Manuscripts relating to treatises by Hobbes

Scope and Content

This series largely comprises works by Hobbes, including manuscripts that were preparatory pieces for some of his life works. The majority are in the formal hand of scribes and are either the completed and published manuscripts or draft extracts and unpublished works which made it to the stage of being copied out by a scribe but were then rejected.

HS/A/9 and HS/A/10 are distinct in this series from the rest of the volumes. HS/A/9 was certainly in Hobbes's possession but not necessarily written by him and HS/A/10 comprises the notes by Robert Payne about a draft of Hobbes's "De corpore". For many years, this manuscript was assumed to be a draft by Hobbes.

Major published pieces represented in this series include:

"Elementorum philosophiae: sectio prima, de corpore" (published London, 1655). Portions of Hobbes's major series of treatises establishing his principles of philosophy and key political arguments, which established his reputation among intellectual circles.

"Elementorum philosophiae: sectio tertia, de cive" (published London, 1642)

"Elementorum philosophiae: sectio secunda, de homine" (published London, 1658)

"The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic" (published in two parts, London, [1649]-1650)

"Vita carmine expressa" (published posthumously, London, 1679)

Hobbes likely did not keep his own original autograph manuscripts once a scribal copy or printed edition had been made - certainly none exist in this collection - and so these preparatory chapters and early manuscript copies, sometimes with Hobbes's annotations, provide the best insight available into Hobbes's process of thinking and revision of his work, for scholars today.


The current arrangement is based on that in 1977 RCHM report and does not appear to have a particular rationale for the order within the series. The series is recorded in the 1977 RCHM report as: "Treatises and other systematic writings by Hobbes in finished form" and was likely arranged in its current form by 1936.

Custodial History

Not all these volumes have been extant at Chatsworth or Hardwick since the time of Hobbes. Some mystery remains as to which of these volumes was at Chatsworth or Hardwick and which were acquired later, and when these volumes were compiled together in one location, though it can be no later than 1977. Possibly some items in this series were added from the library collection, as there are manuscript works by Hobbes listed in the later 17th-century Chatsworth library catalogues (see HS/ADD).

The manuscripts that are in the Parisian scribe's hand must have come back from Paris with Hobbes, or were sent back to Chatsworth from Paris. The use of that scribe for those documents firmly places them in Paris with Hobbes in the 1640s.

HS/A/1 was acquired in 1850. And Hobbes scholar Ferdinand Tönnies, records seeing a copy of "Elements of Law" at Hardwick in the late 19th century. Some of the smaller manuscripts in this series may have been included in The Royal Commission's Third Report on Historical Manuscripts (1872) entry at Hardwick which mentions of Hobbes: '...some of his writings.' (p.43).

Related Material

See CELM ref HbT for other copies of manuscripts by Hobbes: