Troubles at Documenta Catholica Omnia

Paul Chandler writes to query what is happening with the Documenta Catholica Omnia site.

Roger, do you know the story of Documenta Catholica Omnia and what’s going on there? Their project seems hugely ambitious but strangely unusable. They had the Patrologia Latina up in beautifully OCRed, proof-read, re-typeset versions, keyed in the margin to the Migne columns (so useful!). It must have been an enormous amount of work. But the PL was distributed over 12,000 separate files, and basically could not be searched. Now they have taken down this “beta version” and are replacing it with PDF page scans, which are available elsewhere (Google Books, Gallica), and which seems a totally backward step.

There is much else there, but in barely usable forms, unless you just want to download a treatise or two. Migne’s projects were remarkable, but he published some of the worst-printed books of the 19th century, on the worst paper. PDFs of tatty library copies of Migne volumes are not the advance we need for the 21st century!

Paul is not wrong.  Take a look at the Augustine materials.  Files marked MLT are from Migne; and these are clearly bitmaps.

I also looked at Cyril of Alexandria.  The MGR material I suspect is supposed to be Migne (Greek).  But opening a few of the files reveals a copyright notice at the top, giving the TLG as the origin and that these are now appearing there by permission.

I don’t know who runs the DCO site.  Doing a Whois search tells me only that it is an Italian site.  But I would guess that all the material was in fact taken without permission from the Proquest digitised version of the Patrologia Latina.  This used to be available in CDROM form, and was widely pirated in Eastern Europe years ago.  After all, with a price of $23,000, what else could people do?  It looks to me as if the copyright people have attacked the site.  Probably the whole thing is the work of a few people, and, although the original texts cannot possibly be in copyright, those people couldn’t afford the lawyers to uphold it. 

It looks as if they did a deal with the TLG people for the raw Greek texts, which I always suspected were not from Migne but from the TLG.  It may be relevant that the TLG director has an Italian name.  But all credit to the TLG, who I believe have made the right decision here.  Professional scholars will increasingly want more than bare Greek text, and I believe the TLG is moving to supply that, parsed and morphologised and cross-referenced.  But ordinary people will still find value in the simple text. 

Paul has a further question, which is very interesting:

Also I heard today that some group in the U.S. has begun a project to scan, OCR and make searchable the PL (and PG?) and make it available at a small fraction of the ProQuest price. Apparently the first CD is being offered a pre-publication subscription price. This would be a wonderful boon to scholars without access to such expensive resources. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down any details. Have you heard of this?

Is this perhaps the Logos effort, that I vaguely recall hearing about?  Here?


24 thoughts on “Troubles at Documenta Catholica Omnia

  1. I am glad to have come across this article.

    I was going to look at the De Divinis Officiis of Rupert of Deutz (PL: 170) which was available only a few months ago as a pdf.file of the Migne version.

    Now it is no longer available for downloading. Also all of Volumes 163-213 of the Patrologia Latina are unavilable apart from a few Vitae of the authors. Then Volumes 214 -217 Pope Innocent III are available.

    This is a great pity – I hope that they will restore these pdfs – why is it so hard to contact this organisation?



    I am sorry to

  2. Hi Folks,

    “although the original texts cannot possibly be in copyright, those people couldn’t afford the lawyers to uphold it.”

    And they would probably lose. As I understand, computer formatting coding is copyright separate from the raw text, and it cannot simply be lifted and taken.

    Conceivably in some cases they could strip the source back down to raw text. However their may not be a raw text component that does not include value-added coding for foreign languages, accents and such. At the very best they would have a gray area.


  3. I am pleased to say that the whole of Migne Patrologia appears to be available at Documenta Omnia Catholica.,_Migne,_Patrologia_Latina_01._Rerum_Conspectus_Pro_Tomis_Ordinatus,_MLT.html

    I downloaded the De Divinis Officiis by Rupert of Deutz to ensure I have have a copy apart from the one I photocopied in the Humanities Reading Room of the BL some years ago.

  4. Since March 12th, 2010, Documenta Catholica Omnia was kept alive, healthy and growing. We must be thankful for so large an effort to make freely available such a huge mass of Latin documents of historical, philological and religious importance. It contains anything a modern student of Latin may wish to prove that Latin was and can go on being a living language. Recently the Vatican started a page named Summi Pontifices that presents, so far, just one document of Pope Leo XIII. In Documenta Catholica Omnia we find a very complete source to continue this page by oneself, because it includes already all documents of all Popes. I regret that Documenta Catholica Omnia has not a section on documenta didactica, that is a section for publications in Modern Latin by professors of the Catholic Universities, as the Gregorian University of Rome. Darcy Carvalho, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

  5. Does anyone know what is going on with DCO? I accessed it Thursday, 31 July with no problem (needed PL 16). Now, nothing works. I simply get a message that “this page cannot be loaded.”

    DCO is an important resource and I hope everything will be back to normal soon!
    Laurie, Rome

  6. I wonder how much disk space it really occupies? Probably any of us could run such a mirror on a bit of commercial webspace, or a corner of some university server. It’s a thought.

  7. Is the DOC site completely gone? The alternatives suggested by Bill White fall far short of what used to be up.
    Does anybody know what happened to DOC?

  8. With Roger’s permission, I will try to shed some light on this situation.
    The best way to find infos is to carry out an investigation in the manner of a detective from old times.
    I accessed the old site through the Wayback Machine:
    At the bottom of both pages there is a copyright notice to “Cooperatorum Veritatis Societas”.
    I made a simple Google search and I found the identity of the site owner:
    For those not interested in reading the entire thread, the man responsible for Documenta Catholica is Giuseppe Sandro Mela, a retired Italian physician.
    He’s the author of two books ( and has two blogs, a personal one (
    and one about economy and politics (
    I was unable to find contact infos but, for those interested, he has a Facebook account.
    As far as I know, Documenta Catholica never had any official relation to University of California’s Thesaurus Linguae Grecae.
    At the same time, I suspect that the creation of a new site with reduced material is a direct consequence of legal threats.
    For those interested in using the new site, I advise to open two tabs:
    Look up what you need in the index and then follow the proper links from the main page.
    To conclude, the director of the TLG has always been an American citizen:
    Theodore F. Brunner (German born), from 1972 to 1996 []
    Maria C. Pantelia, from 1996 []

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