Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Gian Domenico Mansi

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 9
Gian Domenico Mansi

by Auguste Boudinhon

Italian prelate and scholar born at Lucca, of a patrician family, 16 February, 1692; died archbishop of that city, 27 September, 1769. At the age of sixteen he entered the Congregation of Clerks Regular of the Mother of God and made his profession in 1710. Except for some journeys made for purposes of study, his whole life, until his appointment as Archbishop of Lucca (1765), was spent in his religious home. In 1758, after a sojourn at Rome, where he had been excellently received by Cardinal Passionei, there was question of elevating him to the Sacred College, but his unwise collaboration in an annotated edition of the famous "Encyclopédie" (see ENCYCLOPEDISTS) displeased Clement XIII. It should be remarked that the notes in this edition were intended to correct the text. Three years after his elevation to the episcopate he was smitten with an attack of apoplexy which left him suffering, deprived of the power of motion, until his death. Pious, simple, very kindly, very helpful, and extremely charitable to the poor, he made an excellent bishop, and his death caused general regret. His long career was filled chiefly with the re-editing of erudite ecclesiastical works with notes and complementary matter. His name appears on the title-pages of ninety folio volumes and numerous quartos. An indefatigable worker, widely read and thoroughly trained, his output was chiefly of a mechanical order, and unoriginal because hurried. His task was most often limited to inserting notes and documents in the work to be reproduced and sending the whole result to the printer. This left room for numberless shortcomings, Mansi's publications cannot satisfy the critical judgment. He himself, indeed, was a savant rather than a critic; he went too fast, and did too many things, to keep his aim fixed on perfection.

The only work worth mentioning that is all Mansi's own is a "Tractatus de casibus et censuris reservatis", published in 1724, which brought him into difficulties with the Index. The rest are all annotated editions. In 1726 there was "Jo. Burch. Menckenii De Charlataneria eruditorum declamationes duae cum notis variorum"; from 1725 to 1738, an annotated Latin translation of the three works of Dom Calmet — the "Dictionnaire de la Bible", "Prolégomènes et Dissertations" and "Commentaire littéral". In 1728 he reprinted the "Vetus et nova Disciplina" of Thomassin; from 1738 to 1756 he issued in twenty-eight folio volumes the "Annales" of Baronius and those of Raynald, printed with the "Critica" of Pagi; in 1742 he re-edited the Chronicle of Castruccio (1314-28); in 1749, Natalis Alexander's "Historia eccelesiastica"; in 1753 a "Diario antico e moderno delle Chiese di Lucca", considerably enlarged by himself; in 1754, "Jo. Alberti Fabricii Lipsiensis inter suos S.Th.D. et professoris publici Bibliotheca Latina mediae et infimae aetatis, cum supplemento Christiani Schottgenii," with his own notes also, in three quarto volumes (the work is dated 1734; Mansi's publication was re-edited at Florence in 1858) in 1755, the works of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pius II); in 1758, the "Theologia moralis" of Anacletus Reiffenstuel, with an epitome published separately; in 1760, the "Theologia moralis" of Laymann; in 1761, the "Miscellanea" of Baluze; in 1762, the "Historia ecclesiastica" of Père Amat de Graveson; lastly, in 1765, the "Memorie della gran Contessa Matilde" (Fiorentini).

The best-know publication of Mansi is his vast — too vast, indeed — edition of the Councils, "Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio" (31 vols., folio, Florence and Venice, 1758-98), which was stopped by lack of resources in the middle of the Council of Florence of 1438. The absence of an index renders it inconvenient, and in a critical point of view it leaves an immensity to be desired. Mansi saw only fourteen volumes of it published, the others were finished from his notes. In 1748 the savant began to publish the first volume of a collection which was presented as a supplement to that of Coleti; the sixth and last volume of it appeared in 1752. This supplement contains together with various dissertations, many recently published documents, and many unpublished, which were lacking in the previous collections — 330 letters of popes, 200 new councils, mention of 380 others — besides notes. The success of this publication induced Mansi to undertake a recasting of Coleti, with his supplement, adding to it documents discovered since his time. Such was the origin of the "Amplissima". The Paris publishing-house of Welter undertook, in 1900, a heliogravure reproduction of it with a continuation and supplement by the Abbé J. B. Martin.