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Alban Butler

alban butler lives of the saints, alban butler
Alban Butler 13 October 1710 – 15 May 1773 was an English Roman Catholic priest and hagiographer


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 The Lives of Saints
    • 21 The first edition 1756–1759
    • 22 Modern editions
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links


Alban Butler was born in 1710, at Appletree, Northamptonshire, the second son of Simon Butler, Esq1 Orphaned at the age of eight, he was sent to be educated at the English College, Douai, in France In 1735 Butler was ordained a priest At Douai, he was appointed professor of philosophy, and later professor of theology It was at Douai, he began his principal work The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints He also prepared material for Richard Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests, a work on the martyrs of the reign of Elizabeth2

In 1745, Rev Butler came to the attention of the Duke of Cumberland, younger son of King George II, for his devotion to the wounded English soldiers during the defeat at the Battle of Fontenoy3 Butler served as tutor and guide on the Grand Tour to the Duke's sons, George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his two brothers Both James and Thomas Talbot later became Catholic bishops,1

He laboured for some time as a missionary priest in Staffordshire, and was finally appointed president of the English seminary at Saint Omer in France, where he remained till his death2

Butler returned to England in 1749 and was made 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 During his term as President of the English seminary, Butler also served the bishops of Arras, Saint-Omer, Ypres, and Boulogne-Sur-Mer as their Vicar-General Butler died in Saint-Omer in 1773 and was buried in the parish church of Saint-Denis3

See An Account of the Life of A B by C B, ie by his nephew Charles Butler London, 1799; and Joseph Gillow's Bibliographical Dictionary of English Catholics, vol i4

The Lives of Saintsedit

The Lives of the Saints

Butler's great work, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints "Butler's Lives", the result of thirty years study, was first published in four volumes in London, 1756–1759 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 English4 Butler's magnum opus has passed many editions and translations

The first edition 1756–1759edit

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 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

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 According to Charles Knight, the edition published in twelve volumes in 1847 is considered the best and most complete1

Modern editionsedit

Since Fr Butler published his original edition of his Lives, many successors have revised and updated the work Father Herbert Thurston, SJ, edited and significantly rewrote the work; his 12 volume "Revised Edition" was published between 1926 and 19385 Donald Attwater made further significant changes in the "Second Edition" published in 1956, in the same number of volumescitation needed


  1. ^ a b c Knight, Charles 1872 "Butler, Alban" Biography: Or, Third Division of "The English Encyclopedia" Bradbury, Evans & Company 
  2. ^ a b Ward, Bernard 1908 "Alban Butler" The Catholic Encyclopedia 3 New York: Robert Appleton Company Retrieved 20 March 2015 
  3. ^ a b "BUTLER, ALBAN, 1711-1773 Letter from Saint-Omer, France to unknown English correspondent, 1770" PITTS THEOLOGY LIBRARY ARCHIVES AND MANUSCRIPTS DEPT 
  4. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed 1911 "Butler, Alban" Encyclopædia Britannica 1 11th ed Cambridge University Press p 881 
  5. ^ Mary Heimann, "Thurston, Herbert Henry Charles 1856–1939", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2009 1, accessed 29 March 2010

External linksedit

  • Works by Alban Butler at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Alban Butler at Internet Archive
  • Works by Alban Butler at LibriVox public domain audiobooks
  • "The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints", Complete text of the 12 vol ed of 1866 at Bartlebycom
  • 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

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