Abelly Text Editorial Introduction

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
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Index of Abelly: Book One at Vincentian Encyclopedia

by John E. Rybolt, C.M.

This translation owes its existence to the work of the late Christian Brother, William Quinn. He came to know Saint Vincent through his research on Saint John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers, and sought to contribute to the growing body of materials on Vincent de Paul in English. Because of his familiarity with translating seventeenth century religious writings, he was qualified to undertake the enormous task of rendering Abelly into English. His accustomed method of translation was to prepare a readable and accurate text. Consequently, he simplified the text at points to enhance its readability, while attempting to conserve the flavor of the original. Beginning in 1988, the members of the Vincentian Studies Institute cooperated with Brother Quinn in reviewing and correcting his work at several stages.

Abelly's life of Saint Vincent has undergone many editions and revisions since its publication. The text translated here, however, has been made from the original text of 1664. Louis Abelly, La vie du venerable serviteur de Dieu Vincent de Paul, instituteur et premier superieur general de la Congregation de la Mission. Divisée en trois livres. Paris: Florentin Lambert, 1664. 3 vols. in 1. Reprinted, Piacenza, 1986. Research by André Dodin for his doctoral dissertation on Louis Abelly uncovered some small adjustments between two printings of the 1664 version. The one used here is the second printing (also dated 1664.) The slightly emended text in the first printing has been noted where appropriate. The printing errors given in the list of Errata, identical in both printings, have been corrected in this translation. Dodin's careful work has uncovered still more errors, and a few others have also been noted and corrected in this edition.

Following the example of the excellent 1891 French edition of Abelly, prepared by J.B. Pémartin, C.M., the editor has attempted to give references to all quotations. Only direct quotations from the Bible have been cited. Indirect quotations, allusions, or passing references, however, are left as they are without citations. Quotations from the Psalms are given according to modern numbering, but the text remains that of the old psalter as quoted by Abelly. Biblical translations are generally made directly from the New American Bible rather than from the text used by Abelly. The only exceptions are those occasioned by significantly different texts. Patristic citations have been made, wherever possible, to the old edition of Migne, and abbreviated PL (Patrologia Latina) and PG (Patrologia Graeca).

All other quotations from Saint Vincent and his correspondents have been cross-referenced to the edition of Coste. Those not attributed to some source (a speaker or writer) or not otherwise identified are presumed to appear only in Abelly. More research needs to be done on the sources used by Abelly.

Certain French institutions and public officials have names which have different meanings in English. The following list gives the most important of these.

  • Chamber of Accounts: a royal council with responsibilities to oversee royal property and finances
  • Chevalier: knight, an honorary title
  • College: a boarding high school
  • Hotel: a large private mansion in a town
  • Hotel Dieu: a traditional name for a hospital
  • Lieutenant: (lieutenant criminel), an official with powers to pursue and arrest criminals
  • Official: an ecclesiastical judge
  • Parlement: a judicial body, not a legislature
  • President: a presiding judge in a Parlement
  • Presidial court: a local court of appeal

Weights and measures, however, have been left in French to preserve the flavor of the original, and to avoid, particularly dealing with money, having to change currency rates. Since values for weights and measures were not uniform throughout France, the descriptions in the following list are often valid only for the Paris region.

  • Chopine: liquid measure, containing about one pint
  • Denier: money, a half-sou
  • Ecu: money, also translated as "crown"; 60 sous or 3 livres
  • League: distance, about 2 1/2 miles, 4 kilometers
  • Livre: money, an old name for a franc; 20 sous
  • Muid: liquid measure, containing about 59 gallons
  • Piastre: money, a coin of Italian or Spanish origin, widely used internationally; in the near east and north Africa, 100 piastres were worth 1 livre
  • Pistole: money, 10 livres
  • Setier: liquid measure containing 2 gallons; in Paris, a demi-setier contained a half-pint
  • Sou: also spelled sol; money, 1/20 of a livre

In addition, other words or longer quotations in Latin have been left in the text, but are translated in square brackets.

Certain other issues of translation should also be explained. The terms "Mission" and "Missionaries" often, but not always, refer to members of the Congregation of the Mission. When the reference is clear, the terms are capitalized. Often, however, the reference is not clear.

The title "Monsieur" was used regularly for secular clergy in France, and was always used by Saint Vincent, who referred to himself as Monsieur Vincent, and never as Monsieur Depaul. The term Monsieur has been retained here to give some flavor of the original text.

Personal names in French or other languages have generally been retained in their original form, unless the English version of the name is normally in use as such in English. For bibliographical references in footnotes, the original forms have been maintained. However, the use of accents in French names has been retained only for references to book titles. All other accents have been eliminated. Hyphens in French given names, such as Jean-Claude, have also been eliminated. Noble and ecclesiastical titles have been put into English. The only exception is Marquis/Marquise, instead of the less recognizable English Marquess and Marchioness. These titles are capitalized only when they precede the person's name. French Monseigneur for bishops has been translated as "Your Excellency," or "Bishop," rather than "My Lord," a more British than American usage. Other ecclesiastical forms of address have been similarly simplified to reflect modern usage.

Moslem has been used instead of Turk, since in the French of the period, the two were identified. The reason was that, particularly in North Africa, there were many ethnic Turks at work in the imperial Ottoman government. At present, the religious term Moslem for a follower of Islam is more accurate than the ethnic term Turk.

Place names have been given in modern French equivalents in those cases where they have been changed from the seventeenth century, such as modern Noyon for Noyons. In addition, the customary English spellings of certain places have been retained instead of the modern French spelling: English Marseilles for French Marseille. Hyphens used in composite names have been eliminated, such as Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

In addition to the references mentioned above in the historical introduction, the following have been cited in the footnotes:

  • André Dodin, Monsieur Vincent Raconté par son Secrétaire. Paris, 1991. (Hereinafter cited as Robineau.)
  • André Dodin, Saint Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Entretiens, Documents. XV. Supplément. Paris, 1970. (Hereinafter cited as Supplement.)
  • Andé Dodin, Saint Vincent de Paul. Entretiens spirituels aux missionnaires. Paris, 1960. (Hereinafter cited as Entretiens.)
  • Annales de la Congrégation de la Mission, hereinafter cited as Annales CM.
  • Beatificationis et Canonizationis Vener. Servi Dei Vincentij a Paulo . . . Summarium. Rome, 1703. Part II: Ex processu ne pereant probationes auctoritate apostolica fabricato. (Hereinafter cited as Summarium.)
  • Lettres de S. Vincent de Paul. Edited by Jean-Baptiste Pémartin. 4 vols. Paris, 1880.

Index of Abelly: Book One at Vincentian Encyclopedia