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Mark Burden, University of Bristol

A Discourse concerning the True Notion of the Lords Supper (1642)

Cudworth’s early prose treatises were printed in 1642, the same year that Henry More produced his first poetry volume, and covered the subjects of the Lord’s Supper, and spiritual marriage. Whereas More’s early poetry was published at Cambridge, Cudworth chose to publish in London. The Discourse concerning the True Notion of the Lords Supper was printed in quarto for Richard Cotes (fl. 1635-52), printer to the City of London, who had just become sole owner of the business following the death of Thomas Cotes (usually identified as his brother) earlier in 1642.[1] Between them, the Cotes family had produced a considerable number of publications, ranging from Shakespeare and Shirley to May and Prynne. The printing of the Lords Supper treatise came on the back of Thomas Cotes’s publication in 1640 of the posthumous works of Cudworth’s stepfather, the millennialist John Stoughton, and this may have prompted Cudworth’s decision to publish with the firm. Another factor may have been that Cudworth needed a printer confident in the use of Roman, Italic, Gothic, Greek, and Hebrew type, and who was also able to engrave short passages of Syriac and Arabic. A more general advantage of using a London printer was that Cudworth’s treatise, unlike More’s poems, could be genuinely anonymous: the title page is signed ‘R. C.’, with no institutional affiliation. Unlike the university printer, Cotes was not too concerned about cutting costs: despite ending the text at the top of a new sheet (sig. L1r), the publication has significant white space throughout, with line rules, crests, and an ornamented drop capital at the start.[2] Here we see in early evidence Cudworth’s penchant for italicisation, which runs to such an extent that the compositor is not always able to distinguish visually between citations in classical and oriental languages and their translation into English. Another visual feature is the printed marginal annotation, an aspect of Cudworth’s scholarly practice which is also evident in the True Intellectual System (1678).

In his Discourse concerning … the Lords Supper Cudworth used a dizzying array of sources, including Rabbinic and Karaite authors, Greek and Roman historians, poets, and philosophers, and early-modern philologers, humanists, and eclectics. As well as citing Maimonides, Nachmanides, Kimchi, Abravanel and the Chaldaic Onkelos throughout, Cudworth drew attention to his study of an ancient Karaite manuscript which, he claimed, shed new light on scholarly attempts to reconstruct the ancient Jewish calendars. Among Greek writers, Cudworth quoted Homer, Theocritus, Anacreon, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Athenæus, Plutarch, Herodotus, Eusebius, Hesychius, Philo, and Origen; among the Romans, he cited Virgil, Plautus, Pliny, Strabo, Suidas, Lucian, Curtius, and Augustine. Early-modern writers who exercised a large influence upon the text included Erasmus (his Adagia and his edition of the Greek New Testament), Vossius (on idolatry), Scaliger, Casaubon, Selden, Cloppenburg, Munster, and Grotius. Selden, one of the most important British scholars of ancient and oriental languages of his day, had recently published De iure naturali & gentium (1640), a text which Cudworth used as a rich compendium of Hebrew and Arabic learning for his early treatises. After the publication of Cudworth’s Discourse, he and Selden exchanged letters about the Karaite judgment concerning the phases of the moon, and the Jewish calendar in the time of Christ. As part of that discussion, Cudworth sent Karaite texts to Selden, including the manuscript which he had discussed in his Discourse and a further printed Karaite work.[3] Cudworth’s reverence for his correspondent is indicated by his comment that Selden was the person who ‘of all men in the World could most advance my studies’, having already been ‘pleased to encourage me thereto’.[4]

In 1670 Cudworth oversaw the production of a second edition of the text, accompanied by his Sermon preached before the Honourable House of Commons (1st edition 1647) and his Sermon preached to the Honourable Society of Lincolnes-Inn (1st edition 1664), but not including his brief essay on The Union of Christ and the Church (1642). The full title of the volume was A Discourse concerning the True Notion of the Lord’s Supper. To which are added Two Sermons, on 1 John ch 2. vers. 3, 4. [and] 1 Corinth. 15. 57. (1670). The volume was printed by James Flesher for the bookseller Richard Royston; Royston was later responsible for the production of the third edition of the Discourse (1676), again accompanied by Cudworth’s two printed sermons, and Cudworth’s True Intellectual System (1678). Cudworth may have been encouraged to use Flesher’s press by Henry More, who had relied on Flesher to print most of his texts since the publication of his Conjectura Cabbalistica (1653). Flesher’s style was quite different to that of Cotes: for the 1670 edition of the Discourse Flesher modernised the spelling, removing terminal ‘e’, replacing terminal ‘es’ with ‘s’, reducing the instances of ‘ll’, and using modern conventions for initial and medial ‘v/u’ and ‘i/j’. The Flesher edition also contains a lower rate of initial capitalisation, and there are numerous alterations to accidentals, including punctuation. Chapter descriptions are now removed from the contents page and placed as headings to each chapter, and there is a concerted attempt to use italicisation more systematically for Latin and English quotations. Cudworth’s more substantial changes included adding a translation of a passage from Abravanel in chapter 1, an extra comment in chapter 2 about singing the Hallel three times, an extra Latin clause from Broughton, and a rephrased translation of another passage from Abravanel in chapter 6.[5] Although most of the other typographical changes were small, there were over 2,000 of them in total between the 1642 and the 1670 edition.

As will be explored further in relation to Cudworth’s Sermon to Parliament, a major aim of the 1670 edition was to repackage Cudworth’s shorter works as contributions to Restoration debates, and the subtle emendations to the text of the Discourse help to convey the impression of its continued relevance. The 1676 third edition, modelled on the spelling, italicisation and chapter headings of the second edition, had a further purpose: to be used alongside Cudworth’s True Intellectual System (1678). By 1676 the True Intellectual System had already been licensed for five years, although it had not yet been fully printed; the third edition of the shorter works was printed with large pages so that it could later be bound into the same volume as the True Intellectual System, or alternatively sit on a shelf alongside it. The unnamed printer of the third edition drew a further presentational connection between the third edition of the Discourse and the partially printed True Intellectual System by using the same plates for chapter headings. The later practice of reprinting Cudworth’s shorter works with his longer System was thus initiated by the author himself, in collaboration with Royston as publisher of the 1676 Discourse and 1678 System.

The Union of Christ and the Church; in a Shadow (1642)

In a letter to John Selden, 2 November 1643, Cudworth suggested that there might be ‘a kind of Sacramentall Nature in marriage and Monogamy, as typing a further mystery’.[6] This is one of very few seventeenth-century references to a brief treatise which Cudworth had published the previous year with the title The Union of Christ and the Church; In a Shadow (1642). This work was not republished in the second (1670) or third (1676) editions of Cudworth’s shorter writings and remains virtually unknown. Whether the text was published before or after his Discourse concerning … the Lords Supper is not known. The printer was the London-based Richard Bishop, fl. c.1636-c.1653, who had bought his press from William Stansby for £700 in 1634.[7] Stansby’s name would have been familiar to Cudworth, since Stansby had printed several works by the Hebraist John Selden. Another connection between Cudworth and Bishop is that the latter had printed a posthumous edition of Joseph Mede’s The Apostasy of the Latter Times in 1641, with a preface by William Twisse. Mede (1586-1639) was one of the most famous scholars from Christ’s College, Cambridge, and Henry More’s tutor; Cudworth knew Mede’s interpretations of Daniel and Revelation extremely well and exhibited a lifelong fascination with Apocalyptical writings.

At first glance, it looks as though Christ and the Church is in every sense a more modest text than the Discourse on the Lord’s Supper: the title page is simpler, there is no other front matter, and the ornamental drop capital at the start of the text is smaller. In other respects, however, the printing conventions[8] and the mis-en-page are similar, incorporating marginal notes with and without asterisks, and employing a header across the double-page spread. In this case, the header simply recalls the title of the discourse (‘The Vnion of Christ and The Church Shadowed’), whereas the longer and more complicated text on the Lord’s Supper has different headings for each double-page. Despite its brevity, Christ and the Church is a complicated text; like the Lords Supper, the printer deploys Roman, Italic, Greek, and Hebrew type, as well as Syriac and Samaritan engraving, small characters, and smaller type for the marginalia. Cudworth’s intention is to inject scholarly rigour into the contemporary arguments about the nature of the spiritual marriage of Christ and the Church; he combines his philological skills as a Hebrew professor with his personal interest in what ‘the Platonists use to say, concerning spirituall and materiall things’.[9] The text is also a contribution to the emergent controversy over potential changes to the divorce laws, a debate to which John Milton (another former student of Christ’s) offered opposing views and methods in his four divorce tracts (1643-5). As such, it complements Cudworth’s contemporaneous Discourse on the Lord’s Supper, another sacrament at the centre of seventeenth-century controversial writings, whose meaning Cudworth approaches through history and philology.

Despite being a slim volume, Christ and the Church is a showcase of Cudworth’s remarkable erudition. After citing Paul (Ephesians, 5:22-33), Cudworth draws on Plutarch, Reuchlin, and Bacon, and sets out the Cabbalist doctrine of the three worlds of Beri’ah, Yetzirah and Assiah, comparing it to a Christian Platonist understanding of ectype and emanation. Cudworth then sets about demonstrating that the union of husband and wife is a type of the union between Christ and the Church. Here, he cites a Cabbalistic text known today as the Schepha tal, abundantia roris by Schephtel Horwitz (Hanover, 1612) which provides as commentary on the Zohar, and he also uses a section of Pico’s 900 theses (‘Conclusiones numero XLVII. secundum doctrinam sapientum hebreorum Cabalistarum, quorum memoria sit semper in bonum’, especially nos. 10, 17, 18), together with comments upon them by Schickard and Archangelus; also Nachmanides and a slight misquotation from Grotius’ notes on the Greek New Testament, [10] and Plutarch. Finally, he cites in Syriac a few lines from ‘an Enigmaticall Poeme De Sapientia Divina’; Cudworth states that he is using the edition by Sionita (1628), although the Latin translation of the lines in Cudworth’s treatise differs from the corresponding translation in the Sionita edition. Cudworth’s second main argument is that the making of Eve out of Adam followed by her union to him is a type of the union between Christ (the second Adam) and the church (his wife). In elaborating on this idea, he turned to the De republica Hebraeorum of Peter van der Kun (1617), a Hebrew edition of Maimonides’ Moreh Nevukhim with a Latin translation by Buxtorf (Doctor perplexum, 1629), the Zohar, and brief quotations from the Babylonian Talmud and Philo. Cudworth then links the comments about spiritual marriage in these texts to the remarks of Aristophanes on androgyny in Plato’s Symposium, suggesting that Plato found his story through the Jewish Cabbala rather than directly from the works of Moses. His sources for this idea are Ficino and Abravanel, in opposition to Eusebius’ claim that Plato had seen the Pentateuch. He then returns to the Hebrew writings of Horwitz for evidence of the Cabbalistic understanding of the sundering of the male and female principles in humankind as a type of the division of the Church from Christ. Meanwhile, he claims, a corrupted form of the notion of mystical union was conveyed by the Greeks in the form of their androgynous Gods; among his sources here are Plato, Orpheus (quoted in Apuleius), and Virgil (with Servius’ commentary). For evidence of the Christian transmission of these ideas he cites Hermes Trismegistus, Jerome, Augustine, Tertullian, Pico, and Selden. Cudworth’s third section is designed to show ‘How and in What Respects this Vnion of Man and Wife by Marriage, doth typically signifie the Mysticall Vnion of Christ and the Church’. Firstly, every husband is to have only one wife, just as Christ has only one church; secondly, a husband may not divorce his wife for any reason except fornication, just as the union between the Church and Christ is inseparable and indissoluble; in other words, polygamy and divorce are both ‘absolutely against the Law of Nature’. In proof of these doctrines, Cudworth cites Matthew 19 and Genesis 2:24, comparing these passages with the Septuagint, the Chaldaic paraphrase of Jonathan Ben Uziel, the Syriac metaphrase edited by Morinus, and a Samaritan Pentateuch ‘recently brought to light’, which seemed to him ‘to be truer in many places than our Copies are’, before concluding with some lengthy quotations from Augustine and Tertullian.

A Sermon preached before the Honourable House of Commons (1647)

Cudworth was invited to preach to Parliament in St Margaret’s church on 31 March 1647, and his oration was printed later in the year by Roger Daniel as A Sermon preached before the Honourable House of Commons, at Westminster. This was the only major text by Cudworth (and perhaps the only parliamentary sermon of the period) to be published in Cambridge. It would be easy to assume that Cudworth turned to Daniel’s press at the instigation of More, but there may have been political reasons also. When Charles I held his civil war parliaments at Oxford in the early 1640s, several parliamentary sermons delivered at the university church of St Mary’s were printed by the university printer Leonard Lichfield. By the late 1640s, however, the nature and functions of printed parliamentary sermons had changed significantly, and the genre was now dominated by those who had supported Parliament in the first civil war. Meanwhile, the Cambridge press had not been afforded the opportunity to develop a parliamentary sermon literature of its own. Cudworth, who was not an enthusiast for the Cromwellian army, was nevertheless quick to build political relations with the moderate Puritan gentry, and it may have been these connections, rather than sympathy for the cause, which resulted in him being invited to speak to the Commons in 1647. Cudworth used his sermon to argue that ‘the Life of Christ’, not forms, ceremonies, or opinions, provided ‘the Pith and Kernel of Religion’. This was a message which looked both ways: Episcopalians and Puritans could agree on the importance of ‘keeping of Christs Commandments’ and the necessity of the inner transformation of the believer’s soul. Meanwhile, Cudworth’s arguments for Christian unity amounted to a gentle plea against a prolongation of the war, offering a moderate, pragmatic response to the uneasy ceasefire which had emerged in 1646. Cudworth’s sermon was neither a straightforward defence of the parliamentary cause, nor a systematic Royalist critique of it, and this is reflected in the choice of printer. The order to print the sermon came from Parliament itself, which awarded Cudworth ‘the like Priviledge in printing thereof, as others in like kind usually have had’, and effectively granting licence to print as required under the Ordinance for the Regulating of Printing of 1643. Doing so with a Cambridge printer enabled Cudworth to display both his academic and political credentials, giving the university a voice in the ever-intensifying genre of political theology, and expressing a conciliatory tone in relation to recent political events while retaining a respectful distance from Westminster.

