Augustiniana 57 (2007) 233-236 (B. Bruning)
Presentation of the second edition of Corpus Augustinianum Gissense (CAG 2), a Cornelius MAYER editum, an EDP-instrument for the research of Augustine developed by the Zentrum für Augustinus-Forschung (ZAF) in Würzburg in co-operation with the Kompetenzzentrum für elektronische Erschliesungs- und Publikationsverfahren in den Geisteswetenschaften at the University of Trier (Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2004).
When the project of the Augustinus-Lexikon (AL) started up in the early years of the 1980’s, the need was felt for a research tool which could meet the demands of that time. To have at one’s disposal a digital text by which colleagues of the AL could fairly swiftly asses the scope of a particular subject - with respect to form as well as content - was at the time by all means a novelty, something which earlier researchers could only have dreamt of. In those early years one diligently kept working on entering the best textual-critical works of Augustine in a database. The first edition of the CAG saw the light in 1996.
The basic text in the digital corpus of the literary oeuvre of Augustine of Hippo has now been reviewed in this second edition, this time with multi-lingual retrieval software. It further includes the latest critical editions of the approximately 30 letters discovered by Johannes DJIVAK, and the 30 Augustinian sermons discovered by François DOLBEAU. Also the most recent critical editions of other works (e.g. De doctrina christiana and De Genesi adversus Manicheos) have now been incorporated. In the first as well as in the second edition the occasional misprints and mistakes have been corrected, although misprints almost inevitably will keep occurring. The localization of the used editions is always accurately indicated, and for the researcher it has become mere child’s play to copy and paste a text immediately into one’s work. The speed with which a study can progress when instantly all the occurrences of a word or of a compound of words in Augustine’s oeuvre can be generated, makes outdated the proverbial expression that the study of Augustine or of any other Church father requires the patience of a monk. Whereas in the past the indices of major text editions had to be used to point the way to see how a certain subject originated with Augustine and developed further or was no longer found, the search result of the CAG 2 swiftly offers an insight in the significance of a theme, the more so because this tool immediately gives the occurrences in chronological order.
An innovation is the additional information available for the Epistulae and the Ennarationes in psalmos concerning localization, date and further details (see the Manual, p. 47). Hopefully this kind of information will be extended to other works of Augustine, even though experts realize that, for instance, assigning an exact date to his writings is a perilous undertaking.
Particularly valuable is the possibility of locating quotations with biblical as well as non-biblical origin, which again can give insight into how certain thoughts of Augustine have developed, or alternatively, have come to a standstill. Not only the multiplicity of biblical quotations, but above all their integration, shows just how deeply the bishop of Hippo was imbued with biblical thought. The frequency of these quotations only conveys to us a fraction of the ‘flesh and blood’ that biblical text has become in the thought of this Church father. Insiders know that Augustine often quotes the bible indirectly, and frequently uses paraphrases. A.-G. Hamman once rightly pointed out that priests or religious men developed through their daily biblical reading in Latin an irreplaceable search engine which enabled them to locate also the hidden biblical quotations in the texts of the Church fathers. It certainly is a major plus point of this CAG 2 that the search engine for biblical quotations has been significantly refined, so that now even the search for hidden ones can be accurately described, whereby the texts which are not relevant for one’s study are excluded from the end result. The user can apply a special technique, which is clearly explained in the Manual (on p. 56) through which, after a few trial runs, he can retrieve a large number of these hidden quotations. Nevertheless, this very sophisticated tool will never be able to completely replace the erudite reader, who not only has to be familiar with the thoughts of the Bible, but to the same extent also with its Latin vocabulary. For those who are not experts in Augustine, there is always the possibility to look up biblical quotations exclusively in the exegetical works.
The CAG 2 is not only designed for specialists in Augustine, who from their expertise already know, for instance, which titles they have to select in the Work List. It also aims to be of use to a broader range of researchers. An important asset hereby is the excellent accompanying Manual, written in four languages (German, English, French, and Spanish), and containing many helpful colour printed illustrations. It sets out in lucid language the range of possibilities of this powerful search engine, and many practical examples clarify the instructions.
Even though it does not immediately belong to our evaluation to assess the philological value of this research tool, it needs to be said that the time-consuming lemmatization of Augustine’s corpus in CAG 2 no doubt will allow for a thorough linguistic study of Augustine’s oeuvre.
CAG 2 offers the researcher the possibility to set up a rough draft of his whole study on the spot. With a click on the copy-icon on the upper-right corner of the Search Result items can be transferred to a text window. Changes and rearrangements can then be made as one pleases, before the material is finally placed in one’s own document, by using the appropriate method. The bookmark device, which makes it possible to quickly go back to earlier retrieved information, is very useful. The possibility to open up several text windows at the same time is very user-friendly, as it readily allows for parallel readings and comparisons. We could detect hardly any flaws, except perhaps the Quick view which occasionally did not work, and the odd system block, which forced us to leave the program and to restart.
Apart from the corpus of Augustine’s oeuvre, the CAG 2 also puts at the user’s disposal an impressive bibliography. This, too, can be transferred to a work document in a similar fashion as described above, and also here, the researcher can modify the data to his own liking. Many search functions have been made available, which only increases the value of CAG 2 as research tool. The references of this bibliography which above all were created at the service of the Augustinus-Lexicon are the key par excellence to work faster than ever before. There are, however, with regard to the systematization of the secondary bibliography on Augustine other classifications conceivable.
With all this it is clear how today an author has for his study on Augustine all the necessary information (primary sources as well as secondary literature) available at the tip of his fingers. He only needs a small work surface, not to mention the time gained, compared to the painstaking method researchers had to use in the past to lay the foundations of their study on Augustine.
The technical assistance of CAG 2 is therefore a terrific offer to all researchers who are working in a technical manner on Augustine within theology, philosophy, history, linguistics, or other possibly fields of study. Those who do not know Latin well enough can turn to a number of sites on the internet where translations in several languages of Augustine’s works can be consulted. The technology does not of course relieve the researcher on Augustine from his obligation to consider the results of his searches purely as a means. Consequently, he has to go through all the items in their own context, which can often be very broad, or really, can never be broad enough. Here lurks the greatest danger of such a fast and powerful tool. The time-pressed researcher quickly wants to produce some results for his paper or publication, and limits himself to the material findings of the frequency of words or theme’s, to the systematization of a certain range of thought on Augustine, but in so doing he inevitably misses the dynamic of the texts, which are only accessible after a thorough and analytical reading. Goulven Madec already warned about the danger of such a research tool: it can easily compress Augustine’s thoughts into ‘pills’, which the impatient reader rapidly wants to get hold of. Fortunately, the genius of Augustine is sufficiently recalcitrant to make such an approach ineffective: only he who uses this new research tool wisely will find out that, paradoxically, technology exposes Augustine’s genius even better than before.
Bernard Bruning OSA