5 September 2015


What a joy it is to receive one of Mr Zealley's* catalogues! I have, in the past, equipped myself with Mgr Knox's Essays in Satire, Pilgrimage to Barsetshire, Signa severa and Let dons delight from this admirable and civilised source. But ... £6,000 ... no; it is not so much the price that is the problem. Rather more the difficulty, how and where would I house 221 gigantic volumes?

£6,000 is the price being asked for Migne, Jacques-Paul (ed) Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Latina. 221 vols ...  yet what a tease this entry is; because it goes on: Ex-English Cathedral library! Which Cathedral library? Catholic or Anglican? And why is it being sold?? What conclusions could one draw from this about the decline in clerical scholarship? Worse: the entry continues: Hardly used!!! The picture this conjures up is so depressing ... if they aren't browsing through Migne ... or at least using him to verify their references ... how on earth do modern clergy spend their time? (I will not enable certain categories of comment claiming to answer this purely rhetorical question.)

Less bulky is another of Mr Zealley's offerings, Nouveau Petit Paroissien, signed twice by Louis Napoleon, Napoleon III. Full fresh maroon suede leather, original brass corners and front clasp. Original white watered silk endpapers, darkened. All edges gilt. VG+ £750. But no. Quid mihi cum Corsica? I might have been tempted to purchase it, however, since I am a man burdened by an incurable life-long heterosexual condition, if the book had been owned and signed by the Empress Eugenie. I wonder how much more the price would have been then?



Bibaculus said...

Use Migne to 'verify their references'? Dr Routh's scholarship was much more careful than that of the Abbe Migne.

Patrick Sheridan said...

I knew you had St Philip's Books in mind when I saw the title of this post. For lovers of the Second French Empire there is also a "missalette" signed by Napoleon III, at £750.

Patruus said...

You could house all 221 gigantic volumes on your computer's hard disc, and it wouldn't cost you a bean! -


Sue Sims said...

Be comforted, Father: I'm sure that the only reason the set is 'hardly used' is the availability of so much of the material on the Internet. My copy of the 1913 Catholic Encyclopaedia of 1913, after all (bought 15 years from St Phillip's, and massively cheap because it was missing the final volume) was disposed of several years ago because I could find the whole thing with a couple of clicks on the New Advent site, and save several feet of shelf space.

Even more encouragingly: perhaps Christopher Zealley really meant that the volumes had been 'used hardly' - worn and dog-eared from the assiduous perusal of the Dean and his subordinates, peering at the pages by the light of a guttering candle. Scholarship is not yet dead!

Joshua said...

I rather think that a full edition of Migne's PL is a steal at £6,000 - that works out at £27.15 per hardback volume (about $60 here; what a pity nice Mr Menzies (didn't get his way).

May I suggest, Father, that you allow your devoted readers to crowd-fund this for you? It would save you time sauntering over to the Bod… unless of course it is such walks that supply you with valuable time for rumination.

Anonymous said...

Different worlds again Father. Most of the priests of my acquaintance would not regard themselves as scholars. Unless they are seminary professors, perhaps, I don't think that "checking references", or even writing anything that required it, would be part of their lives at all. I think they would regard themselves as pastoral men rather than theologians, which is not necessarily a bad thing; St. Jean Vianney is the Patron Saint of Parish Priests and I doubt he ever wrote anything with footnotes. But there can be a strong anti-intellectual strain among some of the English and Irish clergy in my experience, a tendency that has come to the fore again recently with encouragement from on high.For Bishops and diocesan centres, of course, one would hope it might be a different story, but perhaps not.

Peter said...


The bookshop advises that the 221 volumes have 1,000 pages each so 221,000 pages in total.

If one read 35 pages a day for 300 days each year, that is 10,500 pages a year, it would take 20 years to read it all.

An 8 hour day (8 * 60) gives 480 minutes or a little under 14 minutes a page. Some may merit more than a quarter of an hour. There is no allowance here for a sustaining cup of tea.

I wonder if the monks of Papa Stronsay could make collective use of this. 600 of your readers might offer £10 each. The book would be used for its intended purpose and preserved, unlike Palmyra, for the future. The monks could make an undertaking, in exchange for this, that their successors would pass it to a Catholic institution intending to study and preserve it and willing to give a comparable undertaking. This would apply if the monks ceased to use it or if the number of monks falls below an arbitrary number, say 5, and in the event of closure of the monastery. The Holy See would be the default recipient.

Anything over £6,000 collected could go to the costs of shelves and a dehumidifier if required.