Abbreviations and Editions

There is no single best edition for the works of Thomas Aquinas. When finished, the Leonine Opera omnia (so called because commissioned and funded by Pope Leo XIII) will be a superb edition of the complete works. The Leonine is likely to remain unfinished for a long time — and in two senses. First, not all of Thomas's works have been edited for the series. Second, those works published before 1950 need to be revised in varying degrees. The best complete edition now available is the one published by Roberto Busa as a supplement to his computer-generated lexical analysis and concordance, the Index Thomisticus. Busa's edition contains the best available texts as of December 1971, including then unpublished Leonine versions.

Many libraries lack both the Leonine and the Busa editions of the Opera omnia. Certainly many scholars do. They consult Thomas in a ragtag collection of different editions, especially those published by the Italian house of Marietti throughout the twentieth century. The Marietti editions often reproduce texts taken from earlier printed versions of Thomas, the so-called "vulgate Thomas." They add to these not only notes of varying quality, but also an immensely useful system of paragraph or section numbers. These "Marietti numbers" are widely used for quick citation, especially for Thomas's expositions ofAristotle.

Faced with the proliferation of printings, I cite Thomas's works by their medieval textual divisions. These do vary occasionally from edition to edition, but they are the closest thing to a uniform system of citation. The citations are condensed. I do not specify, for example, the kind of textual division. "1.2" will mean question 1 article 2 in a series of disputed questions, but Book 1 chapter 2 in an exposition of Aristotle. A reader familiar with Thomas will know what is meant. A reader not yet familiar with him will be able to sort things out by taking the text in hand. When I refer to these medieval textual divisions, I use the conventional English terms even when these are a bit misleading. For example, in the Summa of Theology the opening arguments are conventionally called "objections" in English — as though Thomas's position were already established. In fact, they are dialectical arguments on the way to a determination, and Thomas frequently incorporates parts of them into his own position. Since English-speakers stubbornly continue to call them "objections," that is the word I use in order to be clear.

I give below my abbreviations for the works of Thomas that I cite. Each abbreviation is followed by the standard title as in Torrell's catalogue.1 I then mention the edition(s) in which I read the text. For the so-called Contra gentiles, where the medieval divisions units are long, I supplement them with the section numbers from the edition of Pera, Marc, and Caramello. Some might have wished that I did this as well for Thomas's expositions ofAristo-tle. My only plea is that the most efficient way to search for texts in Thomas is at the magnificent website directed by Enrique Alarcon from the Universidad de Nevarra. It may be found at

Leonine Opera omnia: Opera omnia iussu impensaque Leonis XIII. P M. edita, edited by members of Leonine Commission (Rome: various imprints,

Busa Opera omnia: Sancti Thomae Aquinatis Opera omnia, ed. Robert Busa (Stuttgart — Bad Canstatt: Fromman-Holzboog, 1980).

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  • Kelly Kerr
    Is it possible to purchase Busa Opera omnia: Sancti Thomae Aquinatis Opera omnia, ed. Robert Busa (Stuttgart — Bad Canstatt: Fromman-Holzboog, 1980) anywhere?
    8 years ago

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