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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

Folger Shakespeare Library

Address: 201 E. Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003-1094
Telephone Number: (202) 675-0311
Fax Number: (202) 675-0313
Contact Persons: Gail Kern Paster, Director
Richard Kuhta, Librarian
Email address: [email protected]
Internet Catalog Address:

Access Policies

Hours of Service:
Monday--Friday 8:45 a.m.--4:45 p.m.
Saturday 9:00a.m.--Noon, 1:00 p.m.--4:30 p.m.
Sundays/Federal holidays Closed
Open to the public: No
Photocopying:: Yes
Interlibrary loan: No

Access to the Library is limited to readers with appropriate research experience and training. Those with a Ph.D. or equivalent degree or graduate students writing a Ph.D. thesis may apply for a reader's card by writing a letter of application and sending two letters of reference to Richard Kuhta, Librarian. Other persons who feel they have a particular need to use the collections may apply for special permission status, also to Mr. Kuhta.

Questions about registration and housing should be addressed to the Registrar at 202-675-0306 or email [email protected]; questions about the collection may be directed to [email protected]; information about fellowships may be obtained from Carol Brobeck in the Folger Institute at (202) 675-0348; Fax (202) 544-4623.

Photocopying of post-1801 imprints only. Requests by other libraries for rare materials from the Folger are filled by microfilm facsimiles.

Reference Policy:
Telephone and mail inquiries are accepted from scholars, bibliographers, teachers, students, and the general public.
Borrowing Privileges:
Not a lending institution.
RLIN, RLG, FAHN (Five-library group: Folger, Morgan, American Antiquarian, Newberry, Huntington). Holdings are listed in RLIN's English Short-Title Catalog (ESTC). RLIN searches can be done for patrons.
Background Note:
Founded in 1932. The initial collection and building were the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clay Folger. The endowment for the institution is administered by Amherst College.

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Description of Collections

Books and monographs:
The entire collection equals approximately 256,000 volumes, 160,000 of these in the rare book collection. There are 35,000 rare books published on the continent; 450 incunabula; and 2,000 works from the Reformation period, including many works by both Luther and Calvin. The Folger houses one of the largest collections in the world of early English books with over 50,000 volumes from 1475 to 1700, the largest collection of early English imprints outside of Britain, and 30,000 volumes from the 18th century. The collection includes more than 55% of the known titles published before 1640. Much of the Folger's collection, simply because of the time period in which it was written, relates to religion.

The collection is strong in works concerning the Reformation and the Counter Reformation. Jansenism, a 17th-century movement in the Catholic Church in Holland and France, is well represented as is the Catholic Church, Church of England, Church of Scotland, Bible, Christianity, Jesuits, Judaism, prayer, sermons, religious music, and witchcraft. Individual items such as Provinciale Seu Constitutiones Angliae cum Summariis (a 1501 folio edition of the canon law used most often in the 15th century in England), An apology of the Church of England by John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury (1564), the 17th-century moral and theological essays of Daniel Turvill, and collections of books on such topics as the ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-1563) are highlights in a comprehensive collection of works relating to religion. Religious music is well represented by such rare works as William Byrd's Mass for Three Voices (c. 1588) and his Psalms, Sonnets, Songs (1590), as well as John Amner's Sacred Hymnnes (1619), and a number of early English Psalters.

Of special interest is the Emanuel Stickelberger Reformation Collection of 850 volumes which includes 180 works by Luther as well as treatises by Zwingli, Calvin, Oekolampad, Hutten, Gengenbach, and Niklaus Manuel. Works by supporters of the German Reformation include items by Melanchthon, Heinrich von Kettenbach, Linck, Rhegius, and others. In addition there are another 300 Luther items in the Sir Thomas Phillipps' Collection.

Current works to support research in religion are also available including the Patrologiae Latinae, the Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Publications of the Catholic Record Society, and the Bibliothèque de la Campagnie de Jésus (an 11 volume catalog). Catalogs are available for books by author, title, subject, chronology, place of imprint, and former owner. An OPAC (Endeavor) is be available in-house only. It will be available online in 1998.

