09 February 2014

De Doctrina Christiana Receives Shawcross Award

Librarians are always pleased to hear about successes stemming from a user's research. Special collections librarians in particular are especially pleased when that research demonstrates the importance of the physical book.

I was very excited to learn that the 2012 edition of Milton's De Doctrina Christiana, edited by John K. Hale and J. Donald Cullington and part of Oxford University's The Complete Works of John Milton series, recently received the John T. Shawcross Award from the Milton Society of America. 

The award is specified as being for: "A distinguished edition of Milton’s works, a distinguished bibliography (of his works or of studies of his life and works), a distinguished reference work, or a distinguished chapter on Milton in a monograph that concerns other authors or engages topics that bear on 17th-century England".

John and Donald are both resident in Dunedin, New Zealand, and flew to Chicago last month to receive the award. Their edition of Milton's De Doctrina Christiana was many years in the making and drew heavily on local collections, including the Alfred and Isabel Reed Collection of the Dunedin City Library, where I was Rare Books Librarian from 2007 to 2013, and in which capacity I frequently saw Donald or John in the reading room, pencils, paper and magnifying glass on either side, and a folio-sized volume before them. 

The book in question was the Dunedin copy of a Latin Bible printed in Hanau, Germany, by the Wechel printing firm in 1624 (OT, Apocrypha) and 1623 (NT), paid for by Daniel and David Aubry and Clemens Schleich.

In my congratulatory e-mail, I asked Donald about the importance of the collection, and the 1623/4 Bible in particular, to their work on Milton's De Doctrina:

"The holdings of Dunedin Public Library were extremely useful to John and me throughout the nine years of our collaboration, especially since so much of this huge Milton work uses the Latin Bible of Junius-Tremellius-Beza, an excellent copy of which is permanently available in the Reed Collection.

For the Old Testament and Apocrypha, the Latin wording of the 1623/4 Hanau [Bible] ... corresponds most closely with that of Milton’s citations, but in editing De Doctrina Christiana it was important to see where for reasons of his own he saw fit to change what Junius and Tremellius had written.

Also, for the New Testament the same [Bible] contains two Latin translations: Beza’s from the Greek and Tremellius’s from the Syriac. Although here Milton relied mainly on Beza’s own final version of 1598, he did occasionally prefer something in the posthumous ‘Beza’ edition of 1623; in some places, too, he opted for the quite different translation of Tremellius. And again, he sometimes decided to go his own way.

In all these respects the availability of the 1623/4 Bible helped John and me to produce a scholarly edition that showed in detail how Milton went about the task of dealing with the thousands of biblical passages included in his largest work". 

For more, you can read John Hale's reflections on his experience co-editing Milton's De Doctrina on the OSEO blog (posted 30.07.13).


Testamenti Veteris Biblia Sacra ... (Hanoviae: Typis Wecheliansis, sumptibus Danielis ac Davidis Aubriorum, ac Clementis Schleichii, 1623/4); with the armorial stamp and bookplate of David Lindsay, 1st Lord Balcarres (1587-1642). Purchased from the Export Book Co., Preston, Lancashire, by the Dunedin Public Library with support from A. H. Reed in 1966.

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