Originally published in the Swedenborg Foundation’s newsletter Logos, in the fall of 2007.
Thoughts about the New Century Edition from an Impassioned Reader
On May 10, reader Karl Boericke sent the following message through the “Contact the Foundation” page on the Swedenborg Foundation Web site regarding the Swedenborg Foundation’s new series of translations of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg and how they compare with the older translations produced by the Foundation:
First I want to thank all who are involved in the New Century Edition. The first volume of True Christianity has totally transformed my spiritual diet. In the past, I have not been able to enjoy reading Swedenborg cover to cover, instead choosing to read from topical searches. Now the horizon is bright. Though I am slowly digesting volume one, I am strongly looking forward to having the second volume in ready reserve when it comes out.
Second, I was wondering if the New Century Edition volumes are or will be available in an electronic format. Though I love reading from a physical book, I am considering taking a Johnny Appleseed approach to passing out bits and pieces. With today’s technology, I hate the idea of chopping up a physical book, and would rather print out sections as I see fit. This would also be helpful for me to carry around as I find myself in places where I have a few minutes with nothing to do. Third, is there a format available (paperback or hardcover) which does not have the lengthy foreword and notes attached? I love having access to the notes when I am sitting at home, but the bulk of the book makes it difficult to carry from place to place.
Logos decided to do a follow-up interview with Karl to hear more of his ideas, which look back to the tried-and-true methods of Johnny Appleseed and also forward to new possibilities just now becoming available through the Internet (see last paragraph on p. 7).
Logos: Could you say a little more, first of all, about what it was that struck you about the New Century Edition translation? What made the difference?
Karl Boericke: It is much more readable than older translations. It is put in today’s language. Previous versions were choppy in style and not very “eye-friendly” in their paragraphing. The wording was not clear, either—the translations used big words that are never used any more. In the past I have read Heaven and Hell and Conjugial Love in the older format. I found these titles easier than others to follow in the old format. But when it came to Arcana Coelestia and True Christian Religion and most of the other volumes I tried tackling, I would get a few pages into it and then say, “Oh boy! Well, maybe I can just do a topical search instead!” Even just last year I picked up the old True Christian Religion. Once again, five pages into it is about as far as I got. So I was very happy when I picked up the New Century Edition True Christianity. It is like the difference between seeing a black-and-white animation and television in vivid, gorgeous color. I cannot even really describe it. If you read the same passage in the old translation and sit there and ponder it for about ten minutes you can probably get the same idea, but it is just so much clearer in the new version. In this translation it really soaks in. It is much more colorful.
Logos: You mentioned in your message through the Web site that you value the introduction and the notes in the New Century Edition, but would like to have the volumes also available in a more portable version without those features. How would it benefit you to have it both ways?
Karl Boericke: The introduction in True Christianity is very informative and the notes are great for when I sit down and do in-depth study. But the volume is a bit of a bear to hold. It is not exactly something you want to read in bed. It is more of a table book or desk book. When I am traveling or sitting at the dentist I would love to have a smaller version that includes just the translation but not the introduction or the notes.
Logos: Have you seen the portable edition of Heaven and Hell? It contains the same New Century Edition translation as the larger volume and retains Swedenborg’s footnotes and the index to the translation at the back, but strips out the introduction and all the other notes. This sounds like the same approach that you would like to see with True Christianity.
Karl Boericke: I was not aware of that volume. If portable versions were available for titles of special interest to me, I would probably buy them along with the standard format.
Logos: In your Web site message you also mentioned wishing for even smaller versions than that. It sounds as though you would like to be able to select the content yourself, so that you can follow in Johnny Appleseed’s footsteps—handing out individual chapters to friends and acquaintances unfamiliar with Swedenborg’s works—but without ripping books apart as he did! How might you go about that?
Karl Boericke: It would be ideal if I could order a specific part or download the entire text of the translation. I would select a chapter or a small section of text that I wanted to share with friends, and print it myself, or e-mail it back to the Foundation. They could then make it into a separate little book, perhaps with my own introduction, that I could pass out to friends. This would be a very personalized approach that would be hard for a friend to shelve without reading. I know that if I were to receive such a book from a friend I would be thrilled to read it, no matter what the content. This can be done readily with current technology.
From the friends and acquaintances I have made, I don’t get the sense that there are a whole lot of people in this world who want to delve into deep philosophy. The new True Christianity or one of the other large volumes might just be too daunting. So I can see how it would be fantastic to have something really short that I could put together for a friend. It might even be possible to cut and paste passages from various parts of the book, so that I could put something together that would interest the particular friend I have in mind.
Logos: Thank you very much for sending us your thoughts and ideas through the Web site and allowing us this follow-up conversation. As a token of our appreciation, we’ll send you a copy of the portable Heaven and Hell. And as you may know, the New Century Edition translations are already available for one-click download at our Web site, newcenturyedition.org, under the “Downloads” tab. Meanwhile, we’ll give serious consideration to your idea of user-selected book content. Digital texts and the Internet are creating all sorts of new possibilities like this. Thanks for helping us keep up with them!