Friday, January 05, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

Our list of FAQs can be found here and below.

If you have any other burning questions please let us know!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where are Edwards' manuscripts?

The great majority of his extant manuscripts are in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University (General Manuscripts 151). These manuscripts were donated to Yale in 1901 by Edwards descendants. Since that time, other Edwards manuscripts that have come to light have been purchased, for example, the "Farewell Sermon." A smaller but nonetheless significant collection, consisting mostly of Edwards' early writings and family letters, is at Andover Newton Theological Seminary's Franklin Trask Library. A small number of manuscripts, mostly letters, are scattered in repositories throughout the United States and Great Britain.

I'm thinking of doing some research on Edwards - how significant is the manuscript collection at Yale?

Tryon Edwards, a descendant of Jonathan, wrote that:

"Perhaps no person ever lived who so habitually and carefully committed histhoughts, on almost every subject, to writing, as the elder PresidentEdwards. His ordinary studies were pursued pen in hand, and with his notebooks before him; and he not only often stopped in his daily rides bythe wayside, but frequently rose even at midnight to commit to paper any important thought that had occurred to him. As the result of this habit, his manuscripts are probably more thoroughly the record of the intellectual life of their author than those of any otherindividual who has a name in either the theological or literary world. The manuscripts are also very numerous. The seventeenth century was an age ofvoluminous authorship. The works of Bishop Hall amount to ten volumes octavo; Lightfoot's, to thirteen; Jeremy Taylor's, to fifteen; Dr.Goodwin's, to twenty; Owen's to twenty-eight; while Baxter's would extend tosome sixty volumes, or from thirty to forty thousand closely printed octavopages. The manuscripts of Edwards, if all published, would be more voluminous than the works of any of these writers, if possibly the last be excepted. And these manuscripts have been carefully preserved and kept together ..." (WJE vol. 8, p. 125)

Why is Jonathan Edwards considered America's greatest theologian and philosopher?

For a good explanation of this, see the JEC website at: the heading"The first and greatest homegrown American philosopher"

If I come to Yale to consult Edwards' manuscripts, will I be able to read them?

To gain access to the manuscripts, you have to present a valid picture ID and provide a research topic. More to the point, however, is that once readers have been admitted, the challenge of deciphering Edwards' manuscripts confronts. Very few people can sit down and read his manuscripts without prior experience or training.

Is help available?

The staff of the Edwards Center is ready and willing to assist readers. If you plan a visit to Yale, we invite you contact us and we will be happy to help focus your research and read difficult passages.

Why are Jonathan Edwards' writings not all published yet, if he lived in the early 18th century? What's taking so long, Yale?

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, many of Edwards's original manuscripts were not made available to the public until 1901, when Yale acquired them from the Edwards family (they were held in their private collections until then). Secondly, for most of 20th century American history, there was some sense of antagonism towards religion, especially towards Puritanism. And, because Edwards seemed to be the representative par excellence of American Puritanism in many people's minds, it was not very popular to have any association with, or interest in, Edwards. It wasn't until the 1980s with the rise of the Religious Right and the Moral Majority that Christianity came "back into vogue," and with it a renewed interest in Edwards. The third reason has to do with funding. From 1959-86, there was no funding available, so during that period only seven volumes (out of 26) of Edwards' works were produced. In the 1980s, substantial and generous grants from organizations such as the Pew Charitable Trust, the Luce Foundation, and the Lilly Endowment, among others, supported a spurt of publishing activity. So, from 1989-2006, Volumes 8-25 were produced. The final reason has to do with Edwards' prolificacy. He wrote about 100,000 pages in his lifetime, which is an extraordinarily monumental task to transcribe and publish.

When will the complete works be published?

So far, we have published 25 of the 26 volumes in print format. The final printed volume is due to be released in the Spring of 2007. As for the online content, Jonathan Edwards produced about 100,000 hand-written pages in his lifetime. So far, we have ΒΌ of that (25,000pages) available online. We are planning on releasing another 25,000 pages once every two years until 2012 (i.e. the next major upload will be 2008, then 2010, and finally 2012) until the work is all complete. (This timetable is subject to change.)

How is the Jonathan Edwards Center funded?

The Jonathan Edwards Center is entirely funded by individual and foundation donations. We are very grateful to Yale for providing our office space and network support. However, our operating expenses are covered entirely by money given by external donors.

What are the differences between the online and print editions of JE's works?

The print editions only cover 26 volumes (which is quite a substantial improvement on, for example, the previously-published two-volume Banner of Truth edition), and contain what we ascertain to be the most important documents. However, the online edition is the onlyexhaustive Jonathan Edwards resource on the planet. By the time we are done, every last thing that Edwards has ever written will be online.

How is our Yale University Press (YUP) edition different from previously published editions?

The first published edition of Jonathan Edwards' works was known as the "Worcester Edition," published in the mid-19th century. That was eight volumes long, and only consisted of the works that were available to the public at the time. Later, Banner of Truth (BoT) Publications basically reprinted the Worcester Edition, but condensed it into two volumes by making it double column and reducing the size of the print. The YUP edition is by far the most comprehensive to date (consisting of 26 volumes, and twice that much online), including many writings never before accessible by the public. In addition, many of the mistakes and deliberate revisions of the Worcester and BoT editions were corrected and revised.

SUGGEST AN FAQ!Is there a question about Jonathan Edwards that you think would be appropriate for this FAQ page? Send us an email and let us know. If we like it, we'll add it to the list.


Blogger Bret Capranica said...

I very much appreciate the Edwards center and the Edwards project. As in many others, Edwards ministry has had a profound impact in my life and pastoral ministry. Thanks for making him even more accessible.

6:23 pm  

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