||Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues NW
Washington, DC 20016-5098
|Rare Book Library:
|| (202) 364-6611
|Cathedral Information Systems Program:
|| (202) 537-8985
|| (202) 364-6611
Constance Koch, Rare Book Librarian (Volunteer);
S. Tidball, M.D., Manager,
Cathedral Information Systems Program (Volunteer)
|Hours of Service:
|Open to the public:
||By appointment only
||Yes, by permission
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.
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- 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.
- 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
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
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
There is no catalog for these collections. Please see the
- 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,
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.
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
Cathedral Age. Washington, DC: National Cathedral