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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  September 2004

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION September 2004

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Subject:

Re: "Old" Catholic Encyclopedia

From:

Dennis Martin <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 27 Sep 2004 08:51:54 -0500

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Actually, the NCE was updated across the board ca. 2000-2002.  The publisher did not allow the editorial staff the time that should have been taken to do it absolutely thoroughly, but it was a major updating--all articles were reviewed, many dropped to make room for new ones, those retained were revised, bibliographies updated.  I know because I was asked to update the Carthusian-related articles.  In the case of Carthusian Spirituality I supplied a new article and hastily vetted it with the Carthusians at Selignac/Grande Chartreuse.  The updating was too hasty, yes, but at the same time, it did integrate all the stuff that was in the various supplementary volumes into the main run of alphabetical volumes.

Yes, the Old CE is on line because it was in public domain.  I suspect that the minor changes are mentioned in part to justify maintaining a copyright on the online version--not for pecuniary gain so much as to protect it against being misused (one could take an article out, modify it, and pass it around as if it were the online article--modifications could be malicious in the eyes of the online copyright holders and they would then have some legal recourse.    Or someone could take materials from the web and try to make money with them--so the NewAdvent people I'm sure were advised to copyright it and their slighjt modifications serve to justify that.

Of course the Old CE is dated in many ways.  However, I find it an invaluable resource precisely because as a historian, I often want to know what a Catholic mindset on a given topic during that era looked like.  An entire body of literature published between, say 1900 and 1964 has sat on Catholic library shelves largely unused for 40 years now and librarians, pressed for space or aware of overhead costs for maintaining stacks, frequently weed these materials out.  At Loyola a year ago we were presented with no warning with the news that all that stuff (which had never been recatalogued from Dewey to LC, but had been incorporated into the electronic catalogue) was going to be discarded because of very tight space restirctions.  Fortunately, one of our historians blew the whistle and we were given a chance to designate titles to be retained.  We did not have adequate time, so I designated much of the pre-1960s Catholic literature in spirituality, moral theology, history, sacraments etc.  I don't know whether in fact it was all saved or not.

Countless smaller college and seminary libraries were entirely broken up when the schools closed--thanks to Loome Booksellers, a lot of the better known titles are available at not insignificant prices.  When Ave Maria University set about to build a library from scratch a few years ago, Loome or another bookseller assembled one for them.   But to have a consolidated, coimplete working Catholic library of pre-1960s material is rare--only in a few instances of Catholic institutions that are still going concerns and have not weeded and junked extensively would one have that sort of thing.

One of the most valuable portions of my personal library consists of significant remnants of a secondary-level junior seminary library in northern Indiana that closed ca. 1980.  Its library was purchased by a Fundamentalist Christian school as a start-up.  They systematically discarded the Catholic books (they were after the general American history, literature, science etc. titles that any decent high school library would have acquired in the 1920s-1970s)  and stacked them in the hallway of their new building under construction where my non-Catholic brother, a plumber, saw them and, because he thought it a shame that any book of any sort simply be tossed in the trash.  Among the treasures was a bound set of the (Old) Catholic Encyclopedia.

That is why I value  the CE--it gives a snapshot of an entire tradition covering many centuries as it existed a century ago.   Of course, when I first started using it it was only 60 or 70 years out of date.  To have to refer to it as nearly a century old reminds me of why I am squinting through bifocles as I type this message.

Just how radical the changes were or weren't after Vatican II is to some degree in the eye of the beholder.  For doctrinal topics and some historical topics the Old CE articles still are quite valuable.  Of course, the sorts of changes that John Dillon points out (relocation of artifacts, changes in city topography etc.) are legion and one would always have to check a more recent source.  But precisely because some of the claims about what changed after Vatican II are themselves extremely tendentious and because the image the pre-Vatican II Church that has now become politically correct among "Spirit of Vatican II Catholics" is likely to carry significant distortions with it, I find it quite helpful to have this sort of snapshot from the early 20thc as a way of testing claims that people make about the Church before the Second Vatican Council.

Incidentally, for some of the same reasons I have always found early 20thc Baedekers fascinating ways to prepare for a trip or even for leisure browsing in the absence of any travel plans.  Indeed, as a historian, I find 19thc or early 20thc manuals and guidebooks of various sorts valuable because they are contemporary witnesses to how people lived and thought, rather than being filtered through the eyes of early 21st century historians and litterati.