On current evidence, it appears that Cudworth’s Sermon to the Commons survives in a greater number of copies than is the case for his other quarto publications, the Lords Supper, Christ and the Church, or Sermon to Lincolnes-Inne. Survival rates are a very poor indication of the initial print run or popularity of a text, but what is clear is that Cudworth’s sermon went through two impressions in the same year (1647a and 1647b). The order in which the two impressions were printed is unknown, but there is some evidence that 1647a is lexically and typographically superior to 1647b, which could be taken to indicate that 1647a is the later impression. The clearest way to distinguish between the two versions is through a typographical comparison of their respective prefaces (sig. A) and pages 17-32 (sigs. D and E). Some of the main differences are as follows:

Page 1647a 1647b
A2r Toungues Toungues
A2r Languages Languages
17 notions notions
17 subtleties, subtleties,
17 dreading, dreading
17 without without
20 Starres, starres,
20 serpents serpents
20 bellies bellies
20 Liberty, liberty
20 nor neither
21 cast shoot
21 Will will
21 beare beate
21 When where
24 Ethiopians Ethiopians
24 God, god,
24 God God
24 worship vvorship
24 whatsoever vvhatsoever
24 with vvith
24 Aristotle Aristotle
24 wheresoever vvheresoever
24 whatsoever vvhatsoever
24 saw savv
24 wonder vvonder
30 self. self:
31 arraied raied
31 sope sop

1647a, which we have followed in our Sourcebook, is slightly more regular than 1647b in its use of italicisation for both common and proper nouns (and, conversely, its use of Roman type for these words in the preface); the compositor also managed to set pp. 17-24 (sig. C) without recourse to double ‘v’ in place of ‘w’. 1647a’s ‘beare off’ is slightly preferable to 1647b’s ‘beate off’ (although both are plausible, and neither is elegant), ‘when … then’ is grammatically superior to ‘where … then’, and ‘arraied’ is more idiomatic than the abbreviated ‘raied’. The most noticeable substantive difference is between 1647a ‘cast’ and 1647b ‘shoot’; the reference here is to the darts of Ephesians 6:16, but the King James Version does not use either word in this verse. Nevertheless, there are other reasons to follow the 1647a readings. When the text was republished with very different typographical conventions in 1670, the compositor followed 1647a in substantives, using ‘nor’ in place of ‘neither’, ‘cast’ instead of ‘shoot’, and ‘bear’ [sic.] rather than ‘beate’ (p. 125); the 1676 edition of the sermon, which had the same publisher as the 1670 text (Richard Royston), also adopted these readings (p. 46), and so did the posthumous Glasgow edition of 1744 (p. 14).

Although he remained a prominent college tutor and administrator, Cudworth published nothing during the 1650s, during which time he probably continued work on his exposition of Daniel and – from 1658 – developed his ideas of free-will in opposition to Hobbes and the Calvinists. His first publication following the Restoration was A Sermon preached to the Honourable Society of Lincolnes-Inne (1664), one of the oldest and most prestigious of the inns of court. As required by the Act for preventing the Frequent Abuses in Printing (1662), the text was licensed at Lambeth House on 3 October 1664 by Thomas Cooke under the auspices of Gilbert Sheldon, the relatively new archbishop of Canterbury. Unlike parliamentary preaching, there was no expectation that sermons to the inns of court would be published; among the small numbers to have been printed from Lincoln’s Inn, the best-known were John Donne’s Encænia (1623), James Ussher’s The Dailie Examination, and Arraignment of Sins ([1648]), and (25 years after Cudworth’s discourse) John Tillotson’s Sermon … on the 31st of January, 1688 (1689). The official preachers to Lincoln’s Inn included some of the most prominent theologians of the age, including John Preston, Joseph Caryl, and Tillotson himself, but most of their sermons to this audience remained private events. That Cudworth’s sermon was printed at all provides an indication of its perceived importance as a statement of the changing theological tide as well as the new political realities of the 1660s. The subject of the sermon is [brief description].

A Sermon preached to the Honourable Society of Lincolnes-Inn (1664)

On 8 September 1664 Cudworth wrote to Worthington to explain that he had ‘been desired both by some at Cambridge and some others at London to print that sermon which I preached last at Lincoln’s Inn, which I had preached before at St. Mary’s’; Cudworth also asked Worthington if he would ‘read over and correct’ the sermon.[11] The text was published soon afterwards as A Sermon preached to the Honourable Society of Lincolnes-Inn (1664), but it is worth remembering that its content was not designed specifically for that audience, even if it may have been reshaped to increase its suitability. Rather, the sermon’s ostentatiously intellectual content, and its importance as a statement of Cudworth and More’s modified version of the ancient doctrine of inherent righteousness, were equally suited to the academic audience at St Mary’s university church in Cambridge. Cudworth’s initial thought was that the sermon should only be published if it included a dedication to the archbishop of Canterbury, Gilbert Sheldon, although he recognised that this might seem strange, given that Sheldon had not heard the sermon delivered. Cudworth considered himself personally indebted to Sheldon, who had presented him with a living and had recently defended him against attacks from within the university. Despite Sheldon’s antipathy towards the Commonwealth of the 1650s and its officers, he may have seen in Cudworth a person who had withstood those troubled times but whose heart inclined more to the recently re-established Episcopalian Church of England. Sheldon’s broader opinion about Cudworth’s intellectual circle at Cambridge may be gleaned from his often-quoted comment to Henry More that he was well-disposed towards the new philosophical trends provided that ‘the faith, the peace, and the institutions of the Church were not thereby menaced’.[12]

Cudworth’s correspondence reveals that his reasons for wishing to dedicate the sermon to Sheldon were both personal and political. In his letter of 8 September he explained that ‘besides [Sheldon] presenting me to a living, I owe my station here merely to his favour, there having [been] a great conspiracy and plot laid not long since, when he was much assaulted also and set upon by divers for his concurrence; but he alone diverted the business at that time’.[13] In a further letter to Worthington, dated 21 November 1664, Cudworth provided further details about his obligation to the archbishop: ‘First, that as he was my patron, so there had passed some compliments from me to him in a latter about a year since, upon which he proved my real friend, and disappointed the expectation of many others that had laboured him against me to turn me out by a reference from the King’: in other words, Sheldon had stepped in to prevent Cudworth from losing his living shortly after the passage of the Act of Uniformity (1662). Cudworth’s second reason was that he could count among his enemies the bishop of London, Humphrey Henchman, an alumnus of Christ’s College, Cambridge, who was ‘much possessed against me and the College (without cause)’, making it necessary for Cudworth to seek protection from Sheldon. Thirdly, Cudworth referred sardonically to a group of ‘our men’ in Cambridge who were ‘just now machinating new mischief’: these men were almost certainly included Ralph Widdrington, Joseph Beaumont, Matthew Wren and their circle, who had been plotting to oust More and Cudworth from Cambridge for several years, and had recently circulated a series of objections to More’s Grand Mystery of Godliness. The danger here was that their objection to Cudworth’s Latitudinarian approach to managing his college would be linked to More’s well-publicised discussions of church government in the Grand Mystery and with their shared interest in Platonist ideas and texts, making the position of More and Cudworth as college Fellows even more precarious.[14]

On 28 October 1664 Worthington noted in a letter to George Evans at Windsor Castle that Cudworth’s sermon was ‘not yet finished’, and that some people had ‘written to him to add two or three more to it’; if Cudworth was prepared to do so, remarked Worthington, it would ‘make a handsome volume’.[15] On 9 November Worthington commented to Evans that ‘only five sheets as yet’ had been printed of Cudworth’s sermon,[16] and by 12 November Worthington had given up hope that it would turn into a larger volume, opining that Cudworth would ‘not at this time add any sermons more’.[17] Instead, Worthington was pressing Cudworth to lay his other projects aside and ‘despatch his studies upon Daniel’s Weeks, the most considerable place in the [Old] Testament for the interest of Christianity’.[18] Cudworth, meanwhile, was more concerned about the preface to his sermon. On 9 November Cudworth reported to Worthington that he had ‘sent an epistle to the Archbishop’ and wished that his text ‘might be printed off with all speed, and this epistle if you like it’. The next day he wrote a follow-up letter to Worthington, repeating the news that he had ‘sent yesterday an epistle’ to Sheldon, and asking Worthington if he would ‘be pleased to consider first, and advise, whether it be desirable to dedicate a sermon to him that was not preached before him’; Cudworth was also anxious to receive the advice of John Wilkins and John Tillotson on the desirability of the preface.[19] On 21 November Cudworth wrote to thank Worthington for his ‘great care in correcting those sheets which you sent me’, a statement which probably indicates that Worthington was [proofing the initial print run]. It seems that Worthington and Wilkins were less than enthusiastic about Cudworth’s plan to dedicate the text to Sheldon, since Cudworth also instructed Worthington to ‘send all the printed sheets’ and a copy of the dedicatory epistle to William Outram, who ‘knows more of the present circumstances of things how they stand with Christ’s College than any body’ and would therefore be able to provide an informed opinion on the advisability of including it. Meanwhile, Cudworth instructed the press to ‘stop the printing of the titlepage’, presumably in case it needed to be altered in the light of the decision about the dedication.[20] Three days later, on 24 November, an anxious Cudworth wrote again to Worthington, asking for his and Outram’s judgment ‘speedily’ so that if they approved the dedication he could ‘write a letter for the presenting of it to [Sheldon]’; if, on the other hand, they judged the dedication ‘not so decorous and prudential’, then they would all need to ensure that all trace of the plan was ‘concealed as much as may be’.[21]

There is no further reference to the dedicatory epistle in the Worthington correspondence. Nevertheless, these earlier letters provide enough evidence for us to deduce that the decision to drop all reference to the dedication in the published text was made at the very last minute. Had such a dedication been included, unwary readers, both at the time and subsequently, might have been tempted to see a firm ideological connection between the sermon’s anti-Calvinist emphasis upon inherent righteousness and Sheldon’s own anti-puritan machinations in favour of a uniform Church of England. However, as the Cudworth-Worthington correspondence makes clear, Cudworth’s reasons for desiring a dedication were personal, and had more to with the micropolitics of Cambridge than the issue of national church polity; interconnected though these matters were, it would be a mistake to view the sermon as an example of intellectual alignment between Cudworth and Sheldon. Indeed, given Cudworth’s close links with the Cromwellian regime, Sheldon’s defence of him both as a minister and a scholar represented the exception rather than the rule, and Cudworth’s plan for a dedication resulted from a recognition of his precarious status within the Restoration body politic rather than an overt celebration of it.

Cudworth’s Sermon preached to … Lincolnes-Inne was printed by Miles Flesher and his son James Flesher for the bookseller-publisher Richard Royston.[22] The printing was delayed for a week following the death of Miles Flesher, who was buried on 18 November 1664.[23] Royston was also responsible for the second and third editions of Cudworth’s other discourses (1670 and 1676), and for publishing the True Intellectual System (1678). In some respects, Royston was a provocative choice: he had been in the publishing and bookselling industry since 1629, and his early imprints included works by Grotius, Montaigne, Wither, and Donne. In 1645 Royston was imprisoned for distributing scandalous and anti-Parliamentarian literature in defiance of the 1643 printing ordinance; apparently undaunted, he continued to oversee the publication and distribution of works by the ardent Royalist Henry Hammond[24] and the Laudian Jeremy Taylor throughout the 1640s and 1650s. As well as printing many of the King’s ordinances during the civil war period, Royston achieved further notoriety for selling the widely-read Eikon basilike (1649), a text long believed to contain the final meditations of Charles I (now known to have been written by John Gauden). In 1673 Royston became Master of the Stationers’ Company; in his will of 1686, he stated that the future holder of his copyrights was to be a member of the Church of England. As well as being an apologist for Protestant Royalism, Royston employed his bookselling business to defend the Episcopal church from puritanism on the one hand and Roman Catholicism on the other. When Royston and Cudworth collaborated to publish the second edition of his Sermon to the Commons, they dropped the original title and called it The First Sermon, or A Discourse on 1 John chap. 2. vers. 3, 4.; they did not include Cudworth’s preface to the Parliament, or the original licensing order, thereby removing all reference to its original context. Cudworth’s association with Royston throughout his later career altered his public image as he sought to downplay his connections to the Puritan regime and present himself as one of the many divergent voices within Restoration Anglicanism.

