The Elements of Law: Manuscripts and the Short Parliament

In: Hobbes Studies
Johann SommervilleEmeritus Professor, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA,

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There are eleven known manuscripts of Hobbes’s Elements of Law. As they divide on textual grounds into two groups, they are effectively two separate editions, employing two different texts. While two of the manuscripts apparently were Hobbes’s working copies, it also seems clear that he never definitively established the text of the Elements. There are reasons for thinking it unlikely that, as has been suggested, Hobbes intended the work to influence debate in the Short Parliament. More likely, he hoped his patron, Newcastle, would transmit his principles to the monarch and his chief advisors.

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