History and goals
of the Alberti Magni e-corpus project

Albert teaching-wood engraving
Albert, teaching
15th-century print from a wood engraving

Albertus Magnus (ca. 1200-1280) is one of the most important thinkers of that one-thousand-year period we awkwardly call the Middle Ages, and one of the few accorded auctoritas status in his lifetime. His works are not only extremely varied in their subject matter — covering logic, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of nature, philosophical psychology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, geography, astronomy, meteorology, mathematics, metaphysics, systematic theology, interpretation of Scripture —, they are also exceptionally numerous and voluminous. The Albertus-Magnus-Institut, in Bonn, believes that 71 of his works are extant, and among them one finds writings of such magnitude as the commentary on Pierre Lombard’s Sentences (4,167 pages in the nineteenth-century printed edition) and the Summa theologiae (2,010 pages).

The sheer number and volume of Albert’s works can be seen as a manifestation of his importance in the history of philosophy, science, and theology in general, and of his pivotal role between centuries of carefully transmitted Western traditions and the assimilation of a huge body of Ancient Greek and Arabic knowledge that came to Western Europe prior to and in Albert’s lifetime. They also pose, however, a challenge to the contemporary scholar : going through many tens of thousands of pages of dense Latin text every time one attempts to gather and understand Albert’s complete thought on, say, the metaphysical composition of created being, the nature of moral virtue, or the classification of the species of minks, takes either a very long time, or is impossible. Another very important difficulty lies in the physical access to such numerous and voluminous works. If we except a few individual works that were edited separately, there exist three edition of Albert’s works that are in fact all incomplete and hard to find, albeit for different reasons :

1) Opera omnia, ed. P. Jammy, Lyon : C. Prost, 1651. Although including a very impressive number of Albert’s works (as well as some inauthentic ones), the edition is incomplete, in great part because the last planned volumes never saw the light of day. Few outside of Western Europe libraries retain copies of this edition.
2) Opera omnia, ed. A. and E. Borgnet, Paris : Vivès, 1890-1899. Essentially a reproduction of the text of the Lyon edition, albeit with some (more or less fortunate) changes : transcription into the Greek alphabet of Albert’s highly latinized Greek terms; use of different spelling and punctuation conventions; changes made to some of Albert’s quotations of sources like Scripture in order to make them closer to late nineteenth-century editions; etc. This text remains easier to find than its Renaissance antecedent, and, for that very reason, more of an edition of reference. Still, it is also absent from the vast majority of university libraries.
3) Opera omnia, Münster : Aschendorff Verlag, 1951-present. This is a critical edition prepared under the supervision of the Albertus-Magnus-Institut of Bonn and its successive Directors. The work was undertaken more than sixty years ago, and given the standards of modern critical edition, it will certainly demand, at its current rate of progression, many more decades. As of February 2013, 37 of Albert’s 71 works have appeared, including most of those that were not included in the Lyonnais and Parisian editions, but also excluding many of the most voluminous ones (e.g., the mammoth-size commentary on the Sentences). Given the physical and scientific quality of this edition, its cost prevents most smaller and even average-size universities from purchasing it. This means it, too, is absent from the library shelves of almost all Latin American and East European universities. This edition, being more recent than the other two, remains under copyright.

Considering the lack of easy availability of Albert’s works, the great difficulty of dealing with their number and volume, and the fact that Aschendorff Verlag had at the time still not offered for sale an electronically searchable version of the critical edition, I decided shortly after my arrival at St.Jerome’s University to ask for a grant that would allow me to remedy in part those problems. My goals were threefold. First, to prepare image files of the Borgnet edition, as well as of a few other individually-edited works which, like Borgnet, are not under copyrights. Second, to transform those scans into machine readable and electronically searchable text files. Third, to build a free, non-commercial website from which scholars could download said image files and, above all, conduct electronic searches through Albert’s works. I obtained the desired grant, but the weight and complexity of the task exceeded it. I could not, as a consequence, fully achieve the project's initial objectives. As an alternative, I made available all image files (.pdfs) of Albert’s works, but as far as readable and searchable texts are concerned the focus would be put on the works not yet edited by the Albertus-Magnus-Institut. (The rationale being that if ever Aschendorff Verlag finally began to sell electronic access to the critically-edited texts, both databases would complement each other.)

Many things have taken place since that time. A first iteration of the Alberti Magni e-corpus went online in 2008, and new works have been added to the searchable corpus at irregular intervals ever since; Mr. Albert Pinto, who made scans of the 1651 Lyon edition and sold them online for a brief period of time many years ago, generously let me post them on the website in 2009; the Internet Archive and Google Books have later posted their own electronic copies (image files) of volumes of the Jammy and Borgnet editions; in Fall 2011, Aschendorff Verlag began selling a subscription allowing digital searches in the critically-edited corpus being built by the Albertus-Magnus-Institut.

As of February 2013, the situation, as far as electronic searches are concerned, is thus:

