In a parallel universe where the sun always shines, the girls are all pretty, none of us grow sick or tiresome — and where I hold a prestigious and well-remunerated teaching post at a major university — one of the things I recommend to my better students is to buy or print copies of the Patrologia Graeca and take them to bed and read them. If they take a volume to bed every night, and read it, even if all they read is mostly the Latin, and they read a page or two, they will acquire almost by osmosis a command of what these volumes contain. In this way — I advise them, in my kindly but impressive way — they will acquire an inimitable knowledge of patristic literature, and a constant fund of unexpected knowledge that will serve them well all their days.
In this world, where things are less well-arranged, the idea is slightly fantastic, but still not without value. Imagine if we could print off a volume, or perhaps half or a quarter of a volume? Let it have wide margins, and let us take a pencil to bed with us, so we can scribble, and underline, and index. Would this work? I think it might.
There are practical difficulties. Has anyone tried taking some of the digitised images of the PG and printing them? The results do not tend to be good. Let’s face it, Migne’s originals were not exactly well printed! But … would it be readable? Would it be possible? I think it might.
Another question is where to start. Should we start with PG1, which I imagine must contain the apostolic fathers. My instinctive first reaction is not. My second reaction is “maybe”. After all, Migne reprints all that scholarship from the 16-17th century, much of it very learned, and in many cases never superseded. We would still learn things, even from this.
Or should it be later volumes? Where should we start?
Come, gentlemen. Imagine yourselves in that parallel universe. What would YOU recommend to your students?