The collection

Library Holdings

We have over 4,000 books in our library on various topics such as Brethren History, Anabaptism, Geographical History, and many more. We are not able to lend these books out, but you are welcome to browse our stacks and use them while you are in our facility.


Official Repository

The Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) is the official repository for the records of Annual Conference and the various agencies, boards, commissions, and committees created by Annual Conference.  The collection includes Annual Conference records dating back as far as 1856 (an account book) and records for such early denominational organizations as the General Church Erection and Missionary Committee (1884-1893) and the General Missionary and Tract Committee (1893-1908).  The records of the General Mission Board (1908-1947), the General Brotherhood Board (1947-1968), and the General Board (1968-2008) are extensive.


The BHLA manuscript collection includes the papers of national, regional, and local Brethren leaders.  Of particular note are the following:  the diary of Alexander Mack, Jr., the diary of Peter Nead, the James Quinter family papers, the D.L. Miller papers, the J.H. Moore papers, the Wilbur and Mary Emmert Stover papers, and the Dan West papers.

old books on a table
Brethren Historical Library and Archives research room


There are over 10,000 books in the collection. More than 200 of these are pre-1850 Pennsylvania German imprints primarily from the Sauer and Liebert presses of Germantown and the Ephrata Cloisters Press.  Included in the Pennsylvania German imprints are six Sauer Bibles and a copy of the 1748-49 Martyrs Mirror (Ephrata Press), the largest book printed in the American colonies.  Also in the collection are over 600 genealogies.  The oldest book in the collection is a 1539 German New Testament.

Periodicals, Newsletters, and Pamphlets

BHLA has an extensive collection of Brethren periodicals, newsletters, and pamphlets.  There are over 1,750 bound volumes of periodicals, over 1,600 pamphlets, and nearly 300 tracts.  BHLA has over 100 different Brethren periodical titles and over 170 newsletters produced by various Brethren groups.  In addition to the Brethren newsletters, BHLA has a collection of newsletters produced by Civilian Public Service camps across the United States during the 1940s.

District and Congregational Records

In addition to maintaining archival records for some districts and congregations, BHLA has a major collection of district and congregational directories and newsletters.  Without doubt, BHLA has the most comprehensive collection of district conference minutes in existence.  The records of the Germantown congregation are at BHLA.  Among these records are several deeds for the property dating from the eighteenth century, including one signed by Alexander Mack, Jr., and Christopher Sauer, Jr.

Nonprint Media

Included in this collection are over 170 DVDs, over 325 video cassette tapes, 1,915 reel-to-reel tapes, 815 audio cassette tapes, 95 16mm films, 136 slide sets, over 5,000 individual slides, over 50 filmstrips, and over 100 phonograph records.  Particularly noteworthy is the collection of Annual Conference business sessions on audio tape/video cassette/ DVD beginning with 1949 and continuing to the present.

Dozens of videos appear on the Church of the Brethren historical video YouTube channel.


The BHLA collection includes over 35,000 photographs and negatives.  The collection is sub-divided into personalities, churches, foreign mission work, Civilian Public Service, and subjects.  Two recently acquired collections are the J. Henry Dasenbrock collection of CPS photographs and the Ernest G. Hoff collection of over 8,000 negatives.


BHLA maintains a small collection of artifacts.  Without doubt, the most significant artifact in the collection is the Henry Kurtz organ.  Built in 1698, the organ was owned by Henry Kurtz, publisher of the first Brethren periodical, in the nineteenth century.  Other artifacts in the collection include Annual Conference souvenirs (dating as early as 1897), gifts given to the Church of the Brethren (including a Russian icon), items collected by Brethren missionaries, and recent souvenirs marketed by Brethren Press.

The Kurtz organ. Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Learn more about the Kurtz organ.

Bethany Theological Seminary Archives

The entire Bethany archives was placed on deposit at BHLA when Bethany moved from its Oak Brook, IL, campus to a new campus in Richmond, IN, in 1994.  Included in the collection are written records and photographic records dating from the first years of the seminary.  The papers of former Bethany presidents are part of the collection.

Bethany does still maintain some Special Collections. Some items from these collections can be found online. For an explanation of Bethany Special Collections Online go to: To move directly to the online collections, go to: