005, when The Hymn Society reclaimed them rather than transfer ownership to Columbia University (which was acquiring Union’s assets). Roughly two-thirds of this collection consists of psalters, tunebooks, and hymnals. In addition there are more than 100 song collections (most entirely sacred with others containing some secular pieces) and about 50 volumes of hymn texts and other religious poetry. The remaining books deal with the history of hymns, hymn stories, hymnal handbooks, biographies of hymn writers, music theory and history, and other miscellaneous materials. Approximately one-third of the collection predates the beginning of the Civil War.
A link to BU Libraries Search, searching the cataloged items in the The Hymn Society of the United States and Canada Collection.
Although his archival papers have been processed, the considerable church music resources collected by James Russell Houghton during his 37-year (1927-1964) career at BU remain uncataloged. The donation includes substantial materials related to 20th-century Methodist worship, especially hymnody. (Houghton served on revision committees for the Book of Worship in 1944 and 1964 and for the hymnal in 1935 and 1966. He was also the director of music at eight General Conferences from 1939 to 1960.)
Link to our archival holdings for James Russell Houghton. The collection contains papers from the various activities during Dr. Houghton's life, primarily 1931-1964. Included are: Minutes of the Joint Hymnal Commission (1931-1934) with resource materials; Preliminary report of the Commission on Rituals and Orders of Worship (1944); Minutes of the Commission on Worship and the Arts (1955-56) and later Commission on Worship (1956-1960), including some correspondence; Minutes, correspondence and other resource materials from the Commission on Worship and Hymnal Committee (1960-64), with a collection of general Methodist resource materials. From Boston University, the collection includes: Programs and Handbills for the University Chorus and Glee Clubs (1936-1964); Seminary Singers programs and tour records (1936-1964); and other scattered music, programs, correspondence (mostly from 1937-38); Sermons from Dr. Stidger's radio program (1937-39) annotated with hymns presented, plus correspondence and fan letters to the New England Singers. Memorabilia and scrapbooks, mostly from the Glee Club and Seminary Singers.
This collection of autograph letters and some hymn texts was compiled by Charles S. Nutter as a result of his correspondence with prominent hymnists during his lifetime. It includes contributions by Fanny Crosby, Phillips Brooks, John Greenleaf Whittier, Julia Ward Howe, Robert Lowry, Samuel Francis Smith, and other significant writers.
A link to the archival holdings in the Charles Nutter Letter Collection.
This collection of approximately 700 items came to STH via Southern Methodist University. It was compiled by Rev. Stephen E. Ayers, who received a MRE from BU School of Religious Education in 1932. The hymnal portion of this collection spans from the late 1830’s to the early 1950’s and includes many multiple copies. The second section of the collection consists of 84 looseleaf notebooks with alphabetized examples of hymns cut from many hymnals. A similar collection of gospel songs attached to notebook paper is contained in covers harvested from the books used to supply these examples. Despite many overlaps, preliminary review shows that this collection will fill many gaps in the STH collection of early 20th-century evangelistic song materials and will possibly be helpful to scholars using the STH Fundamentalism Collections.
A link to BU Libraries Search, searching the cataloged items in the Stephen E. Ayers Hymnal Collection.
At the end of 1999, the Library purchased the hymnal collection of Rev. James A. Rogers, a United Methodist Music Minister of Springfield, IL, consisting of approximately 3,000 volumes dating from1571 to the late 1990’s. Nearly all volumes are printed in English, with special emphasis on British and American sources. Approximately 600 books deal with hymnology, about 40 of which date from the 1800’s and about 90 of which are autographed by the author. About 700 hymnals are from the 1700’s and 1800’s and approximately 40 of them are autographed by the editor or author. This collection includes examples of nearly all major North American denominational hymnals through the latter part of the 20th century and forms a chronological complement to the Nutter-Metcalf Collections.
A link to BU Libraries Search, searching the cataloged items in the James A. Rogers Hymnal Collection.
Additional hymnals and other materials from the Library’s general collections have been moved from the open stacks to the research collections in order to provide appropriate continuity and coverage in both denominational hymnals and in background works on church music.
Partially Cataloged. A link to cataloged items in the collection.
Approximately 400 hymnals were given to the Library in 2008 by Janice T. Woods, a Methodist layperson in upstate New York and member of the Hymn Society. A preliminary survey of the materials shows that they are especially strong in Methodist-related resources and in Sunday School songs.
Partially Cataloged. A link to cataloged items in the collection.
These items were given to STH by Barbara Owen, the distinguished organ scholar and Director of the American Guild of Organists Library housed on the lower level of the STH building. Her donation consists primarily of 19th-century imprints, most from New England, and is especially strong in oblong tunebooks.
A collection of approximately 70 items given by David McCormick of Richmond, VA, in memory of distinguished hymnologist James Rawlings Sydnor.
Carol A. Pemberton Donation
This collection contains approximately three dozen items given to the STH Library by Carol A. Pemberton, the pre-eminent 20th-century scholar of the life and work of Lowell Mason, Boston’s most influential musical entrepreneur of the 19th century. It is notable for the fine condition of the copies of Mason materials it makes available to researchers.
Where to Find These Items
The collections listed below are located in our Archives and Research Collection. Access to archival holdings (e.g. paper church records, personal papers, baptism certificates, etc). are by appointment only; please contact please contact the Archivist and Preservation Librarian (617 353-1323 or email@example.com). For access to books in our special collections, please find a full-time librarian on staff during normal business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00am-6:00pm) who will be happy to pull the material for you.