Roger Howard on his edition of Smith’s Select Discourses

We have needed a modern, critical edition of John Smith’s Select Discourses for a long time. The most widely available text is that edited by H.G. Williams and published by by the University Press in Cambridge (1859). However, although  Williams’ edition usefully included the identification of the sources many of Smith’s quotations, the text itself was a poor reflection of the original. Williams silently absorbed the many emendations of earlier editors, added even more of his own, and imposed a system of punctuation which overwhelmed the rhythms of Smith’s prose. Quotations were altered to conform with then current editions of classical texts, and Smith’s lexical choices were emended to conform with Williams’ views of what was acceptable or intelligible. Any close study of Smith’s ideas, style or scholarship needs to go beyond Williams’ text to one based on Worthington’s original editions of 1660 and 1673. The edition I have produced tries to make such a text available, at the same time making explicit the extent of Worthington’s own considerable editorial interventions. It includes annotation which, so far as has been possible, identifies the sources of Smith’s wide-ranging quotations and allusions, translating them for the modern reader who may not be able to read the originals, and may also be unfamiliar with the Bible. Editorial annotations try to make clear some of the contexts of Smith’s writing. An introduction gives some account of Smith’s life and influence, and offers a tentative, literary introduction to the his work. A small number of omissions are to be remedied.

The edition of John Smith’s Select Discourses is available as a series of PDF files at http://www.cambridgeplatonism.uk. I hope to make the site easier to use and more attractive in appearance over the coming months. The edition was written in LaTeX, using Texpad 1.7.38 as an editor and compiled using a MacTex installation. The current website is uses WordPress, hosted by Treewind.

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