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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives:
A Guide to Resources in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

Table of Contents - Preface/Acknowledgements - Abbreviations
Lists of Entries: District of Columbia - Maryland - Virginia

Washington National Cathedral Rare Book Library

Address: Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW
Washington, DC 20016-5098
Rare Book Library:
Telephone Number: (202) 537-6262
Fax Number: (202) 364-6611
Cathedral Information Systems Program:
Telephone Number: (202) 537-8985
Fax Number: (202) 364-6611
Contact Persons: Margaret Shannon, Curator (Volunteer);
Constance Koch, Rare Book Librarian (Volunteer);
Charles S. Tidball, M.D., Manager,
Cathedral Information Systems Program (Volunteer)

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Open to the public: By appointment only
Photocopying:: Yes, by permission
Interlibrary loan: No

All consultation is by prior appointment only. Researchers must demonstrate their need to consult the specific collections in the Cathedral Rare Book Library. Most materials may be photocopied.

Reference Policy:
Telephone and mail reference questions are accepted. The Cathedral Rare Book Library answers queries as time permits. There is no material in the library useful for genealogical research.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
Background Note:
Washington National Cathedral was chartered by the United States Congress in 1893. The cornerstone was laid in 1907 and the completed Cathedral was consecrated in September 1990. The Cathedral Library was established in the 1920s; the Rare Book Library Wing opened in 1965. A full-time librarian maintained the collections until 1978. Since then, it has been staffed intermittently. Since 1992, volunteer professionals have maintained the library, inventorying the collections and cataloguing electronically.
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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
The Rare Book Library contains 10,000 monographs which date from 1474 to the present. Approximately half of these are related to religion. Strengths of this collection are many and include: the Holy Bible Collection; Miniature Bible Collection; Book of Common Prayer Collection (1549 to present); and a number of works in the following areas: the writings of Saint Jerome; sacred books from many faiths; images of the Virgin Mary in art; religious tracts; Christian art of all kinds; a large collection of books on cathedrals world-wide and one of the most comprehensive prayer book collections in the United States.

There are two major music collections: The Canon Charles Winfred Douglas (1867-1944) Collection of hymnology and music contains hymnals, with or without music, including metrical psalters; psalters for chanting the Psalms; works on hymnology and church music; chant and tune books containing no more than the first stanzas of hymns; works on liturgics; plainsong studies; plainsong editions; music theory; choral music; organs and organ music; publications of Charles Winfred Douglas; and publications prepared in connection with the Episcopal Joint Commission on Church Music.

Included in the Douglas Collection are hymnals from the library of the Rev. John Sebastian Bach (1839-1915) founder of the choir-school and rector of St. Paul's Church, Baltimore; hymnals and chant books from the collection of the Cathedral's first organist choirmaster, Edgar Priest (1878-1935); hymnals from the private library of his brother-in-law, the Right Reverend G. Mott Williams (1857-1923), Bishop of Marquette and member of the Joint Commission which prepared the Episcopal Hymnal of 1916.

The George C. Stebbins Memorial Collection of gospel-song material consists of over 1200 hymnals and tunebooks largely of American imprint, dating from the mid-18th century. These materials focus on the Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey movement. It contains a complete file of the compositions of P.P. Bliss (1838-1876) and of George C. Stebbins (1846-1945). Included are over a hundred notebooks in which Stebbins had pasted separate copies of individual gospel-songs in alphabetical order, culled from songbooks published during his long career.

The Samuel Sitgreaves Collection given by Mary Jesup Sitgreaves in memory of her parents Col. Lorenzo and Lucy Jesup Sitgreaves, includes 1200 books on every subject. These were collected by Samuel Sitgreaves (1764-1824) a Federalist member of the Fifth Congress. About 15% of this collection is related to religion. Another important collection is the General Thomas Sidney Jesup Collection, given by Violet Blair Janin in memory of her mother Mary Jesup Blair, daughter of the Quartermaster General of the United States Army, 1818-1860. Both Libraries are what one would call today the libraries of distinguished gentlemen and include much on religion, an important area of study for the time. In the latter two collections one may find works on such topics as Bible history, Church fathers, hymnals, individual church histories, and some maps of Bible regions.

There are two reference collections: one for Rare Books and one for use by docents and cathedral volunteers preparing lectures and tours.

