Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Jacques-Paul Migne
Priest, and publisher of theological works, born at Saint-Flour, 25 October, 1800; died at Paris, 24 October, 1875.
After completing his college courses, he devoted himself to the study of theology in Orleans, and while a student there filled, for a time, the position of professor in the fourth class of the college of Châteaudun. He was ordained priest in 1824, and in the following year was made pastor of Puiseaux, in the Diocese of Orleans. He published a pamphlet: De la liberté, which brought him into conflict with his bishop, Brunault de Beauregard, in consequence of which he resigned his parish, and went to Paris, where, in the same year, he founded L'Univers Religieux, later L'Univers — a journal intended by him to be free from any political tendency, and concerned with Catholic interests alone. He edited this paper until 1836, and contributed to it a very great number of articles. Meanwhile, he had conceived the plan of publishing for the use of the clergy a series of important, older and newer, theological works, at so moderate a price that they might meet with a wide circulation, and thus further an earnest and scientific study in ecclesiastical circles. For this purpose he founded in the suburb Petit-Montrouge a large printing house, with all the necessary departments, the Imprimerie Catholique, where he employed more than three hundred workmen. From 1836 he devoted his energies exclusively to this great and important undertaking, which made him universally known. Within a relatively short time he succeeded in publishing many volumes of the older theological literature, and partly because of the moderate cost, he obtained for them a wide circulation. We may mention here:
- Scripturae Sacrae Cursus Completus (28 vols., 1840-45), with excellent commentaries of older and newer writers on each of the Books of Scripture;
- Theologiae Cursus Completus (28 vols., 1840-45), with treatises of many earlier writers supplementing the main articles;
- Démonstrations Evangéliques (20 vols., 1842-52), in which are gathered together the apologetic writings of over one hundred authors from every epoch of church history;
- Collection Intégrale et Universelle des Orateurs Sacrés in two series (102 vols., 1844-66), containing the works of the best pulpit orators of the preceding centuries;
- Summa Aurea de Laudibus Beatae Mariae Virginis, coll. J.J. Bourassé (13 vols., 1866-68); Encyclopédie Théologique, an extensive collection of works of reference, alphabetically arranged, and not confined to theological matters alone, but including a number of auxiliary sciences, such as philosophy, geography, history, natural history, bibliography, three series, containing altogether 171 vols. 1844-66. Several of the dictionaries of the collection are of unequal value, and may be considered as out of date.
- The most important and meritorious of his publications is the Patrologia, in two collections:
- Patrologiae Latinae Cursus Completus, in two series (217 vols. in all, 1844-55), with four volumes of indexes (vols. 218-221, 1862-64), and
- Patrologiae Graecae Cursus Completus, of which one series contains only Latin translations of the originals (81 vols., 1856-61). The second series contains the Greek text with a Latin translation (166 vols., 1857-66). To the Greek Patrology there was no index, but a Greek, D. Scholarios, added a list of the authors and subjects, (Athens, 1879) and began a complete table of contents (Athens, 1883).
The Patrologia Latina contains all the attainable published writings of Latin ecclesiastical authors from the earliest known to Pope Innocent III (d. 1216). The Patrologia Graeca includes the printed works of Greek Christian writers down to the Council of Florence (1438-39). The intention was to choose for the new issues the best editions of each author, with suitable introductions and critical additions, which plan, unfortunately, was not always realized. The printing, too, was frequently unsatisfactory, and in most of the Migne reprints we find a number of misprints and errata. The great value of the collection lies in the fact that at a moderate cost and in a handy form a great work of reference was produced, and a whole series of rare and scattered writings were gathered together, and made easily accessible to the learned world. The collections had a large circulation, and are widely used as works of reference.
- Besides these great collections, Migne printed a large number of the writings of single important theological authors, in complete editions, e.g. Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Teresa, Cardinal Bérulle; the great pulpit orators Bourdaloue, Bossuet, Massillon, Fléchier; the writers Lefranc de Pompignan, de Pressy, Régnier, Thiébault, du Voisin, de Maistre, and others.
- Up to 1856, Migne was also proprietor of a journal La Vérité, which gathered articles from papers of every tendency, and republished them as aids to a comprehensive induction on current ideas and facts.
In connection with his Imprimerie Catholique were established workshops for the production of religious objects, such as pictures, statues, and organs. In 1868 a great conflagration broke out in the printing house, which extended to the entire Montrouge establishment, destroying almost entirely the work of years, and the valuable stereotype plates of the Patrologia. The loss was over six million francs, but Migne did not lose courage, and began at once to rebuild. But difficulties accumulated. The Archbishop of Paris was averse to the commercial elements in the work, forbade the continuance of the business, and, finally, suspended the publisher from his priestly functions. The Franco-German war of 1870 inflicted great losses; then from Rome came a decree condemning the misuse of Mass stipends for the purchase of books, and Migne was especially named in connection with this abuse. He died without ever having regained his former prosperity, and his business passed into the hands of Garnier Frères.
J. P. KIRSCH