Jan Hus and His Work
Prague Master of Liberal Arts and Bachelor of Theology Jan Hus (c. 1370–1415), a university scholar, preacher, and Church reformer, left behind a rich body of literary works, which thanks to his extraordinary historical importance have survived to current times in great abundance. Therefore, shortly after the establishment of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1954 the decision was made to replace isolated or unsatisfactory attempts at making Hus’s work accessible in printed form with a new, modern series of critical editions. This series, titled Magistri Iohannis Hus Opera omnia (MIHOO), includes Hus’s entire literary oeuvre, which has been preserved in nearly 500 fifteenth-century medieval handwritten codices located in approximately eighty libraries and archives throughout Europe.
On the history of publishing Hus’s works
The Committee for Publishing the Writings of Master Jan Hus was established to successfully carry out this project (today it is part of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; for a list of members, see below). Hus’s literary legacy was divided into twenty-six volumes, twenty-one of which (vols. V–XXV) contain Hus’s Latin writings, which make up the largest part of his body of work. Hus wrote not only scholarly treatises in Latin but also drafts of his sermons. Only later would he begin writing in Czech in an attempt to share his ideas with a wider group of readers. In the final years of Hus’s life (1412–15), Czech was the main language he wrote in.
Until 1995, the Academia publishing house published volumes of Hus’s works. In 2004 prestigious Belgian publisher Brepols took over publishing Hus’s Latin-language works as part of the series Corpus Christianorum – Continuatio Mediaevalis.
Jan Hus’s literary works were first issued in printed form in the era of the incunable. The advent of the Reformation resulted in a large part of Hus’s works being made accessible: first a post-incunable of Hus’s treatise De ecclesia was printed, twice no less, and in close connection with Luther (1520). In 1537 Hus’s correspondence was published with a foreword by Luther himself. Two years after Luther’s death, Matthias Flacius Illyricus published two large volumes containing Hus’s Latin writings as well as several works by Jerome of Prague (Ioannis Hus et Hieronymi Pragensis confessorum Christi Historia et monumenta 1-2, ed. Matthias Flacius Illyricus, Noribergae 1558). In 1563 Flacius Illyricus published several of Hus’s works in Old Czech in another volume. Printers in Bohemia also published Hus’s Czech writings throughout the sixteenth century.
These years of plenty, however, were followed by two centuries of meagre publishing activity. With the exception of the publication of a new edition of Flacius’s Latin edition in 1715, in this period only individual works were produced. Understandably, Hus’s works could only be printed abroad. In the more liberal atmosphere of the nineteenth century, after the issuing of the Patent of Toleration, editors in the Czech lands began engaging in substantial publishing activities. After centuries of silence, Václav Hanka began publishing Hus’s works in Old Czech. He was followed by Alois Vojtěch Šembera and above all by Karel Jaromír Erben, who published Hus’s complete Old Czech writings (Mistra Jana Husi Sebrané spisy české, ed. Karel Jaromír Erben, Praha 1865–68). Konstantin Höfler turned his attention to Hus’s Latin literary works before Palacký produced the fundamental edition Documenta Mag. Joannis Hus vitam, doctrinam, causam in Constantiensi concilio actam et controversias de religione in Bohemia annis 1403–1418 motas illustrantia, quae partim adhuc inedita, partim mendose vulgata, nunc ex ipsis fontibus hausta (Pragae 1869).
In the early twentieth century, thanks to the efforts of Václav Flajšhans (who was the first to compile a catalogue of Hus’s literary works, which is today, of course, outdated), the Czech Academy of Emperor Franz Joseph for Science, Literature, and Art, as part of the Collection of Sources of the Czech Religious Movement in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries, began to publish a series of editions titled The Writings of Jan Hus (Spisy M. Jana Husi). In relatively quick succession (1903–08) editions of Hus’s writings were published, including Expositio decalogi, De corpore Christi, De sanguine Christi, Super IV sententiarum (with Marie Komínková), and Sermones de sanctis (with Marie Komínková). Unfortunately, however, they were only semi-critical editions and did not meet the needs of the era. The only critical edition of Hus’s writings to be published in this series was a volume containing Hus’s correspondence edited by Václav Novotný (M. Jana Husi Korespondence a dokumenty, 1919). This was the final volume of Hus’s writings to be published in the Collection of Sources series; Tractatus responsivus, edited by S. H. Thomson, was actually the work of Jacobellus of Misa.
In the 1950s Zdeněk Nejedlý, at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, introduced a new initiative to publish the complete works of Jan Hus. The Magistri Iohannis Hus Opera omnia series of critical editions was, according to the principles established by the Committee for Publishing the Works of Master Jan Hus (founded in 1954 and today a part of the Centre for Medieval Studies), conceived as a collection of modern critical editions meticulously based on all available manuscript sources and containing critical apparatus and annotations.