Periodicals and newspapers:
The collection holds 12 subscriptions, with holdings from the 20th century. Holdings include: Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Française, Bunyan Studies, Church History, Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Luther Jahrbuch, and Recusant History.

These holdings are covered by the catalog.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondence, and oral histories:
This collection is primarily from the 16th and 17th centuries. Subject emphasis is both British and continental. The collection is particularly strong in commonplace books, devotional literature, and meditations. Highlights include the commonplace book of Lady Anne Southwell (1573-1636), four calligraphic books of Esther Inglis (1571-1624) with French devotional literature, and some manuscripts of John Donne. There is also an original manuscript of King James I's Dæmonologie, c.1592.

A manuscript catalog is available.

Heather Wolfe is the Curator of Manuscripts.

The microfilm sets for Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640 (STC) and the second edition of this work (1641-1700; commonly referred to as "WING"), include much religious material. In addition the Folger has Church Court Records of Ely (1374-1640) with printed guide; Lambeth Palace Library, unpublished records of the established Church of England (1540-1720), and Henry VIII divorce papers; Bodleian Library, Tanner Collection of church, state, and politics in 16th and 17th century England. Some sets have pamphlet finding aids; others have indexes on the reels. There is a book index for WING.
The collection holds an undetermined number of religion-related maps, most of which are in early books such as geographies and Bibles, both English and continental. The collection spans the 15th through the 17th centuries.
Videos and Sound Recordings:
The collection includes "Mystery of Elche", a mystery play of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Spain (VHS, 1978) and "Visitatio Sepulchri" Fleury Musical Drama, filmed in period costume on the location of the play's presumed origin (16mm).
Vertical files:
The Folger Library contains a number of modern pamphlets on almost every subject it collects. There are also early English and continental religious pamphlets (16th-18th centuries). The modern pamphlets may be found in the computer catalog, the older pamphlets in the card catalog, or sometimes both catalogs.

Subject Headings

Bible; Calvin, John, 1509-1564; Catholic Church; Church of England; Church of Scotland; Counter Reformation; Jansenism; Jesuits, Judaism; Luther, Martin, 1483-1546; Prayer; Reformation; Sacred music; Sermons; Witchcraft


Catalog of Manuscripts of the Folger Shakespeare Library. 3 v. Washington, DC/Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1971.

Folger Shakespeare Library. Catalog of Manuscripts of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1988. (First Supplement)

Folger Shakespeare Library. Catalog of Printed Books of the Folger Shakespeare Library. 28 v. Washington, DC: G.K. Hall, 1970.

Folger Shakespeare Library. Folger Shakespeare Memorial Library. Amherst, MA: Published for the Trustees of Amherst College, 1942.

McWilliams, Elizabeth Lingrell. " Music Manuscripts to 1800 at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC: A Description and Thematic Catalogue." Master's thesis, University of Maryland, 1974.

Merion, Carolyn. Guide to the Existing Microfilms of English Manuscripts at the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library and Recommendations for Future Microfilming: a List of the Copies of English Manuscripts Which Have Already Been Made and of Others Which May Be Made, with Particulars about the Original Sources of English History in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Washington, DC: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1982.

Reformation: Katalog der Sammlung Emanuel Stickelberger fur die Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC = Reformation: Catalogue of the Emanuel Stickelberger Collection Purchased for the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC. Basel, Schweiz: Haus der Bucher, 1977.

Southwell, Lady Anne. Southwell-Sibthorpe Commonplace Book: Foger MS V.b. 198. Birmingham, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1997

Tuvill, Daniel. Essays Politic and Moral, and Essays Moral and Theological. Charlottesville, VA: Published for the Folger Shakespeare Library by the University Press of Virginia, 1971.

Wright, Louis B. The Folger Library: Two Decades of Growth: An Informal Account. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia for the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1968.

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  June 22, 2017
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