Erudition and Orthodoxy: John Fell and Patristic Scholarship in Restoration Oxford

in Erudition and the Republic of Letters
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The Restoration was the heyday of patristic studies in England, particularly at Oxford under the guidance of John Fell. Fell was not only a good scholar in his own right; he used his patronage to organize collective undertakings and he refounded a learned press. He was able, moreover, to take advantage of the collections of patristic manuscripts, especially Greek, which had been acquired by the Bodleian Library since the 1620s. As a result, an unprecedented number of scholarly works were brought out by the new Oxford press. The ante-Nicene Fathers were clearly privileged, as is shown by most of Fell’s so-called New Year Books, the 1682 edition of Cyprian (his masterpiece), and some aborted projects by Fell’s protégés such as Henry Dodwell and John Mill. This was no accident, but rather the expression of a powerful doctrine of tradition. Indeed, Oxford patristics had an explicit, even aggressive, confessional agenda. It was meant to express and to promote a distinctive confessional identity. Already in Fell’s lifetime, however, the exploration of Christian antiquity began to threaten the orthodoxy it had been meant to buttress.

Erudition and Orthodoxy: John Fell and Patristic Scholarship in Restoration Oxford

in Erudition and the Republic of Letters




Jean-Louis Quantin‘Du Chrysostome latin au Chrysostome grec: Une histoire européenne (1588–1613)’ in Chrysostomosbilder in 1600 Jahren. Facetten der Wirkungsgeschichte eines Kirchenvatersed. Martin Wallraff and Rudolf Brändle [Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte 105] (Berlin 2008) 267–346 esp. 311–325.


Ward to Ussher 25 September 1622in Parr Usher 82 (letter L).


Paul G. Hoftijzer‘British Books Abroad: the Continent’ in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain4 ed. John Barnard and D.F. McKenzie (Cambridge 2002) 735–743 esp. 735–736.


Julian Roberts‘The Latin Trade’ibid. 141–173; Jean-Louis Quantin ‘John Selden et l’étude de l’Antiquité chrétienne: Érudition critique et anticléricalisme’ Annuaire de l’Institut Michel Villey 3 (2011) 339–389 esp. 357–367.


 See Jean-Louis Quantin‘Les jésuites et l’érudition anglicane’xviie siècle 237 (2007) 691–712esp. 698–702.


Young to Elie Diodati 17 July 1633in Kemke Patricius Junius 70.


 See Jean-Louis Quantin‘L’orthodoxie, la censure et la gloire: La difficile édition princeps de l’épître de Barnabé, de Rome à Amsterdam (1549–1646)’ in ‘Editiones principes’ delle opere dei Padri greci e latinied. Mariarosa Cortesi (Florence 2006; Milennio Medievale 62) 103–162 at 142–153.


William Laud‘Things which I have projected to do, if God bless me in them’ in The History of the troubles and tryal of the Most Reverend Father in God and Blessed Martyr William Laud Lord Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. Wrote by Himself during his Imprisonment in the Tower. To which is prefixed the Diary of his own Life ed. Henry Wharton (London 1695) 68.


 See Bernhard Bischoff‘Deutsche Karolingische Skriptorien in den Handschriften des Erzbishofs Laud’ in Manuscripts at Oxford: An Exhibition in Memory of Richard William Hunted. A.C. de la Mare and B.C. Barker-Benfield (Oxford 1980) 15–18; Sigrid Krämer ‘German Medieval Libraries Represented in Bodleian Manuscripts’ ibid. 131–135; Nigel F. Palmer Zisterzienser und ihre Bücher. Die mittelalterliche Bibliotheksgeschichte von Kloster Eberbach im Rheingau unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der in Oxford und London aufbewahrten Handschriften (Regensburg 1998) esp. 40–45.


MorisonFell59–72; Johnson and Gibson Print and Privilege 40–42; and Carter A History 45–47.


MorisonFell57–58. For Fell’s earlier dispositions see 54.


Fell to Vossius 2 Aug. 1669Amsterdam Universiteitsbibliotheek Remonstrantsche Kerk ms iii E 10 (140 1) and undated iii E 10 (326 2); Marshall to Fell 10 June 1670 in Hart Notes 162; Beveridge Synodicon 1: xxii. The manuscript is the present Leiden Voss. Gr. F. 24 (K.A. de Meyïer Codices Vossiani Graeci et Miscellanei (Leiden 1955) 27). On Vossius and Oxford scholarship see Scott Mandelbrote ‘Isaac Vossius and the Septuagint’ in Isaac Vossius between Science and Scholarship ed. Eric Jorink and Dirk van Miert (Leiden 2012) 85–117.


