Its genesis

The idea of a university: defined and illustrated comprises two parts: a series of lectures composed in 1852 to prepare the ground for the opening of the Catholic University in Dublin; and occasional lectures given at the University while Newman was rector. They were published individually at first, then in two separate collections in the 1850s, and only in 1873 were they were brought together (after heavy editing) under the title by which they are now known.

Newman delivered the first five lectures to the general public in Dublin on five successive Mondays, starting on 10 May 1852; the rest were ready by the autumn, but never given. All ten were published the same year, first separately and then together in a single volume under the title Discourses on the scope and nature of university education. Most people are familiar with the Discourses as the first part of The idea of a university: defined and illustrated.

The second half of the Idea comprises occasional pieces composed in the period 1854–58, most of which appeared in the Catholic University Gazette, before they were published together in 1859 as Lectures and essays on university subjects. It was only in 1873 that the two parts were brought together to form The idea of a university.

The fifth lecture was omitted in the abridged 1859 edition of the Discourses, which involved over 800 textual changes, and from the Idea of a university, which retained most of these alterations to the text. Further editions of the Idea appeared, concluding with the ninth edition of 1889, a year before Newman’s death.

For an authoritative introduction to and commentary on the Idea, see Ian Ker’s critical edition (1976). Unless otherwise stated, the citations from the Idea on this website come from the first edition of 1873.


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