Cheap Summas!

I recall to this day them moment a fellow student presented to me a fresh set of the 3-volumes of the English Dominican translation of the Summa Theologica (in the boxes!); seems he came across them in the former St. John’s Seminar library on the “overflow” for-sale book shelf for the princely sum of $5/volume, and thought I might make good use of them.

As I look here at volume one, with its worn spine, separating fly-leaf and dirty thumbed pages, my thought turns to the day I might need to replace it with a fresh copy. I also have been looking for an inexpensive version, perhaps of individual parts, that I might assign to my Thomas students.

I have been pleasantly surprised, then, to have discovered that the Summa, while not quite at the $2.50/pars rate that I paid for mine, has never been so inexpensive to acquire. Note that I offer these observations, not as a commercial endorsement, but as useful information for students and teachers of St. Thomas.

Of course, you can’t get much more inexpensive than free; and with the web, there are numerous versions of the English Dominican translation available, with the PDF version on the main website for the Dominican friars being my favorite:

The HTML version hosted by the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. is more web-friendly:

and also contains a number of other translated works, plus a link to the invaluable Latin version of Thomas’ works that has been mentioned in these pages before:

If you wish to have access to that HTML version even when you are unhooked from the web, you should scroll down to the bottom of the CCEL page of the Summa and download the ZIP archive, unzip it to a folder (directory for us older DOS folks) and open up the “index.html” file as your starting point to having your Summa on your computer:

Finally, has the parts of the Summa available in an assortment of e-reader formats:

While these versions may be great for those comfortable reading from computer-screens, if you go to print them out in order to work from hard-copies, the costs of paper, toner or ink can add up quite quickly, and you’ve still got a pile of loose pages to 3-hole punch or otherwise bind together. In that case, purchasing a printed version may be the most cost-effective way to read the Summa.

This option used to relegate you to the used-book market, which was hit-or-miss in pre-internet days, but these days is far more user-friendly for finding what you want. Unfortunately, used-books tend to command a premium, making freshly-printed editions sometimes less-expensive than used volumes.

If you want a fresh edition of the English Dominican translation, the full set is available through Ave Maria Press in Indiana:

Summa Theologica, Complete 5-Volume Set

Hardcover: ISBN: 978-0-87061-063-9

Softcover: ISBN: 978-0-87061-069-1

and discount outlets such as Christian Book Distributors can get that set to you for under $170 hardcover or under $140 softcover.

If you want to assign particular parts of the Summa to your students, you can order reprints of the individual volumes from Cosimo books out of New York City:

which sells their volumes through Amazon:

Softcover (about $25/each):

  • ST I: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-553-6
  • ST I-II: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-555-0
  • ST II-II: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-557-4
  • ST III, part 1: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-559-8
  • ST III, part 2 & Suppl.: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-561-1

Hardcover (about $35/each):

  • ST I: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-554-3
  • ST I-II: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-556-7
  • ST II-II: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-558-1
  • ST III, part 1: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-560-4
  • ST III, part 2 & Suppl.: ISBN-13: 978-1-60206-562-8

Finally, an adventurous project from NovAntiqua is the publication of the English Dominican translation with a facing-page Latin version of the Summa in Ten Volumes:

Not really a competitor to the Blackfriars edition that as noted on this blog is being reprinted in paperback, with all its notes and accompanying articles:

this edition seems to be a usable and affordable version from which everyday work can be done, always being prepared to reference the full critical editions when necessary.

They have released the first four volumes in paperback, which covers the Prima Pars and the Prima Secundae, each of which is only about $25:

  • ST I, Qq. 1-64: ISBN-13: 978-1440484988
  • ST I, Qq. 65-119: ISBN-13: 978-1441438669
  • ST I-II, Qq. 1-70: ISBN-13: 978-1450563260
  • ST I-II, Qq. 71-114: ISBN-13: 978-1456320188 

If you know of any other affordable editions which I have overlooked, please post a reply.