Monday, December 17, 2012

Jonathan Edwards' Most Important Bible

Jonathan Edwards owned a quarto volume made up of blank pages which were interleaved with an octavo King James Bible. Each blank page was "divided into two columns by a red line so that the page offered a space corresponding to the double-columned Bible page facing it." In these pages Edwards developed his reflections, verse by verse."[1]

Like many eighteenth-century thinkers, Edwards thought, pen in hand:
My method of study, from my first beginning the work of the ministry, has been very much by writing; applying myself in this way, to improve every important hint; pursuing the clue to my utmost, when anything in reading, meditation or conversation, has been suggested to my mind, that seemed to promise light in any weighty point. Thus penning what appeared to me my best thoughts, on innumerable subjects for my own benefit. The longer I prosecuted my studies in this method, the more habitual it became, and the more pleasant and profitable I found it. The further I traveled in this way, the more and wider the field opened, which has occasioned my laying out many things, in my mind, to do in this manner.[2]
Like other intellectuals in the eighteenth century, he used an interleaved copy of a text central in his profession. For Edwards this was the Bible, for Immanuel Kant, who followed the same practice, it was Baumgarten's Metaphysica for his reflections on metaphysics that ultimately led to the Critique of Pure Reason of 1781. For other subjects, he used interleaved copies of other works by Baumgarten and others.[3] But he did not use separate notebooks to the extent Edwards did.


1. Wilson H. Kimnach and Kenneth P. Minkema, "The Material and Social Practices of Intellectual Work: Jonathan Edwards’s Study." The William and Mary Quarterly 69 (2012), pp. 683-670, 713.
2. Quoted in accordance with Kimach and Minkema, "The Material and Social Practices," p. 684.
3. See also Blumenbach's system on this blog.

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