A Treatise concerning Eternal and Immutable Morality (date of composition unknown; pub. 1731)

The earliest known reference to Cudworth’s writings on ethics appears in a letter of 2 December 1664 written from John Worthington to Henry More. In this letter, Worthington recognises the intellectual significance of More’s repeated visits to Anne Conway and her family at Ragley, while referring elliptically to a growing rivalry between More and Cudworth. The basis of this rivalry was their simultaneous composition of ethical treatises. On the one hand, Worthington reminds More that ‘Your book of the Soul’s Immortality had its birth or growth at Ragley, and so may your Ethics too, which may conduce to a happy immortality’. On the other hand, he hopes that ‘Dr. Cudworth may despatch his in time; but if he should delay, it will not have been amiss that you let your meditations run to the end of their course’. [25] More’s ‘Ethics’ swiftly developed into his Enchiridion ethicum (1668); Cudworth’s ethical treatise was not published in his lifetime, but some version of his ethical thought – not necessarily the same text – was published posthumously as A Treatise of Eternal and Immutable Morality (1731). It is often assumed that the work mentioned by Worthington in 1664 is the same as the 1731 text. One document which lends some support to this interpretation is a letter sent by Cudworth to Worthington in January 1665, promising that he would ‘send the beginning of my Natural Ethics up [to the printer] the next week’, and desiring Worthington to discuss publication plans with the bookseller Richard Royston, who had recently published Cudworth’s Sermon preached to … Lincolnes-Inn (1664). In the same letter Cudworth reminds Worthington that he has ‘had this design concerning good and evil, or Natural Ethics, a great while, which I began above a year ago (when I made the first sermon in the chapel about that argument) to study over anew and dispatch a discourse about it.’[26] These comments suggest that this particular instantiation of his work on moral philosophy was begun in late 1663, following a sermon which Cudworth had delivered on natural ethics; nevertheless, we also learn that he had been developing his general ‘design’ for ‘a great while’. Cudworth’s promise that he would be able to send at least part of the text to the printer within a week indicates that the text must have been in a reasonably high state of completion, while his further remark that he would have it printed with a ‘good margin’ and that he wanted it to ‘show the handsomer for it on the outside’ indicates his high (perhaps unrealistic) hopes that the volume would be successful and valued by its intended readership.

There is some further evidence of the slow gestation of Cudworth’s ideas on ethics in a list of his manuscripts provided by the editor Thomas Birch in the second English edition of the True Intellectual System (1743). According to Birch, these volumes included ‘A Discourse of moral Good and Evil in several Folios, containing near 1000 Pages’, ‘Heads of another Book of Morality, wherein Hobbes’s Philosophy is explain’d’, ‘A Discourse of Liberty and Necessity’, ‘Heads of the Chapters of another Book De libero Arbitrio’, ‘An Explanation of Hobbes’s Notion of God, and of the Extension of Spirits’, and ‘Daniel’s prophecy of the LXX Weeks [in] two Volumes’ alongside several other works.[27] Cudworth’s writings on Daniel eventually found their way into the manuscripts department of the British Museum (now the British Library), alongside the volume described here as ‘De libero Arbitrio’; the work which Birch labels ‘A Discourse of Liberty and Necessity’ is not extant, although it was almost certainly related to the ‘libero Arbitrio’ volume and another group of manuscripts on the subject of freewill, liberty and necessity which have survived. More pertinent for our purpose is the information that Cudworth produced an account of Hobbes’s notion of God alongside an explanation of spiritual extension, a topic made famous by Henry More. Nothing more is known about this text, but Birch does provide chapter headings for ‘one of [the] Books’ (i.e. one of the manuscript volumes) of the ‘Discourse of moral Good and Evil’:

Chap. 1. The Opinions of the antient Adversaries of natural Justice explained, p. 1.

2. Objections against Morality, p. 11.

3. Answers to the first Objection, p. 29.

4. Answer to the second and third Objection, p. 45.

5. Inconsistencies with a Common-wealth, p. 49.

6. Justice made by God’s arbitrary Command, p. 79.

7. The sixth and seventeth Objections answer’d, p. 112.

8. Pleasure; wherein the ancient Hedonic Philosophy is explain’d, and it is largely

debated, whether Pleasure is the Summum Bonum, p. 117.

9. Answer to the ninth Objection, p. 175.

10. Notion of Morality settled, p. 198.

11. Happiness; and the Philosophy of Epicurus concerning it examined and refuted, p.


12. True Happiness in divine Life, p. 296.

13. Result of the former Discourse; incorporeal Substance Deity, p. 303.

14. Controversy of Liberty stated. A new philosophical Hypothesis, p. 336.

15. Objections against Liberty. Τὸ ἀγαθὸν φαινόμενοι.

16. Argument from the Phænomenon of Incontinency, p. 382.

Comparing this contents list to the text of the Treatise of 1731 suggests that they both discussed natural justice in relation to ancient philosophy, opposing it to Calvinist doctrines of God’s arbitrary command and Epicurean hedonism. These are all ubiquitous themes in Cudworth’s mature philosophy, found in his extant writings on freewill, the Treatise (1731), and the True Intellectual System (1678). However, there are some further clues about Cudworth’s developing moral philosophy in the chapter titles Birch provides to Cudworth’s book ‘wherein Hobbes’s Philosophy is explain’d’:

Prolegomena; to shew, that if nothing is naturally just or unjust, nothing can be made so. Chap. 2. Not by Laws. Chap. 3. Not by Laws of Nature. Chap. 4. Not by Covenants. Chap. 5. To explain his Doctrine, generally and particularly. Chap. 6. State of Nature. Chap. 7. Laws of Nature. Chap. 8. Common Representative. Chap. 9. To discover his Equivocations. Chap. 10. About Obligation. Chap. 11. According to him, there can be no Ethic. Chap. 12. Judgment on his Politics, that no Politic can be built on these Principles.

While ostensibly a treatise against Hobbes (the ‘his’ and ‘him’ in the above description), this work seems to have been closer to Cudworth’s specific concerns in the Treatise (1731) on the immutability of justice, and the relationship between natural law, morality, and politics, and obligation. At the very least, Birch’s overview of Cudworth’s manuscripts indicates that his ethical writings were not limited to the materials found in the freewill manuscripts, the Treatise, and the True Intellectual System, and indicates the importance of Hobbes as a catalyst for Cudworth’s moral thought.

In his letter to Worthington of January 1665, Cudworth described his text as a ‘design concerning good and evil, or Natural Ethics’, a phrase which fits Worthington’s title of the manuscript ‘Discourse of moral Good and Evil’, but that the contents of that treatise, while on the same general topics, do not match the contents of the posthumously published Treatise (1731). Thus, we cannot be entirely sure that the text referred to in this letter is the Treatise rather than the lost ‘Discourse’. However, we can suggest that, just like the unpublished freewill treatises, Cudworth produced several manuscripts on immutable morality and natural justice. The text published in 1731 seems to be unusual among these in that Hobbes, while an important presence, is not targeted throughout in the explicit way suggested by the titles of the lost manuscripts.

The length of the 1731 Treatise relative to Cudworth’s description of his 1665 text provides another reason for doubting their equivalence. Having informed Worthington that he would send the beginning of his ‘Natural Ethics’ to the press, Cudworth stated that he would ‘send up, at a time, about the quantity of my last sermon’, i.e. his recently published Sermon to Lincoln’s Inn (1664), which amounted to 67 quarto pages, 9 sheets of paper, or approximately 14,000 words. In the same letter, Cudworth estimated that his ‘Natural Ethics’ will be ‘about nine or ten times as much as my sermon’ which, if we take Cudworth literally, would mean that the text was somewhere between 126,000 and 140,000 words in length. Such extrapolations are dangerous – Cudworth had clearly not performed a latter-day word-count on his treatise – but as an indication of relative scale, we could suggest that this was roughly equivalent to 235 folio manuscript pages.[28] This would make it considerably shorter than the volume of the ‘Discourse of moral Good and Evil’ which (according to Birch) was over 382 pages long; however it would also make it over twice the length of the Treatise as posthumously published, which contains approximately 55,000 words. While no reliable argument can be based on such approximate figures, they should at the very least make us even more wary of equating the 1665 text with either the manuscript ‘Discourse’ or the posthumously published Treatise.

Nevertheless, despite the difficulty of firmly identifying the Treatise with the text referred to in Cudworth’s correspondence of 1665, it is worth exploring that correspondence in further detail because of the insights it provides into the reasons why Cudworth never published any of his moral philosophy manuscripts (always excepting the ethical content of the True Intellectual System). In the same letter of January 1665, Cudworth speaks of ‘something which I heard since my last [letter] to you’ which has given him reason ‘to make complaint of one whom I have been an entire friend to’, namely, Henry More.[29] According to Cudworth, no-one had ‘so frequently exhorted’ him to write his treatise as More, who had ‘several times said he would leave that argument for me, calling it my Metaphysical Ethics’. However, at some point in Autumn 1664 More had ‘unexpectedly’ told Cudworth that he had ‘begun a discourse on the same argument’. Cudworth was, he says, ‘struck into an amaze, and could hardly believe what he said’, and had told More that it would be ‘not only superfluous but very absurd for two friends at the same time to write upon the same argument’. At first, Cudworth threatened to desist from his own writing and ‘not seem guilty to the world of the vanity of emulation’, a remark with met with a ‘mute’ response from More. The following day, ‘exceedingly troubled with the great disappointment that I should be forced to lose all my pains and study’, Cudworth wrote to More ‘fully and plainly’, which elicited the response from More that ‘he could not tell whether I would despatch and finish it or no, because I had been so long about it’. During the same conversation, More apparently claimed that he had been solicited to write his Enchiridion ethicum by Francis Fulwood, Henry Jenks, and Worthington himself, but would gladly desist now that he knew that Cudworth was ‘resolved to go through with it’, and recommended that Cudworth dedicate his own treatise to the Archbishop of Canterbury Gilbert Sheldon. Nevertheless, Cudworth had recently heard that More had told at least two friends that he planned to continue his own treatise; the fact that More’s work was to be in Latin and Cudworth’s in English was little consolation to the distraught Cudworth, who felt he had been mentally upstaged by a man he had considered a friend.[30]

Cudworth’s letter provides further evidence of his somewhat dilatory writing method; we might surmise that, like many modern-day academics, his anxious intensity as a writer could easily tip over into over sensitivity, defensiveness, and prevarication. Despite the clear evidence in this letter of shared interests and close collaboration between the two men, Cudworth wanted to establish clear demarcation between his own work and More’s writings. More’s successful career as a writer left him with something of an inferiority complex: if they were both to publish on the same topic, Cudworth felt that there was a danger that he would be seen as a mere emulator, even though he had begun writing his own text first and had developed it out of a sermon whose delivery by Cudworth was a matter of public record. Although More and Cudworth had been friends for many years, their relationship was clearly strained and even tetchy at times, and they knew each other’s weak spots: More was antagonising an old wound in his sharp comment that Cudworth could not be relied upon to publish his work in reasonable time.

Conversely, Cudworth chooses to present himself as the earnest, diligent scholar while he paints an opportunistic and even slightly callous side to More which is rarely articulated in the critical literature. Cudworth states that he has a ‘strong … persuasion of the morality, ingenuity, and friendship’ of his ‘intimate friend’, and has always been ‘far from envy, rejoicing in his performances as if they were mine own’. However, this makes it even more unbelievable that More would ‘entertain such a design as this, to depress and detract from my single small performance what he can, and to assume to himself the credit of this ethical business’. In another letter to Worthington, Cudworth reiterated that More’s actions were ‘plainly inconsistent with true friendship’, and riffed further on his earlier themes: if two friends were to write on the same argument, ‘one book will hinder the other from selling’, one will ‘detract from the other’, and at least one of the authors would be judged guilty of ‘emulation, vainglory, and desire to ostentate’. The suggestion that they could consciously differentiate the topics they covered was [insufficient]: Cudworth did not wish to be ‘confined merely to one thing, to show that there is such a thing as virtue, that it is not a mere name, without showing what it is’. For ‘the showing what it is must prove that it is’. Meanwhile, there were ‘arguments enough besides’ for More to work on, and he had ‘already written a great deal of morality in most of his books’. [31]

Although Cudworth claimed that he was writing to Worthington confidentially, the reasons for his hurt feelings were already widely known among their friendship circle. By 24 January 1665 John Standish had related to More a prickly conversation in which Cudworth had ‘showed again his disgust’ at More’s design; as More later related to Worthington, Cudworth had again ‘pretended that if I persisted in the design of publishing my book that he would desist in his’, even though part of it had been ready to send to the licenser. More, for his part, refused to cancel his own writing plans, informing Standish to tell Cudworth that ‘I do not intend, if at all, to publish my book till [Cudworth] has published his’, and urging people to ‘spur [Cudworth] up to send his to the press’. More’s response to Cudworth’s hurt feelings was, it seems, one of frustration: ‘I never expected to be thus entangled in such serious designs by men of friendship and virtue’, having ‘no design at all but to serve the public’; nevertheless, he could not resist a further jibe at Cudworth: while his ‘friend’ was still writing his treatise, More had nearly finished his own: ‘all but a chapter’.[32] He also had hard words for Cudworth’s ‘scrupulosities’: ‘if our friendship be so well known, it would the more secure us both from that suspicion of emulation’.

Nevertheless, More’s own account of how he came to write his Enchiridion ethicum suggests that his tale of innocent scholarly overlap was not the full story. More explains that some friends at Cambridge had urged him to write ‘a short Ethics’, a notion which he rejected ‘more than once, but with great zeal, if not rudeness’, and alleging that ‘Dr. Cudworth had a design for the greatest curiosity of that subject’. Cudworth was thus right to intimate that More knew of his project, as did More’s friends, who urged him further that ‘it was uncertain when Dr. Cudworth’s would come out’. More’s case is that he only began his treatise because it was uncertain when Cudworth would finish, that his ‘small treatise’ would not interfere with Cudworth’s more substantial offering, and that Cudworth’s ‘reservedness’ left his friends with no inkling of ‘the time or scope of his writing, or if he intended a general ethics, as now he would make shew by his title’. More also suggests, somewhat implausibly, that he told Cudworth ‘by chance … of my purpose (which I did simply thinking nothing)’, and that in the end he had been driven to compose his text not only as ‘an act of mere conscience’, but also one ‘of perfect self-denial’. More’s defensiveness also extents to a slightly patronising insistence that Cudworth’s ‘illucubrations … will prove very laudable and useful; and I wish also advantageous to himself, which is my main reason of letting his go before mine’. He was even prepared to cast doubt on Cudworth’s claim that his papers were ‘long studied’ (‘I never heard him commonplace on this subject but once’) and again suggested that the prevaricating Cudworth was his own worst enemy, whereas his own speedily-completed writings were ‘the easy and natural emanations of that life and sense within me, which I prefer before all the subtleties of wit’.[33] Yet in the end the open disagreement between More and Cudworth suited neither of their interests: in May More wrote to Worthington that he was ‘very loth any way to grieve’ his Cudworth, and was ‘very sorry and much concerned’ that Cudworth had taken the writing of the Enchiridion ‘so heinously’.[34] By this point, however, it was too late: we can be pretty sure that More’s decision to push through the publication of his Enchiridion was one of the major reasons why Cudworth never published his work on ‘Natural Ethics’.

