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Monday, 21 December 2009

Catena Aurea from Baronius Press

Baronius Press have published a newly typeset edition in four volumes of St Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea, as translated into English by the Venerable John Henry Newman. I was very excited to receive a copy of this recently.

"Catena Aurea" means "golden chain" and the work consists of a running commentary on the four gospels, taken from the Fathers of the Church. It thus provides a sure guide to the spiritual sense of the gospels and the apostolic tradition in relation to their interpretation.

The intrinsic quality of the work is remarkable: the theological genius of St Thomas Aquinas is applied to the selection of quotations from the Fathers, and summaries of their teaching. He was commissioned to compile the commentary by Pope Urban IV. There could scarcely be a better translator than Newman, a highly competent classicist in his own right, and a master of the use of the English language.

In his preface to the 1841 edition, Newman wrote:
[...] it is impossible to read the Catena of S. Thomas, without being struck with the masterly and architectonic skill with which it is put together. A learning of the highest kind, — not a mere literary book-knowledge, which might have supplied the place of indexes and tables in ages destitute of those helps, and when every thing was to be read in unarranged and fragmentary MSS. — but a thorough acquaintance with the whole range of ecclesiastical antiquity, so as to be able to bring the substance of all that had been written on any point to bear upon the text which involved it—a familiarity with the style of each writer, so as to compress into few words the pith of a whole page, and a power of clear and orderly arrangement in this mass of knowledge, are qualities which make this Catena perhaps nearly perfect as a conspectus of Patristic interpretation. Other compilations exhibit research, industry, learning; but this, though a mere compilation, evinces a masterly command over the whole subject of Theology.
Although the text has been entirely reset, Baronius have take great care to ensure that the new edition is in continuity with the original edition published by John Henry Parker (Oxford) & J. G. F. and J. Rivington (London) in 1841. They have followed the page numbers of the older edition so that page references may be easily found, and have reproduced the typographical character of the original. The four volumes are leather bound, with two ribbon markers for each volume, gold blocking and marbled endpapers. This is a beautiful and high quality set. It would make a welcome gift for a priest or seminarian, and a fine addition to any home as a guide to the text of the gospels.

Available direct from Baronius Press at £89.95 ($139.95 in the USA.)
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