The purpose of this project is to make a broad canon of English philosophical texts easily and freely available for students and scholars to read, search, and stylometrically analyse and compare. To this end, and to keep things within reasonable bounds, we aim to provide just one critical edition of each text, but a critical edition without any textual apparatus or commentary. In other words, we aim to identify the most authoritative copytext – typically the last edition the author saw through the press – and then to silently ‘correct’ it according to our best judgement (e.g. by incorporating variants from another edition or manuscript that seem preferable, or implementing changes noted in any published ERRATA sheets).
A silently edited critical edition, without any accompanying critical apparatus, is of course of limited use for serious textual scholarship. But the editions provided on this site are not intended for that purpose.
Though our aim is to provide (silently edited) critical editions, we expect to be striving towards this goal for some time, and we will provide imperfect editions along the way. In practice, we will be constrained by the quality of the publicly available digital editions that we have to start with, and by our own limited time and resources. We would be enormously grateful if, while using the texts on this site, you could keep an eye out for potential errors and inform us of any that you notice.
Our copytexts use italics and small-caps for emphasis, and sometimes capitalise (or render in small-caps) the first word of every paragraph. We replicate this formatting here. As a rule, we do not extend such formatting to the surrounding punctuation (in the original texts it is not always clear whether the surrounding punctuation is thus formatted or not). Many texts also start each section with a large dropped capital (spanning two lines), or even an ornamented capital. These are rendered here simply as normal capital letters.
All notes are rendered here as endnotes at the end of each section (in an online publication with no page breaks, the idea of a footnote does not really apply). For ease of reference, we have replaced note anchors with numbers. In some original texts, there is a distinction between footnotes and endnotes; in such cases, there is invariably a footnote pointing the reader to the relevant endnote. We preserve this distinction by reproducing the footnote text pointing to the endnote, but then display the text of the endnote immediately following.
Some texts include small comments printed in the margin, typically indicating the topic currently being addressed in the main text. These comments are rendered here floating to the right of the paragraph, rather than in the actual margin.
The use of the apostrophe changed during the eighteenth century, eventually settling on the present conventions. In the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, however, its usage was somewhat inconsistent. For the most part, we have left apostrophes as they were in the original texts. In one special case, however, namely the use of “its” versus “it’s”, we have updated all the texts here to conform to the modern convention. This is to aid computational analysis without the need for additional markup of the underlying textual data; in tokenising the lexemes in our database, “its” is counted as an instance of the pronoun “it”, whereas “it’s” is counted as a form of the verb “be” (along with related contractions like “I’m”, “he’s”, “she’s”).