The task of publishing the Treatise eventually fell to Edward Chandler, prebendary of Worcester (1706-17), bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (1717-30), and bishop of Durham (1730-50). Chandler had been a student at Cudworth’s alma mater of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in the years immediately following Cudworth’s death in 1688; he graduated MA at Cambridge in 1693 and acquired a DD in 1701. By the time he came to edit Cudworth’s manuscripts he had published sermons relating to his roles at Worcester and Lichfield, a substantial Defence of Christianity from the Prophecies of the Old Testament (1725), and a Vindication of the Defence (2 vols., 1728). The Defence is notable for its Hebrew learning, its detailed analysis of the Book of Daniel, and its citations from Origen, all features which Chandler shares with Cudworth. In the ‘Preface’ to the Defence, addressed to George I, Chandler draws attention to the monarch’s various proclamations in favour of ‘Piety and Virtue’ against ‘the Profaneness, Debauchery, and Immoralities of the Age’, and attacks the ‘Partisans for Irreligion’ who ‘sap the Foundations of Christianity, in Books publickly sold and dispersed’; Chandler’s claim that such books were ‘taking away the Restraints upon Conscience from the Christian Religion, to return to the abominable Practices of the Heathens’ also shares something with Cudworth’s repeated attack on the Epicureans (such as Hobbes and Gassendi) of his own day, although the parallel should not be overstated.[35] When Chandler first got to consult Cudworth’s manuscripts is unknown – there are no citations from Cudworth’s ethical manuscripts or his writings on Daniel in Chandler’s Defence and Vindication – but when Chandler came to view these papers, he must have sensed a kindred spirit. Furthermore, for reasons which have never been fully investigated, the 1730s was a period of considerable revival of interest in Cudworth, culminating in the publication of the Treatise (1731), Thomas Wise’s Abridgment of Dr. Cudworth’s True Intellectual System (1732), and Mosheim’s translation, Systema intellectuale huius universi (Jena, 1733); the latter in turn exercised influence over Thomas Birch, editor of the second English edition of the True Intellectual System (1743).

In the ‘Preface’ to his edition of Cudworth’s Treatise, Chandler frames the text as a segment of the incomplete second and third parts of the True Intellectual System and suggests that Cudworth’s name is ‘well known to them that are acquainted with the best Authors’. Chandler’s comments on Cudworth’s motivations for writing reveal much about why he thought the text deserved a readership in Georgian England. Cudworth, he says, lived ‘in an Age, when the disputes concerning Liberty and Necessity, mingling with the Political schemes of the Leaders of opposite Parties, help’d to cause strong convulsions in the State’.[36] Reading Cudworth, then, can serve as a reminder that the wrong ethical framework not only leads to lax morals among the general populace, but can also contribute to confusion and disintegration in the polis; this view could be read as a warning against the dangers of the febrile party politics of the early eighteenth century. Chandler cites the dedicatory epistle to Finch and the ‘Preface to the Reader’ from the True Intellectual System as evidence that Cudworth saw the ‘Debauchery, Scepticism and Infidelity’ of his age emerging from the ‘Doctrine of the Fatal Necessity of all Actions and Events’; such a doctrine ‘he conceived, did serve the design of Atheism … as taking away all guilt and blame, punishments and rewards’. Chandler thus presents the Treatise as one of large number of works which Cudworth drew up, including but not limited to the True Intellectual System, and points out that ‘many of his collections of this kind still remain’, in which he had sought ‘to gather and answer all the antient and modern arguments, for the necessity of all Actions’.[37] Chandler views Cudworth’s oeuvre, both manuscript and print, as a cohesive whole, bound together by his investigation and rejection of the principle of necessity.

In explaining the role of the Treatise in Cudworth’s writings against necessity, Chandler reminds his readers of the ‘three sorts of Fatality’ which Cudworth identified: ‘First Natural or MaterialSecondly, Theologick or Divine Fate … [Thirdly,] The Stoical Fate’, and asserts that the second and third of these were ‘but lightly touch’d’ in the published True Intellectual System’.[38] Chandler suggests that Cudworth ‘intended to give them a more particular and more ample consideration’ but was prevented from doing so by ‘ill health, a short life, or other reasons we know not’. However, in his source text, Cudworth’s ‘Preface’ to the True Intellectual System, Cudworth actually appears to distinguish between the ‘Democritick Fate’, the ‘Divine Fate Immorall’, and the ‘Divine Fate Morall’; Chandler’s loose language in his classification of these three forms of fate is significant, because it initiates a series of faulty readings of the relationship between the System and the Treatise. As it continues, Chandler’s ‘Preface’ to the Treatise becomes markedly more speculative. Firstly he sees it as ‘probable’ that Cudworth thought it ‘best to contract his Undertaking’ and ‘treat in smaller volumes of those points that he judged to be most material and principal’; in other words, he argues that Cudworth rescinded his intention to produce two more lengthy volumes of the True Intellectual System, and diverted his ideas on divine fate and Stoic fate into other channels. One such volume, asserts Chandler, is ‘the Book, with which the world is now presented, wherein he proves the falseness of the consequences [of] the second sort of Fate, denominated by him Theologick’. Chandler’s assertion thus enables him to view the Treatise as ‘a sequel in part’ to the True Intellectual System. This view has been influential in scholarship on the Treatise, but it should be remembered that it is Chandler’s speculative interpretation of the evidence, not Cudworth’s own explanation of his motivation for writing. Indeed, while there is no doubt that the Treatise has much to say on the questions of necessity and fate, it is far from clear that it tackles them exclusively from the perspective of ‘Theologick or Divine Fate’; for example, in the opening eight pages of the Treatise there is only one passing mention of a deity (Plutarch’s ‘Supreme Power[39]), and the phrase ‘Divine Fate’ does not appear anywhere in the first book.[40] Chandler is on stronger ground claiming that the text is a disquisition on ‘natural justice’, since Cudworth uses this phrase throughout the Treatise. In the True Intellectual System Cudworth explains how his second category of fatalists (those who posit a divine fate immoral) deny the principles of natural justice, whereas his third group of fatalists (those who posit a divine fate moral) believe in natural justice, but assert an inevitable ‘Concatenation, or Implexed Series of Causes’ which limit a human’s ability to act according to its principles. By this measure, the Treatise is indeed closer to a confutation of the second group of fatalists, but by the same token much of the text is taken up with a confutation of Hobbes, who is the exemplar par excellence of the first group, atheistic fatalists.

Chandler’s argument that the Treatise represents a continuation of the True Intellectual System – while a useful marketing strategy – is not convincing. Instead, it is tempting to view the Treatise as a work undertaken at least in part before Cudworth adopted the tripartite scheme outlined in the ‘Preface’ to the True Intellectual System. Chandler’s surmise that the publication of the work was prevented by Cudworth’s death ‘following not long after’ the text’s completion may be, once again, a speculative overreading of the evidence: whether or not this is the text referred to in Cudworth’s correspondence of 1665, there is, as we have seen, internal evidence for suggesting that much of the Treatise predates most of Cudworth’s work on the True Intellectual System, which was probably undertaken c.1665-71. Rather more interesting is Chandler’s comment that he is ‘not certain that this Treatise is quite so perfect as the Author design’d it’, a statement which leaves open the possibility that Chandler edited Cudworth’s papers prior to their publication, although in the same paragraph Chandler asserts that he thinks the copy was designed ‘speedily to have been sent to the press’. Chandler’s other comment on the state of the manuscript is that Cudworth ‘transcribed the best part of it with his own hand’, a remark which is hard to verify, especially in the light of the subsequent scholarly confusion over what Cudworth’s hand looked like. On the other hand, this comment does suggest that Chandler viewed the text as something approaching a completed fair copy which, if true, would have marked out the manuscript from the rest of Cudworth’s papers, all of which have extensive corrections and deletions.

Like so many aspects of the publication of Cudworth’s writings, we know very little about the editorial changes which were made to the manuscript by Chandler as he prepared the manuscript for the printer. Aspects of the text are certainly unusual in relation to Cudworth’s oeuvre: nowhere else, either in printed texts or manuscripts, do we find a division into books and (fairly) short chapters; the closest comparison might be the text usually described as ‘A Treatise of Freewill’ (BL Add. MS 4978), containing twenty brief chapters which are not, however, grouped together to form books. A close inspection of the contents lists for the Treatise of Eternal and Immutable Morality indicates that there is no firm division in topic between the end of book 1 chapter 3 and the start of book 2 chapter 1, or between 2.6 and 3.1, or 3.4 and 4.1. In some ways we should not be surprised by this: except for the much longer chapters in the True Intellectual System, Cudworth’s writings (including his manuscript treatises) tend to give the impression of being through-composed rather than being made to conform to a pre-existing structure. One possibility, then, is that the grouping of the chapters of the Treatise into four books was the work of Chandler himself.

One aspect of the page layout which can almost certainly be attributed to Chandler and his printers is the treatment of Greek and Latin quotations. From his earliest publications Cudworth had ensured that classical quotations appeared in the main body of his text, usually followed by English translations; although modern readers often find that the presence of these lengthy quotations slows down the reading process, to include them in the text was a standard practice of seventeenth-century humanists and philologers. By the mid eighteenth century, however, the readerly expectations of philosophical texts had changed, and no longer was there an expectation that classical and vernacular languages would be integrated, and the direct appeal to classical and patristic authority as a mode of demonstration was on the wane. In part this is due to the changing nature of the readership itself: the conventions of ‘polite’ learning in the Georgian period extended to gentleman scholars, various forms of social reading, and a recognition of the growing market for philosophy among female readers. Given this nexus of factors, it was highly sensible for Chandler and his printers to remove Latin and Greek quotations from the main body of text into footnotes, while keeping the English translations in place. There is even the possibility that in the case of single Latin or Greek words Chandler supplied his own translation, enabling even the most basic of classical terms to appear in the footnotes. This decision to remove most of the classical phrases from the main body of text means that the process of reading the Treatise is extremely different to that of the True Intellectual System or Cudworth’s 1642 Discourses: the extent of classical learning is disguised, and the argument appears with greater clarity and vernacular elegance, making the Treatise a far more pleasant reading experience for the majority of its audience.

The True Intellectual System of the Universe: The First Part (1678)

Our knowledge of the composition and publication of Cudworth’s magnum opus, the first part of The True Intellectual System (1678), is severely hampered by the termination of the Cudworth-More-Worthington correspondence by Worthington’s death in 1671. The only reference to the System in the correspondence is an oblique one: on 25 June 1668 Worthington to wrote to More of his assumption that ‘Mr. Hobbes’ book in Latin is dedicated to the King: and if so, I told Dr. Cudworth, that it might be well, that his should be so dedicated.’[41] Worthington’s comment must refer to the 1668 edition of Hobbes’s Opera omnia, which did indeed include a dedication to Charles II; the True Intellectual System, on the hand, was not dedicated to the King but to Anne Conway’s relative through marriage, Heneage Finch, the Lord High Chancellor of England. Nevertheless, Worthington’s remark reveals that before it was even published, Cudworth’s True Intellectual System was perceived by his close acquaintances to be a response to Hobbesian atheism.

The imprimatur to the System, printed after Cudworth’s famous preface to the reader, is as follows:


Hic Liber, cui Titulus, The True Intellectuall System of the Universe, &c.

Maii 29. 1671.

Sam. Parker, Reverendmo in Christo Patri ac Domino, Domino Gilberto, Divinâ Providentiâ Archiep. Cantuar. à Sacr. Dom.

What the licenser, Samuel Parker, made of the text is not known; Parker had recently raised objections to aspects of More’s Divine Dialogues (1668), thereby delaying its publication for several months, but there is no evidence that he sought to obstruct the printing of Cudworth’s System. Nevertheless, the text was not published for another seven years, and the next glimpse of it in More’s correspondence does not occur until 15 October 1677, when More wrote to an unknown recipient that ‘Dr. Cudworth’s Book will be out, they say, the next Term’.[42] More’s remark follows on the heels of the entry of the book in the stationers’ register on 13 September 1677:

Master Richard Royston.

Entred … under the hand of Master SAMUEL PARKER and Master JOHN MACOCK warden one book or coppy entituled The true intellectual systeme of the universe, wherein the atheisticall philosophy is confuted, the naturality of morality vindicated, and the fatall necessity of all actions and events impugned by R. Curdworth, D:D: Hebrew Professor of the University of Cambridge and Master of Christs Colledge, the first part … … …. vjd[43]

In this entry, the role of Samuel Parker as the licenser is confirmed, and to it is added the name of John Macock, one of the most influential printers of the period, in his role not as a printer but as a warden of the Stationers’ Company. Neither the text of the System, nor the entrance in the stationers’ register, mention the name of the printer.

