Wednesday, July 3, 2024

John Locke Corrected

Title page to corrected copy of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Independence Day seems like a good time to take a look at our first issues of John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The Declaration of Independence is, after all, an attempt to actualize Locke's philosophy and turn it into a revolution. We have three variants of the first edition of Human Understanding--one printed with two upside down letters "S" on the title page. The "S" looks a little weird, but your brain can't quite figure out why until you look at the other variant and you realize an "S" isn't really symmetrical in most typefaces.

Hand-corrected errata sheet

The really cool thing about the copy with the correct "S" orientations is that all of the errata have been carefully corrected in manuscript. Each mistake as identified on the errata sheet has been crossed out with a corresponding manuscript correction in the proper place in the book. Because these same corrections, in the same hand, appear in other copies in other libraries, we are pretty sure they were done by the original publisher. For the upside down S copy, there is one correction we believe to be in Locke's hand.

Now here is the weird thing--we didn't know we had the copy with all of the corrections. It showed up during a big shelf reading project we are doing. Somehow a lot of our "copy 2" books vanished from the catalog and we are (re)discovering treasures in our collections.

To see the corrected issue, ask for Val 121 L793eb copy 2. The upside down "S" issue is Val121 L793eba.