Sunday, March 08, 2009

Omnia Opera Migne Patrologia Latina

So this sweet old man calls me the other night. Man of the cloth, coming to visit bookstore. We discuss religion, metaphysics and books for the next hour. Next day he arrives and i bring in an old 1840's Latin Tome to impress him. We have a few volumes of this set, which i had not had a chance to research, being in latin, and also being such a charming big old religious tract, that i wasn't in a hurry to sell it.

The sweet man of the cloth tells me all about this volume, and the set of some 170+ volumes. All the writings of the Church Fathers, The sublime and elusive Patrologia Latina

According to Wikipedia...

The Patrologia Latina is an enormous collection of the writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers published by Jacques-Paul Migne between 1844 and 1855, with indices published between 1862 and 1865.

Although consisting of reprints of old editions, which often contain mistakes and do not comply with modern standards of scholarship, the series, due to its availability (it is present in many academic libraries) and the fact that it incorporates many texts of which no modern critical edition is available, is still widely used by scholars of the Middle Ages and is in this respect comparable to the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. The Patrologia Latina is one part of the Patrologiae Cursus Completus, the second part of which is the Patrologia Graeco-Latina, consisting of patristic and medieval Greek works with Latin translations.

The Patrologia Latina includes over 1000 years of Latin works from Tertullian to Pope Innocent III, in 217 volumes: volumes 1 to 73, from Tertullian to Gregory of Tours, were published from 1844 to 1849, and volumes 74 to 217, from Pope Gregory I to Innocent III, from 1849 to 1855. Although the collection ends in 1216, after the death of Innocent III, Migne originally wanted to include documents all the way up to the Reformation; this task proved too great, but some later commentaries or documents associated with earlier works were included.

The printing plates for the Patrologia were destroyed by fire in 1868, but with help from the Garnier printing house they were restored and new editions were printed, beginning in the 1880s. These reprints did not always correspond exactly with the original series both in quality and internal arrangement, and caution should be exercised when referencing to the PL in general.[1]

So the next day, having left the book sitting out next to the comfy leather chair, another guy walks in and grabs it and explains that he has been looking for this forever, etc etc...and that he really wants the volumes of Pope Gregorys Letters, but that this volume, Number 78 I believe, consists of Gregorys writings on the Sacraments. He wants it bad.

Now, the fact that a guy in the middle of Dairy country backwoods driftless Wisconsin can walk in and read a 150 year old religious book in Latin is weird enough, but when he returns the Flannery O'Connor to the shelf, and demands a price for the old gem, well things are getting pretty weird.

Now this is not the kind of book that you can type in and isbn and check the replacement costs. In fact, there were no other copies listed anywhere for this particular volume. I had not priced it, and this is the lesson of the day, never bring stock into the store, for a moment, without knowing the price you will be happy with it leaving. Ugh. In fact it still had dear Bob Shui's 40 year old price of 3.50 penciled in the corner of the first page.

I offered the kind scholar use of the book, at no charge, until the end of time, but he wanted to purchase it. Now if we were in Rome, or Bozeman, we could charge a usurious extreem capitalist pricetag to this kind of rarity. But alas, we are in teh Kickapoo valley, and customers for a book like this are not really beating down the doors. Sure, we could have listed it on ebay and maybe sold it, or catalogued it and let the right monestary find it in a few years, and get some ok price. But, the joy of this game is to make the exchange face to face, to see the wonder and amazement when someone finds something they though was gone in the past, out of print, lost.

So we gave him a price, and after some hemming and contemplating, he agreed and seemed tickled pink for having made such an auspicious exchange.. So did we. and we commemerated it with a photo.

Although i am sad to see this particular book leave our care, i am fully assured it's Karmic path has been followed, and now i have to dig up the other volumes from the dusty latin and greek language shelves and see where they fall in the massive set of ecclesiastical graveyard.

I though colecting Philip K Dick Pulps was a challenge, but now i think i may set a new goal to assemble a complete set of the Patrologia Latina. All 170some volumes. MAybe an old monestary will read this and some young monk wil email with an offer..... We'll save at least one volume for the store, maybe awaiting the day when the kids beg us to teach them Latin again, and we gather the elders who remember their own grade school classes and the cycle can continue.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your humor and attitude are priceless! I am glad I found your blog!

3:17 PM  

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