All of the world's major religions are extensively documented in the collections of the Library of Congress. Not surprisingly, the religious groups who settled British North America and who survived and prospered in the independent United States are especially well represented in the Library's holdings, as the present exhibit attests.
The Library's General Collections, which contain immense numbers of monographs, journals, and other printed material on religion in early America, are the obvious starting point for any study or exhibit on the subject. Containing, as they do, printed secondary sources, the General Collections furnished far fewer items for this exhibit than did the Library's Special Collections, which hold rich veins of original material, in their respective formats, on religion in general and on religion in early America in particular.
The Rare Book and Special Collections Division is a major repository for the study of early American religious history. It holds the Library's remarkable Bible Collection, containing some 1,470 bibles, dating from the dawn of printing. The division also holds the records of the Virginia Company of London, which document the fortunes of the Church of England in the early decades of the Old Dominion. Thousands of printed sermons, dating from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century, are contained in the following collections: Miscellaneous Pamphlets, Theological Pamphlets, Peter Force, Ebenezer Hazard, Toner, and American Imprints. An important, though infrequently used, resource for the study of American religion is the extensive Broadside Collection (30,500 items), mostly single sheet publications, containing extensive information about denominational activities and official actions affecting religion in early America. A related collection, the Continental Congress Broadsides, document the Continental-Confederation Congress's extensive actions in the religious sphere. Special collections in the Rare Book Division by no means exhaust the division's resources for the study of religion. Indeed, a substantial portion of the division's holdings through the end of the eighteenth century relate to religion, as the most cursory investigation of its card catalog and databases will reveal.
The Manuscript Division is also a major source for the study of early American religion, although its collections tend to focus more on the public aspect of religion, i.e., church-state relations--than