Sunday, February 18, 2007

Abbé Jacques Paul Migne

Abbé Jacques Paul Migne

PITRA, O.S.B., Jean-Baptiste-François (1812-1889)

Jacques Paul Migne (25 October 1800 - 24 October 1875) was a French priest who published inexpensive and widely-distributed editions of theological works, encyclopedias and the texts of the Church Fathers. No scholar himself, he used the Benedictine Pitra (see PITRA, O.S.B., Jean-Baptiste-François (1812-1889) at to make sure of his standards. He did take endless trouble to ensure that the texts which he printed from earlier editions were correct. He attempted to put together the best editions then existing.

Although perhaps disreputable, he did do academic good. Many people used his work and profited by it. Within the Roman Catholic Church, Migne's editions put many original texts for the first time into the hands of the priesthood.

Migne had become convinced of the power of the press and the sheer value of raw information widely distributed. In 1836 he opened his great publishing house at Petit Montrouge. He brought out in rapid succession numerous religious works meant for the use of the lesser clergy at popular prices that ensured a wide circulation.

The three great series that have made his reputation were Patrologiae cursus completus, Latin series in 221 vols. (1844-5); Greek series, first published in Latin (85 vols., 1856-7); with Greek text and Latin translation (165 vols., 1857-8). Though scholars have always criticised them, these hastily edited, inexpensively printed and widely distributed texts have only slowly been replaced during a century and a half with more critically edited modern editions.

The Patrologia Latina is a monumental work and is still influential for scholars of the Middle Ages. See The University of Chicago Library:Patrologia Latina Database:Published by Chadwyck-Healey, Inc. at
Also Online version of Volume 83 at
and Volume 108 at

The Patrologia Graeca (or Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca) includes both the Eastern Fathers and those Western authors who wrote before Latin became predominant in the West in the 3rd century, e.g. the early writings collectively known as the Apostolic Fathers, such as the Epistles of Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas, Eusebius, Origen, and the Cappadocian Fathers Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa.
For index see:

His Imprimerie Catholique developed into the largest privately held press in France. Tragically, however, for Migne, the night of 12-13 February 1868 a devastating fire, which began in the printing plant, destroyed Migne's establishment.

The archbishop of Paris forbade the continuance of the business, and even suspended him from his priestly functions. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 inflicted further losses. Then from the curia of Pope Pius IX came a decree condemning the use of Mass stipends for the purchase of books, in which Migne and his publications were especially named.