Beginning in 1886, Rene Graffin (1858-1941), professor at the Institut catholique in Paris, conceived the idea of adjoining to the Patrologia Latina and the Patrologia Graeca of J. P. Migne a collection comprising the texts of the Eastern church fathers, which were to be printed in their original languages with a translation on the facing page in either Latin or a modern language. He began with the Patrologia Syriaca, following a chronological order.
However, at the Orientalist Congress of Paris in 1897, it was decided to publish a Patrologia Orientalis consisting of texts not only in Syriac but also in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, Georgian, and Slavonic. At first, interest was concentrated on liturgical books, especially those treating hagiography, such as synaxaria and menologia in Arabic, Ethiopic, Armenian, and Georgian; the Coptic Euchologion of the White Monastery (DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH); and the Coptic lectionary for Holy Week.
Critical editions of the Holy Scriptures (Coptic Book of Job) and some apocrypha, notably in Ethiopic and Coptic were published. Mention should also be made of important books of history about the Coptic patriarchs of Alexandria and the patriarchs of Antioch. Works on theology, the homilies, and the letters of the first fathers of the Eastern churches published in the Patrologia Orientalis permit a better understanding of the heresies and controversies of the period. From 1903 to 1984, some 191 fascicles were published.
FRANÇOIS GRAFFIN, S.J