The identity of the printer is not the only aspect of the text’s production which remains unknown. As will be demonstrated below, the gap between the licensing (1671) and publication (1678) of the Cudworth’s System is uniquely long, and it is not yet possible to reach any firm conclusions about the reasons for this delay. Three hypotheses immediately suggest themselves (1) the text was withheld by the authorities (although, as we have just stated, there is no positive evidence that this was the case); (2) Cudworth himself sought a delay in printing, perhaps to revise or supplement the text; (3) there were delays at the press. The second of these arguments is consonant with what we know of Cudworth’s compositional process: evidence from his freewill manuscripts, his posthumously published ethical writings and his correspondence all suggests that he was an anxious writer and a perfectionist, whose tendency to draft and redraft (often over many months and years) went hand in hand with a prickly self-defensiveness in response to his rivals or critics. However, the notion that an author would revise a text for up to seven years after it had been licensed was itself without precedent in Cudworth’s England. While not discounting the possibility of this theory, it must be admitted that there is also a tiny slither of evidence to suggest that Cudworth’s plans for printing the text may also have changed. During the 1660s Cudworth and his publisher Royston had collaborated with the well-known printer James Flesher, and he would have been an obvious first choice for printing the System. However, his death in 1672 came just after the point when the System was authorised for printing. As will also be shown below, there are some (admittedly slim) reasons for suspecting that Flesher’s death caused a change in Cudworth and Royston’s plans which may have contributed to the seven-year delay.

Fortunately, it is possible to make some observations about the compositional process. Internal evidence would suggest that the outer sections of the text were initially drafted in reading order, with most of the first three chapters being written before chapter 5, with the preface to the reader being drafted last. The arguments against atheism in chapter 5, for example, not only refer to the arguments in chapter 2, and address them in the same order, but compress some and expand others in the manner of an author who is sifting through his earlier ideas in order to emphasise the most important. The relative chronology of chapter 4 is less clear, although the arguments of the fifth chapter are also dependent on the opening pages of chapter 4, where Cudworth seeks to define the Deity and distinguish his attributes. Cudworth himself encourages us to think about the chronological composition of the text: in his preface to the reader (sig. ***2r) he apologises for a mistake in his interpretation of ‘a Modern Atheistick Writer’ towards the start of chapter 5 (p. 759), which ‘upon further Consideration’, he managed to correct later in the chapter (p. 846). However, here (as in so many other ways) the extraordinary length, structure, and unfinished state of chapter 4 challenge any simple assertions about the text’s composition. It is, of course, plausible that Cudworth abandoned the arguments made in the first three chapters for a space of many months (probably years) to write his accounts of the pagan monotheism and polytheism, and then returned with a new perspective on those arguments which caused him to expand and conflate them by turns in chapter 5. However, it is equally possible that Cudworth worked on his historical and philological excursus in the pagan religion quite separately from the rest of the text and then attempted to integrate it into his arguments. At the start of chapter 4 Cudworth announces that ‘Having in the Former Chapter prepared the way’ he will ‘now procede … to Answer and Confute all those Atheistick Arguments before proposed’. At the start of the fifth chapter, he reviews the text so far:

Having in the Second Chapter revealed all the Dark Mysteries of Atheism, and produced the utmost strength of that Cause; and in the Third, made an Introduction to the Confutation of those Atheistick Grounds, by representing all the several Forms and Schemes of Atheism …; We have been hitherto prevented, of that full and Copious Confutation of them, intended by us, by reason of that large Account given [in chapter 4], of the Pagan Polytheism …. Wherefore that we may not here be quite excluded, of what was principally intended, we shall subjoyn a Contracted and Compendious Confutation, of all the Premised Atheistick Principles.[44]

Here, Cudworth seems to imply that the structure of chapter 5 was influenced (perhaps deleteriously) by the extreme length of chapter 4. However, self-justificatory statements of structure in authorial prefaces should be treated with caution, since they are written as much to reflect the final shape of the text rather than necessarily reflecting the compositional method.

Each chapter in the True Intellectual System is preceded by a numbered list of contents; each number refers to a similarly numbered section of the text. In the early chapters, these sections are usually one or two paragraphs in length; in chapter four, they swiftly become much longer. The numbered lists also form the basis for the headers to each page, which are usually an abbreviated form of the text of the relevant summary on the contents page. The contents list for chapter 4 is particularly curious, because it extends to 90 points, even though the text of chapter 4, despite its enormous length, only contains 36 sections. The remaining 54 sections were never published, and there is no evidence that any of them were written. This might be taken to mean that Cudworth planned his chapters by writing bullet-point lists of the contents and then writing the sections. This would explain why he produced a contents list for chapter 4 which he was never able to write up: Cudworth tells us in his preface that when he ‘wrote those Contents, [he] did not suspect in the least, but that we should have Satisfied them all within a lesser Compass’.[45] Furthermore, the idea that he planned chapters before writing them would seem to fit with the contents list for chapter 3, which matches the text up until section 38, but which does not describe the contents of the famous digression on plastic nature: perhaps Cudworth did not initially intend to write such a long passage on plastic nature, but during the course of writing he considered it important to make this addition. However, as usual, the situation is complicated: we cannot always prove that Cudworth’s lists came before the contents which they describe, and there are some possible arguments pointing the other way. For example, if Cudworth was an inveterate list writer, we might expect to find contents lists among his manuscript writings, but so far none have been discovered. Furthermore, the detailed lists of authors and arguments in the contents lists for the True Intellectual System suggest that, at the very least, these lists were revised after the sections themselves were written. For example, chapter 3 point 37 in the contents list states that the relevant section contains an account of ‘The Plastick Life of Nature largely explained’ (my italics), suggesting this point was rewritten after the inclusion of the digression. Either way, the appearance in print of the full contents list for chapter 4, despite Cudworth not completing the text, cannot be attributed solely to his own error, or to the printing process: it is more likely that Cudworth wanted his readers to know his intended structure for the chapter. In his preface, he again summarises these unwritten sections, drawing further attention to his unfulfilled desire to include a ‘Defence of Christianity’ at the close of chapter 4. Had he done so, the entire function of the passages in chapter 4 describing the views of the Platonic Christian would have changed: rather than mining these passages for evidence as to the nature of Cudworth’s Trinitarianism, it would have been possible for readers to have measured them against his own less ambiguously worded views. Perhaps this was another reason why Cudworth never wrote his ‘Defence of Christianity’: the ambiguity resulting from arguing in the third person suited his comparative and exploratory approach. Cudworth used the contents list and the preface to indicate that he and his friends were not mere ‘Natural Religionists’ but also ‘Friends to Revealed Religion’, even though these passages on ‘the [revealed] Truth of the whole Christian Doctrine’ were never written. It was important for Cudworth to signal to hid readers that this planned defence had not been abandoned, but rather deferred to ‘some other more convenient Opportunity’, and yet the vagueness of this promise (presumably, it was to be included in some unplanned future volume of the True Intellectual System) does not suggest that he had formed any definite plans relating to its composition.

Very little is currently known about the editions of Classical authors that Cudworth used, although the printed marginal notes in the True Intellectual System do occasionally indicate either the editor or the page number of the volumes cited. On this basis, we can infer that Cudworth’s quotations from Plato came from the Stephanus edition of 1578, and that he may have used the 1580 edition of Plotinus (edited by Ficino). His Proclus quotations were probably from the 1534 edition. For Eusebius, he seems to have gone to the 1554 Stephanus edition, and he might have taken his Tertullian from the 1641 edition, edited Rigalti. He appears to quote from the 1655 edition of Epictetus, and he may also have consulted the Oxford (1660) edition of the epistles of Pliny II. All these suggested editions need further investigation. Part of the problem is that we cannot assume that the volumes listed in the posthumous printed catalogue of Cudworth’s library[46] provide any clear indication of which edition he used for the True Intellectual System. In many cases, the edition in the catalogue of 1691 (Cudworth died in 1688) is demonstrably not the edition he used when preparing the True Intellectual System, and in others cases – such as Lucretius’ De rerum natura – there is more than one edition in the library catalogue (in this case, 1662 and 1665 – he may have used neither). While we can use these editions to explain much about Cudworth’s working methods, they do not help much with dating the composition of the text.

It might be thought that the publication of William Spencer’s edition of Origen in 1658 would provide a terminus a quo for the True Intellectual System. However, Cudworth’s use of Origen provides a surprisingly unreliable indication of his work-in-progress. There is only one direct reference to Origen in Cudworth’s early discourses (in his Discourse on the Lord’s Supper), and only one passing mention of him in the first three chapters of the True Intellectual System (alongside Plotinus and Simplicius, in chapter 1, p. 4). This evidence cuts both ways: on the one hand it suggests that Cudworth had some (but not necessarily extensive) knowledge of Origen before Spencer’s edition appeared; on the other hand, there is no reason to assume that the first three chapters of the True Intellectual System made direct use of it. Furthermore, while there is currently no evidence that Cudworth assisted Spencer in the Origen edition, he is highly likely to have known of the work of his fellow Cantabrigian in an area of humanist scholarship which would have been of interest to most of his intellectual circle, not least More and Worthington. In any case, Cudworth probably had access to the 1605 Hoeschel edition of Origen’s Contra Celsum (there were several copies at Cambridge by the mid seventeenth century). Indeed, much of Origen’s work had been known in England ever since the Reformation, and had featured in a number of controversies, not least those surrounding John Jewel’s defences of the Elizabethan settlement; his name was also known via a number of English Protestant commentaries in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Turning to early-modern English works, the most obvious place to start is with Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651), which features repeatedly in chapter 2. Cudworth’s sense of the profoundly damaging implications of this text was one of the principal motives for his composition of the True Intellectual System. Cudworth also cites Hobbes’s Latin works, De cive (1642) and De corpore (1655), and on several occasions he invokes Gassendi, whose writings were available in multiple editions by the mid seventeenth century. It is also hard to avoid the consideration (which nevertheless remains speculative) that he was further encouraged in his design by reading and discussing Henry More’s Antidote against Atheism and perhaps – given the Cabbalistic elements in chapter 4 – the same author’s Conjectura cabbalistica (both published in 1653). Direct and traceable references to other early-modern authors in the text are surprisingly rare although there are apparent references to Descartes’ posthumously published works. One important example is Kircher’s Prodromus coptus sive Ægyptiacus (Rome, 1636), which dominates the sections on Egyptian religion in chapter 4. He also refers to one of Bochart’s writings, probably Phaleg (1648).

Indeed, the extremely limited evidence so far collected suggests that much of the composition of the True Intellectual System took place in the 1660s, and particularly during the period 1665-71. In chapter 3, Cudworth refers to Seth Ward as the ‘Learned Author of the Exercitatio Epistolica’ against Hobbes (1656), which he says was written ‘sometime since’, and he describes Ward as ‘now a Reverend Bishop’. It is, of course, possible that this comment on Ward was a late insertion into an earlier draft of chapter 3, but at the very least we can be sure that this statement was not written until after 1662, when Ward was made bishop of Exeter. Furthermore, in chapter 4, Cudworth refers to the scholar Thomas Gale as a ‘Learned Friend’ (p. 318) who has in his possession a Greek manuscript of Iamblichus. Gale was an alumnus of King’s College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1659, proceeding MA in 1662, and working as a tutor and fellow there until 1672. Gale was briefly the regius professor of Greek in 1672 before becoming master of St Paul’s School, and his Greek edition of Iamblichus was published in 1678. From this timeline (and given that the True Intellectual System was complete by 1671), Cudworth’s comments on Gale (like at least part of his comment on Ward and some of his comments on Descartes) can be dated confidently to the 1660s. Perhaps one of the most useful references from the perspective of dating chapter 5 is the mention of More’s Divine Dialogues (1668). Furthermore, although there is no evidence that Cudworth read Spinoza’s Ethics prior to the completion of the True Intellectual System in 1671, he does refer to Spinoza as a ‘theological-politician’ (his Theological-Political Treatise appeared in 1670). However, Cudworth does not engage with the Theological-Political Treatise in any detail, and even his comments on this text take the form of last-minute, off-the-cuff remarks. The arguments of Spinoza, he says, are so weak that they are not even worth responding to. Taken together, these references to Hobbes, Ward, Descartes, More, Gale, and Spinoza suggest that Cudworth cannot have undertaken much work on the published text of the True Intellectual System until after Ward’s 1656 response to Hobbes, and that he quite possibly wrote a large proportion of the text after the Restoration; we can also suggest that he completed chapter 5 c.1670 and then sent his text to the licenser almost immediately. However, given the fragmentary nature of the current evidence, these suppositions are intended to be no more than a starting point for future hypotheses, and considerably more research is required before definite conclusions can be drawn as to the compositional process and dating of the text.

A similar level of circumspection is required when discussing the process by which the text was first printed. The title page of the 1678 System provides the name of the bookseller and publisher Richard Royston but does not indicate the printer. Had he not died in 1672, the obvious person for us to consider would have been James Flesher, who had printed the second edition of Cudworth’s Discourse concerning the Lord’s Supper (also including his sermons to Parliament and to Lincoln’s Inn) for Royston in 1670. Presumably, James Flesher had acquired the right to copy Cudworth’s shorter works (such rights resided in printers, not in authors), although it is worth recalling that there was no imprimatur in the first edition (1642) of the Discourse, while the initial order to print the sermon to the Commons in 1647 came from Parliament itself and the 1664 sermon to Lincoln’s Inn contained a traditional imprimatur. In other words, it may have been necessary to acquire the rights to print a second edition of these texts in 1670 from several sources. The third edition of the Discourse and associated texts in 1676 does not name a printer, although this text was also published and sold by Royston; again, the obvious critical assumption would be that it had been printed by the Flesher firm, now headed by Elizabeth Flesher, who ran the firm c.1672-c.1679. The unusually large size of the pages of the 1676 edition of the Discourse suggests that this version is designed to sit alongside the similarly sized True Intellectual System (1678), which could lead us to assume that both texts were printed by the same firm.

