Circular Letters of Superiors General

Three volumes of the principal circular letters of the superiors general were published in Paris during the generalates of Eugène Boré and Antoine Fiat, 1877-1880, under the title Recueil des principales circulaires des Supérieurs Généraux de la Congrégation de la Mission, in three volumes.

These letters, originally in manuscript and, in the mid-18th century, in a printed version, were sent around either to the entire Congregation, or to the members of individual provinces or groups of provinces. Besides the texts, the volumes have historical materials on the administration of each of the superiors general until Fiat’s time, including, most notably, a listing of each of the general assemblies and their delegates, with documents pertaining to the Congregation at the time of the French Revolution (Volume II). A general index to the printed version is found at the end of Volume III, followed by a supplemental table with the added texts, as well as the lists of the deceased for the years of Volume III, since these were published in the original letters but omitted in the printed version. All the texts are searchable.

The letters were written principally in French, although several Latin documents were also included. At times letters were issued in these same two languages and these two have occasionally been included in this edition. Occasional letters in Italian and Spanish also appear.

The difference between this digital version and the printed version lies in the fact that the editor has attempted to include all the circular letters, not only those chosen for the original publication. These have been unearthed in various archives and are reproduced with the original spelling. The majority of the omitted letters occur in Volume I, most likely because they are the oldest. Along the same line, the fewest omitted letters are from Volume III. If others are found, they will be inserted. In addition, some letters were edited, with some passages omitted in the printed version. Where found, these omissions have been reinserted in this version and clearly marked through the use of a different font color. The value of a more complete edition is that these unpublished letters are also pertinent to the history of the Congregation of the Mission, since they treat of issues only alluded to in other sources, if indeed they are known at all.

The texts are arranged as follows: Volume I, 1642-1762; Volume II, 1762-1843; Volume III, 1843-1878. The additional texts follow in chronological order and keep the enumeration, in Roman numerals, of the original, with the addition of Latin letters a, b, c, etc. The page numbers in square brackets refer to the pagination of the original publication, unless they are in an added document with its own pagination. The dates on the manuscript versions are often not the same as those in the versions printed in Recueil. This probably means that they were copied and dated on the day of the copying.

John E. Rybolt, C.M. May 2009

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