The Louis F. Benson Manuscript Collection

Collection Summary

Creator: Benson, Louis F. (Louis FitzGerald), 1855-1930
Dates: 1888-1930
Extent: 10 Boxes (10.7 linear feet)
Language(s): English
Repository: Princeton Theological Seminary Libraries. Special Collections.


1855 July 22 Born, Philadelphia
1874 Graduated, University of Pennsylvania
1874-1884 Practiced law
1884-1887 Student, Princeton Theological Seminary
1888 May 10 Ordained, Presbytery of North Philadelphia
1888-1894 Pastor, Church of the Redeemer, Germantown, Pennsylvania
1896 Awarded Doctor of Divinity, University of Pennsylvania
1903-1911 Editor, Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society
1895-1930 Resident, Germantown, Pennsylvania
1930 October 10 Died, Philadelphia

Biographical Information

Dr. Louis Fitzgerald Benson (1855-1930), Presbyterian minister, hymnologist, author, editor and historian, was born in Philadelphia, PA, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1877, and after seven years of legal practice entered Princeton Theological Seminary. He graduated from Princeton in 1887, was ordained the following year, and served as pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Redeemer in Germantown, PA, until 1894. Then he resigned to edit the hymn books of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Dr. Benson had a deep concern for every aspect of Christian worship, with a special interest in hymnology. He was pre-eminent as a scholar and writer in the field and his influence raised the standards of hymnody in the church service. His private library of more than 9,000 volumes, chronologically arranged and carefully catalogued, included rare and unique books and manuscripts and attested to his diligence and discrimination as a collector. Among the numerous accolades received by Dr. Benson is a reference to him in the 1920 edition of Grove's Dictionary, as "a foremost hymnologist." Dr. Henry Jackson van Dyke called Louis Fitzgerald Benson Athe foremost hymnologist that America has produced.

Dr. Benson served as special lecturer in Liturgies at Auburn Seminary and was three times appointed as the Stone Lecturer at Princeton Seminary. For many years he was a member of the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and a member of the Church's General Assembly Commission on Worship and Music. He became a member of the Presbyterian Historical Society in 1899 and served the Society in several capacities; on the various committees, as Editor of the Journal, and as Honorary Librarian from 1905 until 1923. Dr. Benson was awarded the degree D.D. by the University of Pennsylvania in 1896.


Scope and Content

The materials comprising this collection document a lifetime devoted to intensive research in preparation for the numerous books and articles written by Dr. Benson, as well as the lectures he presented and the hymn books he compiled and edited. The books he authored, among them The English Hymn and Studies of Familiar Hymns, are considered valuable contributions to hymnological literature. His unerring judgment and impeccable literary taste are evidenced by the materials he gathered in pursuance of the subject of his life's work. This collection includes manuscripts of hymns and verses he composed and voluminous notes generated in preparation for courses of lectures delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary under the L.P. Stone Foundation in 1907.



Benson, Louis F. (Louis FitzGerald), 1855-1930--Archives.

Princeton Theological Seminary--Alumni and alumnae--Archives.

Hymns, English--United States--Archival resources.

Presbyterian Church--Hymns.

Princeton Theological Seminary. Library. Manuscript collections.


Administrative Information

Processing Information

This collection was first organized by Jane Ramsey (date unknown). The finding aid was revised by Raymond D. Cannata, under the director of former Archivist William O. Harris. The finding was edited by Sarah Seraphin in November of 2008.


There are no special restrictions to access of this collection. It may be examined by library patrons under the normal rules and conditions of Special Collections.

Use of Materials

The following is the acceptable citation for publication: The Louis F. Benson Manuscript Collection. Special Collections, Princeton Theological Seminary Library.



Series 1: Correspondence, 1888-1930. Much of the correspondence was accumulated in the course of Dr. Benson's editorship of the various hymn books issued by the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath School Work (The Westminster Press). Included also are many invitations to him to lecture and to submit articles to journals. Letters, from near and far, inside and outside the United States, contain appeals for his advice on matters literary, generally on hymnological subjects, and attest to the high value placed on his opinion. Most of the letters in this series, as well as those scattered throughout the collection, were written by Dr. Benson's correspondents; fewer written or drafted by Dr. Benson himself.

Series 2: Hymn Books; Bibliographies; Hymns and Poems--Compiled and Edited by Benson. These consist principally of manuscripts and proof sheets, with scattered correspondence dealing with copyright matters.

