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A Word about Online Church History Resources

July 9, 2010

Over the past few days I’ve been busy downloading massive amounts of online material, and I thought it might be helpful to others to write a post about some of what’s available online. The two sites that I have been using the most are books.google.com and http://www.archive.org. The latter site often simply directs you back to Google Books, but sometimes has its own downloadable pdfs which can be much better quality than those on Google Books. The pdf downloads from Google Books don’t seem to be in an OCR format, which means that the file is just a bunch of pictures of the individual pages of the book. That allows you to read the book, but not to search its contents. The pdfs from http://www.archive.org often are OCR which is tremendously useful because you can easily do keyword searches throughout the book. A word of warning though – these files can be quite large, especially the OCR files (>80 megabytes), so they require a fast internet connection and a lot of harddrive space. Here’s some of what I’ve downloaded so far:

The Ante-Nicene Fathers – This is a series that was originally published in England with a different title and a different volume ordering. The American edition is the standard one now, published at the end of the nineteenth century. I have found all 10 volumes in OCR.

The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers – As the continuation of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, this set was published in two series comprising a total of 28 volumes. I have found all of these online, but not all in OCR. Many of the ANF and NPNF volumes are online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, but having them on your own computer allows for online searching, and having the original pagination allows for citation as well.

Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church – This was a 48 volume set produced by Pusey, Newman, et al. who were the leaders of the influential Oxford Movement in the mid-nineteenth century. Oddly, this set is not nearly as well known as ANF and NPNF, but it includes some works which have never been translated into English anywhere else. You can find a complete list of the set (the only such list that I am aware of) here. I have so far found 19 of these volumes, and I think many more are probably available if you search for the titles of the individual volumes.

Migne’s Patrologia Graeca – This is the the classic nineteenth century collection of the Greek Fathers in the original language, running to 161 volumes. You can find a list of the volumes here. I believe that many if not all of them should be on Google Books or archive.org. This edition is known as being flawed from a textual critical perspective, but many of the texts included in it do not exist anywhere else, and they also all include a facing Latin translation which can be useful if the Greek is particularly tough. A number of these volumes are available in a different format here.

Migne’s Patrologia Latina – As the companion to PG, PL consists of the writings of the Latin Fathers all the way up to the Middle Ages. A list of the volumes is available here. I have found all but five of the 221 volumes. You can find links to download all the volumes here.

Patrologia Syriaca / Patrologia Orientalis – This series started out titled PS, but was changed to PO. It includes the writings of the Fathers in languages other than Greek and Latin (e.g., Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Arabic). I have found around 25 of these volumes online in exceptionally good image quality and OCR. A list of volumes is here.

The Works of Aurelius Augustine – A fifteen volume set published in the late nineteenth century by T&T Clark, many of these works were later included in NPNF. I am not sure if all of them were. At any rate, I have found all fifteen volumes in OCR online. I was excited to see that one of the pdfs was actually the very volume from the library of B. B. Warfield, as stated in a note on the inside cover. It apparently became a part of the library at Princeton Seminary upon his death.

The Loeb Classical Library – Many of the volumes in this fine series of classical texts are available online. You can find a list of them with links here.

CSEL – A series of very good quality critical texts of the Latin Fathers. You can find a list of the volumes with links to download here.

Die Griechischen Christlichen Schriftsteller – Another series of critical texts some of which are available for download here.

Google themselves gives a long list of ancient titles for download here.

A number of patristic works in translation which are not in ANF or NPNF are online here in html format. In fact, if you’re interested in following patristic things, the person who made these works available online has an interesting blog updated regularly, available here. A number of the links I am sharing in this post came from his own blog.

In addition to the above, I have downloaded a number of works by Adolf von Harnack and a few patrologies. It truly is amazing what all is available online, and what you can now have at your fingertips on your own computer. If anyone has found other similar sites, please post the links in the comments below. If I can think of other sites, I will try to follow up with more.

Update: 7/16/10:

I have since found pdfs of Lightfoot’s edition of the Apostolic Fathers, the entire Library of the Fathers series, a number of volumes of Spurgeon’s sermons, the complete set of Simeon’s commentaries (Horae Homileticae), and nearly the entire 51 volume Harvard Classics series. Also, something important to note is that the search results you get from Google Books (and archive.org too, I believe) depends upon where you are located. Your ISP address gives away your location, and since copyright laws vary from country to country, you cannot always find the same books wherever you happen to be. Many of the above books I was unable to download in the UK, but are available in the USA. Sometimes you can get around that problem by using an anonymizing proxy, but recently when I’ve tried from the UK that didn’t even work.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2010 12:45 pm

    Great post. I have found the Patrologia on Google Books to be invaluable, though sometimes the scan makes some words near the binding illegible. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu is another helpful website. It doesn’t have much Christian content, but it is rich in material from Christianity’s Greco-Roman context (they have a searchable version of Josephus). It also has lexical tools.

  2. July 31, 2010 3:05 pm

    Good note on Google Books. This business of trying to defeat the block, tho … it makes you feel like you live in China!

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