Others, of course, use the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica for this purpose, and I'm sure our German and French and Italian and other listmembers have their own equivalents.  I've never been fortunate enough to own a copy of the 1911 EB, but I do have a 1967 edition of Britannica that my parents purchased when I was growing up and, frighteningly, it too has now joined the company of out-of-date but useful-as-a-historical snapshot reference works--only this time it's a snapshot of an era that I lived through.  A 1950s-era encyclopedia serving the same purpose fell victim to a flooded basement a month ago.  It went in the trash but was mourned.

So, Marjorie Greene, even if not in exactly the manner you outlined, here's a favorable word for the [Old] Catholic Encyclopedia.

Dennis Martin

>>> [log in to unmask] 9/27/2004 7:40:56 AM >>>
medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

The New Catholic Encyclopedia now is available online to subscribers via the Gale Group.  Those of you whose libraries are not flat broke might ask them to obtain access.

NCE has its faults, but it was updated (at least partially) in recent years.

Tom Izbicki

Thomas Izbicki
Collection Development Coordinator
Eisenhower Library
Johns Hopkins
Baltimore, MD 21218
(410)516-7173
fax (410)516-8399

>>> [log in to unmask] 9/27/2004 4:06:16 AM >>>
medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Dear Marjorie,

Just as an old church that receives a new facade and some fresh decor is still an old building, so an encyclopedia whose choice of entries has not changed in over a century and whose articles routinely reflect the intellectual, political, and other contexts in which they were originally written remains an old encyclopedia, touch-ups here and there notwithstanding.

In my experience, which is obviously different from yours, the articles in the online version of the _Catholic Encyclopedia_ are unaltered from their early twentieth-century form except perhaps as a result of their retranscription into electronic format, which process will of course have introduced its share of typos and scannos.

The article on Naples, for example, informs the sedulous reader that that city "contains an arsenal of the Royal Navy" and that "the Castle of the Egg ... is at present a barrack and a fort, as are also Castel del Carmine and Castelnuovo", none of which is now true and most of which has been false for at least sixty years.  Numerous statements about the location of works of art and other treasures in various churches and museums are woefully out of date, as is also the list of suffragan dioceses.  The present parish church of Santa Anna dei Lombardi, until sometime in the eighteenth century the monastery church of Santa Maria dell'Oliveto, is referred to as "the church of St. Anna of the Lombards of Mt. Olivet", a misleading and inaccurate designation that cries out for revision but has not received it.  The population of the archdiocese is given as "600,600 inhabitants"; according to the more reliable www.Catholic-Hierarchy.org, in 2002 its population was 1,580,000 Catholic
s out of a total population of 1,600,000.  The "History" section speaks quaintly of "Mussulmans".  The latest work cited in the bibliography is dated 1909.

Since a statement of copyright covering new material says nothing about the proportion of original matter to fresh or even about the presence of any new material in articles to which it is appended, I am at a loss to understand the probative value of your reference to the online version's formulaic repetition of the notice "*Online Edition Copyright  2003 by K. Knight*".  More telling in this regard is the statement by Mark Dittman and Tim Drake on the New Advent site of how this online version has been and is being created:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/00002a.htm 
There's considerable reference here to the transcribing of articles but nary a peep about their updating.  I don't doubt that some updating has occurred in some articles, but I do very much doubt that this has happened often enough to warrant describing the online version in its entirety as "rather 'new'".

Best,
John Dillon    

----- Original Message -----
From: Marjorie Greene <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Monday, September 27, 2004 1:01 am
Subject: "Old" Catholic Encyclopedia

> medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and 
> culture
> "and of course now dated article on them in the old _Catholic 
> Encyclopedia_ "
> True that the basis for the CE at NewAdvent is the old one, but 
> the revisions made to the text are quite recent and I believe the 
> info contained therein is generally reliable. Otherwise there 
> wouldn't be much point in having it on line (or trying to sell it 
> on CD). Mother Theresa is mentioned in the article on the 
> archdiocese of Calcutta and there are numerous other references 
> indicating that the 1907 text has been updated. And each entry 
> ends with a variant of: "The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II
> Copyright  1907 by Robert Appleton Company
> *Online Edition Copyright  2003 by K. Knight*
> Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York"
> I'd say the Online Edition is rather "new."
> MG

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