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Religious Studies Collection

Bibliographer: David Azzolina
Telephone: 215.898.5322

I. Program Information

The University offers the B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in Religious Studies. The program emphasizes historical and textual studies of Judaism, Christianity (primarily Western Christianity), Islam and Asian religions, with work on the philosophy of religion and religion in America forming important parts of the program. The areas of religion in literature and the sociology of religion are also taught within and outside the department.

The major department served by the collection is the Religious Studies Department, which also coordinates the Religious Studies Graduate Group. Faculty in Ancient and Middle East Studies, History, the various literature departments, Sociology, as well art and music historians and anthropologists all study and teach materials dealing with religion. While the department is relatively small, the number of researchers making use of religious studies materials is not and crosses many departments.

II. Collection Description

The size of the religious studies collections is hard to determine since they are located in many places and shelved according to several classification schemes. The Van Pelt collection is strongest for the historical and textual study of religion, with particular strengths in Antiquity, the Latin Middle Ages, Judaism and South Asia. Works on the religious traditions of non-western cultures are located in both the Museum and Van Pelt Libraries. Much material in Special Collections touches upon religion since a large proportion of early printed books are concerned with that topic. In particular, there are the Ross, Block and Evans Bible Collections. The Lea Library with its emphases on the Inquisition, witchcraft and canon law is one of the jewels of Special Collections. The materials held by the Center for Judaic Studies form an important research collection for Judaism, particularly for the ancient and medieval periods. The Yarnall Library, on deposit in Van Pelt, provides an important collection of materials on the Anglican Communion and is strong in the sources for the study of early and medieval Christianity. There are major resources for religious studies in microform collections such as Early English books, Flugschriften des fruhen 16. Jahrhunderts, and the Witchcraft Collection. There are also some codex manuscripts, such as a Wycliffe New Testament, a 15th century manuscript containing works by Gerson and Cairo Genizeh fragments. The library holds a number of electronic resources for the study of religion: CD-ROMs such as the Cetedoc library of Christian Latin Texts, the WWW version of the Patrologia Latina, and a subscription to the ATLAS Serials Project of electronic journals.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    There are no chronological limits to the collection, which ranges from prehistoric and traditional religions to modern unbelief.

  2. Formats

    Materials are collected in most formats, although textbooks and unpublished dissertations are acquired only upon specific request. We especially welcome requests for video recordings. The Library organizes and maintains collections of subject-based Internet links useful to students and scholars. Sites devoted to the study of religion are included in the Religious Studies page.

  3. Geographical

    The are no geographic restrictions.

  4. Language

    There are no restrictions on languages; however, materials in non-Roman scripts are selected by the appropriate units and/or bibliographers.

  5. Publication Dates

    Emphasis in selection is placed on current materials, with retrospective purchasing done for lost or missing items and items specifically requested.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

Material is chiefly acquired through approval and slip plans with major American and European vendors. Foreign materials are also acquired through standing orders for major academic series and especially for critical editions.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
General Topics
Comparative Religion 4W/4W
Philosophy of Religion 3F/3F
Psychology of Religion 2E/2E
Religion in literature 3F/3F/4F
Sociology of Religion 3E/3E/3F
Religions by Place or Time
African Religions 4W/4W
American Religions 3F/3F/4W
Greco-Roman Religion and Mythology 4W/4W
Pacific Island Religions 3F/3F
Prehistoric Religions 3F/3F
Specific Religious Traditions
Buddhism 3F/3F/4W
Christianity 4F/3F/4W
Canon law-History 4W/3F/4W
Catholic Church-Inquisition 4W/4W
History 4W/4W
Individual Church Groups 3F/3F
Individual Church Groups-America 2E/2E/4F
Medieval Heresies 4W/4W
New Testament 3F/3E/3F
Theology 4W/2E
Confucianism/Taoism 3F/3F/4W
Hinduism and South Asian Religions See the Policy for South Asian Studies
Judaism/Hebrew Bible See the Policy Statements for Judaica Collections and the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies
Islam See the Policy for Middle Eastern Studies

VI. Subjects Excluded

Major subjects excluded are those relating to "practical" religion. This means that most popular religious literature is not purchased, although studies of such may be included. In addition, liturgics (see Yarnall and CJS), sermons and homiletics, pastoral psychology, and non-historical works relating to individual denominations are also excluded.

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

Significant collections relating to individual denominations can be found at St. Charles Seminary (Roman Catholic), Lutheran Theological Seminary, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Westminster Theological Seminary, the Presbyterian Historical Society, Haverford College (Society of Friends), as well as at Temple University, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.