All items in all collections are listed in a ProCite database. A printed catalogue is in the library reference materials.

Periodicals and newspapers:
This collection includes a number of important journals such as The Washington Theological Repertory and Churchman's Guide, published in Washington from 1819-1830 and the Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate State of America, Held in St. Paul's Church, Autusta, GA.,1863 and a complete set of The Cathedral Age, published by the National Cathedral Association beginning Easter 1925.

All periodicals are listed in a ProCite database.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
Works from the 18th to 20th centuries are available in this collection. Highlights include four holograph letters from the Rt. Rev. Thomas Claggett (1743-1816), first Bishop of Maryland (1792) and first United States Senate Chaplain in the new Capitol (1800). Other highligts are part of collections. The Presidential Papers Collection includes letters (autographed and typed) to the bishops of Washington from Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and transcripts of correspondence between the Bishops of Washington and the presidents of the United States from William McKinley to Bill Clinton. The Carson Collection of Bishops contains autographed or typed letters, signed, from every Episcopal Bishop in America and in the English-speaking Anglican Communion. The Samuel Sitgreaves letter copybook (1800-1824) includes records of his transactions as a book collector and as a prominent lawyer in Easton, Pennsylvania. (This letter copybook acts as a provenance source for some works in his book collection.). This manuscript collection also contains the correspondence files of presidential libraries and presidential descendants from the 1969 Cathedral Rare Book Library exhibition, "Presidential Inaugural Bibles" (1789-1969).

There is no catalog for these collections. Please see the Curator.

Some atlas and individual maps in the Samuel Sitgreaves and Thomas Sidney Jesup Collections covering the lands of the Bible.

The ProCite database covers this collection.

Vertical Files:
One horizontal file cabinet with inclusive dates from 1896 to the present. This collection has research files on the Cathedral, (e.g. Cathedral fabric, stained glass, wrought iron) as well as on all American Episcopal Bishops from 1786 to the present. There is also a strong collection of brochures and service leaflets from the Cathedral which gives much interesting history.

The vertical file is organized by subject with a finding aid in the drawer.

Paintings, photographs, slides, and prints:
This collection includes a number of important paintings: portraits of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (ca. 1800) and Rembrandt Peale (after March 1853), a portrait of the Right Reverend Samuel Provoost by Thomas Spence DuchÚ (1786-7); the Right Reverend William White by Thomas Sully (Nov. 1814); the Right Reverend Henry Yates Satterlee, Brigadier General Thomas Sidney Jesup by Charles Bird King (ca. 1818-19); Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud by Henry Stone (ca. 1636) after Van Dyck; and the Honorable Samuel Sitgreaves by Charles F.B. St. Memin (1798); "Madonna and Child" by Girolamo del Pacchia; and original brush drawings by African American artist Allan Rohan Crite (b. 1910) for Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? published by Harvard University Press, 1944.

There are also photographs or engravings of every American Episcopal Bishop from 1786 to the present. A vertical file folder exists for each portrait.

Databases, CD-ROMS, and other machine-readable resources:
The Washington National Cathedral Information Systems Program: This program consists of two extensive databases, the Cathedral Art Database and the Dramatis PersonŠ Database. Together, these databases include over 2,500 entries, recording not only works of art in stone, wood, needlework, glass, and iron, but also important persons such as benefactors, artists, architects, and clergy. Extensive research is done on each work or person. This information is then condensed into a single page of text using more than 30 standard information categories. The retrieval capabilities are based on full-text support, i.e. every major word in each document is an entry point to that document. The database includes several hundred graphic images, some in color. The Program is meant to assist clergy, students, and visitors and to act as a comprehensive repository of information on the Washington National Cathedral.

Subject Headings

Bible; Cathedrals; Christian art; Christian biography; Church buildings--Washington, D.C.; Church decoration and ornament; Church music; Clergy; Gospel music; Prayer; Religious art; Religious tracts; Ritual; Sacred books; Saints; Satterlee, Henry Yates, 1843-1908; Sermons; Symbolism; Virgin Mary--Art; Washington National Cathedral


Ellinwood, Leonard Webster, 1905-1995. To Praise God; the Life and Work of Charles Winfred Douglas. New York: Hymn Society, 1958.

Cathedral Age. Washington, DC: National Cathedral Association, 1925-.

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  June 22, 2017
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