Papers of and relating to Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)

Scope and Content

This collection comprises papers and manuscripts collected and created by Hobbes and members of the Cavendish family. They reflect Hobbes's role as tutor, secretary and advisor to the Earls of Devonshire, as well as his life as philosopher, scientist, scholar and correspondent to a circle of foreign academics and scholars of the time.

The collection includes: some scribal manuscripts of Hobbes's life works (some with autograph annotations); some of Hobbes's unpublished or preparatory works; works of other contemporary scholars; mathematical and scientific notes; exercise books and writings belonging to Cavendish family members tutored by Hobbes; a legal document concerning the 3rd Earl's inheritance; letters to Hobbes; his translations of Italian letters; digests of Aristotle and Scaliger; copies of parliamentary documents; poetry; contemporary library catalogues and brief administrative memoranda.

The greatest number of collected papers here are those belonging to Hobbes's friend, the mathematician and clergyman, Robert Payne. These papers are Payne's notes on mathematical and scientific problems and are largely found in HS/C. Payne was the chaplain to the Earl of Newcastle and Cavendish family at Welbeck Abbey (cousins of the Cavendishes at Chatsworth) and through this link was known to Hobbes and influenced his work. Payne's papers include his notes on a draft of Hobbes's work De Corpore (HS/A/10 and HS/C/4/2). Other collected papers include enclosures from correspondence and scribal copies of works - including papers and manuscripts collected by the Cavendishes and preserved here because of their known or assumed connection to Hobbes.

The majority of the papers span from just before Hobbes's initial employment by the 1st Earl of Devonshire as tutor to his son William Cavendish (1590-1628) in 1608, to his death in 1679. This includes the period when Hobbes was exiled and living in Paris (1641-1651). In addition, there is some material which post-dates Hobbes's death, including book catalogues of the libraries at Chatsworth and Hardwick (HS/ADD).

The first two series in this collection are largely made up of manuscripts of Hobbes s and other eminent contemporary academics' works (HS/A and HS/B). They show Hobbes's working practice through annotations he made on some manuscripts as well as his scholastic influences in the manuscripts he kept in his possession.

The annotations on some of these manuscripts provide examples of Hobbes's handwriting. The best examples of his fair hand however are his scribal copy of William Cavendish s essays (HS/D3) and his library catalogue (HS/E/1A), both probably produced during his time as secretary to the 2nd Earl. This was before his hand became affected by 'shaking Palsy' (probably Parkinson's). His manuscripts in the collection from after 1656 are all in the hand of a scribe, with occasional shaky corrections showing where Hobbes has amended the documents.

A number of the manuscripts in this collection are written in the hand of the professional scribe known amongst Hobbes scholars as the 'Parisian scribe'. Noel Malcolm suggests that the scribe may have been passed from Mersenne to Hobbes, first to copy items in Mersenne's collection such as the book by de Beaugrande (HS/B/6) and de Fermat (HS/B4) and then to make fair copies of Hobbes's own works, for the duration of Hobbes's time living in Paris in the 1640s (HS/A4, HS/A5 and HS/A7). Another prolific hand in this collections is that of James Whildon, who was amanuensis to Hobbes from 1656.

Whildon's hand recorded Hobbes s autobiographical verse Vita Carmine as well as Hobbes's response to the 4th Earl's critical query on Hobbes's political theory on sovereignty, both with tiny almost illegible corrections by Hobbes. Whildon was also responsible for making a copy of the Earl of Shaftsbury's speech for Hobbes's use (HS/G/2) and compiling a new catalogue of the library at Hardwick in 1657 (HS/ADD/1), based on Hobbes's original catalogue (HS/E/1A). A memorandum which seems to have little to do with Hobbes (HS/D/7) was likely assumed to be Hobbes-related and put with the Hobbes papers because the hand is Whildon's.