The very beginnings of Hus’s Omnia opera can be traced back to 1953 (before the committee was founded) and the work of prominent Latin medievalist Bohumil Ryba, who was convicted and briefly imprisoned for treason, and Anežka Schmidtová-Vidmanová, who would later become the most important Czech editor of Hus’s writings. Other scholars would gradually join the editorial team: Jaroslav Eršil; Jiří Kejř; Jiří Daňhelka, who edited Hus’s Old Czech writings; and Amedeo Molnár, who, as the secretary of the Committee for Publishing the Work of Master Jan Hus, was responsible for determining the overall structure of the series. Based on Bartoš’s catalogue, Literární činnost M. Jana Husi, Molnár organized Hus’s writings into twenty-four volumes representing basic themes. Over time, however, this plan gradually changed; today Hus’s Omnia opera is split into twenty-six volumes, the last of which comprises dubia.
By the end of the twentieth century, this first generation of editors had published nine volumes, a remarkable feat, considering how difficult things were for them. Even before the editorial team fell out of favour with Zdeněk Nejedlý (at which point the scholars involved began to work on the project in near secrecy), Bohumil Ryba had been convicted, although he was “generously” allowed to work on editing Hus’s writings while at Pankrác and Leopoldov prisons. In 1960 he was released early from prison as part of amnesty granted to political prisoners, but as a persona non grata he could not be credited as the editor of the sermon collection Postilla adumbrata. During normalization, Jiří Daňhelka was fired from Palacký University in Olomouc and forced to work as a construction labourer, before going on disability. On the side though, he continued to work on Hus’s Old Czech writings and eventually published them in their entirety in four volumes. Like Ryba, he could not be listed as the editor of the volumes that were issued before 1989. In total, Academia (and its predecessor Nakladatelství ČSAV) published three volumes edited by Anežka Vidmanová, Polemica edited by Jaroslav Eršil, Postilla adumbrata by Bohumil Ryba, and Daňhelka’s four volumes of writings in Old Czech. After 1989, it became rather complicated to publish with Academia, but after some time the opportunity arose to publish Hus’s writings through the renowned Belgian publishing house Brepols as part of its prestigious Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis (CCCM) series of critical editions. The first volume of Hus’s Omnia opera to be published by Brepols was Jiří Kejř’s edition of Hus’s Questiones (2004). This was the last work to be published by the first generation of editors working on Hus’s Omnia opera.
Negotiations regarding incorporating the MIHOO series into Brepol’s CCCM series were led by Gabriel Silagi, an experienced worker on the German Monumenta Germaniae Historica series, who became the secretary of the Committee for Publishing the Works of Master Jan Hus. Silagi can also be credited with having Brepols publish amended versions of previously published critical editions of Hus’s works: Quodlibet (Bohumil Ryba, the editor, originally published it on the occasion of the five-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Charles University outside of the Omnia opera series), Polemica (a new edition of J. Eršil’s volume), and Postilla adumbrata (Ryba’s initial edition was further edited by Silagi). Silagi along with František Šmahel also prepared the publication of Jerome of Prague’s complete works, which were published as additamenta to MIHOO. Another supplement to MIHOO was an edition of the oldest catalogues of the libraries of Prague University, edited by Zuzana Silagiová and František Šmahel.
While in prison, Bohumil Ryba also worked on the postil Dicta de tempore. He never completed this edition. Jana Zachová took over and published it in two volumes in 2011 as Hus’s dubium.
In 2005 Jana Nechutová, a medieval Latin scholar and an experienced editor of early Reformation writings, founded an editorial group comprised mainly of her young students. In 2013, working together with this team, she published Hus’s Enarratio psalmorum and in 2016, Constantiensia, a volume of texts Hus wrote in preparation for his appearance at Constance and while in Constance (including his responses to the accusations against him), which was originally edited by Amedeo Molnár.
Anežka Vidmanová published an annotated list of Hus’s works (as last catalogued in František Michálek Bartoš and Pavel Spunar, Soupis pramenů k literární činnosti M. Jana Husa a M. Jeronýma Pražského, Praha 1965) split into individual volumes in connection with a symposium on Hus held at the Lateran in 1999. An updated overview of the volumes is available below. More details about how Hus’s writings were divided into volumes can be found in H. Krmíčková:
K vydávání Husových spisů Magistri Iohannis Hus Opera Omnia po šesti (ale i dvou) desetiletích, Listy filologické 1-2/ 2019, pp. 125–60.
- doc. PhDr. Helena Krmíčková, Dr. (chair)
- PhDr. Jan Kalivoda (secretary)
- Mgr. Petra Mutlová, M.A., Ph.D.
- prof. PhDr. Jana Nechutová, CSc.
- Dr. Gabriel Silagi
- PhDr. Zuzana Silagiová
- Pavel Soukup, Ph.D.
- prof. PhDr. František Šmahel, DrSc.
- Mgr. Libor Švanda, Ph.D.
- PhDr. Jana Zachová, Csc.
- PhDr. Blanka Zilynská, Csc.
Critical edition and popularization of the works of Jan Hus as a key research area of Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University: