Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2015.11.33 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2015.11.33

Editorial Note: Augustiniana Varia.  

Editor James J. O’Donnell, Arizona State University (

Augustinus-Lexikon, ed. Cornelius Petrus Mayer et al. Basel: Schwabe, 1986-.

CAG-Online: Corpus Augustinianum Gissense. ed. Cornelius Petrus Mayer. Würzberg: Zentrum für Augustinusforschung in Würzburg, 2011-

Pollmann, Karla and Willemien Otten (edd.). The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (3 vols.). Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. xxx, 1930 p. $895.00. ISBN 9780199299164.

Die handschriftliche Überlieferung der Werke des heiligen Augustinus Ed. Manfred Oberleitner et al. Wien: H. Böhlau, 1969-.

Collective academic projects that last for decades are proverbially difficult to bring to a conclusion and often languish. This note records several that make splendid progress.

The Augustinus-Lexikon, on whose editorial board I have served for many years. Founded by Prof. C.P. Mayer, O.S.A., then of the University of Giessen, the work is headquartered at the University of Würzburg. The first fascicle appeared in 1986; three full volumes of eight fascicles and four fascicles of the fourth and concluding volume have now appeared and the end is confidently in sight within this decade. Enough has now appeared that the work has become the standard point of reference for matters Augustinian, supplanting the not quite similar Augustine Through the Ages (Eerdmans 1999), ed. A. Fitzgerald (and on whose editorial board I also served). The Aug.-Lex. aspires to cover the biographical and historical context (people/places/events), the works of A., his philosophical and theological doctrines, and even detailed study of key terms in use in his works. So the article on Augustine’s letters runs to 160 double-columned pages in Aug.-Lex. while in Fitzgerald a more concise 12 suffice, meeting the needs of different readers. The articles in Aug.-Lex. are in German, English, and French, a slight handicap mainly, alas, in America. There is not yet a digital representation of the work, but I expect discussion in the next few years.

At the same time as the Lexikon was in view, Mayer and his colleagues farsightedly in the late 1970s undertook to prepare a complete digital corpus of Augustine’s works, which was first available to Aug.-Lex. collaborators by the mid-1980s. It has since been published in CD form but is now also available handsomely on the net in an unusually well-conceived form, allowing powerful searches (e.g., search text only in biblical quotations) and display of full context. The networked availability is a great plus; the online pricing is approximately $1000/year institutional and considerably lower for individuals. Progress towards more open access there is difficult to predict.

What is clear from both parts of the project is that the funding environment for such research in Germany has been positive both for the funding provided but, especially noticeable in recent years, the appropriate and firm attention from funders to the project’s progress. The discipline that has brought Aug.-Lex. nearly to the finish line in good time has been partly self-imposed, but materially as well external.

No less remarkable is the Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, ed. K. Pollmann and W. Otten. These 2000 pages took scarcely half a decade to prepare, but hit a very high standard and are appreciably more comprehensive and coherent than most collective volumes now appearing. There has been a systematic attempt in two complementing sections to catalog the survival and reception of individual works of Augustine and, on the other hand, the relationship to Augustine’s thought of important thinkers and movements from late antiquity to the present. The topic has been understudied because of the blithe assumption that “the Middle Ages” (a concept I find alarmingly retro, for all that my doctorate is in Medieval Studies) were somehow consistently Augustinian in culture. Other works have begun to appear that supplement OGHRA in exploring the precise application and implication of Augustinian influence, e.g., E.L. Saak, Creating Augustine: Interpreting Augustine and Augustinianism in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford 2012).

The last project I will note here is older, but has been equally important in the research it has spawned: Die Handschriftlichen Überlieferungen der Werken des Heiligen Augustins (Vienna 1969-). This catalog of the myriad (literally) manuscripts of Augustine, country by country and library by library, will never conclude but rather approximate an asymptote. The bulk of the work is done and it is in everyday use by scholars. Among the research it has spawned has been the result of the discovery of no fewer than three tranches of hitherto unrecognized works of Augustine that have had exciting impact on our understanding of his time. Johannes Divjak found letters in Paris and Montepelier, while François Dolbeau and Clemens Weidmann have uncovered sermons not previously read as Augustine’s in Mainz and Erfurt. There are simply so many MSS of Augustinian letters and sermons that it required a systematic effort at cataloging to recognize some hidden gold.

I once could only dream of such indispensable tools.

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