As a member of the Cavendish household (where he lived and worked for most of his life), who used the same library as the Earls and shared the same servants, Hobbes was tied up with many of the administrative processes and therefore records produced in the Cavendish household. He and the Earl used the same secretary (Whildon) as has already been seen. And the presence of Humphrey Poole's memoranda that relate to Hobbes (see HS/E/3 and HS/D/8) show the extent to which Hobbes was embedded in the household. (Poole was responsible for accounts and management of the Cavendish estates as Derbyshire receiver ).

No records highlight the interconnectedness between Hobbes, the Earls and the creation of documents more than the earlier exercise books and literary writings in this collection. HS/D1, HS/D2, HS/D3 and HS/9 (formerly HS/F/1) are all works likely produced by the 2nd and 3rd Earls during their education or just after it, in the early 17th century. But the extent to which Hobbes was involved with these and to what extent they were written by the Earls without Hobbes's input has been much discussed and debated by Hobbes scholars. If nothing else the uncertainty of where the work of the pupil begins and the tutor ends in these works illuminates how closely one may have influenced the other.

This collection provides a valuable source of information regarding the education of the 2nd and 3rd Earls not only under Hobbes but prior to his employment (see HS/D/9, formerly HS/F/1). It also provides some of the best extant examples of the early handwriting of the 2nd and 3rd Earl in the Chatsworth Archives, which can be compared to related manuscripts in the Hardwick Manuscripts collection (HMS/4).

Hobbes's translations of the 2nd Earl's letters from Fulgenzio Micanzio (HS/H) are records produced in Hobbes's role as secretary and provide information about the type of connections Cavendish made whilst travelling Europe with Hobbes that were then continued and strengthened on his return to England.

Another internationally significant and well-used series of the collection are the letters from foreign correspondents (HS/L) which provide insight into Hobbes s influences and networks. The series of 73 letters contains only incoming letters. As a group, these letters provide a picture of the types of friendship Hobbes kept with these correspondents he had largely first connected with in Paris. They are a rich resource for Hobbes scholars in the reassessment of Hobbes's reputation amongst his contemporaries. They show the understanding and reverence some of his correspondents had for his work and the way in which they encouraged him to publish more.

The additional series of material added to this collection (HS/ADD) is made up of library catalogues and book lists mostly related to Chatsworth and Hardwick, and created by other servants in the Cavendish household, but largely based on Hobbes's original cataloguing of the library collections (HS/E/1A).

Although an artificial collection, compiled from across the archival and library collections at Chatsworth over many years and added to in the nineteenth century, this collection provides the best example of primary sources relating to Hobbes (apart from the collection of Hobbes manuscripts in the British Library). Whilst his published works present Hobbes the philosopher 'polished and somewhat inaccessible' these manuscripts and papers allow a consideration of Hobbes's other roles, within the setting of the Cavendish household.

This collection also crucially sheds light on the work of Robert Payne and the influence he had on Hobbes in his role as philosopher publishing public works, but also in his more private role as an improving mathematics tutor to aristocrats and royalty.

Close analysis of the manuscripts in this collection reveals the complexity of Hobbes's changing role within the Cavendish household. It also sheds light on the formative years of the 2nd and 3rd Earls. Particularly significant in this collection are the works created by the 2nd Earl, who is underrepresented in the archives in comparison to his father and son. The records here are some of the only known examples of his writings, making them essential to understanding him and his role within the Cavendish dynasty.


An outline catalogue of the collection probably arranged as it is today was likely compiled in 1936 by Arthur T. Shillinglaw and recorded in the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts "Report on the MSS and papers of Thomas Hobbes" (1977). The collection is made up of somewhat eclectic series which have been separated fairly arbitrarily considering most of the material in HS/B, HS/C, HS/E, HS/G and HS/L was probably kept and used by Hobbes in a similar way.

It is tempting to rearrange this material to reflect new understandings of it, for example the fact that much of it isn't in Hobbes's hand and certain items thought unrelated are in fact closely linked e.g. HS/A/10 and HS/C/4/2. The misidentification of much of Payne's work as Hobbes's has greatly affected the arrangement of some of this material and had the original arranger identified Payne's hand, these papers would undoubtedly have been arranged differently to the way they are now. There are letter enclosures and notes by Robert Payne scattered throughout the collection which would probably be more sensibly kept together if one were to overhaul the arrangement to better reflect how the papers might have been used or kept by Hobbes and the Cavendish family.

