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Meister Eckhart: Werke, 2 vols.

This edition of Meister Eckhart's vernacular sermons and treatises and a small selection of his Latin writings is a masterpiece of compact printing on India paper. All the texts are provided with a facing modern German translation. The edition contains the eighty-six German sermons available to date, the three German treatises and the following Latin works: Prologus generalis in opus tripartitum, Expositio sancti evangelii secundum Johannem, Quaestio Parisiensis I (= chronologically speaking the second of the four Quaestiones), a selection of the Sermones, including the complete sermon Vas auri solidum (preached on 28 August 1302 or 1303 in Paris), and four sermon sketches devoted to central theological and philosophical questions and problems: the nature of the Trinity and grace, the absolute timelessness of God with regard to creation and incarnation, the question of grace and the nature of the causality of God, the way to God. All the texts with their translations are taken verbatim from the big Stuttgart edition that has been appearing since 1936. The main editorial task and achievement lie here in the textual commentaries that are provided. Each text is provided with the same informational scheme: the complete manuscript tradition, the authentication of the text as part of the Eckhart corpus, other editions and references to the text in the works of other medieval authors, with precise references for edited works and with a reference to the Stuttgart edition if the text referred to is not edited, and where possible the chronology of the text within Eckhart's oeuvre. A second apparatus contains references, where suitable, to the trial documents, and lists secondary literature which treats each individual text. The second part of the commentary lists for the sermon texts their place in the liturgical calendar according to the old Dominican missal and to other sermons held on the same day. For the treatises and Latin works the characteristic nature of the texts is discussed. In the detailed textual commentary the editor attempts to show the sources used by Eckhart and to interpret specific textual items with regard to the complete oeuvre. Here the editor has wished to concentrate interest on central concepts. References to secondary literature attempt to give access to earlier discussions of the problems concerned. The commentary section opens with a general survey of Eckhart's life and work, his sources and the reception of his influence, and the history of his trial. This is followed by a general discussion of the editorial history of the texts, and their authentication. The German and Latin works are prefaced by general discussions concerning their manuscript tradition, the sermon chronology, and their form. All these sections are written with an admirable clarity, almost pithiness; they present the problems involved comprehensively and suggest caution where necessary (cf., for example, the scepticism with regard to the dating of the German sermons, p. 740).

The sampling of the commentary that I have carried out for the purposes of this review has shown me that the explanation of crucial terms and formulations in the Stellenkommentar is helpful, well documented and sensibly cross-referenced. Issues such as the importance of Augustinian theology for the Cologne Dominicans and also for Eckhart, or the elusive influence of female religious activity arising from the curia monialium, are taken fully into account in their historical perspective. The views of Kurt Ruh, as the doyen of German researchers in this field of 'mysticism', are given full weight, but the impressive breadth of the editor's reading in all areas of scholarship relevant to the subject is what might be expected from a scholar who has also produced the now standard Eckhart bibliography (= Dokimion 9 (Freiburg/Schweiz 1989)), which essentially supplements the bibliographical references in the commentary.

The edition is marked by a good bibliography of source texts and secondary literature, and a series of useful indexes: historical proper names and anonymous works, concepts and words that occur in the texts and commentary, quotations from the works in the trial documents, and a concordance of the various editions of Eckhart's texts.

A slip of the pen on p. 729 should be corrected: Georg Steer's contribution to the edition of the German sermons (paying more attention to the manuscript tradition than did his predecessor Joseph (Quint's attempts to produce an authentic 'Ur'-text) is to be published in the fifth section of sermons contained in the fourth (not the fifth) volume of the Stuttgart edition (cf. also p. 731). I have noted two identical misprints: at p. 978, lines 8 and 15 from below, read Georg. These two volumes are a distinguished addition to the series in which they appear.

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Author:Margetss, John
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1995
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