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Allen C. Guelzo

Insatiable Intellectual Curiosity

Jonathan Edwards, reading.

The appearance of Volume 26 in the Yale University Press edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards marks the conclusion of one of the great editorial projects in American letters, not to mention American religion. Begun in 1953 under the eye of Edwards' most famous biographer, Perry Miller, the edition began with four volumes of Edwards' most influential works: Freedom of the Will from 1754 (edited by the Princeton ethicist Paul Ramsey), The Religious Affections from 1746 (edited by the Yale philosopher John E. Smith, who assumed the general editorship of the edition after Miller's death in 1963), the posthumously-published Original Sin (edited by Clyde Holbrook in 1970), and a collection of Edwards' shorter writings on the Great Awakening (edited by Clarence C. Goen, who had published a landmark study of separatism in New England in the 1740s). And at that point the edition stalled. Start-up funding for the series had originally come from Paul Mellon and the Bollingen Foundation, but after Mellon began to shut down the foundation in the mid-1960s, only two further volumes appeared, Steven Stein's edition of Edwards' Apocalyptic Writings and Wallace Anderson's long-awaited edition of Edwards' early Scientific and Philosophical Writings (in 1980), based on Anderson's 1961 University of Minnesota dissertation on "Mind and Nature in the Early Philosophical Writings of Jonathan Edwards."

Such was the situation when in 1986 Harry S. Stout moved to Yale to begin teaching American religious history. A Calvin College graduate with a PhD in history from Kent State, Stout seized hold of the moribund Edwards edition, found new funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Lilly Endowment, and the Luce Foundation, created a research staff, moved the series headquarters to the Yale Divinity School, and dramatically ramped-up the assignment of new editors and the publication of new volumes in the series. Although Stout only assigned himself the editor's job for one volume among the twenty ...

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