Pitts Theology Library’s current exhibition and its upcoming 32nd annual Reformation Day at Emory explore how readers have interacted with books across time through the markings they leave in them, and how those marks tell stories that go beyond the printed text.

“From annotations to book plates to cartoon drawings, readers throughout the centuries have left their marks on our books, and these indications of those who have held them before us become part of the story,” says Richard Manly Adams Jr., director of Pitts Theology Library and Margaret A. Pitts Assistant Professor in the Practice of Theological Bibliography. “Often the stories of who read them, how they read them, and why, are just as important, if not more so, than the words originally sent to the printer.” 

In the Exhibit Gallery

The exhibition, “A Book More Precious Than Gold: Reading the Printed Book Alongside Its Previous Owners and Readers,” presents rare books and the marks left by past readers, which add new layers of meaning to the original texts and spark an ongoing conversation with the next generation of readers.  It was curated by Armin Siedlecki, head of cataloguing at Pitts, and Ulrich Bubenheimer, professor emeritus at the Heidelberg University of Education and Pitts’ inaugural Kessler Collection Research Fellow, with Pitts Theology Library curatorial fellow Eric Moore.

The exhibition runs through November 30 and is open during regular library hours. Guided tours will be held on October 18 and November 8 at 1:00 p.m. Learn more about the exhibition and sign up for a guided tour. A virtual tour of the exhibition is also available online.

Reformation Day

The 32nd annual Reformation Day at Emory, to be held on October 29, draws on the same theme. “The Story of Our Books: Producing, Collecting, and Owning Books of the 16th Century,” features a slate of presenters including the Rev. Kevin Strickland, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Southeastern Synod; Nick Wilding, professor of history at Georgia State University; Caroline Duroselle-Melish, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Early Modern Books and Prints and associate librarian for collection care and development at the Folger Shakespeare Library; and Ulrich Bubenheimer. The event also includes a luncheon musical program featuring the Candler Singers. Learn more and register here.

About the Kessler Reformation Collection

In 1987, Richard and Martha Kessler donated their private collection of Reformation imprints and manuscripts to Emory University, which was then combined with Reformation holdings at Pitts. This launched an effort to enlarge and sustain a collection that documents the German Reformation, including 16th century publications by Martin Luther, his friends and associates, and his opponents.

After three decades, the Kessler Reformation Collection holds 3,900 works—a statistic approached by only two other libraries in North America. It also contains over 1,000 publications by Luther himself, more than any other library in the United States.