However, given the artificial and incomplete nature of this collection, such a task could never be completed satisfactorily and the confusion it would cause users to fully re-reference would not be worth the benefit of having an arrangement which better reflects the administrative relationship of various items within the collection. Some archival history of the records may risk being lost by rearranging this collection too. It was therefore decided when cataloguing this collection in September 2021 to keep the arrangement largely as it is and to cross-reference material and explain links where relevant at series and item-level.

However, a minor re-arrangement as part of the cataloguing of this collection has resulted in the F series being disbanded. This was done partly because it was very small and unhelpfully titled, only containing two items unrelated to each other. One item which was originally catalogued as HS/F/3 was found to be a page from another document in the separate Hardwick Drawers collection (H/146/11) and was relocated before the current cataloguing project. The two other items in the F series were relocated to E and D series which include similar types of material to each of these items. The former references have been added to the titles of these items as well as the former reference field to make it clear where they now sit in the hierarchy of records.

HS/G/4 was also re-catalogued as HS/ADD/6 as it clearly relates to the other catalogue material.

Titles of the series have been altered from the original catalogue handlist, to better reflect the contents of the series. The material is arranged into nine principal series, which probably largely reflect the earliest catalogue of the material in 1936 which in turn possibly informed the RCHM Report (1977):

HS/A: Manuscripts relating to treatise by Hobbes

HS/B: Treatises collected by Hobbes and Robert Payne

HS/C: Mathematical notes of Robert Payne

HS/D: Cavendish family papers relating to Hobbes

HS/E: Personal papers of Hobbes and Payne

HS/G: Copies of political documents

HS/H: Translations of Italian letters from Fulgenzio Micanzio

HS/L: Letters to Thomas Hobbes mostly from foreign correspondents

HS/ADD: Lists of books at Hardwick and Chatsworth

Access Information

The collection is open for consultation. Access to the archive at Chatsworth is by appointment only. For more information please visit:

Copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study and personal research purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

Other Finding Aids

The majority of items are listed in: the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts "Report on the MSS and papers of Thomas Hobbes" (1977) available at Chatsworth Archives.

The relevant reference numbers for the manuscripts listed in the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700 (CELM) are recorded in the individual item records of this catalogue, and can also be found here:

Separated Material

Some letters, bearing the same endorsements of James Whildon (executor of Hobbes's will and his amanuensis) as those found on the Chatsworth material (HS/L), were probably leant by the Duke of Devonshire to James Crossley, antiquarian (1800-1883). Crossley appears to have bound these letters, and they are now among others held by the British Library (MS ADD 32553).

The following items in the Hardwick Drawers collection (GB 2495 H) at Chatsworth were likely once part of Hobbes's papers:

- H 145/21: "Discours contre la frequente saignee" by Samuel Sorbière is in the hand of the Parisian scribe, sent by Sorbière to Hobbes in early 1657.

-H/145/18: Copy of a legal brief evidently composed by Hobbes, in the hand of his amanuensis (James Whildon), untitled and beginning "Concerning the punishment of such persons as by word or writing uttered any thing contrary to the definition or determination of Holy Church& ". See CELM HbT 59 (Formerly cited in IELM, II.i (1987) as HbT 74).

Custodial History

A collection of Hobbes's papers has been kept at Chatsworth since Hobbes's death in 1679. However, many items that have some (sometimes tenuous) link to Hobbes have been gathered from other parts of the Chatsworth Archives or donated and added from external sources to what is known as the 'Papers of and relating to Hobbes' at Chatsworth since then. One must bear in mind therefore that the collection here is not one of papers created by Hobbes and then left untouched after his death in the order in which he kept and used them at Hardwick and Chatsworth. Instead this collection is somewhat artificial and has been compiled over the centuries since Hobbes lived with and worked for the Cavendish family, with some items in this collection not of his creation and some not even belonging to him.

