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Religion Collections in Libraries and Archives: Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

Folger Shakespeare Library

Introductory Information

Folger Shakespeare Library External

Address: 201 E. Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-1094

Telephone number: Add later

Contact information External

Online catalog External

Digital Collections link External

Access Policies

Hours of service External

Open to the public External : Yes, with registration

Interlibrary loan: No

Reference policy External

Background note External :
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.


Books and monographs
The entire collection External equals approximately 277,000 volumes, 173,000 of these in the rare book collection. There are 35,000 rare books published on the continent; 496 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 65,000 volumes from 1475 to 1700, the largest collection of early English imprints outside of Britain, and over 20,000 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 External 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. Visit the Folger online library catalog for more information External.

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.

Archives, manuscripts, correspondences, and/or 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.

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 its continuation (commonly referred to as “Wing”, which covers 1641-1700), includes 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.

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

The Reformation collection contains many books and pamphlets that include woodcuts designed and printed by Lucas Cranach. Many blind-tooled pigskin bindings throughout the entire Folger collection showcase Reformer portraits.

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.

Databases and/or electronic resources
Resources freely available online and by institutional subscription access can be found on Folgerpedia External

Digital collections External

Other holdings not listed above

The Collation research blog

Subject Headings

Bible, Calvin, John, 1509-1564; Catholic Church; Church of England; Church of Scotland; Counter Reformation; Islam; Jansenism; Jesuits, Judaism; Cranach, Lucas, 1472-1553; Erasmus, Desiderius, -1536; Henry VIII, King of England, 1491-1547; Luther, Martin, 1483-1546; Melanchthon, Philipp, 1497-1560; Oecolampadius, Joannes, 1482-1531; Phillipps, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1872, former owner; Prayer; Reformation; Sacred music; Sermons; Stickelberger, Emanuel, 1884-1962, former owner; Zwingli, Ulrich, 1484-1531; Witichcraft