Sunday, July 13, 2008

Patrology Online

Phil at Hyperekperissou has asked his readers to weigh in about the state of patrology online. Here is my two cents' worth:

Question #1: Best on-line resources for patristics?
No doubt the best resources online are ccel and Roger Pearse's Tertullian (et al) project.

Question #2: What still needs to be done?
Now here I have a wish-list. I'll limit myself to three things:
  1. There are still gaps in things available in English in public domain translations. For example, for one project last year in which I was chasing down a patristics quote from Marius Victorinus, there was no public domain translation and I had to go to considerable trouble to verify the source quote. I wouldn't have minded too much if I'd had to translate it myself from Latin -- it was short enough -- if only I could have easily found the Latin on-line. Which brings me to my next point:
  2. An original-languages version of ccel might be in order.
  3. As someone else has mentioned at Phil's site, the search capabilities are severely limited for the free online resources. On this one, I feel a slight twinge of guilt as I do have the programming skills to put together the solution, I simply don't have that kind of free time. Picture this: Each work is registered (example: Eusebius' History is registered by at least title, author, and date); the structure of the text is registered (e.g. how many books, chapters, etc. down to the smallest division); different translations or editions are registered (if more than one is available); then the text of the different translations are added into the database. As icing on the cake, a registry is entered of Scriptural quotations / references in the text. Then it's a fairly simple matter (from the programming point of view) to add search capability of the history of commentary on a particular verse within certain dates and return titles, dates, authors, and links to the relevant passages, or all passages containing given combinations of words. If only they gave Sabbatical years to programmers. The coding is honestly not that difficult, but it would still take some time. After the database is set up, the main trick is the data entry and anyone who can cut and paste from ccel could do that part. If I ever do a thing like that, I suppose I would want to open it up beyond just patristics and have it so each book could register under any applicable field of study (e.g. "patristics - primary sources", or "history - primary sources"). The biggest on-line searchable library in the world ... all-new indexing ... I can dream. :)


Phil Snider said...

Thanks for this. The availability of texts and translations is still very patchy which worries me a bit. Most of the popular Fathers are covered, but those interesting lesser Fathers aren't as much. That is a real worry.

I appreciate the technical angle on the database. That is an angle I hadn't thought of. Of, but for infinite amounts of time!


Weekend Fisher said...

So is there, in your mind, a wishlist of texts to be translated? I'd be curious what was on it, or on the highest-priority level if it was long.