Copies or fragments of Augustine’s writings exist from all centuries, and even from the time before his death.One scholar has cautiously raised the possibility that the manuscript indentified as Bibliotheque Municipale 483 at Lyons, France, may contain Augustine's actual handwriting in its marginal notations.
At the time of Augustine in the fifth century, and for centuries afterwards, the production of copies of books was an expensive and time-consuming process, because they had to be handwritten; the production of one book could require many weeks of work by a skilled copyist. There were no bookshops, and manuscripts were copied to order by arrangement. The author received no royalties; in fact, once he released a copy of his writing to friends as a manuscript, he had no influence or control over who copied it further.
From the fifth century in which Augustine lived, there still exist five or six full copies or fragments of individual works by him. One of these is the only extant copy of the shorter version of De doctrina Christiana ("On Christian Doctrine") by Augustine, most likely copied before Augustine produced his longer version in 426 AD. This book, and another that contains Books 11-16 of City of God, were produced in North Africa.
Many of the sixth-century copies of various writings by Augustine were produced in Italy. The number of copies of each of his works that then existed in manuscript form possibly was not great. For example, the famous remark of the Spanish scholar Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), that anyone who claimed to have read all the works of Augustine was a liar, referred to the difficulty of anyone to obtain a copy of every Augustinian work in order to read them.
The major source of seventh-century production of Augustine's works was Gaul, and in the eighth century was Tours, France. In the eighth century, the English Biblical scholar and historian called the Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) had a deep veneration for the writings of Augustine, and certainly would have acquired copies of all works of Augustine that he could obtain.
From what Bede wrote, however, it is evident that the library of his monastery at Wearmouth-Yarrow, England, which was excellent for its time, had copies of about only half of Augustine's works. Bede provides the best picture available of the Anglo-Saxon knowledge of Augustine. For Bede Augustine was an exegete. Bede used the Confessions and the City of God only for their exegesis of Genesis. He also cited Augustine’s three Genesis commentaries over two hundred times, and he knew the commentaries on John and 1 John, the Two Books of Questions on the Gospels, and On the Harmony of the Gospels.
Coming from the time before the year 900 AD, there are 56 surviving manuscripts of City of God, 24 copies of De doctrina Christiana, 12 of Confessions, and 20 of De Trinitate. For these volumes to have survived in such numbers, it is evident that some writings by Augustine were present in many libraries located in cathedrals and religious communities. In the ninth century, it is known that the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, who died in the year 814, read Augustine. De civitate Dei ("City of God ") was Charlemagne’s favourite book.
There still exist two manuscripts of Augustine's writings that were part of Charlemagne’s library. As it happens, the oldest complete copy of City of God comes from this Carolingian period. Also extant are manuscripts that list the written works of Augustine held in some major libraries. Having such information was important when a particular title was being sought so that the manuscript could be copied.
These lists show that copies of Augustine’s writings were present throughout Europe, although not necessarily plentiful. For example the ninth-century library of the cathedral in Mainz, had forty-eight of the writings by Augustine - about half of his output. Furthermore, the ninth century proved a time when Augustine’s writings were particularly at the forefront of Western thought. This was the time of Charlemagne and his vision of Christendom and a Holy Roman Empire. At a time when the undivided Western Church dominated thinking not only in philosophy and theology but also in law, history, spirituality, politics, art, science and music, the great range of Augustine’s writings meant that his impressions could be sought or surmised within many disciplines.
Before the printing press became common at the beginning of the sixteenth century it is impossible to be confident that any scholar had much of an opportunity to have had personal contact with copies of almost all of Augustine's written works. Previously, a scholar more likely had contact with collections of excerpts compiled from Augustine's works, rather than with copies of the full text by Augustine in many instances. Examples of two of the most famous and most available collections that contained extracts from Augustine were Catena Aurea by Thomas Aquinas and Peter Lombard's Collectorium in Psalmos.") The distribution of Augustine’s works greatly benefited from the invention of the printing press. The first work of Augustine to be printed was De civitate dei ("City of God"). This happened at Subiaco near Rome in 1467, and was one of the first books ever printed in Italy.
The first-ever Omnia Opera of Augustine (a production in Augustine’s Latin of a set of eleven books containing all of Augustine’s writings) was printed by Johann Amerbach at Basel in Switzerland in 1506. This was the period immediately leading to the Protestant Reformation, meaning that Martin Luther was in the first generation of Augustinian scholars to have had the possibility of convenient access to all of Augustine's writings. That same text was then reprinted (in Latin) by Erasmus in Basel in 1527-1529, and went through nine subsequent editions. A great edition was subsequently prepared by the theological scholars at the Université de Louvain (Antwerp, 1576-1577; reprinted Paris, 1637).
The eleven-volume Maurist edition of Augustine’s omnia opera ("Complete Works") was published in Paris in 1679-1700, and became the most respected scholarly edition. It was then reprinted as Books 32-47 within the huge Patrologia Latina by Minge in Paris in 1841-1847. These omnia opera remained the standard sources of Augustine’s writings well into the twentieth century.
For related Augnet material on late medieval Augustinian libraries, click here for this website’s section on Augustinian libraries. LinkSearch for an Augustine quote A search engine from the Augustinian Center at Wurzbury, Germany.http://augustinus.de/einfuehrung/uebersetzungen-im-wwwResources
The Works of Saint Augustine: A translation for the Twentieth First Century. In 1990, New City Press, in conjunction with the Augustinian Heritage Institute, began translating Saint Augustine's entire corpus into English. At that time, English was the only major Western language into which the Complete Works had not yet been attempted. Existing translations were often archaic or faulty, and the scholarship was outdated. Augustine's writings are useful to anyone interested in patristics, church history, and theology. New City Press is proud to offer the best modern translations available. St. Augustine's complete works will be translated into 49 volumes. By 2016, over 40 of a projected 49 volumes in the series had been translated and published by NCP.http://www.newcitypress.com/the-works-of-saint-augustine-1.html