Regarding early references to the Hobbes-related material at Chatsworth, the English bishop and antiquarian, White Kennett, added a memorandum to the entry on Hobbes in Woods' Athenae stating: "When I was in Chatsworth, after the funeral of the Duke of Devonshire in Sept. 1707... Mons. Huet told me there was an old trunk of his [Hobbes's] papers in the house, containing chiefly correspondence between him and foreigners." The letters HS/L remain in the collection today and indeed James Whildon - executor to Hobbes's will tried to put some of Hobbes's papers in order after his death and wrote endorsements on many of these letters from Hobbes's foreign correspondents.

It is likely that the papers of Robert Payne in this collection were acquired by Hobbes after the death of his friend in 1651, and were possibly sent to Hobbes when he was once again in the employ of the Cavendish family.

Hobbes did not spend all his time living at Hardwick, indeed he travelled with the family between Hardwick and Chatsworth as well as living in the Cavendish household at Latimers and London, also for some time in Paris in the 1640s. Some of his papers no doubt travelled with him and his use of particular scribes sometimes assists in pinpointing at what point certain items were acquired by him. It is possible the manuscripts written by the Parisian scribe and others of that period in HS/A and HS/B were brought to Hardwick when Hobbes returned there in the 1650s.

At some point between 1660 and1666 Hobbes is recorded by the biographer John Aubrey and his amanuensis, James Whildon, as having burned some of his papers. It is not known exactly what Hobbes destroyed or why, but Aubrey suggested it may have been linked to parliamentary debates about heresy at the time, and a precautionary action on Hobbes's behalf. Therefore the papers in this collection provide an incomplete picture of the working practices of Hobbes.

But what material in this collection was at Chatsworth and what was at Hardwick and when is not clear. Hobbes scholar Ferdinand Tönnies studied the 'Hobbes-related papers' at Hardwick Hall in the 1870s. And page 43 of The Royal Commission's on Historical Manuscripts third report (1872) includes the following entry on items at Hardwick: 'two bundles of Mathematical papers of and letters to Thomas Hobbes (of Malmesbury) and some of his writings.' It is possible the items in HS/G were amongst this collection of Hobbes material already, because until recently their link to Hobbes was unidentified and it would therefore have been unlikely that a keeper of the collections would see fit to move them here, had they not already been present amongst Hobbes s papers.

In the 19th century both HS/A/1 and HS/H were donated to Chatsworth owing to the links to Hobbes.

Some other material has, during the 19th and 20th centuries, been added from the papers once kept in the Evidence Room at Hardwick (now catalogued as the Hardwick Manuscripts (HMS) and Hardwick Drawers (H/143)) that related to Hobbes when he was based at Hardwick as tutor, librarian and later secretary to the 2nd and 3rd Earls. And indeed in correspondence between Francis Thompson (Keeper of the Collections at Chatsworth), and Baron Cay von Brockdorff in the mid-1930s, the baron refers to the 'letters to Hobbes in the Hardwick papers'. The item HS/D/9 (formerly HS/F/1) was moved in this way from the Hardwick Drawers collection on the assumption it was an exercise book completed under the tutoring of Hobbes, but in fact likely predates Hobbes's employment in the Cavendish household and was created under the tutor Thomas Oates. It is possible much of HS/D and HS/E which relates to administration of the Cavendish estate and the education of the earls was gathered from other places and brought together by various keepers of the collections because of the assumed links to Hobbes, as many of these records were created by Cavendish household members rather than Hobbes.

This online catalogue is based on the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Report on the Thomas Hobbes MSS 1977 which in turn was probably a reworking of a catalogue arranged and compiled in 1936, by Francis Thompson, and Mr Arthur T. Shillinglaw, lecturer in Moral Sciences at the University of Liverpool, with some assistance from an unnamed student at the University of Belfast in 1933. In order for Shillinglaw to work on the papers they were transferred to the National Library of Scotland. According to the curatorial correspondence in the Chatsworth Archives, the catalogue was due to be published by the University of Liverpool Press, however this did not happen and the original catalogue is not extant in the records of Chatsworth Archives. However, the catalogue probably informed the RCHM Report (1977) and may have been the point at which the papers and manuscripts were arranged into their current series. The current reference numbers (A, B, C etc) date from the RCHM Report 1977, but again may originally have been taken from the Shillinglaw cataloguing project without the paperwork, it is not possible to know for certain. However, it can be assumed that the majority of this collection was in its current compilation by 1977 at the latest and possibly even by the early 20th century when Shillinglaw came to work on it.

