Copies or fragments of Augustine’s writings exist from all centuries, and even from the time before his death.
One scholar has cautiously raised the possibility that the manuscript indentified as Bibliotheque Municipale 483 at Lyons, France, may contain Augustine's actual handwriting in the marginal notations that were made on it.
In the time of Augustine in the fifth century, and for centuries afterwards, the production of copies of books was an expensive and time-consuming process, because they had to be handwritten; the production of one book could require many weeks of work by a skilled copyist.
There were no bookshops, and manuscripts were copied to order by arrangement. The author received no royalties; in fact, once he released a copy of his writing to friends as a manuscript, he had no influence or control over who copied it further.
From the fifth century in which Augustine lived, there still exist five or six full copies or fragments of individual works by him. One of these is the only extant copy of the shorter version of De doctrina Christiana ("On Christian Doctrine") by Augustine, most likely copied before Augustine produced his longer version in 426 AD.
This book, and another that contains Books 11-16 of City of God, were produced in North Africa.
Many of the sixth-century copies of various writings by Augustine were produced in Italy. The number of copies of each of his works that then existed in manuscript form possibly was not great.
For example, the famous remark of the Spanish scholar Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636), that anyone who claimed to have read all the works of Augustine was a liar, referred to the difficulty of anyone to obtain a copy of every Augustinian work in order to read them.
The major source of seventh-century production of Augustine's works was Gaul, and in the eighth century was Tours, France.
In the eighth century, the English Biblical scholar and historian called the Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) had a deep veneration for the writings of Augustine, and certainly would have acquired copies of all works of Augustine that he could obtain.
From what Bede wrote, however, it is evident that the library of his monastery at Wearmouth-Yarrow, England, which was excellent for its time, had copies of about only half of Augustine's works.
Bede (673~735) provides the best picture available of the Anglo-Saxon knowledge of Augustine. For Bede Augustine was an exegete. Bede used the Confessions and the City of
God only for their exegesis of Genesis. He also cited Augustine’s three Genesis commentaries over two hundred times, and he knew the commentaries on John and 1 John, the Two Books of Questions on the Gospels, and On the Harmony of the Gospels.
Coming from the time before the year 900 AD, there are 56 surviving manuscripts of City of God, 24 copies of De doctrina Christiana, 12 of Confessions, and 20 of De Trinitate. For these volumes to have survived in such numbers, it is evident that some writings by Augustine were present in many libraries located in cathedrals and religious communities.
In the ninth century, it is known that the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, who died in the year 814, read Augustine. De civitate Dei ("City of God ") was Charlemagne’s favourite book.
There still exist two manuscripts of Augustine's writings that were part of Charlemagne’s library. As it happens, the oldest complete copy of City of God comes from this Carolingian period.
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