America's Foremost Hymnologist

Widely described as America's "foremost hymnologist," Louis FitzGerald Benson (1855-1930) was born and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His first venture in the practice of law, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, lasted seven years; but later he studied at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating in 1887. He was ordained for the ministry in 1888 and pastored a congregation in Germantown, Pennsylvania, until 1894. He later edited Presbyterian and Congregational hymnals, served as special lecturer in Liturgies at Auburn Seminary; served as Honorary Librarian at the Presbyterian Historical Society (1905-1923); and was thrice appointed to serve as the L.P. Stone Lecturer at Princeton Seminary (1906-1907, 1909-1910, 1925-1926). His personal library exceeded 9,000 volumes, and his collection of rare books was notable; many were donated to Princeton, and the Louis F. Benson Hymnology Collection is one of the gems of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Special Collections, being housed at Speer Library. "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 the foremost hymnologist that America has produced" (Source).

His writings on the history of Psalmody in the Reformed Churches and the development of English hymnody are invaluable to the student of Reformed worship and liturgies. His study of William Shakespeare's use of the metrical Psalter makes for fascinating reading to students of both literature and church history. His Studies of Familiar Hymns gives valuable background information on how many particularly memorable hymns entered Presbyterian worship. He was also a composer of hymns and poems himself. If you have not had the opportunity to read Benson on the history of song in Reformed worship, be sure to look over the works we have added to his page at Log College Press. They represent the finest scholarship of his day on this topic, and have stood the test of time.