The Writings of Francis of Assisi - 39 

critical edition appeared in the European languages and then in many of those of Asia.

One of the primary tools enabling better use of the Esser editions, however, was the publication of a computerized concordance. Two friars in Belgium, Jean-François Godet and George Mailleux, took the critical edition of the writings and entered it into a data base. The result was the fifth volume of the Corpus des Sources Franciscaines that provided a detailed analysis of Francis’s words. Scholars quickly had access to the nuances of his thought and unleashed a tidal wave of articles and books that offered new insights. By the time of Esser’s death, two years after the publication of his critical edition, Francis’s writings entered profoundly into the consciousness of men and women all over the world.

For the most part, this edition of Francis’s writings follows the Esser edition. Where changes have been made to the text, such as changes in the titles suggested by Esser or scriptural passages or allusions different from those he noted, footnotes offer explanations. A significant difference, however, is the omission of the opuscula dictata [dictated works] which Esser maintained were “rough drafts of sayings about whose written form nothing can be said, but whose existence is attested by various sources.” The editors have chosen to publish only one of these, True and Perfect Joy, that may be more available to the ordinary reader. Furthermore, the editions of those texts written in Francis’s own hand have been published in two editions. In the case of the parchment given to Brother Leo on LaVerna containing The Praises of God and The Blessing, the edition of Duane Lapsanski, with the additions made by Esser, and that of Attilio Bartoli Langeli have been presented. The Letter to Brother Leo is presented in the editions of Esser and Bartoli Langeli. In both instances, differences are present that may suggest various interpretations.

Finally, in keeping with the editorial decision to present the texts of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents in a chronological manner, the editors have attempted to do so with the writings of Francis. This has been a difficult undertaking since, given the current state of research, many of the writings have been difficult to date. A separate set of writings have been left as simply undated. Nevertheless, viewing the writings in a chronological manner enables the reader to see the development of Francis’s Gospel vision, while viewing those that are undated enhances the timeless character of many of his insights.


  1. Attilio Bartoli Langeli maintains: “Francis’s training in writing proves . . . that he is an illiteratus, in other words, that his educational level lies somewhere between illiteracy and full and complete literacy.” Cf. Attilio Bartoli Langeli, “Gli scritti da Francesco: l’autografia di un ‘illiteratus,’ ” in Francesco d’Assisi (Spoleto: 1994) 101-159.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 39