[Paleopsych] TLS: Changing the sheets

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Changing the sheets

    Noel Malcolm
    03 December 2004
    A game of blind man's buff with Leviathan

    LEVIATHAN. By Thomas Hobbes. Edited by Karl Schuhmann and G. A. J.
    Rogers. Volume One: Introduction. 224pp. Volume Two: The new edition.
    576pp. Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum. £150. - 1 84371 026 9

    In April 1651, Edward Hyde, the future Earl of Clarendon, stayed
    briefly in Paris.

    He was tired, ill and more than usually disgruntled, having just
    returned from a fruitless attempt to raise money in Madrid for the
    Royalist cause. He also felt ill at ease among the courtiers who
    clustered round the exiled Queen Henrietta Maria. But he did have one
    old friend in the French capital: the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who
    had been living in Paris for just over ten years. Hobbes, he later
    recalled, frequently came to me, and told me his Book (which he would
    call Leviathan) was then Printing in England, and that he receiv'd
    every week a Sheet to correct, of which he shewed me one or two
    Sheets, and thought it would be finished within little more then a
    moneth. (He) concluded, that he knew when I read his Book I would not
    like it, and thereupon mention'd some of his Conclusions; upon which I
    asked him, why he would publish such doctrine:

    to which, after a discourse between jest and earnest upon the Subject,
    he said, The truth is, I have a mind to go home.

    Hobbes was right: when Hyde received a copy of Leviathan a month or
    two later, he was disgusted by it. The book's key claim about the
    reciprocal relationship of "protection and obedience" seemed
    calculated to undermine the Royalist cause: it implied that if Charles
    II was in no position to protect his subjects, they were under no
    obligation to obey him. When Charles returned to Paris in November
    after his defeat at Worcester, Hyde was one of the advisers who
    persuaded him to ban Hobbes from his court. By this point, Hobbes's
    "mind to go home" was fully made up: he left Paris for London in the
    following month.

    Leviathan was certainly written in a very specific, and very fraught,
    political context. But it was, even at the time, a politically
    multivalent work. While it justified those who had submitted to the
    victorious rebels, it denounced rebellion and contested all the
    justifications the rebels had given for their actions. Its defence of
    monarchy, which aligned Hobbes with Royalists against republicans,
    included a stinging attack on constitutional theories of "mixed
    monarchy", which some Royalists had happily accepted. Its theory of
    the sovereign as the "representative" of the people used
    Parliament-arian language to make a profoundly anti- Parliamentarian
    point, while at the same time setting the authority of any monarch on
    a basis (the will of the people) that traditional monarchists would
    find repugnant. And, above all, Hobbes's treatment of religion
    offended Catholics, Presbyterians and Anglicans in almost equal

    As an intervention in the politics of its time, Leviathan thus submits
    to no simple characterization. But, of course, it was more than a
    political tract: it claimed to present a science of politics
    consistent with, or derived from, the principles of the "new science",
    and it transformed natural-law theory, making it thoroughly
    naturalistic for the first time. Hobbes's theories were later used
    both by defenders of absolutism and by the underground writers of the
    radical Enlightenment. Today, Leviathan is seen as a seminal work for
    the modern traditions of both illiberal and liberal thought - indeed,
    as one of the seminal works of "modernity" as such.

    Which makes it all the more surprising that there has never yet been a
    proper critical edition of Leviathan. For many of Hobbes's writings,
    indeed, the only modern edition is the incomplete and unreliable one
    issued by Sir William Molesworth between 1839 and 1845. A new,
    complete, edition of Hobbes's works is under way at the Oxford
    University Press, and it will of course include Leviathan (edited by
    this reviewer). The late Karl Schuhmann, a German scholar who taught
    at the University of Utrecht, was familiar with the Oxford project,
    and made an outstanding contribution to one of its forthcoming
    volumes; but as he had a rather different approach to textual matters,
    he felt that it would be preferable to produce his own edition of
    Leviathan, in which he could proceed on a different basis. This large
    task dominated the final years of his life; he died of cancer in 2003,
    and the work was seen through the press by his English collaborator,
    G. A.

    J. Rogers. It appears in two volumes: the work itself, and a lengthy
    Introduction, in which Schuhmann sets out his theories about the
    history of the text. According to the publishers, this is "the first
    edition to take proper account of the publishing history"; it is thus
    "as definitive an edition of Leviathan as modern scholarship can
    provide". Such claims, if true, would make this one of the most
    important Hobbes publications in many decades.

    Anyone producing a critical edition has to begin by examining, and
    discriminating between, the early states of the text. Here the editor
    of Leviathan immediately faces a problem: although the identity of the
    true first edition, published in 1651, is not in doubt, there are two
    other early editions, both dated "1651" but presumed to be later.
    These three editions are known by the ornaments that appear on their
    printed title pages: the first is called the "Head" edition, the
    second "the Bear", and the third the "Ornaments"' (from its pattern of
    small ornaments, repeated in rows).

