Letters to Thomas Hobbes mostly from foreign correspondents

Scope and Content

This series contains the surviving letters toThomas Hobbes at Chatsworth from many of his intellectual contacts across Europe. Of the 212 known Hobbes letters that survive globally, 73 are in this collection.

These letters mainly cover the period after Hobbes had returned from his ten years living in Paris and then continued the intellectual connections he had made in France, through correspondence. His correspondents informed Hobbes of progress in scientific and philosophical thought and the research of the Montmor Academy. Chiefly the letters come from Thomas de Martel, François du Prat, François Peleau, François du Verdus, Charles du Bosc, Samuel Sorbière (responsible for the publication of some of Hobbes's works) and Claude Mylon - as well as some coming from English contacts Edward Bagshawe and Henry Stubbe. None of Hobbes's letters to these correspondents survive. A number of letters from these correspondents to Hobbes have also been lost.

These letters provide a picture of the close intellectual relationships Hobbes maintained in the1650s, despite physical isolation from these European circles. The letters provide insight into how Hobbes was regarded amongst these scholars and friends and shed light on their reception and anticipation of his works and opinions, as well as the extent to which he inflenced their thinking.

The letters contain endorsments added by James Whildon, who was amanuensis to Thomas Hobbes from 1656 and the executor of Hobbes's will. The same endorsements can be seen on the British Library MS ADD 32553.

The dates in the catalogue correspond to what is written on each letter, but users must bear in mind English correspondents will have used the 'old style' of dating and European correspondents the 'new style' therefore there could be a discrepancy of ten days for each letter either side of the date written on the letter.

The letters in this series have been published with English translations in: The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes, ed. by Noel Malcolm. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. (2 volumes.) See the note field of each item-level record for the relevant letter number in Malcolm's edition. Helpfully Malcolm dual dates the letters, recording their old and new style dates.

There are no records for reference numbers HS/L/23, 29, 32, 51, 58 and 62 as these were duplicate records mistakenly entered when the original records were imported into the catalogue in 2014.


The current arrangement is largely chronological. These reference numbers were assigned when the catalogue was entered into the cataloguing managment software in 2014.

Separated Material

It may be suspected that some letters, bearing the same endorsements of James Whildon as those found on this series of material, were lent by the Duke of Devonshire to James Crossley, antiquarian (1800-1883). Crossley appears to have bound these letters, and they, among others, are now held by the British Library (MS ADD 32553). Catalogue listing: http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?docId=IAMS032-002026598&fn=permalink&vid=IAMS_VU2

Custodial History

These letters were probably all extant at Hardwick from the 1670s and were organised by James Whildon after Hobbes's death. They are likely those referred to in the Royal Commission's third report on Historical Manuscripts (1872) at Hardwick which lists: ' letters to Thomas Hobbes (of Malmesbury)'.

Oddly, this series of letters is not included in the RCHM 1977 report, although they were clearly known about and used by researchers, which suggests perhaps that they may have been kept in a separate location from the rest of the collection when the report was conducted.

Related Material

HS/E/4 and HS/E/7 are enclosures to letters which are listed as 139 and 148 in Noel Malcolm's "Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes",Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

The item numbered H/145/21 in the Hardwick Drawers collection (also held in the Devonshire Collection Archives) may have been an enclosure in a letter to Hobbes from Sorbière titled: "Discours contre la frequente saignee" by Samuel Sorbière is in the hand of the Parisian scribe, sent by Sorbière to Hobbes in early 1657.


Transcripts and translations are available in:

Noel Malcolm (ed), "The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes", Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. (2 volumes.)

See also:

Noel Malcolm and Mikko Tolonen, 'The Correspondence of Thomas Hobbes: Some New Items', "The Historical Journal", 2008, 6 Vol. 51; Iss. 2, DOI: 10.2307/20175170 includes information about a number of letters not included in Malcolm's Correspondence volumes.