Some Anselmian & Early Medieval Resources You May Not Know About But Probably Should

Tony Sig

I recently had the (these days) rare opportunity to purchase some new books and I decided against filling in more of my contemporary theological library and opted for some of the Patristic Fathers.  Among them I decided to procure works by St. Anselm of Canterbury.

In my experience most people on the English scene these days instantly think of the Oxford edition of his “Major Works.” Indeed I was going to get this collection.  One of the obvious problems for some who lean academically is that while this book has most of his primary works, there are several, especially of a “less theological” kind, that are omitted.  On top of that, the book is sort of a piece of junk; the paper is thin and easily warped, the cover is less-than-substantial, and the introduction is brief.

Luckily I stumbled across this book, The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Anselm of Canterbury, by Jasper Hopkins and Herbert Richardson, out on a small Twin Cities publishing company, Banning Press.

The book as a physical product is vastly superior.  The cover is a regal hard-cloth purple, the pages are thick and the font basic and strong.  If this weren’t enough, as Hopkins himself wrote it, the “Introduction” to the volume is the entry on Anselm contained within the meticulous Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (one should strongly consider getting this “Shorter” Routledge Encyclopedia).

Besides this, the volume contains the complete intellectual works of St. Anselm, including four didactic letters and his Meditation on Human Redemption; all the translations are based on the standard critical texts, the Sancti Anselmi Opera Omnia.  The book also points you in the direction of English editions of Anselm’s letters not found within.

All in all, at a mere $11, this is the obviously superior edition of these wonderful works.

As icing on the cake, having looked into Dr. Hopkins, it turns out that he teaches here at the University of Minnesota where I am currently engaged in study.  I was going to pursue at least some studies in Medieval Christian thought and how great it is to know that I may be able to steal some time with an Anselm expert!

If you follow the link to his personal site, you will find online all of these translations in downloadable format for free, including other works not in this book!  Dr. Hopkins apparently is also well studied in Nicholas of Cusa, and he has a sister book to the Anselm one, a collection of The Complete Philosophical and Theological Treatises of Nicholas of Cusa, all of which again are freely accessible on his site or in book format.  Dr. Hopkins has also written introductions and commentaries on both theologians.

Enjoy!

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4 Comments

  1. Jasper Hopkins is an interesting guy… it’s good to hear that you think well of his translation. If I’m not mistaken, Banning Press is actually a self-published outfit. Most, if not all, of the books are Hopkins’ own. Hopkins also has strong ties to Edwin Mellen Press, which is normally a huge warning signal. But there are some good people working with Edwin Mellen just as there’s plenty of crappy stuff there, too. Hopkins is one of those good people, and he’s been one of those rare scholars who works outside of the publishing mainstream yet nonetheless retains a strong reputation as a scholar. If you get more of his work, I would be careful to check into it ahead of time. I know it sounds horribly cynical to say that, but some of this stuff (Mellen titles, etc.) can be quite expensive yet rather worthless, and it would be worth reading some book reviews before diving into them.

    As I said, though, Hopkins is a unique guy, and it’s clear when you look at his work that he’s a quality scholar. He’s eccentric by certain cultural standards of academia, but I’ve only ever heard good things about him. Plus he’s a Wheaton grad, which is certainly a point in his favor!

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  2. …Herbert Richardson, by the way, is the founder of Edwin Mellen Press. It would certainly be worth looking up his biography. Lingua Franca published an article about the press a while back, and Edwin Mellen has published many (quite opinionated) versions of the story, most of them by Kenneth Westhues (notice also Westhues’ book on Benedict XVI!). Worth checking out… we’ve ILL’d a few of them here at the library just to flip through them; hilarious/fascinating stuff. If I can find the Lingua Franca article, I’ll email it to you. Here are some details of Richardson’s dismissal from the University of Toronto.

    Again, I don’t say any of this to dismiss Hopkins; I’ve heard good things about his work. But getting to know the context of his work would be valuable, so that you can avoid unnecessary pitfalls.

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  3. Thanks Evan for the info, I was hoping that you would fill in some of the gaps.

    I was a bit hesitant about a translation one of which anyway was subheaded “an interpretive translation” in a previous edition, but A) All translations are and B) I’m almost to the point where I can start slogging through Medieval Latin and so I mostly want a translation to read through on my own time to get the broad arguments and eventually I’ll fill that picture in with original language study.

    As you guessed I didn’t know about all that with Richardson, but I read several of Hopkins’ essays and while he certainly seems like a hardcore anglo-analyticist, I got the feeling that he takes care to think critically. He seems to take the line that Anselm thought about Reason like a late scholastic, which seems odd, but that also helps explain his interest in Cusa.

    Whatever the case, $11 for this book seems still to put it ahead of the Oxford ed. Plus the Cusa collection is rigorous enough that it is used in the recent Milbank/Zizek book on the Monstrosity of Christ so I assume that his translations can be counted on enough.

    If you know anything else do tell.

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  4. …I don’t know of any reason not to go with Hopkins, I just thought I’d mention some details about him. I own the Hackett translation by Thomas Williams- I’ve forgotten why I went with that over the others. There’s also an older Open Court translation by S.N. Deane, and the introduction is written by no less than Charles Hartshorne.

    Adam Kotsko might actually be a good one to ask about all of this, as he’s done a good bit of work with Anselm. And he treasures his Oxford version!

    Reply

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