Ex Fontibus Company began as the side business of a couple of students who needed to feed themselves and their families during the lean years. Recognizing an unmet demand, they set about bringing back into print attractive editions of out-of-print and hard-to-find texts of Christian theology. At present, Ex Fontibus publishes books in three main categories: literature (great books and good books), sacred texts (i.e. the Bible and liturgical texts), and theology (both ancient and more recent works). We are always eager to hear from you about books that we ought to consider.
We named our company “Ex Fontibus” (from the fountainheads) to acknowledge the medieval Christian understanding of theological reading. St. Augustine of Hippo once wrote (De Genesi XII):
The soul is illumined by a distinct Light, in order that it may see and truly understand everything, either in itself or in the Light. For the Light is God himself, whereas the soul is a creature; yet, since it is rational and intellectual, it is made in His image. And when it tries to behold the Light, it trembles in its weakness and finds itself unable to do so. Yet from this source comes all understanding it is able to attain.
For the early and medieval Christian tradition, reading is close to prayer. By drinking at the stream of Christian thought, the soul can be progressively re-formed according to divine Wisdom, in light of Whom one knows things rightly. The mind thus re-formed comes increasingly to see the world as if from within the fountainhead of the Light--so that everything one may learn will lead one back to that Light. It was with this conviction that Hugh of St. Victor could write: “Learn everything; you will see afterwards that nothing is superfluous” (Didascalicon 6.3). Theological reading, he believed, heals the mind to find God in all things.
Our offerings have broadened beyond theology and some of the founders have moved on, while new talent has joined the team. Nonetheless, the goal remains as ever the same: Print good books well--both books never before published and books that nobody else prints well. And always, we are seeking something of Wisdom.
I should add a word about our expansion into the literary category. We proudly reprint some difficult-to-find classics, such as Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. However, our offerings are not limited to only the great books. We have also chosen to reprint some that are merely “good” books—yet not for that unworthy of our attention. Indeed, Dr. John Senior (1923–1999), founder of the once famed Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas, once offered a list of 1,000 “good books” that prepare one to read the “great books.” Among the “good” he includes such volumes as the Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. To those who might look askance at such suggestions, he explained:
Taking all that was best in the Greco-Roman world into itself, Western tradition has given us the thousand good books as preparation for the great ones. . . . For us today, the [useful] cutoff point is World War I, before which cars and the electric light had not yet come to dominate our lives and the experience of nature had not been distorted by speed and the destruction of shadows....[These books are] part of the ordinary cultural matter essential for an English-speaking person to grow in.
Perhaps the reader might find in these texts too a glimmer of the Light to whom Augustine uttered his praise.
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