Dirk Kurt Kranz, Bibliografia delle Bibliografie Patristiche e Materie affini. Un sussidio didattico e di ricerca. Rome: Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, 2005 (Sussidi e Strumenti Didattici, 3). Pp. 280. ISBN 88-89174-30-7. Euros 12,00.
Australian National University,
Father Kranz, on the back cover of his BBPat (he has already given it an abbreviation), notes that anyone entering the labyrinth of patristics needs a ball of thread to so as not to get lost or disoriented. The centre of this labyrinth contains what you are seeking (rather than a Minotaur), and the volume aims to provide you with a guide, covering 2,315 authors in 41 sections, thematically divided. Father Kranz is currently studying patristics at the Augustinian Institute in Rome, and I am researching in areas of Art History such that I need some understanding of patristics; hence I review this book as an amateur, and not a professional patristics scholar. How well does the author succeed in his task of taming such an unruly field, and corralling it logically and comprehensively for the reader? For this area of bibliography sometimes seems to drown in efforts which have lapsed (such as the Zeitschrifteninhaltsdienst Theologie or the Bibliografia Mariana -- both on CDROM, neither current).
The place to start in Father Kranz' book is the general index, which regiments this vast field by dividing and numbering it. After a general section, with periodicals, guides and the like, the long second section deals thematically with fields adjacent to patristics, from hagiography, art and archaeology, through law, dogma, heresies and philosophy, liturgy, paleography and poetry, to languages, regions and peoples, and then religions and rhetoric, the Old and New Testaments, science, society, church history and various historians. The third section treats patristics proper, from periodicals and generalities to bibliographies by geographical area, and then by individual author from Ambrose through Cyprian and the various Gregorys to Lactantius and Venantius Fortunatus. The fourth and final section describes keys of various kinds, such as editions and translations of texts, internet guides, and bibliographies on CDROM, and enchiridia. The general index is complemented by indexes of non-patristic classical authors, and of modern authors. The final index is seventeen pages of abbreviations, which drives home the scope and variety of this book, as do the pages of technical notes -- the necessary ball of thread for finding one's way around.
The volume is presented as a practical guide for students, and simply a finding-list -- 'The novelty of this publication derives from its gathering together instruments of bibliographical research from the whole field of Christian letters in Antiquity' (p. #). The listing within the various categories is by date, and there is little that is listed dating later than 2001. There is no attempt to steer students to one publication rather than another -- this is not a commented bibliography. The inclusion of some guidance for students would certainly have made the book more useful. As a vague comparison take Jacques Berlioz' Identifier Sources et Citations,[] which flags itself as pragmatic, regiments the material in numbered categories, and offers useful comments to many of the entries, indicating where works are complete, partial, or sometimes misleading (whereupon 'Attention!' and an explanation appear in bold type).
It would be easy to nit-pick Kranz' work for inclusions and exclusions, but I will confine my comments to the way in which the various works cited are distributed among the necessarily procrustean headings and sub-headings. Section 6 (Art & Archaeology) looks very thin, not to say quixotic, until complemented by material from Section 20 (for example, Italy, or the Middle East), and a similar appraisal might be made for other sections -- namely that a lot of flicking back and forth through the volume is needed to round out the picture provided by any one section. Presumably the selectivity represents the interests and the horizons of the author (and nobody can have well-balanced and knowledgeable judgments in all the areas the book covers). Indeed, the organisation and cross-referencing of such a large amount of material is a Herculean (rather than a Thesean) task but, like Homer, he has nodded occasionally. In the 20s, for example, dealing with Regions and Peoples, the references from the Modern Author Index are out by one digit, so that references to 20.10.1 or 20.18.8 really belong to 20.11.1 and 20.19.8. I would assume that some computer script has not correctly matched up author with numerals.
Hence I must go on to ask whether there might be other ways of organising materials such as these, or indeed any other such complex bibliographies? The author recognizes, in his introduction, the rapid development of electronic media such as the CDROM and the internet. So to pose the same question another way, how might I find a book dealing with death (21.4.3), with the legends of Troy (15.8.6), or with Roman colonization (30.129) -- or indeed with anything that falls between the necessarily regimented cracks?
The answer has got to be computerization (and I assume that this printed text was set from digital entries). Computer string-searches are crude instruments indeed, but the offering of a work such as this on electronic media rather than on paper would certainly help the student, clean up the cross-referencing, and allow easier updating to a work which is sure to prove invaluable for the forseeable future, perhaps via some kind of pay-for-view web page of which there are several for scholarly materials already operating in Italy (such as the Casalini Digital Library, or LIBRAweb, both of which have consortia of publishers behind them). So this is a book I recommend students to purchase -- but will continue to wish were available (and hence searchable) electronically. To my knowledge there are no similar bibliographies-of-bibliographies of patristics on the web, but there are several bibliographies of great help to the patristics student, such as Ronald Crown's commented listing at Saint Louis University and Laval University's Bibliographic Information Base in Patristics which allows the user to search over 31000 records in some 325 journals, or The Ecole Initiative (namely the 'Early Church On-Line Encyclopedia').
[] Jacques Berlioz, L'Atelier du Mediéviste (Brepols 1994) Vol. 1, p. 336.
URLs referenced above:
Casalini Digital Library: http://digital.casalini.it
Dr Ronald Crown's Resource Guide at Saint Louis University: http://www.slu.edu/libraries/pius/resguides/earchurc.html
The Ecole Initiative: http://www2.evansville.edu/ecoleweb
Laval's Bibliographic Information Base in Patristics: http://www.bibl.ulaval.ca/bd/bibp/english.html