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The Louis F. Benson Manuscript Collection

Identifier: SCM 025

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.


  • 1888-1930

Language of Materials



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.

Preferred Citation

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


1855 July 22
Born, Philadelphia
Graduated, University of Pennsylvania
Practiced law
Student, Princeton Theological Seminary
1888 May 10
Ordained, Presbytery of North Philadelphia
Pastor, Church of the Redeemer, Germantown, Pennsylvania
Awarded Doctor of Divinity, University of Pennsylvania
Editor, Journal of the Presbyterian Historical Society
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.


14.2 Linear Feet (8 cartons, 2 boxes)


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.).

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.

The Louis F. Benson Manuscript Collection
Raymond D. Cannata
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Repository Details

Part of the Princeton Theological Seminary. Library. Special Collections Repository

Princeton Theological Seminary
Wright Library
25 Library Place
Princeton NJ 08540 USA