    The Bear and the Ornaments are sometimes called "pirated" editions,
    and it is generally supposed that each was printed to meet popular
    demand when the previous edition was exhausted. But, on the other
    hand, the Bear does contain a few significant changes to the text
    (copied also in the Ornaments), which may have derived from Hobbes
    himself. In 2002, I published a study of the printing history of the
    Bear, which argued that those changes did indeed come from Hobbes's
    pen, as responses to theological criticism in 1658 and a threat of
    possible prosecution in the late 1660s. My evidence suggested that the
    Bear was a hybrid product, the result first of an abortive attempt to
    print the book in London in 1670 (abortive because it was interrupted
    by a raid by the authorities) and then of a printing of the missing
    sheets by an Amsterdam printer sometime later in the 1670s.

    Karl Schuhmann's version of the story is very different. He starts
    with a master clue: that recollection by Hyde of Hobbes receiving
    "every week a Sheet to correct". All previous writers have assumed
    that Hobbes was proof-reading, making corrections that he would send
    back to the publisher who was organizing the printing of the Head
    edition in London, Andrew Crooke. Schuhmann disagrees. He points out,
    quite reasonably, that the pages would not have been kept in standing
    type, awaiting Hobbes's corrections: this would have been quite
    impractical for the printers (who were probably producing many more
    than one sheet per week). So why was Hobbes "correcting" sheets in

    The obvious answer is that he was compiling the general list of errata
    which was in fact included in the last sheet to be printed. But
    Schuhmann insists, a priori, that correcting typographical errors was
    the business of the printing-house corrector, not the author, so
    Hobbes cannot have been engaged in such work. Schuhmann has apparently
    never looked at Percy Simpson's classic book on proof- reading in the
    early modern period, which demonstrated, nearly seventy years ago,
    that the authorial correction of typographical errors was common.
    This, alas, is not the only point on which Schuhmann's argument is
    largely sustained by its lack of acquaintance with the facts of
    printing history.

    To the puzzle of those corrected sheets in Paris, Schuhmann has a
    strikingly original solution: Hobbes was making material changes to
    the text, and sending the altered sheets not back to London, but on to
    Amsterdam. There they were used by a Dutch printer, who produced the
    Bear edition - hence the authorial changes it contains. And this
    edition, produced almost simultaneously with the original Head
    edition, was then shipped back to the person who had commissioned and
    paid for it: Andrew Crooke.

    Why this cumbersome and roundabout procedure? Schuhmann's answer is
    that Crooke knew the book would "create a sensation" and might be
    seized and suppressed by the authorities. So he chose "the common way
    out and (also) had the book printed in Holland": that way, he would
    have extra copies to "financially indemnify him, if the English part
    of the production were to be seized".

    This is hugely implausible. Crooke obviously did not worry about the
    book being seized: had he done so, he would not have entered it under
    his name in the Stationers' Register, nor would he have printed his
    own name and address on the title page. As for the "common" procedure
    of simultaneous printing in Holland: Schuhmann gives no other examples
    of this, and they would indeed be hard to find.

    We are asked to imagine that Crooke would have thus duplicated the
    entire cost of setting up a text in print (a large part of his
    investment); that he would have incurred the risk of the Dutch printer
    running off more copies, which might then be sold surreptitiously to
    other booksellers, undermining Crooke's own sales; and that he would
    not only have allowed, but encouraged, the author to turn this
    secondary printing into a superior version of the text, thus further
    undermining the primary one if the differences between them ever
    became known.

    A great many other aspects of the case do not fit the proposition that
    the Bear was produced simultaneously with the Head. For example, there
    are many copies of the Head with dated inscriptions from the 1650s and
    60s, but the earliest inscribed copy of the Bear is from 1678. The
    most important change made, apparently by Hobbes, to the text of the
    Bear relates to criticism published in the late 1650s; when Hobbes
    wrote a reply to that criticism in the 1660s, he did not state that he
    had already corrected that passage, but lamely claimed that it did not
    mean what it said.

    Again, Schuhmann's theory cannot account for the fact that the Bear
    was produced in two separate printing-houses (with different type and
    different paper). The simplest explanation of this - that some sheets
    were salvaged from the raid in 1670, to be used as the initial element
    in the make-up of the Bear -is dismissed as "an ad hoc hypothesis"; he
    omits to mention that it is a hypothesis backed by detailed evidence
    from the archives of the Stationers' Company.

    Schuhmann's resistance to that hypothesis is, psychologically at
    least, understandable; by the time he considered it, he had finished
    constructing his own history of the text, in which it was the
    Ornaments edition, not the Bear, that was identified with the printing
    interrupted in 1670. Here too his argument faces serious difficulties.
    He notes that the Ornaments divides into two sections with different
    typefaces, and concludes that this was caused by the interruption of
    the printing in 1670, when it became necessary to finish off the work
    at a different printing-house. He has not noticed that the paper is
    the same throughout the book, and that the same italic founts are used
    in both sections - strong evidence that it was produced (quite
    normally) by two teams in a single printing-house.

