Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: Catena Aurea by Baronius Press

The Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas, and published by Baronius Press, is a true treasure.  A catena, which derives from the Latin word meaning "a chain," is a continuous collection of commentary on the Bible from the early church Fathers organized into one continuous "chain."  Aquinas' Catena includes the work of over eighty Church Fathers.  This masterful work was commissioned by Pope Urban IV and the English translation found in these four volumes was done under the instigation of Blessed John Henry Newman.  So, then, what you have is a set of books that truly spans from the Apostolic era to the modern world.

A little about the Catena, from Baronius:
The Catena is so contrived that it reads as a running commentary, the several extracts being dovetailed together by the compiler. And it consists wholly of extracts, the compiler introducing nothing of his own but the few connecting particles which link one extract to the next. There are also a few quotations headed ‘Glossa,’ which none of the editors have been able to find in any author, and which from their character, being briefly introductory of a new chapter or a new subject, may be probably assigned to the compiler; though even this is dispensed with whenever it is possible: when a Father will furnish the words for such transition or connection, they are dexterously introduced. In the Gospel of S. Matthew there are only a few other passages which seem to belong to S. Thomas. These are mostly short explanations or notes upon something that seemed to need explanation in some passage quoted, and which in a modern book would have been thrown into the form of a foot note. An instance of this may be seen in p. 405. The only important passages of this kind are some Glosses on chap. xxvi. 26. which will be noticed in their place.

However, instead of analyzing the Catena itself, I would like to point out some of the fantastic features of the book itself.  First off, The text of this edition has been digitally reset to faithfully reproduce that of the 1841 edition of Catena Aurea as published by John Henry Parker, Oxford; and J. G. F. and J. Rivington, London 1841.  As with everything Baronius does, the results are top of the line.  Each page is clear to read and the print is dark.  There are also generous margins if you wish to add your own annotations.  (You can see a clearer page sample here.)  If you own Baronius' edition of Divine Intimacy, a similar clear and crisp page presentation is found in the Catena

These bound volumes are a pleasure to hold and read from.  The easily lay open flat on a table, not matter which page one is on.  Each hardback volume, which measures out at 6"x 8.25", is bound in leather, including fine marbled endpapers.  As many of you know, I had my Knox edition rebound last year.  It took me a few months to finally pull the trigger on it since I really liked the leather hardback.  However, one of the things I liked most were the marble endpapers in the Knox.  Even to this day, I sneak a peak at my goatskin Knox almost wishing to see those lovely endpapers.  Oh well!  I won't be having this set rebound!

Each volume has a sturdy sewn binding and the pages are gold gilded.  Again, and like almost everything Baronius does, when you read from these volumes, you know that you are reading from a book that has been lovingly produced.  Baronius does not do things on the cheap.  Yes, you will have to pay a bit more for their products, but they are absolutely worth the price.  We need more Catholic publishers who are committed to producing high-quality Bibles, missals, and other books.  Finally, a nice addition to each volume is the inclusion of two ribbons.  

The Catena is, of course, available in various digital sources, including some of the Bible software products that are out there.  However, if you like to have a beautifully made hardbound edition, Baronius Press has the set for you.  The set is available on the Baronius website for $149.00.  Get it!

Thank you to Baronius Press for providing me this review copy


Anonymous said...

Yes I have this set. I noticed it online, but my father bought it and paid for it, for me (and himself). Dear father.

The leather bound volumes are beautifully produced as you say.

I believe the computer screen has essentially replaced the printed word, however certain beautifully made books of the highest intrinsic value will be treasured for as long as they can physically exist. At $100-$150 it is a bargain.

Theophrastus said...

I am surprised that you do not mention the many typographical errors in this particular Baronius edition! In the end, the typos were just too much for me and I gave my Baronius edition away, and elected for the PCP edition reprinted from 1842 instead. I found the PCP edition to be perfectly legible.

Timothy said...

I haven't seen many yet. Although I will go back and look. Of course, this seems to be one of the unfortunate issues with Baronius products. It's almost like an Apple product, best wait until the next update/upgrade comes out.

Jack said...

Be nice if someone translated this into more accessible English. The language changes, especially over the course of almost 200 years.

James Ignatius McAuley said...

Theophrastus, and Tim, it is true that Baronius first editions are full of typos - that's how come Tim has the 2011 edition of the Baronius Breviary from me - I went out and bought the corrected 2013. Edition. In regards to the Cateanea, this printing is not the first one and is the corrected one. Anyways, Tim you now have more God stuff for your students!