Petrus Crabbe (Pierre Crabbé) – first collector of all the church councils?

Church councils tend to issue lists of regulations; or, in the jargon, “canons”.  These have been collected since antiquity, in all sorts of forms.  Once the era of printing arrived, inevitably the massive printed compilations followed, such as those of Surius, Mansi, and others.

Yesterday I learned of the work of Petrus Crabbe.  He was not an Englishman, as might be supposed, but a Frenchman named Pierre Crabbé.  He brought out the earliest major compilation of the councils known to me.  This was his Concilia Omnia, tam generalia quam particularia, printed in two volumes in Cologne in 1538.  The marvellous Franciscan Authors, 13-18th century site has this entry for this laborious man:

Petrus Crabbe (1470-1553)

OM & OFM. Belgian Friar from Malines (Mechelen) Studied theology in Louvain in and after 1489/90 (according to the old style matriculated on 28 February 1489, in the pedagogium De Valk), and joined the Observants before 1504. Lector and librarian in the Franciscan friary of Malines/Mechelen. Later also guardian, there and elsewhere, and confessor of the Poor Clares of Mechelen/Malines. Became an important editor of church council documents. After a search through almost 500 libraries, on which he embarked in and after 1532 at the request of the Popes Leo X and Clement VII, partly in collaboration with the clergyman Jan Heytmer from Zonhoven, the leader of the papal committee put together for this purpose, Crabbe published his Concilia Omnia, tam generalia quam particularia, in fact the first real scholarly edition of these church documents. It was widely used before the new collection of Mansi came out. Petrus Crabbe died in Mechelen/Malines in 1553 or 1554 at the age of 83. Crabbe apparently also worked on a bibliography of published works of classical writers, and he corresponded on this topic with the humanist Viglius ab Aytta. This was either never published and the manuscript version apparently has not survived.


Concilia Omnia tam Generalia quam Particularia ab Apostolorum Temporibus in Hunc usque Diem a SS. Patribus Celebrata et Quorum Acta Literis Mandata ex Vetustissimis Diversorum Regionum Bibliothecis Haberi Potuere, 2 Vols (Cologne: Petrus Quentel, 1538); revised in 3 vols (Cologne: Joannes Quentel, 1551) [including a provisional account of the early history and decisions of the Council of Trent]; revised in 4 vols, ed. Surius (Cologne, 1567). The author included biographies of the popes, the bulls and letters of whom he included. Crabbe’s collection of Councils and council decisions was avidly used by Catholics and Protestants alike. Several old editions of this work now accessible via the digital collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and via Google Books.

Epistola ad Fridericum Nauseam (12 August, 1536), included in: Epistolarum miscellanearum ad Fridericum Nauseam (…) libri X (Basel: Joannes Oporinus, 1550), f. Z2r [179].

Some scholars also ascribe to Petrus Crabbe the imprint/edition of a twelfth-century sermon on the immaculate conception of Mary, supposedly written by Peter Comestor. See: Pius ac eruditus sermo Petri Comestoris, olim prebyteri Trecensis, de immaculata Virginis Mariae Conceptione (Antwerp: Willem Vorsterman, 1536). The work was later included in Petrus de Alva y Astorga’s Radii solis (…) pro immaculatae conceptionis mysterio (1666).


Juan de San Antonio, Bibliotheca Universa Franciscana II, 444; C. Chaillot, `Les principales collections des conciles. Editions de Crabbe’, Revue du monde catholique 16 (>>), 241-347; Dom H. Quentin, J.D. Mansi et les grandes collections conciliaires (Paris, 1900); D. Franses, `Petrus Crabbe en zijn Conciliorum Collectio’, Collectanea Franciscana Neerlandica 2 (1931), 427-446; W. Schmitz, Het aandeel der minderbroeders, 100-101; B. De Troeyer, `Petrus Crabbe’, Franciscana 17 (1962), 105-110; B. De Troeyer, Bio-Bibliographica Franciscana Neerlandica saec. XVI, I: Pars biographica (Nieuwkoop: B. De Graaf, 1969), 137-138, 163ff.; H.J. Sieben, Die katholische Konzilsidee von der Reformation bis zur Aufklärung (Paderborn, 1988), 226ff.; LThK 3rd ed. II, 1336;

We can see at once that this is full of good things.

Copies of his 1538 edition can be found online here:

His 1551 edition is here:

  • vol. 1. –
  • vol. 2. –
  • vol. 3. –

The edition of 1567, which no longer bears his name, but that of Surius, is here:

  • vol. 1. –
  • vol. 2. –
  • vol. 3. –
  • vol. 4. –

How useful these editions still are is unknown to me.  It would not be altogether surprising to find that there is material in here which later collections neglected.


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