Italy – Completion of the critical edition of the Epistolary of Don Bosco, an essential text for Salesian history

30 April 2024

(ANS – Rome) – With the publication of the 10th volume of the critical edition of Don Bosco's letters (Rome, LAS 2024), the very ambitious project of the Salesian Historical Institute (ISS), launched at its foundation in 1982, has come to an end. Volume 10 collects in the first part the letters from 1887, January 1888 and about eighty letters not included in the previous volumes (as recovered after their printing); the second part consists of the indexing of names of people, places, correspondents, subjects, in order to facilitate searches within volumes that would easily remain dusty on library shelves at a tine like the present, in which history seems to have lost much of its appeal.  

As with the previous volumes, each letter is enriched with initial information that specifies the documentary value of the edited text (original draft, or autograph, allograph, without signature, with imitated signature...) and below by by two sts of apparatus: the critical  "author variants" apparatus useful for a better interpretation of the text and understanding of the usus scribendi of Don Bosco; and then the historical and  biographical apparatus to contextualise some events, note significant expressions, connect the letters sent to the same correspondent, identify with  precision the thousands of characters mentioned, but unknown to the greater story.

Steering the vessel into port - in those dangerous seas with waves that can never be tamed that are the correspondence of personalities who have left indelible traces in history, such as Don Bosco - was Salesian Fr Francesco Motto, a co-founding member of ISS, for 10 years its coordinating secretary and for 20 years its director. Collecting from all over the world, reading, comparing, deciphering, reconstructing, demystifying, and indexing with painstaking patience a bulk of 4,682 letters, mostly manuscript and arduous to read, was an undertaking that required determination and temerity from the curator in its initiation, passion and courage as he went ahead, and confidence and perseverance in its completion. And so from today we have an essential tool to know and "taste" the human, spiritual, charismatic, pedagogical, cultural dimension of an extraordinary life of Don Bosco. From today it is available to everyone, the Salesian Family and the Church in particular, a heritage of papers, reflections and resonance of his tough daily life, year by year, month by month, day by day, it would seem, also able to help stem the ever-rising tide of fake news, that is, of expressions attributed to Don Bosco but never seriously documented.

The new Epistolary, in its paper and digital versions already largely available on the ISS website, with its  64% of unpublished letters, is obviously intended to replace the previous one by Fr Eugenio Ceria from the 1950s and the texts collected in the various volumes of the Biographical Memoirs.

It can be reasonably assumed that the new edition could last for decades, subject to the need to supplement it with the increasingly rare finds of letters that have escaped the searches of the past four decades.  


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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