Bridwell Library

By: Stephen Earl Comer

Type: General Entry

Published: June 1, 1995

The Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas is the university's primary resource for theological and religious studies. It was established in 1950 and named for its benefactor, Joseph Sterling Bridwell. The library is primarily responsible for supporting the needs of faculty and students in the Perkins School of Theology. It is primarily funded by the J. S. Bridwell Foundation. The original Georgian building, designed by Dallas architect Mark Lemmon, was expanded in 1967. It underwent renovation in 1988 under the direction of the architectural firm of Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum and was rededicated in October 1989. The library holds one of the finest collections of theological manuscripts in the Southwest, indeed in the nation. The Special Collections contain more than 25,000 printed books dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, manuscript correspondence by John Wesley and other important figures in early Methodism, archival collections of American Methodism and private presses, and a small group of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Most of the printed works, often in first and early editions, are in the fields of theology, church history, scripture, liturgy, and philosophy. Many of these editions are distinguished by the arts of illustration and typography, and by notable provenances and historically significant bindings. Nearly 700 incunabula (books printed before 1501), often in their original bindings, are housed in the Special Collections. Among them is a thirty-one-leaf fragment of the Gutenberg Bible. The largest groups of incunabula are editions of the Bible, of theological and devotional works, and of the Greek and Roman classics. Special Collections also houses approximately 5,000 sixteenth-century imprints, including most of the textually significant Protestant editions of the English and German Bible, of Protestant and Catholic liturgical texts, of early Reformation tests, and of the classics. Bridwell's large Bible holdings are supplemented by the on-deposit rare Bible and Bibliana collection of Elizabeth Prothro of Wichita Falls. Seventeenth and eighteenth century holdings include numerous works of English church history, theology, liturgy, hymnology and religious polemic. Most of the works of John Wesley (1703–1791), the founder of Methodism, and of his colleagues and critics are present in first and early editions. Special Collections includes a Special Reference section composed of bibliographies, catalogs, monographs, and journals that support research in the subjects and genres described above, and in the history of the book. The Bridwell Library houses a Methodist Reference Collection containing important nineteenth and twentieth century editions of Methodistica, and the Journals and Minutes of the Methodist Church and its historical antecedents, American and British. The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries hosts major exhibitions drawn from the library's special collections as well as from the collections of other institutions and collections. The Gill Room, adjacent to the Prothro Galleries, is distinguished by two engraved stone carvings by book designer and sculptor Eric Gill (1882–1940). Though the work is formally named Alleluia, the artist referred to it as Hijinks in Paradise. The room is used for receptions and book signings. The Bridwell Library is available to all with a nominal deposit. It hosts three major exhibits each year and arranges group tours upon request.

The Ferguson Collection of Bridwell Library, SMU (Dallas: Bridwell Library, 1960). Lewis Howard Grimes, A History of the Perkins School of Theology (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1993). Incunabula in Bridwell Library (Dallas: Bridwell Library, 1979). James F. White, Architecture at SMU: 50 Years and Buildings (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1966).
  • Education
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Libraries
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stephen Earl Comer, “Bridwell Library,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995

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