5.0324 Further Responses on Migne (2/71)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 17 Sep 1991 17:45:52 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0324. Tuesday, 17 Sep 1991.
Still More on Migne

(1) Date: Tue, 17 Sep 91 11:12:23 +0200 (54 lines)
Subject: Migne

(2) Date: Tue, 17 Sep 91 09:34:35 MST (17 lines)
Subject: Re: 5.0320 Rs: More on Migne

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 91 11:12:23 +0200
Subject: Migne

The Migne debate so far has been very interesting, but in my view a bit
hard on old JPM and his practical uses. One might note first the reversal
for editions of the old tag about manuscripts: it's not recentiores non
deteriores but for editions vetustiores non deteriores. In other words,
there are some none-too-wonderful editions in CSEL, CC and CCCM as well.
Besides which, what is available in these newer series is, except perhaps
for one or two (admittedly major) authors, only a fraction of what is in

All that doesn't deal with the question of accurate texts; but I think this
is being overplayed. It`s true that occasionally JPM got hold of an earlier
edition which was lousy, and also that sometimes his printers made things
worse (though if the first edition is the basis that should not be too much
of a problem). Nevertheless, what is there is by and large what should be
there; my experience is that modern critical editions give you a greater
feeling of security, not a different text. I may get some wrong information
(either as suppressio veri or as suggestio falsi) by running a search
program on a CD-ROM of Migne; but that is trivial compared with the wrong
information I will inevitably get, since I do not possess a photographic
memory, if I do not have access of this kind to the Migne corpus at all. As
a corpus, the choice of Migne makes good sense; it is very substantial,
reasonably coherent and uniform, and widely available. This last is an
important point: once you've used CD-ROM to locate interesting points you
can then go to the texts themselves easily and read the contexts, using
Migne. If the precise wording of a passage is really critical to your
argument you might then want to look it up in a reliable critical edition
(if you're lucky and there is one), as you should no doubt do in any case
later, when preparing for publication; if it's really of crucial importance
you might decide not even to put your trust in recent editions, but to go
back to the mss. instead - accuracy and reliability are always relative to
what you happen to be doing. But you don't normally need to be held up by
edition snobbery while doing your thinking!

No one has yet asked the really critical question, which is: how accurate
is the CD-ROM of Migne going to be as an electronic transcription of Migne?
The risks there seem to me to be much higher than the risk that JPM doesn't
give you Augustine or Jerome quite accurately; and it's perhaps here that
BREPOLS/CETEDOC have the edge, since they can use their own typesetting
tapes. We are after all talking about 216 volumes at an average of about
1200 columns, each containing rather more text than a page of a modern
edition - say 1000 MB at the least for "pure ASCII", with only line feeds
and form feeds and spaces and no other mark-up. If that is done within a
reasonable time with no more errors being introduced than were introduced
at the stages of (a) the pre-Migne edition and (b) the Migne reprint it
will still be a remarkable and worth-while achievement - and it will make
the later creation of richer and more accurate e-texts easier, just as
Migne and early critical editions have made later critical editions

Timothy Reuter MGH Munich
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------23----
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 91 09:34:35 MST
Subject: Re: 5.0320 Rs: More on Migne (2/55)

Having Migne is a hundred times better than having nothing. As another
person pointed out, there are a score of different uses to which such
a collection could be put, including providing an invaluable resource
for students of language. I did my master's thesis from the MGH and
was delighted and overwhelmed at having such a resource.

Working scholars know, or should know, the limitations of whatever
critical edition they use. I'd hate to see librarians put off by
overly narrow, needlessly negative comments.

Historian, Data Center Associate
Boise State University DUSKNOX@IDBSU.IDBSU.EDU