Based on this admittedly circumstantial reasoning, it seems that our investigations into the identity of the printer of the System should start with Elizabeth Flesher and her family. One possible hypothesis – not yet fully borne out by the limited evidence but not contradicted by it – runs as follows. Cudworth submitted the manuscript text of the System to James Flesher and Royston c.1671, and it was licensed shortly thereafter. James Flesher’s death in 1672 caused a delay in proceedings, probably not helped by Cudworth’s own predilection for vacillation. Across the next few months or even years, Cudworth had to decide whether to revise his text, and there might also have been some anxieties about whether the Flesher firm remained a suitable place for printing it. As a result, we could speculate, printing on the True Intellectual System was either carried out intermittently between 1671 and 1678, or (more likely) delayed until c.1676, when it was decided to produce the shorter works first and then print the System across the next two years. Whether the text was eventually printed by Elizabeth Flesher or another firm remains unclear.

A full investigation of all the possible candidates for printing the True Intellectual System is considerably beyond the scope of this introduction, but we can raise some of the attendant issues through a brief discussion of the fortunes of those printers known to have collaborated with Royston in the 1670s. The following table, based on ESTC listings of title pages in the 1670s, indicates the number of titles printed for Royston by all his known collaborators:

Richard Royston’s printers, 1670-80:

anon. 100

J. D. 2

Elizabeth Flesher 19 + 2 attributed

E. Flesher and J. Macock 2

E. Flesher and R. Norton 1

James Flesher 1

J. F. and E. T. 1 [James Flesher and Elizabeth Tyler?]

Miles Flesher 5

James Grover 7

William Hall 5

John Macock 15

A. Maxwell 8

A. Maxwell and R. R. 1

Roger Norton 35

T. R. 1

E. Tyler and R. Holt 9

Robert White 4

Royston’s collaboration with the Fleshers extended to James Flesher, his wife Elizabeth, and (later) their son Miles, together accounting for at least 31 titles. He also worked consistently with the printer Roger Norton on at least 36 titles. His other printers included John Macock (at least 17 titles), Elizabeth Tyler (at least 10 titles), Anne Maxwell (at least 9), James Grover (at least 7) and the Oxford University printer William Hall (5 or more). 44% of the books listed (100/228) do not identify any printer on their title pages; these anonymously printed texts include the 1676 edition of Cudworth’s Discourse and the 1678 True Intellectual System. Nevertheless, a consideration of the types of books printed by Royston’s chief collaborators does more than provide a flavour of the print culture within which Royston and Cudworth operated: it helps to explain the political and intellectual constraints (and opportunities) within which the True Intellectual System was created.

Judging by number of titles alone, Roger Norton appears to have been one of the printers whom Royston turned to most often. Norton, grandson of the King’s Printer Bonham Norton, had inherited the printing business from his father and namesake Roger Norton the elder in 1662; the elder Roger Norton had petitioned unsuccessfully to be named one of the King’s Printers at the Restoration, but in 1667 his son Roger junior was granted the sole privilege for 40 years of printing Latin Bibles, and all Greek and Latin grammars.[47] In practice, this meant that as well as producing a Latin Liturgia (1670) and Biblia sacra (1680) Norton held the right to print the much-republished grammatical works of William Lily (1468?-1522) and John Stockwood (d.1610), and the Institutio Græcæ grammatices of William Camden (1551-1623). Roger Norton junior’s collaborations with Royston built upon the family’s reputation for publishing religious works; his output included writings by Henry Hammond, John Spottiswood, Jeremy Taylor, John Gregory, Joseph Mede, William Cave and Edward Fowler, as well as the Eikon basilike attributed to Charles I and John Gauden. The evidence of collaboration between Norton and the Flesher firm is slight, but they certainly knew each other well. It appears that Norton was the printer of the 1657, 1671 and 1675 editions of Jeremy Taylor’s History of the Life of Christ, but that (for reasons unknown) he shared the printing of the 1678 edition with Elizabeth Flesher. Norton was also responsible for printing the second volume of More’s Scriptorum philosophicorum (1679); this second volume contained Latin translations of the works contained in More’s Collection of Philosophical Writings, a text which had been printed by James Flesher in 1662.[48] Norton’s work on More’s Scriptorum philosophicorum and his experience printing Greek and Latin texts indicate that his firm was quite capable of producing a complicated text like the True Intellectual System, but the evidence linking him to Cudworth is slim; it must also be admitted that in 1671 – when the System was licensed – his firm had much less experience than the Fleshers in the production of large-scale philosophical and philological works involving Greek and Hebrew.

Another of Royston’s regular collaborators was John Macock, the Stationers’ Company warden who oversaw the entry of the True Intellectual System into the company’s register in 1677. Macock had been elected warden following the death of Thomas Roycroft earlier in the year, and he served in the post until June 1679. By 1668, Macock’s business was one of the largest printing firms in the country, with three presses, three apprentices, and three workmen; [49] his varied output reflects shifting trends in the book market in the middle years of the seventeenth century. Macock established his reputation in the 1640s by printing predominantly puritan works. In the 1650s he became a printer to the Parliament with co-responsibility for the printing of Acts, parliamentary newspapers, and influential political addresses. After the Restoration his publications diversified to include literary texts, including writings by Denham (1668), Dryden (1676), Etherege (1676, 1684), Killigrew (1664), and Milton (1677). Cudworth may have known several of the philosophical publications which Macock printed, including his editions of Grotius, Horace, and Isocrates, and more modern texts, such as Joseph Glanvill’s Philosophia pia (1671), Thomas Jackson’s Works (1673), and (probably) Henry More’s Tetractys anti-astrologica (1681), as well as the second edition of the Part 2 of Theophilus Gale’s Court of the Gentiles (1676) and the first edition of Part 4 (1679). Macock also oversaw the printing of More’s Latin Opera theologica (1675), and the first volume of his Scriptorum philosophicorum (1679).[50] On the other hand, most of these titles postdate the 1671 imprimatur for the True Intellectual System and therefore cannot have directly influenced Cudworth’s decision in selecting (or possibly reselecting) a printer for his work. Like Macock, Cudworth had maintained amicable relations with many puritan writers and politicians during the 1650s, but – judging by changes made to the 1670 edition of the Sermon to Parliament – he seems to have sought to distance himself from such connections after the Restoration. On the other hand, political motivation is rarely enough to explain the actions of printers following the Restoration. The ability of Royston (a printer of overtly Royalist texts) and Macock (the former parliamentary printer) to collaborate serves as a reminder that the book trade relied on pragmatism and commercial sense as much as ideology. Furthermore, Macock’s ability to work with Samuel Parker and the other licensers and wardens demonstrates that the ability to cooperate with various forms of authority was a prerequisite for working in the printing business in the late seventeenth century.

Having identified two of her closest rivals, we can now return to a fuller consideration of Elizabeth Flesher and her family. By the time the System was licensed for publication in 1671, the Flesher firm was highly experienced in the production of academic works, many of which contained a high incidence of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew text. The ‘Flesher’ name starts appearing regularly on title pages from 1619 onwards, when the firm was owned by Miles Flesher the elder, James Flesher’s father. The first of Miles Flesher’s publications to contain significant Greek was William Pulley’s The Christians Taske (1619). The following year Flesher printed the second edition of an English translation of Augustine’s Of the Citie of God with the learned Comments of Jo. Lod. Vives (1620), which had formerly been printed by George Eld in 1610. Indeed, Flesher and Eld appear to have collaborated on several texts in the 1620s as Flesher sought to establish his business by resetting works to which Eld presumably had the rights. More relevant to our purposes, however, is the elder Flesher’s edition of Henry Ainsworth’s Annotations upon the Five Bookes of Moses, the Booke of the Psalmes, and the Song of Songs (1627), in which Hebrew words were transliterated into the Roman alphabet; in this regard, then, the Eld-Flesher collaboration was lagging considerably behind its rival, the firm of William Stansby. An early indication of this difference in printing technique is evident in the publication of the works of John Selden, a Hebraist whom the young Cudworth held in high regard almost to the point of veneration. In 1610 Eld printed Selden’s early work The Duello or Single Combat for the bookseller-publisher John Helme; however, Selden and Helme turned to Stansby four years later to print those works of Selden which contained extensive Hebrew references, such as his Titles of Honor (1614) De dIs Syris (1617), and De successionibus (1631).

Nevertheless, Miles Flesher’s firm did acquire a reputation for considerable expertise in the setting of Latin and Greek text. The 1620 Augustine edition, for example, uses different typesetting to Eld’s previous edition of 1610, while the printing of John Squire’s A Plaine Exposition upon the First Part of the Second Chapter of Saint Paul his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (1630) – usually attributed to Flesher – reveals that the compositors had acquired familiarity with several of the Greek contractions that were to appear in the System nearly fifty years later. In 1636 Flesher collaborated with the printer Robert Young to produce Richard Montagu’s De originibus ecclesiasticis commentationum (1636), a significant Latin work with lots of Greek text, including contractions and marginalia.[51] An early Latin work from Miles Flesher’s printing house was Erasmus’ Opus aureum (1631); he also worked with the printer Robert Young on the Epistolarum of Erasmus in 1642, and produced four editions of William Camden’s Institutio, again with the support of the Young firm (Robert Young in 1640, James Young in 1643, and further editions in 1647 and 1649. The bookseller for the Institutio was Roger Norton, providing another link between the Nortons and the Fleshers. Cudworth would also have encountered Miles Flesher as the printer of the first edition of Joseph Mede’s Works (1648/9), a foundational text for Cudworth’s extensive investigations into the Book of Daniel. He would also have been supportive of Flesher’s efforts to print several of the early works of the Episcopalian Henry Hammond, including his much-reprinted A Practicall Catechisme (1645).

When the press passed from Miles Flesher to his son James, c.1649, it swiftly gained a reputation for printing philological works in classical and oriental languages. Given the expense of printing such texts, and their comparatively limited readership, it is hard not to sense that James Flesher took a personal interest in philological endeavours and that he saw the printing of such works as a means to maintain and increase the intellectual prestige of his business. One of Flesher’s earliest books was John Greaves’s Elementa linguæ Persicæ (1649), a short but highly ambitious project which made heavy use of Perso-Arabic characters.[52] The following year James Flesher also printed Greaves’s Astronomica quædam ex traditione Shah Colgii Persæ una cum hypothesibus planetarum (1650),[53] containing an Arabic text attributed to Mahmud Shah Khalji based on the observations of Uluğ Beg and Nasir ad-din at-Tusi, with a parallel Latin translation. Also in 1650, Flesher printed Greaves’s edition and parallel text translation of Uluğ Beg’s own astronomy and geography as Epochæ celebriores, astronomis, historicis, chronologis, Chataiorum, Syro-Græcorum, Arabum, Persarum, Chorasmiorum, usitatæ, complete with tables in multiple languages. Another early book from Flesher’s press was the Diatriba chronologica (1649) by Greaves’s friend John Marsham, a text in Latin with numerous lengthy Greek quotations and Greek marginalia. Flesher was also responsible for printing the 1650, 1653 and 1654 editions of Victorinus Bythner’s Lyra prophetica Davidis Regis, a pioneering publication in its typography, which provided critical commentary on the Psalms with liberal reference to the Greek and Chaldaic versions. The title pages to all these editions suggest that they were to be sold with Flesher’s various editions of Bythner’s Lingua eruditorum as an appendix. Flesher also produced two separate editions of the Lingua eruditorum in 1664 in different formats, one of which had a completely different mise-en-page from the 1650-4 versions. Another joint edition of the Lyra prophetica and Lingua eruditorum was later produced by Flesher’s widow Elizabeth Flesher in 1679. As well as making ample use of Hebrew, the Flesher editions of the Lingua eruditorum contained typographically complex grammatical charts and tables of contents.

During the Commonwealth, Flesher printed John Selden’s De synedriis (1650), James Ussher’s Annales veteris testamenti (1650), Annalium pars posterior (1654), and De textus Hebraici veteris testamenti variantibus lectionibus (1652), Pierre Gassendi’s Institutio astronomica (1653, with Galileo’s Sidereus nuncius published as a second part in the same year), Johannes Kepler’s Dioptrice (1653), and Seth Ward’s Astronomia geometrica (1656). In 1663 he became the first English printer to produce an edition of Æschylus, titled the Tragœdiæ septem, edited by Thomas Stanley; the text included Greek text in more than one size, Latin translation, and Greek commentary. Many of Flesher’s philosophical productions would have been well known to Cudworth in his role as Regius Professor of Hebrew, and several of them (including works by Selden, Ussher, Gassendi and Kepler) feature as references in his 1678 System. A further text which Cudworth is known to have used is Hieronymus Wolf’s edition of Epictetus: the 1655 edition for the bookseller William Morden was probably produced by Flesher, and there was another edition (with text completely reset by the printer) in 1670. Both editions were printed in two columns per page, consisting of the Greek text and a Latin translation facing it.[54] Cudworth may also have read some of Hammond’s later works, most of which were printed by James Flesher for Royston, including Hammond’s Of the Reasonableness of Christian Religion (1650), Dissertationes quatuor (1651), Of Schisme (1653), A Paraphrase, and Annotations upon all the Books of the New Testament (1653), Of Fundamentals (1654). He may also have read Flesher’s editions of Richard Holdsworth’s Gresham College Prælectiones theologicæ (1661) in Latin with Greek quotations, and Charles I’s Workes (1662), the latter of which was also printed for Royston.