The additional series of material (HS/ADD) was added to this collection in the late 20th and early 21st century, and does not feature in the RCHM 1977 Report. Like much of the material previously added to this collection it was likely relocated, because of its indirect links to Hobbes and particularly the library catalogue that was already part of this collection (HS/E/1A).


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

Archival material, such as correspondence and published and unpublished scribal manuscripts relating to Hobbes, can be found at:

- The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (MS n.a 6206, MS f.l. 6566A, MS f.l.10352, MS f.l. 1637).

- The Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, (MS Gal. 286).

- The Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS Aubrey 9, MS Aubrey 12, MS Rawlinson D 1104, MS Rawlinson D 174, MS Rawlinson D 960, MS Rawlinson C. 232, MS Eng. e. 3381, MS Ashmole 1818, item 30).

- The British Library, London (Egerton MS 669, Egerton MS 1910, Egerton MS 2231, Egerton MS 2005, Sloane MS 1865, Sloane MS 1458, Sloane MS 3930, MS Add 11044, MS Add 4278, MS Add 4395, MS Add 4417, MS Add 4292, MS Add 28927, MS Add 72899, MS Add 70499, MS Add 72850, MS Add 32553, Add 78423, MS Add 78448, MS Add 78205, MS Add 21107, Harley MS 1325, Harley MS 1844, Harley MS 3360, Harley MS 4235, Harley MS 4236, Harley MS 5219, Harley MS 6083, Harley MS 6207, Harley MS 6796, Harley MS 6858, Stowe MS 77, Lansdowne MS 238 ).

- The National Archives, Kew, (SP 29/204/1, SP/29/242/79).

- Nottingham University Library, Nottingham (the Clifton MSS - Cl C 198, 199, 560, 561, 562, 563, 564, 565, 566).

- Staffordshire Record Office, (D 4038/I/33).

- University of Toronto, Fisher Library, (MSS Hobbes Collection 001, 002, 003)

- Harvard, (MS Hyde 10 (337), Autograph file).

- Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, (Folger, MS V.b.154).

- St John's College, Oxford, (MS 13).

- The Queen's College, Oxford, (MS 449, ff. 118-26).

- Corpus Christi College, Oxford, (MS 313, MS 318).

- Magdalene College, Cambridge, (Pepys Library MS 2099, Ferrar MS 1476).

- Aberdeen University Library, (MS 1047).

- Royal College of Physicians, (MS 200).

- University College London, (MS Ogden 7/22).

- Derby Central Library, (fmss 3514).

- Trinity College, Dublin, (MS 875, MS 876).

- University of Calgary, (B 1235 L3 1680).

- Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Gratz Collection, (Authors, Case 10, Box 30).

- Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, (Cod. 11.539.2.)

- The Royal Society, London (MS H 1. 5, MS H 3. 20, MS 83, MS 366/1/1, Classified Papers IV (1) item 30, Register Book 1, MS 776, Letter Book 2).

See GB 2495 HMS/1/34 at Chatsworth Archives, for a draft of Hobbes's will written in Whildon's personal account book.

See CELM listing for Hobbes (HbT) for further details of the individual manuscripts listed above:


The Clarendon Press has published a number of editions of Thomas Hobbes's works and some are forthcoming.

The following publications are of direct relevance to the archive material in this collection:

Adam C. and Tannery P., (eds), "R. Descartes, Ouevres", revised edition, (Paris 1974), vol. II, pp.307-38 and 222-52.

Barker, Nicolas, "The Devonshire Inheritance: Five centuries of collecting at Chatsworth", (Alexandria, Virginia), 2003, p. 95-97.

von Brockdorff , Cay, Die Urform der ""Computatio sive Logica" des Hobbes", (Karl J. Rößler), 1934.

