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About the Casaubon Correspondence Project

The New Edition

A comprehensive edition of Casaubon’s correspondence during his last years in England, from his arrival in 1610 until his death in 1614, is now complete. When Casaubon landed in Dover in 1610, he was at the height of his powers and his international fame; by the time of his death he was widely regarded as the most learned man in Europe. However, the scale and complexity of Casaubon's work have hampered attempts by modern scholars to make sense of his contribution to European thought. He tended to write about difficult things, and his most enduring insights are buried in his numerous, dense and lengthy commentaries. Above all, Casaubon has been neglected because his surviving correspondence is in disarray: over 40% of the letters remain in manuscript, and the rest have not been edited for three centuries. The project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, provides a solution to this difficulty.

About 60% of the letters have been accessible for over 300 years, mainly through three publications. The first edition of Casaubon's letter (1638) organised the letters according to the correspondent, but printed almost exclusively letters written by Casaubon. A second collection of his letters appeared in 1656; another, with other works and documents relating to Casaubon, published in 1709, also contained a small number of letters addressed to Casaubon. The two later editions organised the letters chronologically. The new edition presents the letters chronologically, and in an attempt to restore Casaubon's letters to their context, it also includes all the surviving letters addressed to Casaubon, 90% of which have never been published. The cross-references at the beginning of each letter, the footnotes and the index allow the reader to reconstruct Casaubon’s conversations.

The edition sheds new light on a number of issues of interest to scholars of the period. For instance, Casaubon's correspondence with Jacques-Auguste de Thou reveals a controversy about De Thou's influential History, and shows how King James attempted to rewrite De Thou's account of Mary Queen of Scots. Letters between Casaubon, Bertius and Vorstius provide a background to King James's attacks on their theological positions, and how the two attempted to convince the King of their orthodoxy. The composition of Casaubon’s two open letters, to Fronto De Duc (1611) and to Cardinal du Perron (1612) are the subject of numerous letters between Casaubon, King James, James Montagu and Richard Neile.

Publication of these manuscripts makes sense of the previously-published portion of the correspondence; it establishes the extent and nature of Casaubon’s European network of correspondents; and it provides a detailed context for his other printed works. Many volumes of Casaubon’s working notes and a large part of his personal library have survived in this country, and the publication of the correspondence will help researchers understand this scattered material.

The Scope of the Project

Casaubon’s correspondence is one of the largest unedited collections of Early Modern letters. It is a demanding set of documents and the scale and the complexity of this material have deterred researchers from systematic study. The new edition presents a well-defined element of this difficult and disorderly material in a form that makes it accessible and useful to scholars.

Dr Botley has compiled a complete inventory of Casaubon’s correspondence, and acquired copies of all the manuscripts of his letters from libraries worldwide. The inventory reveals a corpus of over 2500 letters written largely in Latin, with substantial elements in French and Greek. About 1100 letters were printed in 1709, and about 200 others have since been printed in different places. Over 1000 letters remain in manuscript. Such a large collection would take many years to publish in its entirety. Instead, the project publishes the correspondence from Casaubon’s final years in England, in the belief that it will make his career easier to understand and its significance harder to ignore.

The four volumes contain Casaubon’s correspondence from his arrival in England in 1610 until his death in 1614. The edition includes all the letters which Casaubon received during the period as well as those he sent. It contains 731 letters, of which over 40% have never been published. It is the first critical edition of the remaining letters. Every letter is equipped with an English synopsis and full apparatus.

Sources and Methods

Our most important sources are the autographs, of which about 470 survive in the period, most of them are now in The British Library and in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Some of the letters survive as manuscript copies in Oxford, Copenhagen, Leeuwarden and Leiden. Many letters have come down to us in printed editions, most importantly, the editions of 1638, 1656 and 1709. Some of the extant manuscripts were the sources for the printed editions.

The four volumes were published simultaneously in September 2018. These volumes were prepared using the same conventions, and to the same high standards, as the letters of Joseph Scaliger (8 vols, Geneva, Droz, 2012), published by Paul Botley and Dirk Van Miert. A sophisticated editorial tool, Classical Text Editor, was used to prepare camera-ready copy for the new edition.