Series 3: Writings by Benson: Hymns; Poems; Lecture Notes; Prayers; and Sermons. Included in this series are manuscripts of hymns and verses of Dr. Benson's own composition. The larger part of the series consists of voluminous notes and manuscripts written in preparation for sermons and lectures delivered and books written by him.

Series 4: American and British Authors: Biographical Materials; Book Reviews. The series consists entirely of clippings from books and magazines.

Series 5: Hymnists, Poets, and others: Correspondence, Permissions, Biographical Material. Clippings from books and magazines form the larger portion of this series, interspersed with correspondence. Some of the letters, verses, and scores were penned by the composers themselves and some of the hymns included are well-known and loved throughout the Christian world.

Series 6: Miscellaneous. A sample of the printed materials in this series includes: "A Sketch of the Character of the Late Francis Scott Key, Esq. In a Discourse, Delivered in Christ Church, Cincinnati on the 29th of January, 1843, by the Rev. John T. Brooke, Rector"; "Mr. Greenwood's Sermon Preached in King's Chapel, November 22, 1835, the Sunday after the Funeral of the Rev. James Freeman, D.D."; "Mr. Cornelius' Sermon on the Death of Dr. Worcester"; "Fanny Crosby Memorial Song Book" Compiled by George C. Stebbins, Hope Publishing Company, (n.d.).