Edwards, Jess, 'Thomas Hobbes, Charles Cotton and the wonders of the Derbyshire Peak', "Studies in Travel Writing", Vol.16, 1, 2012, pp. 1-15.

Gabrieli, Vittorio , Bacone, la riforma e Roma nella versione Hobbesiana d'un carteggio di Fulgenzio Micanzio , "EMS", 8, 1957, 195-250.

Hamilton, James Jay. Hobbes's Study and the Hardwick Library , "Journal of the History of Philosophy" 16, no. 4, 1978, 445-453. doi:10.1353/hph.2008.0058.

Harwood, John, ed., "A Briefe of the Art of Rhetorique", ed. John Harwood (Carbondale), 1986.

Hilton, J.L. and Reynolds, N.B., 'Thomas Hobbes and authorship of the "Horae Subsecivae"', "History of Political Thought", 1993, 14:3, pp.361-380.

Thomas Hobbes, "Elemente der Philosophie. Erste Abteilung. Der Körper" (Felix Meiner Verlag), 1997.

"Critique du De Mundo de Thomas White. By Thomas Hobbes", ed. by Jean Jacquot and Harold Whitmore Jones. Paris: J. Vrin, 1973.

Kendrick, "Notes and Queries", December 1997, p.524.

Malcolm, Noel, "De Dominus (1560-1624): Venetian, Anglican, Ecumenist and Relapsed Heretic", (Strickland & Scott Academic Publications), 1984, pp. 49-51.

Malcolm, Noel, "The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes, Vol. 6: The Correspondence, Vol. 1: 1622 1659", (Oxford, Clarendon Press), 1994.

Malcolm, Noel, "The Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes, Vol. 7: The Correspondence, Vol. 2: 1660 1679", (Oxford, Clarendon Press), 1994.

Malcolm, Noel, "Aspects of Hobbes", (Oxford University Press) 2002.

Malcolm, Noel, 'Latin Optical Manuscript and the Parisian Scribe', "EMS", 12 (2005), pp.210-230.

Miller, Ted, "Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes", (Penn State University Press), 2011.

Pacchi, Arrigo, "Convenzione e ipotesi nella formazione della filosophia naturale di Thomas Hobbes" (Florence, 1965).

Prins, Johannes L.M., Warner and Hobbes in "Walter Warner (ca. 1557-1643) and His Notes on Animal Organisms", (Universiteit Utrecht, 1992), pp.235-272.

Raylor, Timothy, The Date and Script of Hobbes's Latin Optical Manuscript , "EMS", 12 (2005), 201-9.

Raylor, Tomothy, 'Hobbes and the Hardwick Digests', "Hobbes Studies", 31 (2018), pp.1-24.

Raylor, Timothy, "Philosophy, Rhetoric and Thomas Hobbes" (Oxford University Press) 2018.

Schumann, K., "Skinner's Hobbes", "British Journal for the History of Philosophy", 1998, 6:1, pp. 115-125, DOI: 10.1080/09608789808570984.

Shillinglaw, Arthur T., Hobbes and Ben Jonson , "TLS" (18 April 1936), p. 336.

Skinner Q. Hobbes on Sovereignty: An Unknown Discussion , "Political Studies". 1965;13 (2) :pp. 213-218. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.1965.tb00365.x.

Skinner, Quentin, "Visions of Politics Volume III: Hobbes and Civil Science", (Cambridge University Press) 2002.

Skinner, Q, "From Humanism to Hobbes", (Cambridge University Press) 2018, pp. 321-324.

Steen, Sarah Jane (ed) "The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart" (Oxford University Press) 1994.

Talaska, Richard, "The Hardwick Library and Hobbes's Early Intellectual Development", CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1st edition (February 19, 2014).

Warrender, Howard, 'The Early Latin Versions of Thomas Hobbes's De Cive', "The Bibliographical Society", 6th series, vol. 11, no.1, March 1980. p.40-52.