Christianbook.com has the single volume edition of Calvin’s Institutes on sale for $15.99. Years ago I purchased the two volume set by McNeill and Battles and read it through a few times. More recently a good friend sent me the sinlge volume, unabridged, 1845 Beveridge translation (with the older styled cover) and I do prefer it over the two volume set. A few quotes from Amazon will help explain why one might prefer Bereridge over other editions.
Reformed Christian scholar and theological philosopher Paul Helm:
“Incidentally, if you have the need of a translation of the Institutes, then the reissue of the Beveridge translation (newly published by Hendrickson) may be just the thing. It has new indexes, and has been ‘gently edited’, which means, I hope, only the removal of typos and other detritus. (I have not yet had the chance to check). Beveridge is superior to Battles in sticking closer to the original Latin, and having less intrusive editorial paraphernalia.”
Richard A. Muller, on the two translations (from the preface of The Unaccommodated Calvin):
“I have also consulted the older translations of the Institutes, namely those of Norton, Allen and Beveridge, in view of both the accuracy of those translation and the relationship in which they stand to the older or ‘precritical’ text tradition of Calvin’s original. Both in its apparatus and in its editorial approach to the text, the McNeill-Battles translation suffers from the mentality of the text-critic who hides the original ambience of the text even as he attempts to reveal all its secrets to the modern reader.”
from J.I. Packer in the foreword to A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes:
“No English translation fully matches Calvin’s Latin; that of the Elizabethan, Thomas Norton, perhaps gets closest; Beveridge gives us Calvin’s feistiness but not always his precision; Battles gives us the precision but not always the punchiness, and fleetness of foot; Allen is smooth and clear, but low-key.”
“Let me just say a few words about English translations. The first was Thomas Norton back in the sixteenth century. Calvin was very fortunate with his first English translator. Norton did an exceptionally good job. Very soon after the completion of the Institutes in 1559, which was written in Latin, it was translated by Calvin into French and then quite soon into English. John Allen was the second translator. John Allen and Henry Beveridge were both nineteenth-century translators. The Beveridge translation is still in print. It was until fairly recently anyway. Those are not bad but not very good either. Ford Lewis Battles’ 1960 translation is the one that we are using. Even though it has been criticized some, it is by far the most superior translation that we have at present.”
Joshua Butcher’s Amazon review:
The recent reissue of Beveridge’s 19th century translation of Calvin’s Institutes is a very nice complement to the more comprehensive scholarly edition by McNeil (translated by Battles). If you are trying to decide between the Battles and the Beveridge translation here are a few things to consider.
1. The Battles has extensive editing, which includes a thorough cross-referencing of the pertinent quotations that Calvin refers to, as well as the pertinent Biblical texts and intertextual references. McNeil is a quality editor, but as with any editing, the view of the editor is never without a measure of bias. If you are looking to get a fresh interpretation of Calvin, you try reading the Beveridge first, or skip over the footnotes in the Battles.
2. The Beveridge provides alternative readings based upon the French edition of the Institutes. I’ve found this aspect to be quite interesting. Calvin’s style in French tends to be a bit more expansive and colorful than his Latin.
3. The Beveridge has the benefit of being a one-volume hardback, as opposed to the two-volume hardback of the Battles. The one-volume has a bit more heft to carry around, but you always have the complete work with you if you are out and about.
4. The subject headings are different in the two editions. The Beveridge provides a full sentence overview outline at the beginning of each chapter division, whereas the Battles provides subheadings for each minor section. There are pros and cons to each approach, of course.
Whatever edition you decide to get, you will not be disappointed. Calvin’s Institutes is a masterpiece of Western literature, and one of the most important works of the Christian Church of all time.
This edition has some nice features as well:
– An eight-page, four-color insert on coated stock, including a frontispiece featuring the title page of the original publication and a timeline of the Reformation and of John Calvin’s life
– Two ribbon markers
– Gold foil and embossing
– Linen end sheets
Even if you disagree with Calvin…you should read him. His influence on the church cannot be ignored.
Yours in the Lord,