Comparative Textbook Review
Book Details: Plotinus, The Enneads, trans. Stephen MacKenna, ed. John Dillon (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991), cxxix + 558 pp.
Book Details: Elmer O'Brien, ed., The Essential Plotinus: Representative Treatises from the Enneads (Indianapolis: Hackett,  1997), 223 pp.
Book Details: John Gregory, ed., The Neoplatonists: A Reader (London: Routledge,  1999), viii + 189 pp.
These three paperback editions are the most obvious volumes to consider when planning to teach a course either devoted to a close reading of Plotinus or more generally on Neoplatonism.
The Penguin edition is an abridged reprint of Stephen Mackenna's well-kown translation. It includes 33 of the 54 tractates (61%). It also includes Porphyry's 'Life of Plotinus', an introduction by John Dillon, and an essay by Paul Henry entitled 'The Place of Plotinus in the History of Thought'. Appendixes include an index of Platonic references and a bibliography.
The Hackett volume by O'Brien contains 10 tractates (18% of the total) arranged in their original chronological order. The transaltions are by O'Brien himself. Appendixes include a selection of other relevant texts from the Presocrartics, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics; a glossary of Plotinian terms; and a now somewhat dated bibliography.
Gregory's The Neoplatonists is divided into three Parts. Part One is devoted to Plotinus (128 pp.), Part Two contains extracts from Porphyry, Iamblichus, and Proclus (41 pp.), while Part Three sketches the later influence of Neoplatonism (5 pp.). The selections from Plotinus are arranged thematically, each extract being only a short section of a tractate. Consequently no tractates are included in full here. There is no index to these extracts and so it is difficult to determine quickly whether a particular passage is included or not. The extracts for the later Neoplatonists come from Porphyry's 'Letter to Marcella', 'The Cave of the Nymphs', Iamblichus' 'On the Mysteries of Egypt', Proclus' 'Elements of Theology', 'Commentary on the Parmenides', 'Commentary on the Timaeus', 'Platonic Theology', and 'Commentary on Alcibiades I'. No credits are given for the translations, which are presumably by the editor himself.
The best of these three volumes by far is the Penguin abridgement of MacKenna's translation. Firstly, it simply offers the largest selection of texts from the Enneads. Secondly, it probably contains the most helpful editorial material in the form of introductory essays, summaries, notes, and bibliography. Although the other volumes have the advantages of including other texts (O'Brien's selection of background material; Gregory's extracts from later Neoplatonism), neither of these outweigh the virtues of the Penguin edition. Having said that, if one planned to offer a wider survey of Neoplatonism as a philosophical movement rather than a close study of Plotinus then one might want to consider Gregory's volume. It's usefulness would depend upon precisely how much Plotinus one intended to include in the course.
If one requires the complete text of the Enneads in English (or a passage not included in one of these volumes) then one must turn to the Loeb Classical Library edition by A. H. Armstrong (in 7 vols). It might be worth considering using selected volumes from this edition in a more advanced course - say, at graduate level - where it would be useful to have the Greek text constantly at hand.
Note also that Hackett are planning to issue a new Neoplatonism reader: J. Dillon & L. P. Gerson, eds, Neoplatonism: Introductory Readings (Indianapolis: Hackett, forthcoming).
This site was created by Dr John Sellars for the PRS-LTSN, 2002.