Divinity Library


From its founding in 1701 the study of religion has played a central role in the intellectual life of Yale University.  As a consequence of its commitment to theological research and education, the Yale University Library has accumulated one of the strongest collections of religious studies materials anywhere in the world.  The Divinity Library has primary responsibility for Yale’s research collections in specified areas of Christian history, thought, and practice.  The strengths of the collection are in missions, theology, Bible, and the history of Christianity.

A core collection of 250,000 volumes provides a gateway into the literature of theology, and provides on-site access to the most important and heavily used titles.  This core collection consists of:

  • A comprehensive reference collection for religion in general and Christianity in particular.
  • The primary texts of theology, including works in the original languages and in translation.
  • Bibliographically significant secondary literature, i.e., those that have significant bibliographies and those that are regularly cited.
  • Other secondary literature
  • Ephemeral works for current reference or course reserves. These materials are reviewed for retention, for transfer to off-campus storage, or for withdrawal.

Those works not included in the “core” collection are transferred to the Library Shelving Facility. 

The Divinity Library collections include printed books and periodicals and microforms.  Online periodical subscriptions are preferred, but due to subject matter, many serials titles are available in print only.  Subscriptions are maintained for electronic resources of the major indexing and abstracting resources for religion literature.  Specialized online databases and digital collections of primary source materials are purchased.  

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

The Divinity Library’s primary constituency includes the Divinity School, the Institute of Sacred Music, and the Department of Religious Studies. Primary patrons include professional and graduate students, faculty, staff, and undergraduate students working on senior theses. Other supported departments and programs include:

  • Department of History
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department of Classics
  • Yale Law School
  • Program of American Studies
  • Program of Medieval Studies
  • Renaissance Studies Program
  • Yale Initiative for the Study of Antiquity and the Pre-modern World

The Divinity Library collects materials that support:

  • the instructional program of the Divinity School on the professional level (M.A.R., M.Div., S.T.M.)
  • graduate (Ph.D.) instruction in specified areas of Bible and Christian history, thought, and practice, particularly to students in the Department of Religious Studies
  • the research of the Divinity School faculty and other faculties of the University whose interests lie in these and related areas of study, including Religious Studies, History, Classics, Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, English and other Western Literatures
  • the study of Christian history, thought, and practice as it is pursued elsewhere at the University
  • research projects that contribute to society and to the church at large; in particular, by building on its strengths, such as the research collections related to Christian missions. 


Subject Areas Supported

  • Biblical literature and criticism
  • Christian theology, including basic sources and primary commentary of classical Christian doctrinal traditions and development of contextual Christian theologies
  • Philosophy of religion (Christian), Christian ethics
  • Missions, foreign and home, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox
  • World Christianity, including ecumenical movements, interreligious dialogue, enculturation
  • History of Christianity
    • Early Church history, including Judaism to 70 AD, Christianity in the first two centuries AD (requisite for New Testament study)
    • Patristics (especially history of doctrines and theology)
    • Reformation history
    • Modern church history, 19th century-present
    • American church history (Baptist, Congregational, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Brethren)
    • Under represented thought and experience in American Christianity, including Indigenous, Afro-American and Black, Asian American, and Latinx Christianities
    • European Church History (mostly secondary scholarly monographs; Sterling Memorial Library collects primary sources)
    • Practical theology, including homiletics, hymnology (the Music Library collects hymns with music)
  • Religion in higher education, including student Christian movements
  • Religious education

Subjects not collected:

Non-Christian religions, except material comparing Christianity to other religions and religions growing out of the missionary enterprise.

Unitarianism, Quakers, Shakers, non-Christian sects such as Church of Latter-Day Saints or Christian Science (historically collected by Sterling Memorial Library).

Formats collected

The Divinity Library collects in all formats, including archival and manuscript materials, realia, microforms, and publications intended for a popular audience, in addition to scholarly monographs, serials, and report literature. The Divinity Library subscribes to specialized online databases in religion, Bible, and theology. The library no longer actively collects media in VHS, CD, or DVD formats.  

Languages collected

The Divinity Library’s collections are in all languages. The missions collection, in particular, has a global reach, including documentation of world Christianity in indigenous languages. The research collections are in all the languages of scholarship, but primarily Western European languages. The collections supporting the practice of ministry have considerably fewer non-English materials.  

Chronological and geographical focus

The scope of the Divinity Library’s collections is global. See “Collaborations within Yale” (below) for geographic collecting details. 

Collaborations within Yale

Many departments within Yale University Library complement the Divinity Library’s collections. 

Established Yale University Library departmental relationships for book purchases and vendor relations:

  • Sterling Memorial Library Humanities Collections:
    Humanities selectors are responsible for religions other than Christianity and also some materials supporting the study of Christianity.  Sterling collects many monographic series produced by learned societies, and works relating generally to the ancient world, medieval studies, and world history.
    • Core collections for Biblical archaeology, Biblical languages and linguistics, and Jewish studies
    • Non-Christian religions
    • A wide array of bibliographic and full-text databases and electronic text collections that supplement the Divinity Library online resources. 
  • International Collections:  documentation of the context for understanding world Christianity in East Asia, South Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Slavic countries, and the Near East. 
  • Haas Family Arts Library: Christian art and architecture
  • Music Library: Church music (other than hymnals with lyrics)
  • Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library:  ancient, medieval, and early modern rare books supporting the study of Christianity (the Divinity Library has a collection of ca. 15,000 volumes printed before 1800 that support teaching at the Divinity School)
  • Law Library:  e.g., Canon law
  • Medical Library: bioethics and medical missions
  • Center for Science and Social Science Information: anthropology, sociology, business ethics, government documents, data sets

Subject Librarian

Suzanne Estelle-Holmer
Associate Director for Research, Collections and Access
Divinity Library
(203) 432-6374