71 extant works, excluding sermons
Aschendorff Verlag Database (37 works)
Alberti Magni e-corpus (40 works)
Not yet electronically searchable (6 works)
Super Porphyrium De V universalibus Super Porphyrium De V universalibus (editio Coloniensis, 2004) Super Porphyrium De V universalibus (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De praedicamentis   De praedicamentis (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De sex principiis De sex principiis (editio Coloniensis, 2006) De sex principiis (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
Liber divisionum Liber divisionum (editio Coloniensis, 2006) Liber divisionum (ed. de Loë, 1913)  
Peri hermeneias   Peri hermeneias (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
Analytica priora   Analytica priora (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
Analytica posteriora   Analytica posteriora (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
Topica   Topica (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De sophisticis elenchis   De sophisticis elenchis (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
Physica Physica (editio Coloniensis, 1987-1993)    
De caelo et mundo De caelo et mundo (editio Coloniensis, 1971)    
De natura loci De natura loci (editio Coloniensis, 1980)    
De causis proprietatum elementorum De causis proprietatum elementorum (editio Coloniensis, 1980)    
De generatione et corruptione De generatione et corruptione (editio Coloniensis, 1980) De generatione et corruptione (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
Meteora Meteora (editio Coloniensis, 2003)    
Mineralia   Mineralia (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De anima De anima (editio Coloniensis, 1968)    
De nutrimento et nutribili   De nutrimento et nutribili (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De sensu et sensato   De sensu et sensato (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De memoria et reminiscentia   De memoria et reminiscentia (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De intellectu et intelligibili   De intellectu et intelligibili (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De somno et vigilia   De somno et vigilia (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De spiritu et respiratione   De spiritu et respiratione (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De motibus animalium   De motibus animalium (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De iuventute et senectute   De iuventute et senectute (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De morte et vita   De morte et vita (ed. Borgnet, 1890)  
De vegetabilibus   De vegetabilibus (ed. Meyer-Jessen, 1867)  
De animalibus   De animalibus (ed. Stadler, 1916-1920)  
De natura et origine animae De natura et origine animae (editio Coloniensis, 1955)    
De principiis motus processivi De principiis motus processivi (editio Coloniensis, 1955) De principiis motus processivi (ed. Stadler, 1909)  
Quaestiones super De animalibus Quaestiones super De animalibus (editio Coloniensis, 1955)    
Ethica   Ethica (ed. Borgnet, 1891)  
Super Ethica Super Ethica (editio Coloniensis, 1968-1987)    
Politica   Politica (ed. Borgnet, 1891)  
Metaphysica Metaphysica (editio Coloniensis, 1960-1964)    
De unitate intellectus De unitate intellectus (editio Coloniensis, 1975)    
De XV problematibus De XV problematibus (editio Coloniensis, 1975) De XV problematibus (ed. Mandonnet, 1908)  
Problemata determinata Problemata determinata (editio Coloniensis, 1975)    
De fato

De fato (editio Coloniensis, 1975)

De fato (ed. Mandonnet, 1927)  
De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa (editio Coloniensis, 1993) De causis et processu universitatis a prima causa (ed. Borgnet, 1891)  
Super Iob     Super Iob
De muliere forti     De muliere forti
Super Isaiam Super Isaiam (editio Coloniensis, 1952)    
Super Ieremiam (frag.) Super Ieremiam (frag.) (editio Coloniensis, 1952) Super Ieremiam (frag.) (ed. Meersseman, 1932)  
Super Ezechielem (frag.) Super Ezechielem (frag.) (editio Coloniensis, 1952) Super Ezechielem (frag.) (ed. Heusgen-Ostlender, 1933)  
Super Threnos   Super Threnos (ed. Borgnet, 1893)  
Super Baruch   Super Baruch (ed. Borgnet, 1893)  
Super Danielem     Super Danielem
Super prophetas minores     Super prophetas minores
Super Matthaeum Super Matthaeum (editio Coloniensis, 1987)    
Super Marcum   Super Marcum (ed. Borgnet, 1894)  
Super Lucam     Super Lucam
Super Iohannem   Super Iohannem (ed. Borgnet, 1899)  
De natura boni De natura boni (editio Coloniensis, 1974)    
Quaestiones Quaestiones (complete) (editio Coloniensis, 1993) Quaestiones (only Quaestio de quiditate et esse, ed. Grabmann, 1942)  
De sacramentis De sacramentis (editio Coloniensis, 1958)    
De incarnatione De incarnatione (editio Coloniensis, 1958)    
De resurrectione De resurrectione (editio Coloniensis, 1958)    
De IV coaequaevis   De IV coaequaevis (ed. Borgnet, 1895)  
De homine De homine (editio Coloniensis, 2008)    
De bono De bono (editio Coloniensis, 1951)    
Super IV libros Sententiarum   Super IV libros Sententiarum (ed. Borgnet, 1893-1894)  
Summa theologiae sive de mirabili scientia dei Summa theologiae sive de mirabili scientia dei, q.1-50A (editio Coloniensis, 1978) Summa theologiae sive de mirabili scientia dei (complete) (ed. Borgnet, 1894-1895)  
Super Dionysium De caelesti hierarchia Super Dionysium De caelesti hierarchia (editio Coloniensis, 1993)    
Super Dionysium De ecclesiastica hierarchia Super Dionysium De ecclesiastica hierarchia (editio Coloniensis, 1999)    
Super Dionysium De divinis nominibus Super Dionysium De divinis nominibus (editio Coloniensis, 1972)    
Super Dionysii Mysticam theologiam Super Dionysii Mysticam theologiam (editio Coloniensis, 1978)    
Super Dionysii epistulas Super Dionysii epistulas (editio Coloniensis, 1978)    
De mysterio missae   De mysterio missae (ed. Borgnet, 1899)  
De corpore domini   De corpore domini (ed. Borgnet, 1899)  
Super Euclidem     Super Euclidem

In the next few years, I am hoping to add to the searchable corpus Super Lucam (ed. Borgnet, 1894-1895), Super prophetas minores (ed. Borgnet, 1892), and Super Iob (ed. Weiß, 1904), which are lengthier works that the Albertus-Magnus-Institut is not likely to edit in the near future. Since Super Euclidem has not yet been (fully) edited and since the remaining commentaries on Scripture are shorter and are supposed to be soon critically edited and incorporated into the Aschendorff Verlag database, that may mean that the Alberti Magni e-corpus will at that point have reached its primary goal, i.e., making sure that all of Albert's works are electronically searchable.

 

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