 See Scott to Fell 16 January 1670printed in Hart Notes 156; 26 August 1670 ms Rawl. D 398 fol. 124r; 14 November 1670 printed in Hart Notes 156; Beveridge to Fell 28 August 1671 ms Rawl. D 398 fol. 125r.


Fell to Vossius 12 March 1670Amsterdam Universiteitsbibliotheek R.K. iii E 10 (132): ‘Nobis reuera est in animo . . . Typographeium hic loci instaurare ab artificiorum sordibus emancipatum quod non adeo Bibliopolarum compendio quam studiosorum usibus et commodo inseruiat’. This letter has already been quoted by Morison Fell 4 from Burmann’s transcription in Leiden.


Johnson and GibsonPrint and Privilege48 162–4; Larminie ‘The Fell Era’ 88–93.


Johnson and Gibson (eds.)First Minute Bookxviii.


Johnson and GibsonPrint and Privilege85.


Michael D. Reeve‘John Wallis, Editor of Greek Mathematical Texts’ in Editing Texts/ Texte edierened. Glenn W. Most (Göttingen 1998; Aporemata Kritische Studien zur Philolo­giegeschichte 2) 77–93 esp. 90–92.


 See Whitby to Smith 6 July 1676ms Smith 54 p. 127: ‘Dr Lloyd and Mr Dodwell have ­collated Cyprian de unitate Ecclesiae de opere et eleemosynis de bono patientiae de ­mortalitate de oratione dominica with an antient manuscript in our library and have noted all the various lections and additions which are very considerable in my Cyprian which when you are pleased to peruse them shall be carefully sent to you’. See Dodwell to Smith 21 April 1676 ms Smith 49 p. 126: ‘I now live with Dr Lloyd of Reading . . . who is now in his residence as Canon of Salisbury’.


 See Baluze to Fell 2 March 1677Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France ms N. Acq. Lat. 2336 fol. 198r-v (draft) sending a list of variant readings compiled by Nicolas Le Fèvre (1544–1612) from two Paris manuscripts fols. 200r-202v. The intermediary between Baluze and Fell was Edward Bernard. There is the briefest mention of Le Fèvre’s collations in Fell’s preface to Cyprian Opera sig. ¶4v. They must have been made redundant when Fell obtained fresh collations of the same manuscripts from the Maurists (see next note). There are no thanks to Baluze who appears to have resented Fell’s behaviour (see Pierre Allix to Baluze 5/15 December 1685 Paris Bibliothèque nationale de France ms N. Acq. Lat. 2336 fol. 9r).


Petitmengin‘Un monument controversé’108; Pierre Petitmengin ‘Baluze éditeur des Pères de l’Église’ in Étienne Baluze 1630–1718. Érudition et pouvoirs dans l’Europe classique ed. Jean Boutier (Limoges 2008) 141–161 esp. 154–155; Reeve ‘John Wallis’ 89–90; and G. F. Diercks’s prolegomenacc 3D 855.


Dodwell to Bernard 19 June 1671ms Smith 45 p. 9.


 See Quantin‘Anglican Scholarship’316–318; Fell to Graevius 9 March [1686] Copenhagen Det Kongelige Bibliotek ms Thott 1262 4°. Pearson was also involved (see Henri Justel to Thomas Smith 15 November 1683 ms Smith 46 p. 339).


 See Quantin‘Anglican Scholarship’318; Quantin Church of England 369.


 See Fell to Prideaux 29 January 1685ms Tanner 32 fol. 206r; Fell’s preface to Ὠριγένους περὶ εὐχῆς σύνταγμα μέχρι τοῦδε τοῦ χρόνου ἀνέκδοτον (Oxford 1686) sigs. a2r–v; Adam Fox John Mill and Richard Bentley. A Study of the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1675–1729) (Oxford 1954) 136.


Ussher‘Praemonitio’ in Ignatii Polycarpi et Barnabae Epistolae atque Martyria (Oxford 1643) 246–247 (sheets preserved from the fire in the unique copy Bodl. 4° i 5. Th. bs.).


 See Nicholas Tyacke‘Religious Controversy’ in Seventeenth-Century Oxford601–609; Stephen Hampton Anti-Arminians. The Anglican Reformed Tradition from Charles ii to George i (Oxford 2008) esp. 39–128.


 See QuantinChurch of England369–379; id. ‘Anglican Scholarship’ 342–345.


 See QuantinChurch of England146–147.


 See Jean-Louis Quantin‘La menace des faits: érudition moderne et condamnations romaines’ in Rome l’unique objet de mon ressentiment: regards critiques sur la papauté (Rome 2011) 142–143. Other Maurist editions such as the Opera of Hilary of Poitiers (1693) have a few anti-Protestant notes.




Fell to Sancroft 14 October 1681ms Tanner 290 fol. 165r.


Larroque to Bayle 12 July 1686in Correspondance de Pierre Bayle 7: 34.

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