New Testament Manuscripts

I'm wondering if it bothers anyone else that as historians (in order to illuminate the first and second centuries of Christianity) we are using an eclectic version of our manuscripts of the New Testament created by a modern committee?

The Nestle-Aland text not only doesn't exist in manuscript form, it certainly does not represent any version of NT texts from the first or second centuries. If you think about it, according to the manuscripts we do possess, a Christian living in Alexandria will have knowledge of different version of the texts from those Christians living in Syria, Asia Minor, Rome, or Gaul.

What does this mean for historians studying early Christianity and using the eclectic text as our foundation? Are we operating under false impressions? - that we know exactly what the Gospel of Mark read in the first century, and that this was the same everywhere geographically?

Certainly there is the critical apparatus to consult. But this doesn't give us an actual reading of the Alexandrian text, for instance.

What I'm asking is this, shouldn't we create a synopsis of our manuscript families, so that we can read the Alexandrian text side-by-side with the Western text, and so forth? I know that we still won't be able to know what the manuscript tradition actually looked like in the first century, but at least we can begin to talk about the text basis for variant forms of Christianity in different geographical locations.

If you know of a synopsis like this that already exists, please share that information with me. I am ignorant on this subject.

If not, are there any textual scholars among us who might be interested in producing such a synopsis? I think it would revolutionize our field.