Alban Butler

Alban Butler

Alban Butler (October 13, 1709 - St-Omer, France May 15, 1773), English Roman Catholic priest and hagiographer, was born at Appletree, Northamptonshire.

He was educated at the English college, Douai, where on his ordination to the priesthood in 1735 he held successively the chairs of philosophy and divinity. He labored for some time as a missionary priest in Staffordshire, held several positions as tutor to young Roman Catholic noblemen, and was finally appointed president of the English seminary at St Omer, where he remained till his death.

Butler's great work, "The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" ("Butler's "Lives"), the result of thirty years study (first published in four volumes, London, 1756-1759), has passed through many editions and translations (best edition, including valuable notes, Dublin, 12 vols. 1779-1780). It is a popular and compendious reproduction of the "Acta Sanctorum", exhibiting great industry and research, and is in all respects the best compendium of "Acta" in English.

In 1745 Butler was commissioned to act as tutor and guide to George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his two brothers, James and Thomas Talbot, both afterwards Catholic bishops, on the Grand Tour. On his return he acted as Catholic mission priest in his native Midlands. He acted as chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk, whose nephew and heir, the Hon. Edward Howard, Butler accompanied to Paris as tutor. While he was in Paris, Butler completed his "Lives".

See "An Account of the Life of A. B. by C. B.", i.e. by his nephew Charles Butler (London, 1799); and Joseph Gillow's "Bibliographical Dictionary of English Catholics", vol. i.

Notes on the first edition of 1756-1759:This edition was printed initially in 4 octavo volumes, with no stated publisher or author's name. However they were so thick that they were usually bound in more volumes than that. There were actually 6 title pages since Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 both have a "part II" issued thus: vol. I, vol. II, vol. III, vol. III part II, vol. IV, and vol. IV part II. Each "volume" contained three months of the liturgical calendar's Saints' lives. Vol. I also had a copperplate engraving with figures of the Roman devices of torture used, and a 2 page explanation of their use. (only found in the first edition.) Charles Butler's assertion that "all the notes" were left out of the first edition at the suggestion of Bishop Challoner is exaggerated. There are many useful, and even extended notes in the first edition, but not to the extent that they appear in the second, and succeeding editions. Lowndes suggests that there was a 1745 quarto first edition, but this is incorrect, and we suspect that he was thinking of Challoner's "Britania Sancta" which was printed that year in two Quarto volumes, and deals with all of the Saint's lives from the British Isles.

One modern abridged "Concise Edition" is: ISBN 0-06-069299-5

A modern complete edition (1995–2000) is also available in 12 volumes, organized by month and feast day:

*The January volume is ISBN 0-8146-2377-8.
*February ISBN 0-8146-2378-6
*March ISBN 0-8146-2379-4
*April ISBN 0-8146-2380-8
*May ISBN 0-8146-2381-6
*June ISBN 0-8146-2382-4
*July ISBN 0-8146-2383-2
*August ISBN 0-8146-2384-0
*September ISBN 0-8146-2385-9
*October ISBN 0-8146-2386-7
*November ISBN 0-8146-2387-5
*December ISBN 0-8146-2388-3

Since Fr. Butler published his original edition of his "Lives", there have been many revisions of it by others. A "Revised Edition," in 12 volumes, was published by Father Herbert Thurston, SJ, between 1926 and 1938. This was a significant rewrite of Butler's original. The "Second Edition" was published in 1956 by Donald Attwater, an English layman. This edition made further significant changes. Recently, several one-volume books have been published under the title "Butler's Lives of the Saints," even though they really have little or nothing in common with Fr. Butler's original work.

External links

* [ Catholic Encyclopedia: "Alban Butler"]


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  • Alban Butler —     Alban Butler     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Alban Butler     Historian, b. 10 October, 1710, at Appletree, Northamptonshire, England; d. at St Omer, France, 15 May, 1773. He shares with the venerable Bishop Challoner the reputation of being… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Alban Butler — (Northamptonshire, Inglaterra, 1709 Saint Omer, Francia, 1773), fue un sacerdote católico y hagiógrafo. Fue educado en el colegio inglés Douai, donde tras su ordenación en 1735 tuvo sucesivamente los cargos de filosofía y divinidad. Laboró por… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Alban Butler — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Butler. Alban Butler, prêtre catholique anglais, né en octobre 1710 dans le comté de Northampton, il fut ordonné prêtre en 1734 et il est mort le 15 mai 1773 à Saint Omer (Artois). Il étudia au collège anglais de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Butler (surname) — Butler is a surname that has been associated with many different places and people. It can be either: * an English occupational name that originally denoted a servant in charge of the wine cellar, from the Norman French word butuiller . It… …   Wikipedia

  • Butler — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Butler », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) Sommaire …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Butler, Alban — (1710–73)    Historian and Devotional Writer.    Butler was orphaned as a child and was educated at the Catholic Seminary at Douai. After ordination, he acted as chaplain to the Duke of Norfolk’s household and travelled abroad a great deal. He is …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Butler, Alban — • Seventeenth century English Catholic Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Butler, Alban — ▪ English priest and educator born October 24, 1710, Northampton, Northamptonshire, England died May 15, 1773, Saint Omer, France  Roman Catholic priest and educator renowned for his classic Lives of the Saints.       Butler was educated at the… …   Universalium

  • BUTLER, ALBAN —    hagiographer, born in Northampton; head of the college at St. Omer; wrote Lives of the Saints (1710 1773) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Charles Butler —     Charles Butler     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Charles Butler     One of the most prominent figures among the English Catholics of his day, b. in London, 1750, d. 2 June, 1832.     He belonged to an ancient Northamptonshire family, and was a… …   Catholic encyclopedia

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