Flesher’s experience printing classical and Semitic languages made him an obvious candidate for involvement in three of the most significant works of British scholarship of the century: Brian Walton’s Biblia sacra polyglotta (1657: the ‘London Polyglot’), the Critici sacri (1660), ed. John Pearson et al., and Matthew Poole’s Synopsis criticorum, 4 vols. (1669-76). Flesher’s role in the London Polyglot has never been firmly established; according to contemporary reports he produced a specimen page, c.1653, which accompanied early advertisements for the work; the main text of 1657, however, is credited to the printer Thomas Roycroft. Regardless of Flesher’s deemed fitness to publish the polyglot, his performance as printer of the 1660 Critici sacri is impressive. The text consists of commentary from several figures whose ideas feature prominently in post-Restoration works by Cudworth and More, including Sebastian Münster, Johannes Drusius, Hugo Grotius, and Joseph Scaliger. The typesetting includes long passages of Hebrew and Greek integrated with Latin commentary; the mis en page oscillated between two columns per page (annotations) and single columns (supplementary essays). The production of such a text was expensive, and the costs were probably spread between the six booksellers listed on the title page: Cornelius Bee (who took a £50% stake), Richard Royston, William Wells and Samuel Thomson (London), with Thomas Robinson (Oxford) and William Morden (Cambridge). As we have seen, Cudworth and More knew Morden, the university bookseller, personally, and they both worked with Royston.

One of the key figures for understanding the future direction of the Flesher firm is Cornelius Bee, whose shop was close to Flesher’s press, and who had been the major stakeholder in the Critici sacri. By the time of its publication, Bee’s daughter Elizabeth had married James Flesher, creating added financial and personal incentives for the relationship between printer and bookseller to operate effectively. Unfortunately for both parties, in the case of the Flesher-Bee alliance this was not always the case, as shown a few years later in the debacle over the printing of Matthew Poole’s Synopsis criticorum. Poole was precisely the sort of figure towards whom Henry More had counselled moderation in his Grand Mystery of Godliness (1660): a principled nonconformist who nevertheless maintained cordial relations with member of the Episcopalian hierarchy, and whose scholarship could be seen to benefit the whole of the Reformed church. Bee disliked Poole for the same reasons: not only was Poole a suspect Presbyterian, but he was seeking to profit from the work of hardworking Royalists such as Bee and Royston. In his subscription proposals for the Synopsis, to be printed by Flesher, Poole made it known that he would be using excerpts from the Critici sacri. Bee, who had lost unsold copies of the Critici sacri in the Fire of London, was furious, claiming that his plans to recoup costs by producing a second edition of the Critici sacri would now be rendered unprofitable, having been dramatically undercut in price by Poole’s work. Bee’s subsequent printed attacks on Poole are also thinly veiled criticisms of his son-in-law, not least since Bee did not include Flesher in his lists of those who stood to lose by Poole’s endeavour.[55] When the case went to court, Bee lost, and had to be content with accepting a share of the profits from the sale of the Synopsis. Flesher’s indiscretion in agreeing to publish Poole’s Synopsis probably hastened the end of Bee’s bookshop as a viable concern: between 1635 and 1669 Bee’s name appears on the title page of several prestigious texts, including the London edition of Valentin Schindler’s Lexicon pentaglotton (1635), Erasmus’ Epistolarum (1642), Bede’s Historiæ ecclesiasticæ gentis Anglorum (1644), and works by Selden, Ussher, Greaves, Bythner and Hobbes; after the publication of the first two volumes of Poole’s Synopsis (1669) his name disappears from title pages and he died in 1673, only a year after his rival Flesher. Having lost her husband and her father in quick succession, Elizabeth Flesher was now left in charge of the printing shop. Her continued collaboration with the bookseller Royston must have provided the business with some much-needed stability amid the turbulence of her overlapping professional and personal lives.

Internal evidence from the books which she printed indicates that Elizabeth Flesher was in control of the printing firm from 1672 until 1679, at which point her son Miles Flesher the younger (grandson of Miles the elder) took charge. The books printed by Elizabeth Flesher may divided into three broad categories: legal works, editions of texts formerly printed by her husband, and first editions. Flesher’s privilege for common-law printing was derived from a lease granted in 1664 for 21 years to James Flesher, John Streater and Henry Twyford; by the early 1670s the owners of the lease were Richard and Edward Atkins. Together, Elizabeth Flesher, Streater and Twyford printed standard legal works by Edward Coke and William Sheppard, as well as several editions of An Exact Abridgment of all Statutes in Force and Use. The privilege for law printing had been subject to a series of court cases since the Restoration regarding the right of the Stationers’ Company to print legal texts, and the joint lease fell apart amid expense and mutual recrimination in 1675.[56] Works to which Elizabeth Flesher inherited the rights from her husband James included Nicholas Ling’s ever-popular and relatively cheap work Politeuphuia, Erasmus’ Colloquiorum, Terence’s Comoediæ sex Anglo-Latinæ, Bythner’s Lingua eruditorum, Thomas Shepard’s The Sincere Convert, Hammond’s Workes, Gassendi’s Institutio astronomica, and Henry Smith’s Sermons. She also appears to have collaborated with the printer Roger Norton on the sixth edition of Jeremy Taylor’s History of the Life and Death of the Ever-blessed Jesus Christ (1678), a text which Norton was given the sole credit for printing in the fifth edition of 1675. From the mid-1670s, Elizabeth Flesher also gained a reputation for printing literary works, including Aphra Behn’s Sir Patient Fancy (1678), John Leanard’s The Rambling Justice, Or The Jealous Husbands (1678), Thomas Otway’s Friendship in Fashion (1678), George Sandys’s Ovid’s Metamorphosis Englished (1678), Nahum Tate’s Brutus of Alba: Or, The Enchanted Lovers (1678), and Thomas Otway’s Don Carlos Prince of Spain (1679).

In terms of printing methods and techniques, most of these texts were less demanding than the projects undertaken by James Flesher: in the case of the reprints (but not so much in relation to the play texts, which may not have sold particularly well) they reflect a commercialisation of the press which may have been particularly necessary given the expenses which James Flesher had incurred both in defence of his legal patents and in the production of scholarly works such as the Critici sacri, Poole’s Synopsis, and other philological texts. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Flesher did agree to proceed with the publication of the fourth volume of the Synopsis, and printed some important scholarly works, including an edition of Robert Boyle’s Tracts (1673), Richard Cumberland’s De legibus naturæ disquisitio philosophica (1672),[57] Francis Glisson’s Tractatus de natura substantiæ energetica (1672), Richard Wiseman’s Severall Chirurgical Treatises (1676), and the three parts of Richard Sherlock’s The Practical Christian (1677). Perhaps of most interest to Cudworth would have been Flesher’s production of Henry More’s Enchiridion metaphysicum (1671), one of the first texts to bear the ‘E. Flesher’ imprint. More must have expected this text to have been printed by James Flesher, who was still overseeing the firm for much of 1671; however, its speedy completion suggests that James Flesher’s declining health did not cause a lengthy delay in the printing of already-submitted manuscripts.

As we have seen, the typographical ambition of the Flesher press decreased after James Flesher’s death, perhaps as the consequence of an attempt by his widow to balance the firm’s accounts after a period of considerable legal and commercial expense. However, the continuing activity and intellectual range of the Flesher firm during the early 1670s seems to undermine any potential argument that it was incapable of printing the True Intellectual System after James Flesher’s death. The gap of seven years between the imprimatur and licensing of the System was not the direct result of changes at the firm, and we can demonstrate this by studying the relative dates of the imprimaturs (where they exist) and dates of publication in the texts printed by Elizabeth Flesher in the 1670s. In almost every case where evidence exists, the gap between imprimatur and date of publication is only a year: examples include More’s Enchiridion metaphysicum (21 July 1670 --> 1671), Cumberland’s De legibus naturæ (25 July 1671 --> 1672), Nicholas Cox’s The Gentleman’s Recreation (29 August 1673 --> 1674), George Bull’s Examen censuræ (16 October 1675 --> 1676), Isaac Barrow’s Sermons preached upon Several Occasions (1 November 1677 --> 1678), and Symon Patrick’s The Book of Job paraphras’d (17 December 1678 --> 1679). Other texts, such as Thomas Otway’s Don Carlos (15 June 1676 --> 1676) were licensed and published in the same year. Whatever the reasons for the lengthy gap between imprimatur and licence in the case of Cudworth’s True Intellectual System, they are likely to have been specific to that text and author and do not reflect the practice at Elizabeth Flesher’s press.

We can now move from our speculations about the printing of the True Intellectual System to a brief analysis of some of its typographical features. Many of the Greek contractions to be found in the System - including the words ‘de’, ‘gar’, and ‘kai’, ‘omicron-nu’, ‘epsilon-iota’, ‘epsilon-upsilon’, ‘pi-epsilon-rho’, the terminal ‘omicron-sigma’, and the type pieces for the Greek articles – were in common use in England by the mid seventeenth century. Several of them are present in the earliest Greek texts to be published in England, including John Cheke’s edition of two homilies by Chrysostom (1543), and the six Chrysostom homilies printed at Oxford by Joseph Barnes (1586). However, given the scarcity of Greek printing in Britain in the sixteenth century, it is unlikely that Greek type was produced by British type founders in any quantity before the seventeenth century. The scarcity of Greek type in England in the thirty years prior to Cudworth’s first publications (1642) is testified by the printing history of the so-called ‘Eton Chrysostom’ of 1611-12, generally regarded as a milestone in the printing of Greek texts in Britain. The exact source of the matrices for casting the type for the Eton text has always been a matter of contention, although it has long been assumed that they were copied from continental models and acquired by the editor Henry Savile, c.1608.[58] The type pieces used for the Eton Chrysostom were later acquired by Oxford University, and it is often stated that they were of sufficient importance to be loaned to the press at Cambridge University in 1632 for use in the printing of a Greek New Testament.[59] A quick comparison of the first few pages of the 1611-12 Chrysostom and the Cambridge Novum Testamentum (1632) do indeed suggest the character forms are extremely close in places, although it may be the case that the Cambridge text used a greater range of type, perhaps from more than one source.[60] However, none of these three typefaces – 1543, 1586, and 1611-12 – bear sustained comparison with the type used in Cudworth’s 1678 System.

Instead, the Greek type used in the System is more likely to be related – albeit distantly – to type moulds which began to be used in London in the 1630s. These moulds are often seen as another milestone in the development of Greek printing in the British Isles. The development of Greek printing in London received an inadvertent boost from the accidental production of a ‘Wicked Bible’ in 1631, so called because it included the commandment ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’. The printers of the ‘Wicked Bible’, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were fined £300 for their mistake, and William Laud, then bishop of London, ordered that the money be spent on the production of Greek type, which enabled the operation of a Greek press at Blackfriars in London from the following year.[61] One of its most significant outputs was Patrick Young’s Catena Græcorum patrum in beatum Job (1637) in parallel Greek and Latin text. Young’s text is typographically much more similar to the True Intellectual System than our examples from 1543, 1586, and 1611-12 particularly in its use of Greek contractions, but there are still some major differences: for example, both the omicron-sigma and the gamma-alpha-rho contractions are different between the two texts.

Another possible route to uncovering the origins of Cudworth’s Greek is to consider the implications of a Star Chamber decree of 1637 – the same decree which prompted Milton’s Areopagitica – which stipulated that ‘there shall be foure Founders of letters for printing allowed, and no more’: in 1637 there names were John Grismand, Thomas Wright, Arthur Nichols, and Alexander Fifield.[62] Two of these individuals, Wright and Fifield, are virtually unknown. Grismand also worked as a bookseller; a quick study of John Mayer’s Ecclesiastica interpretatio (1627) sold by Grismand, reveals a Greek type superficially similar to that of Cudworth’s 1678 System, but sufficiently different – for example, in its use of a long unhooked tau in suffix positions – to discount any theory that the type came directly from his same matrices. The fourth founder mentioned in the 1637 decree is Arthur Nichols, a man known to have produced Greek type, although evidence of how it was used is difficult to establish; in the 1630s he appears to have specialised in cutting the type for English-language bibles in small formats. However, it is not known which of the four founders – if any – benefited from Laud’s instruction to set up a Greek press.

The four founders mentioned in the 1637 Star Chamber decree are widely assumed to have contributed type to Brian Walton’s Biblia sacra polyglotta of 1657. From the outset, the printing and publishing of the London Polyglot was a collective endeavour: although Thomas Roycroft was eventually credited as the printer, Walton and his published had relied on the collaboration of several other individuals and firms in the print business to see the process through from start to finish, including founders, printers, and proofers. In 1652 two sets of proposals for printing the Polyglot were issued, printed by Roger Norton, while a letter from Abraham Wheelock to the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University suggests that an error-ridden specimen page of the Polyglot was produced by the printer James Flesher at around the same time.[63] By the 1650s Greek printing was quite widespread in England, encouraged by the sizeable quantity of philological works produced by James Flesher, Roger Norton and other printers. However, the huge amount of Greek, Hebrew, and Semitic text required by the London Polyglot must also have encouraged printers to invest in new type. Indeed, the importance of the London Polyglot as a spur to the improved typesetting of these languages is itself marked in the story of Flesher’s dodgy specimen: for the Polyglot to be produced, all the printers involved needed to raise their game.

By the 1670s the number of printers with the ability to print Greek effectively had risen substantially from the number available to Selden in the 1620s. Cudworth would have been well aware of this shift not only in the number of printers of Greek but in the general standard of accuracy that could be expected from them. Indeed, it seems reasonable to suggest that without the increasingly widespread availability of Greek type and experienced typesetters, Cudworth’s predilection for Greek quotations could have led to considerable technical and economic challenges when his work came to press. Following these mid-century developments in Greek printing, however, the Greek-heavy fourth chapter of the System would have been well within the capability of any printer who had either directly participated in the printing of the London Polyglot, or who had benefited from the wider print culture which it had encouraged.