Box 1
Series 1: Correspondence, 1888-1930
1 Finding Aid to Record Group 16
2 Liturgical Development 1888; 1890; 1897
3 1893
4 1894
5 1895
6 1896
7 1898
8 1894-1915
9 1916-1926
10 1927-1930
11 undated
12 The Hymnal--Revised Edition; The School Hymnal 1895 1911
13 Publication of The Hymnal, and Christian Song, 1895, 1926
14 Notes Concerning The Hymnal Revised 1911
15 Inclusion of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in the 1917 Supplement to The Hymnal 1917
16 Christian Song 1925-1928
17 Reports Concerning Production and Sales of Hymn Books, 1900-1925
18 Music Manuscripts--Morning Worship Service 1898; 1904; 1927; 1929
19 Bulletins--The Hymn Society, 1924-1930
20 Miscellaneous Items--Westminster Choir, 1925
21 Miscellaneous Items--Christian Unity Foundation, 1910 1911
22 Miscellaneous Items
Box 2
Series 2: Hymn books; bibliographies; hymns and poems compiled and edited by Benson
1 Junior Church School Hymnal--Copyrights
2 Alleluia--Correspondence and Proof Sheets; Permission Letters (Hymns 1-126), 1914-1915
3 Alleluia (Hymns 127-213), 1914-1915
4 Alleluia (Hymns 214-309), 1914-1915
5 Bibliography of Psalmody and Hymnody in America 1640 1778 (1)
6 Bibliography of Psalmody and Hymnody in America 1640 1778 (2)
7 Bibliography of Psalmody and Hymnody in America 1640 1778 (3)
8 Hymn Lists, 1929
10 Hymns and Poems by American and British Authors
11 Hymns and Poems by American and British Authors
Box 3
Series 3: Writings by Benson: hymns; poems; lecture notes; prayers; sermons
1-9 Miscellaneous Sermons
10 Sermon Material on Psalmody of English Reformation. Biographical Sketch of Joseph Brown, the Famous Scotch Sabbath-School Missionary
Box 4
1 Hymns
2 Manuscript Poems
3 Manuscript Prayers and Correspondence 1904-1911
4 Manuscript Hymns and Verses 1897
5 Miscellaneous Verses
6 Manuscript: The Psalm Book of Colonial Presbyterianism
7 Notes on Psalmody and Hymnody in Syriac, Greek and Latin
8 Articles on Hymns for Cyclopedia of Religion
9 Christian Hymnody: Its Origin & Development; The Relation of the Pastor to Church Music
10 The Latest Menace to the Integrity of our Hymns
11 Present Tendencies in Church Music
12 Manuscript: Studies of Familiar Hymns I-VIII
13 Manuscript: Studies of Familiar Hymns IX-XV
14 Hymnody of the English-Speaking Churches--Lectures on the L.P. Stone Foundation, 1909-1910
15-17 Manuscript: "John Calvin and the Psalmody of the Reformed Churches," Stone Lectures 1907
18 "John Calvin's Thoughts on Music in Church." "Psalmody in Switzerland and France"
19 Hymns in Netherlands, Germany, Bohemia, France, Switzerland, England Notes
20 Bay Psalm Book--Notes on Editions of 1640-1903
21 "Metrical Psalmody"; "What Psalmody is"; "Psalmody of Reformed Church of France";--Syllabus of Stone Lectures for 1906-1907
22 Latin Hymns
23 Watt's Psalms--American Revisions. Benson's Bibliography. Miscellaneous Notes.
24-25 Miscellaneous Notes
Box 5
Series 4: American and British authors: biographical materials; book reviews
1 A-C
2 D-F
3 G-I
4 J-L
5 M-O
6 P-R
7 S
8 T-V
9 W-Z
Series 5: Hymnists, poets, and others: correspondence, permissions, biographical material
10 Elliott, Charlotte --Author of "Just as I Am, Without One Plea" 1789-1871
11 Ely, Ezra Stiles 1786-1861
12 Heber, Reginald --Author of "From Greenland's Icy Mountains" 1783-1826
13 Keble, John --Author of "Sun of my Soul" 1792-1866
14 Mason, Lowell--Correspondence of his Publisher, Melvin Lord (includes some letters from Mason)
15 Newton, John --Author of the "Olney Hymns" 1725-1807
16 Palmer, Ray --Author of "My Faith Looks up to Thee" 1808-1887
17 Redner, Lewis --Composer of "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" 1831-1908
18 Smith, Samuel Francis --Author of "America" 1808-1895
19 Thomson, Mary Ann --Author of "Oh, Zion Haste" 1835-1923
20 Toplady, Augustus Montague --Author of "Rock of Ages" 1740-1778
21 Van Dyke, Henry Jackson --Author, Poet, Ordained Minister 1852-1933
22 Watts, Isaac --Author of "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" 1674-1748
23 Watts, Isaac--Catalogs and Correspondence In re Early Editions of his Works
Box 6
1 A-BE
3 C
4 D-F
5 G
8 I-K
9 L
10 M
11 N-O
12 P
13 R-S
14 T
15 W-Z
Box 7
Series 6: Miscellaneous
1 Scrapbook: Clippings from Newspapers and Magazines Concerning Hymns and Hymn Writers 1811-1920
2 Scrapbook: Clippings from Newspapers and Magazines Concerning Hymns and Hymn Writers 1846-1919
3 Scrapbook: Clippings from Newspapers and Magazines Concerning Hymns and Hymn Writers 1887-1899
4 Scrapbook: Clippings from Newspapers and Magazines Concerning Hymns and Hymn Writers 1891-1914
5 Clippings and Notes
6 Books of Hymns and Worship--Reviews
7-8 Printed Materials Acquired by Dr. Benson: Memoirs, Sermons, Addresses, Magazines, etc.
9 Printed Materials Acquired by Dr. Benson: Hymn Books, Song Books, Carols
Box 8
1 F-46.103 B4433h v.1-5
2 Scrapbook of articles from "The Presbyterian"
3 Miscellaneous Correspondence, including MS 8031
4 Sermon notes
5 Scrapbook (articles from Journal of Presbyterian Historical Society, press notices, correspondence, pamphlets, etc., by and about Benson); [Gift of Presbyterian Historical Society, Dec. 18, 1996 to Princeton Seminary Archives. Presbyterian Historical Society received as gift from Barbara Benson Jeffreys on or before Feb. 9, 1965]. 1889-1922
6 Scrapbook (press notices, articles, correspondence, etc. In re Studies of Familiar Hymns, ser. I-II).[Provenance same as 8:5] 1903-1925
7 Scrapbook (newspaper articles, press notices, programs and correspondence by or about L.F. Benson and his publications). [Provenance same as 8:5] 1873-1904
Box 9 (Items formerly cataloged AN7.6 P52l)
1 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. (Philadelphia Literary Society) no.1, 1869 April.
2 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.2, 1869 May.
3 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.3, 1869 June.
4 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.4, 1869 November.
6 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.6, 1870 January.
7 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.7, 1870 February.
8 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.8, 1870 March.
9 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.9, 1870 April.
10 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.10, 1870 May.
11 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.11, 1870 June.
12 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.12, 1870 November.
13 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.13, 1870 December.
14 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.14, 1871 January.
15 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.15, 1871 February.
16 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.16, 1871 March.
17 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.17, 1871 April.
18 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.18, 1871 May.
19 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.19, 1871 June.
20 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.20, 1871 November. [October]
21 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.21, 1871 November.
22 There is no number 22 of the journal
23 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.23, 1872 January.
24 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.24, 1872 February.
25 Literary Journal of the P.L.S. no.25, 1872 March.
Box 10
1 Annotated hymnal circa 1899


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