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Reviewed by:
  • Leviathan
  • Lodi Nauta
Thomas Hobbes . Leviathan. 2 vols. Eds. G. A. J. Rogers and Karl Schuhmann. Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2003. 272; 568 pp. illus. $225. ISBN: 1–84371–026–9.

Today it needs no justification to review works by or about Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) in a journal devoted entirely to the Renaissance. Hobbes stands with one foot in the rhetorical-classical culture of Renaissance England, just as surely as he stands with the other in the world of seventeenth-century mechanist philosophy [End Page 701] and science. His Leviathan, published in 1651, has become a classic in the history of political thought. It has been reprinted many times, but its printing history has never been carefully analyzed with a view to establishing a critical edition. This is what volume 1 of the new Thoemmes edition sets out to do, while volume 2 presents the resulting edition of the text.

Leviathan was first published in 1651, with Andrew Crooke as its printer. Two other editions have the same date and printer on their title page, but have generally been considered to be of later date and of inferior quality. The three are usually referred to as Head (H), Bear (B), and Ornaments (O) editions, after the decorations on their title pages. Next to these printings, we have a manuscript copy presented by Hobbes to the future King Charles II in 1651. Much later, Hobbes himself prepared a Latin translation, published in 1668. There are important later editions from 1750 and 1839, and there is a host of modern editions, usually mere reprints of copies of H. Karl Schuhmann — for it was his project (as Rogers also makes clear in the preface) — who examined in the most minute detail all editions, including what he calls the "pseudo-editions" from the (late) twentieth century. Every aspect of each of these editions or reprints has been noticed, counted, examined, and analyzed, down to the level of interpunction, italics, capitals, headers, marginal notes, and number of lines. Individual quires are examined, errata lists checked. In studying this mass of data one is reminded of Hobbes's own words that "to demonstration and teaching of the truth, there are required long deductions, and great attention, which is unpleasant to the hearer," but this "dry discourse" (to use another Hobbesian phrase) presents such a wealth of information on the individual editions and printings and their interrelationships that it often makes for engrossing reading, even though one is surprised to see that the examination of H is limited to two copies. In good Hobbesian vein, the destructive part is no less clearly present than the constructive part, and editors of self-styled "critical" editions are found faulty in many, and often revealing, respects.

On the constructive side we are offered authoritative chapters on the genesis of Leviathan and its Hobbesian sources as well as a highly detailed account of the history of the text. Schuhmann argues that B and O editions are not inferior to H, and that both contain corrections and emendations by Hobbes himself (those in B, concerning the propagation of the wicked, are well known), although most of the changes, Schuhmann believes, are due to correctors and typesetters. His conclusion is that "O derives directly from B; the B copy at the basis of O must have been carefully, though not exhaustively, revised; this revision drew in some way not only on H, but to a limited degree also on (a neat manuscript copy of) Hobbes's autograph, as well as on a few corrections he may have developed only when translating the work into Latin" (174). While there is much that is extremely valuable in this introductory volume, it contains a big mistake that skews the whole picture. For as Norman Malcolm has convincingly argued in his recent Aspects of Hobbes (2002, and reviewed in RQ 57.2 [2004], 622–23), the printing of B must be connected with a surreptitious printing in 1670, after which the printing (of B) was completed in Holland in 1675–78. The O edition, which is clearly later than [End Page 702] B, is dated by Malcolm to the beginning of the eighteenth century, and...


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Archived 2009
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