The quantity of Hebrew in the True Intellectual System is surprisingly small given Cudworth’s eminent status as a Professor of Hebrew, and the prominence of that language in his earliest publications. The True Intellectual System, however, is concerned much less with the historical and philological implications of Rabbinic and Karaite scriptural interpretation, focusing overwhelmingly on Greek and Latin sources. Examples of printed Hebrew are, nevertheless, present on pages 339, 376, 451, 467-71, 794 and 797. [Arabic, p. 287] [Greek MS, p. 318] Some of these examples consist of single words, such as [heat/sun] and [Chamanim] on p. 339, or [Cabiri] on p. 451; other cases consist of a short clause or sentence, such as the ‘received Doctrine of the Hebrews’ [‘That God and his Name are all one’] on p. 376 or Maimonides’ aphorism [‘That in the World to Come, (or State of Consummate Happiness) there shall be nothing at all of Body, but Pure Incorporeity’] on p. 794. The final example in the text is taken from the Gemara [‘If you Ask what shall become of the Righteous, when God shall renew the world; the Answer is; God shall make them wings like Eagles, whereby they shall fly upon the Face of the Waters.’], and forms part of discussion of animal bodies and spiritual bodies during a section on the agreement between Christianity and the Pythagorean Cabbala (p. 797). The most extensive presentation of Hebrew texts occurs on pp. 467-71; in a style that recalls Cudworth’s 1642 treatises on spiritual marriage and the Lord’s Supper, he cites (and translates) passages from Maimonides, Moses ben Jacob Albelda, Joseph Albo, Kimchi and Rabbi Solomon to demonstrate how Jewish writers had opposed pagan polytheism throughout the centuries.

The development of Hebrew type in England is perhaps slightly more illuminating in relation to Cudworth than the story of Greek type, particularly because some of its chief protagonists were individuals with whom Cudworth had an intellectual and sometimes personal affinity. As was the case with Greek printing, there were isolated examples in the sixteenth century, one of the most notable being Wynkyn de Worde’s edition of Robert Wakefield’s Oratio (1524), containing both Hebrew and Arabic; an important Elizabethan example is S. Waterson’s publication of Robert Dallington’s translation of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1592).[64] However, as we have already seen in our account of Miles Flesher the elder, Hebrew printing did not become widespread until the production of John Selden’s works in the 1610s. John Selden’s Titles of Honor (1614), printed by William Stansby for John Helme, included Arabic engraved on wooden blocks, and Hebrew printed with sloping characters.[65] Stansby also printed Selden’s De dIs Syris (1617) using the same Hebrew type as the 1614 volume. Selden’s Historie of Tithes (1618) appears to use different Hebrew type (the printer is not stated), but his Marmora Arundelliana (1628) was printed using similar (sloping) type to the 1614 and 1617 publications, perhaps suggesting the continued involvement of Stansby. Cudworth would have known these early publications of Selden very well, and no doubt he noted the increasing technological facility for Hebrew printing in Britain, as well as the pre-eminence of the Stansby firm in this area.

In the 1640s Hebrew printing in England underwent a further shift: Selden’s De jure naturali & gentium (1640) was no longer printed by Stansby but by Richard Bishop, using a vertical rather than a sloping typeface, with much cleaner edges. This mid-century preference for vertical/square Hebrew characters is also on display in the printed edition of Cudworth’s Christ and the Church (1642), a text which may be viewed as a commentary on aspects of Selden’s De jure naturali and which was also published (and presumably printed) by Bishop at his premises in London. That Cudworth’s publication shared typographical as well as intellectual features with Selden’s text is not surprising: as the Regius Professor of Hebrew, Cudworth would have known Selden’s works well, and later in the 1640s they exchanged letters over aspects of Cudworth’s similarly Selden-inspired Discourse concerning the True Notion of the Lords Supper (1642).

However, when the True Intellectual System was printed some thirty years later, the type was quite different in style from Cudworth’s earlier works, as demonstrated particularly by the shape of the mem graph. Similar type to the 1678 edition was used in the London Polyglot (1658), in which James Flesher may have had a hand, although the aleph is quite different in shape. The Critici sacri of 1660, which Flesher took a leading role in printing, uses an aleph slightly closer to that found in the 1678 Cudworth publication, although the strokes appear to be slightly thinner.[66] The most notable difference between 1660 and 1678 is in the shape of the central stroke of the shin grapheme. Here, the printing of the four volumes of Poole’s Synopsis criticorum is instructive: volumes 1-3 (1669-71) were printed by James Flesher, and volume 4 by Elizabeth Flesher (1676); in all four volumes the shin grapheme here is closer to the 1660 Critici sacri than to the 1678 System. While this does not provide concrete evidence that the True Intellectual System was not printed by Elizabeth Flesher, it does complicate the picture.

During our brief survey of the work of Norton, Macock and the Fleshers we have not yet found compelling evidence to indicate who printed the True Intellectual System. On the other hand, we have shown that the printing of such a text must have resulted from a combination of personal, legal, political, and intellectual factors. Among the personal factors were the networks of printers and booksellers, all of whom balanced the competing demands of speed, cost, and reliability, and whose professional relations were sometimes – in the case of the Fleshers, for example – interwoven with their familial duties. Legally, the issue of right to copy cast a long shadow over the printing of academic texts after the Restoration, not least in the light of the lengthy dispute over the printing of Poole’s Synopsis. Politically speaking, printers after the Restoration often considered it advantageous to hide their civil war affiliations and formed alliances across the divide in order to business objectives (even if this did not always safeguard their profits); nevertheless, Cudworth’s working relationship with Royston does suggest at the very least that he was happy to associate himself with a bookseller well known for his publication of Episcopalian and Royalist texts. Finally, there is the difficult question of printers’ intellectual motivation. While it would not be correct to assume that printers routinely prioritised texts which dovetailed with their own intellectual interests, it is the case, as we have seen, that some printers gained reputations for competence in typesetting philologically complex works, even in cases where the profit motive could have been slim. At present, it is not possible to state with any confidence who printed the True Intellectual System. However, it does seem likely that it was a printer who – like Roger Norton and Elizabeth Flesher – could point to prior success in the printing of abstruse philosophical and philological works.

[1] According to the memorialist Richard Smyth, Richard Coates died on 13 January 1652/3: The Obituary of Richard Smyth (1849), 31. See Plomer.

[2] The foliation of the EEBO copy is A1r-2v, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L1r-v, amounting to 78 pages.

[3] Bodleian Library, MS Selden Supra 108, fos. 272, 264.

[4] Bodleian Library, MS Selden Supra 108, fo. 262.

[5] 1642, pp. 29, 36, 57; 1670, pp. 41, 50, 81.

[6] Bodleian Library, MS Selden Supra 108, fo. 270.

[7] Plomer, Dictionary.

[8] In both texts, Cudworth’s long paragraphs lead to large blocks of text, to some extent relieved by changes in the typeface; both texts exhibit a general preference for initial ‘V’ over ‘U’, but initial ‘I’ and ‘J’ both appear [was this the printers’ choice, or Cudworth’s?].

[9] Christ and the Church, 3.

[10] Christ and the Church, p. 13, probably referring to Grotius’ commentary on Matthew 19.

[11] Worthington, II.1, 135.

[12] History of the University of Oxford, IV, 423, cited in John Spurr, ‘Sheldon, Gilbert (1598-1677)’, ODNB.

[13] Worthington, II.1, 135.

[14] Worthington, II.1, 150.

[15] Worthington, II.1, 138; Evans was a Fellow of Jesus College Cambridge and a Canon of Windsor.

[16] Worthington, II.1, 140; presumably these sheets corresponded to sigs. B-->F (pp. 1-40)

[17] Worthington, II.1, 140.

[18] Worthington, II.1, 140-1; a large proportion of Cudworth’s manuscript writings on Daniel may be found in the British Library, Add. MSS 4987-8.

[19] Worthington, II.1, 140-2.

[20] Worthington, II.1, 150-1.

[21] Worthington, II.1, 151-2.

[22] See also Worthington to George Evans, 28 October 1664: ‘Dr. Cudworth’s sermon is not yet finished. Some have written to him to add two or three more to it. If so, it would make a handsome volume.’ (Worthington, II.1, 138); same to same, 9 November 1664: ‘There are only five sheets as yet printed of Dr. Cudworth’s sermon.’ (Worthington, II.1, 140); same to same, 12 November 1664: ‘I perceive now that Dr. Cudworth will not at this time add any sermons more.’ (Worthington, II.1, 140); same to same, 18 November 1664: ‘Dr. Cudworth’s sermon had been finished ere this but that the death of old Mr. Flesher (who died suddenly in his bed) hath hindered the printing work for this week. This night he is buried. To-morrow they return to their trade again.’ Was there talk of a dedication to the Archbishop of Canterbury? See Worthington, II.1, 150-4.

[23] Worthington, II.1, 143.

[24] See also Worthington to Ingelo, 19 October 1667 (Worthington, II.1, 246-7).

[25] Worthington, II.1, 157.

[26] Worthington, II.1, 159.

[27] Cudworth, True Intellectual System, 2nd edition, ed. Thomas Birch (1743), xix-xx.

[28] Using the upper estimate of 140,000 words and based on a figure of approx. 595 words a page extrapolated from BL Add MS 4980: 140,000 / 595 = 235.3 pages.

[29] Worthington, II.1, 157-8.

[30] Worthington, II.1, 157-61.

[31] Worthington, II.1, 161-2.

[32] Worthington, II.1, 163.

[33] Worthington, II.163-7.

[34] Worthington, II.172-3.

[35] Chandler, Defence, sigs. A2r-4v.

[36] Cudworth, Treatise (1731), iii-iv.

[37] Cudworth, Treatise (1731), iv-vi.

[38] Cudworth, Treatise (1731), vi-viii.

[39] Cudworth, Treatise (1731), 5.

[40] Cudworth, Treatise (1731), 1-37. The words ‘Theologic[k]’ and ‘Stoic[k]’ not appear in the first book either.

[41] Worthington, II.2, 293.

[42] Ward, Life (1710), 358.

[43] Stationers’ Register, III, 41.

[44] True Intellectual System, p. 633.

[45] True Intellectual System, sig. *1r.

[46] Edward Millington, Bibliotheca Cudworthiana (London, 1691).

[47] A. F. Johnson, ‘The King’s Printers, 1660-1742’, The Library, s5-III/1 (June 1948): 33-8 (33).

[48] There might be some slight discrepancies in the Hebrew typeface between the first and second volumes of the Scriptorum philosophicorum, but this is not certain.

[49] Edward Plomer, A Dictionary of the Booksellers and Printers who were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1641 to 1667 (London, 1907), 121.

[50] Perhaps best described as the third and first volumes of More’s Opera omnia (1675-9).

[51] The same collaboration probably printed Montagu’s [Theanthropikon], 1640 – but pars posterior has two title pages, one attributing the printing to R. Olton and Eliz. Purslow; Montagu was a Laudian, later beloved of the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement: John S. Macauley, ‘Mountague, Richard’, ODNB.

[52] Despite an admirable clarity of mise-en-page, both EEBO copies of the book appear to have odd and even pages reversed.

[53] ODNB states that the text contains data from Uluğ Beg and Nasir ad-din at-Tusi, also mentioning Mahmud Shah Khalji (i.e. Mahmud Khilji, 1436-69)

[54] 1655 contents: Epictetus Enchiridion; Cebetis; Wolfii Annotationes; Arriani Commentariorum; Wolfii Annotationes; index; Porphyry De Abstinentia; Porphyry De vita Pythagorae; Porphyry De antro nympharum, Sententia, De Styge; Valentini Annotatiunculae in Porphyrium; Holestenii, De vita & scriptis Porphyrii; index to Porphyry section. 1670 contents: Epictetus Enchiridion; Cebetis; Simplicius, Commentarius; index; Arriani Commentariorum; index.

[55] Cornelius Bee, The Case of Cornelius Bee and his Partners ([London], c.1667); Matthew Poole, A Just Vindication of Mr. Poole’s Design for Printing of his Synopsis of Critical and other Commentators ([London], c.1667); Cornelius Bee, Mr. Bee’s Answer to Mr. Poole’s Second Vindication of his Design for Printing A Synopsis of Criticall and other Commentators ([London], 1668).

[56] J. H. Baker, ‘English Law Books and Legal Publishing’, in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume IV: 1557-1695, ed. John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie with Maureen Bell (Cambridge, 2002), 474-503 (484-9).

[57] A recent critic’s complaint that the book is poorly printed is unjustified: long lists of errata are common in texts of this period: Jon Parkin, ‘Cumberland, Richard’, ODNB.

[58] Robert Proctor, ‘The French Royal Greek Types and the Eton Chrysostom’, in The Library, TBS 7 (1902): 49-74.

[59] Talbot Baines Reed, A History of the Old English Letter Foundries (London, 1887), 140-2.

[60] See, for example, the use of a curved tau in the 1632 text.

[61] Reed (1887), 142-4.

[62] Reed (1887), 130.

[63] Henry John Todd, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Right Rev. Brian Walton, D.D. (1821), 54-7.

[64] Geoffrey Roper, ‘Arabic Printing and Publishing in England before 1820’, Bulletin of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 12 (1985): 12-32 (12-13)

[65] For further discussion, see Constance Harris, The Way Jews Lived: Five Hundred Years of Printed Words and Images (Jefferson and London, 2009).

[66] An alternative interpretation might be that Walton’s Introductio ad lectionem linguarum orientalium (1655), printed by Thomas Roycroft, has a similar aleph to the Critici sacri (1660) and Poole’s Synopsis (1669), both printed by Flesher; but that all are different to the System (1678).

Cite as: Publication History of Ralph Cudworth’s Works,, accessed 2024-07-12.