    All the evidence suggests that the Ornaments was a much later
    production; the earliest known dated copy is from 1702, long after
    Hobbes's death. Nevertheless, regardless of its date, Schuhmann argues
    that it is in fact the most authoritative edition of Leviathan, on the
    grounds that it contains further indubitably authorial changes to the
    text. There are just a handful of these changes, and what convinces
    Schuhmann that they came from Hobbes is that they coincide with
    changes Hobbes himself had made in the presentation manuscript which
    he gave to Charles II in 1651. But this argument is simply not
    compelling: in every case, the correction is one that any observant
    copy-editor could have made. The fact that the same improvement was
    made by Hobbes in 1651 and by an unknown copy-editor in, say, 1701
    does not prove that the latter had access to personal instructions
    from the former.

    Schuhmann's attribution of final authority to the Ornaments will not,
    I think, be widely accepted. But in a strange way it is not accepted
    by Schuhmann himself: for when he comes to choosing the copy-text for
    his own edition, he rejects the Ornaments and goes back to the Head.
    This is surprising, because his theory of editorial method adheres to
    the old rule of the Ausgabe letzter Hand - that is, reproducing all
    features of the last edition in which the author was involved. His
    reasons for abandoning this rule here (while insisting that it is
    still correct in principle) are hard to follow, but have to do with a
    "pragmatic" preference for the spelling used in the Head edition. He
    also suggests that, while the Ornaments has more authority, it does
    stand at the end of an accumulation of typographical errors; he thus
    appears to have gone a little way towards reinventing the classic
    arguments of W. W. Greg and Fredson Bowers about the distinction
    between the authority of a text in substantive matters and in
    accidentals - arguments of which Schuhmann seems otherwise quite

    Having decided to base his edition on the Head, he then faced a
    further problem: the variants that exist between different copies of
    the Head edition. In-press correction was common in this period, and
    books were usually made up of an assortment of corrected and
    uncorrected sheets; this is why modern editors routinely collate
    multiple copies of their copy-text, in order to record the variants
    and identify the corrections. In a special case, an editor may find a
    privileged version of the text: where "large-paper" presentation
    copies were printed, they were often made at the end of the print run
    of each sheet, incorporating all in-press corrections. Richard Tuck's
    1991 edition of Leviathan gave priority, for this reason, to a
    large-paper copy of the Head. Schuhmann has many pages discussing
    Tuck's edition (with withering comments on its adequacy); he dismisses
    the idea that the large-paper copies were made at the end of the run,
    on the grounds that they also include some errors. But the errors
    mentioned by Schuhmann merely demonstrate that Tuck was right: they
    consist only of cases where type has dropped out during the printing
    process (and, once or twice, been wrongly reinserted). This becomes
    plain if one makes a full collation of the large paper copies with the
    other copies; but that, of course, is something Schuhmann never did.

    Instead, he declaims against all such collating, arguing first that
    one would have to compare every single copy printed (an objection that
    was dealt with by bibliographers long ago, using simple mathematical
    sampling theory), and then that, a priori, collating could produce no
    evidence of value. His credo is that one copy is enough - or, as his
    colleague John Rogers puts it, "one copy, one vote".

    And yet here one comes to the strangest feature of this editorially
    idiosyncratic enterprise. Schuhmann has in fact attempted a detailed
    comparison of variants in different printings of the Head edition; but
    he has done so at one remove. Instead of examining the original
    seventeenth-century copies, he has examined a variety of
    twentieth-century editions (the Penguin, the Everyman, and so on)
    which are based on slightly differing copies of the Head. He notes
    that these modern editions therefore differ on many small points, and
    his editorial apparatus minutely records their "variants". Without
    checking the original copies used by those previous editors, he does
    not know whether the "variants" he records are genuine variants in the
    1651 copies, or whether they are misprints, mistranscriptions, or
    emendations by the modern editors. A proper collation of the 1651
    copies will show, I believe, that his apparatus contains examples of
    all of these, indiscriminately mixed in. Never mind that he also
    faithfully records misprints in Molesworth's Victorian edition, while
    silently correcting those of the 1651 printing. The whole basis on
    which Schuhmann's edition is constructed involves a procedure which
    cannot be called textual-critical recension at all; it is something
    more akin to a game of bibliographical blind man's buff.

    This is a sad end to a great career.

    Karl Schuhmann possessed extraordinary gifts of philological analysis;
    and there are many passages in his introductory volume here that
    display those talents, analysing, for instance, the relationship
    between the presentation manuscript and the 1651 text, or between the
    English Leviathan and its later translation into Latin. One wishes
    that he had devoted more time and space to such matters (and less of
    both to his minute investigations of the defects of various modern
    paperback editions). One wishes that he had caught up with the past
    fifty years or so of scholarship on printing history and analytical
    bibliography. And, most of all, one wishes that he had actually taken
    some physical copies of the 1651 edition in his hands, and seen for
    himself what they contained.

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