Drew University's hymnology collection, numbering over 6000 volumes, is notable for its range and depth. Included are 3000 Methodist hymnals and related works, and over 2600 non-Methodist volumes. These do not circulate, although approximately 400 duplicate copies and more recent publications have been placed in the circulating collection. More than 25 countries and 20 languages are represented.
The cornerstone of the current collection is an important group of 700 Methodist and other denominational hymnbooks acquired by Drew in 1868 from David Creamer (1812-1887), a Baltimore businessman, prominent Methodist layman, and author of the first American commentary on Wesleyan hymns, Methodist Hymnology (1848). Creamer's collection is the largest and earliest collection of hymnody in the United States that is still intact, and as such constitutes a rich resource for students of early denominational music and publishing, early Methodism, and book collecting. 350 volumes were printed before 1800, the earliest in 1603. Methodist items include all of the Wesleys' works save one (later obtained in facsimile). Many of the books contain Creamer's extensive annotations regarding variant editions and dates, the music sources and publishing histories of earlier editions, reviews in contemporary journals, and the identification of unsigned texts appearing in the book.
During the last century, Drew's hymnology collection has grown from 700 to over 6000 volumes, spanning nearly 400 years. (A recent gift is the collection of 500 hymnals from the estate of Lois Seyfrit.) More than 25 Methodist churches are represented, as well as numerous other denominations and interest groups. Languages include Tamil, Bengali, Burmese, Chinese, Korean, Tswana, Sheetswa, Zulu, and Chippewa, to name just a few, in addition to all the European languages.
Methodist hymnals (including those from the Creamer collection) include British and American hymnals, both "official" and other, and those of the United Brethren and related groups, as well as Pentecostal, revival, and camp meeting hymnbooks. These, as well as Drew's non-Methodist hymnbooks (including 500 also from the Creamer collection) are housed in the Methodist Center. All of the hymnals are cataloged and accessible through the library's online catalog.