Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum

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The Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) is a series of critical editions of the Latin Church Fathers published by a committee of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The CSEL is intended to include the ecclesiastical authors who wrote in Latin from the late 2nd century until the death of Bede in 735. The texts are edited on the basis of all extant manuscripts and according to the principles of modern textual criticism and thus aim to provide a critical replacement for the corresponding volumes of the Patrologia Latina.

Since the establishment of the series in 1864 and the appearance of its first volume in 1866, ninety-five volumes have been published, ranging from Sulpicius Severus to Augustine.

Some of the CSEL editions have been superseded by more recent editions in the Corpus Christianorum series, and others have been included as supplements to the electronic edition of the Corpus Christianorum in the CETEDOC Library of Christian Latin Texts (CLCLT), which has since been expanded into Brepols' Library of Latin Texts Online.

Evaluation and controversy[edit]

The Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, founded in 1864 was seen as a beginning of text-critical editions of the Latin authors. Clearly, given the problematic nature of many Latin codices, text editions based on virtually all existing codices are superior to "one source editions" such as Migne. The Migne edition, which the Corpus edition aims to replace, is however almost complete with its 221 volumes, and is therefore frequently cited even today. In addition, most English translations of the Latin Fathers are based on Migne.

The Austrian Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum openly admits that only about one third of the necessary writings have been published since 1866. At this slow pace, completion may be achieved by the year 2248 or so. The aim to replace the Migne thus cannot be completed in reasonable time, and may be no more than a well intended, but marginal effort. The problem is accentuated by Academy policy to use its spare resources to reedit constantly already published volumes, as in the case of Saint Augustine. While textual improvements are always possible and welcome, this is significant. By questioning and reediting its own text critical publications, the Academy raises questions as to the accuracy and longevity of its expensive publications as a whole.

By not promoting a policy and strategy of completing two thirds of the missing volumes in reasonable time, the Academy remains on scholarly sidelines, leaving Migne, with all its shortcomings, in place as the only consistent and complete source of Patrologia Latina, for many decades to come. A serious replacement of the often deficient Migne edition requires a serious worldwide effort of Latin scholars on the missing two thirds of Latin patristics.

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