Sir Thomas More. Utopia: Latin Text and English Translation. Eds. George M. Logan, Robert M. Adams and Clarence Miller. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995. xlvi+290 pp. ISBN 0521403189.
Romuald I. Lakowski.

Lakowski, Romuald I. "Review of Utopia: Latin Text and English Translation." Early Modern Literary Studies 2.3 (1996): 15.1-7 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/02-3/rev_lak2.html>.

  1. The 1995 Cambridge edition of Utopia, edited by G. M. Logan, R. M. Adams and C. H. Miller, is the first since the Yale edition of 1965, edited by J.H. Hexter and E. Surtz, to include both the Latin text and an English translation. These two editions together with the French-Latin edition of André Prévost (Paris: Mame, 1978) constitute the only scholarly editions of the Latin text published in recent years. (Latin and English texts of Utopia are also available electronically in SGML format through the Oxford Text Archive Series, 2079 and 2080.) The strengths and limitations of the Cambridge edition (C), can perhaps best be illustrated by comparing it to the Yale edition (Y) and Prévost's L'Utopie (P). (Prévost's edition is currently available through the journal Moreana.)

  2. To begin with, the Yale edition remains the standard critical edition of Utopia, based on the four earliest editions: Antwerp, 1516; Paris, 1517; and Basle, March and November 1518. Both the Yale and Cambridge editors chose (for reasons too complex to go into here) the March 1518 edition as the basis for their copytexts (see C, 270-7; Y, clxxxii-cxxiv; and P, 215-40.) However, the Cambridge edition lacks the scholarly apparatus of the Yale and Prévost editions, though it does include about 125 footnotes to the Latin text in a tiny but readable font, giving some of the principal variants and emendations to the text. There are also about 350 background notes to the English translation and introductory materials. Prévost's is not a critical edition, but rather reprints a facsimile of the November 1518 edition together with a detailed critical apparatus giving textual variants from the other editions. (There is also a facsimile of the 1516 edition available in the Scolar Press Facsimile Series.)

  3. In presenting the Latin text, the Cambridge editors primarily had readers in mind who "are specialists in fields such as English literature or the history of political thought; that is, readers who have some Latin but are not Neo-Latin scholars"(C, xi). Unlike the Yale edition, the spelling of the Latin has been regularized and the text has been thoroughly repunctuated according to modern conventions. (Anyone familiar with the vagiaries of Renaissance punctuation can appreciate the benefits but also potential hazards in doing so.) Very helpfully, paragraphing has also been added to the Latin text to correspond to that of the English translation. As with the Yale and Prévost editions, line numbering has been added to the Latin text to aid citation. (For the Latin text, see C, xxxlii-xli; cf. Y, 579-82; P, 241-53.)

  4. The English translation used in the Cambridge edition, made by R.M. Adams, was first published in the 1975 Norton edition of Utopia. A revised version of this translation, edited by G.M. Logan and R.M. Adams, appeared in 1989 in the series Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, and in 1992 in the 2nd edition of the Norton translation. This translation was again further revised and expanded (by including translations of the parerga from the early editions) for the current edition, incorporating many suggestions by Germain Marc'hadour, the director of the journal Moreana, to whom the Cambridge edition is dedicated, and by Clarence H. Miller, the current executive editor of the now almost-finished Yale edition of The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, and who is also listed as one of the editors of the final edition. The Cambridge translation compares favourably with the translation of the Yale edition, and it is certainly one of the best modern English translations of Utopia available. The Yale translation, a revised version by E. Surtz of the first modern English translation of Utopia by G. C. Richards in 1923, was, in fact, rather heavily criticized by Miller and others when it first came out. (Later printings of the Yale edition incorporated many of Miller's suggested corrections.) Prévost's French translation also reads very well and it has become the standard French translation of L'Utopie since 1978.

  5. In one respect at least the Cambridge edition is superior to both the Yale and Prévost editions. More's Utopia is described on its title page as a libellus or "handbook" and was in fact a rather slender little volume. The Cambridge edition can be described as (a rather largish) handbook in a way that most definitely cannot be applied to the rather massive tomes of the Yale and Prévost editions. The Yale edition has an introduction that is almost 200 pages long (Y, xv-cxiv) and over 300 pages of textual commentary (Y, 255-570), while Prévost's introduction is almost 300 pages long (P, 23-306), and his notes contribute another 175 pages (P, 647-723) to the heft of his L'Utopie. Prévost's edition, however, does include an immensely valuable detailed synopsis of the structure of More's Utopia (P, 279-306), lacking in the English language editions, and his literary theoretical discussion of "L'Utopie, Expérience existentielle" (P, 61-214, esp. 127-162) complements Hexter's highly influential "Utopia and its Historical Milieu"(Y, xxiii-cxxiv). By contrast G. M. Logan's introduction is admirably brief and unobtrusive (C, xvii-xxxiii), ideal for those students of More's Latin who find the bulk of the scholarly apparatus of the Yale and Prévost editions rather cumbersome.

  6. The handling of the parerga, or introductory matters of the early editions contributed by various humanist friends of More and Erasmus, also seems less intrusive in the Cambridge edition, which follows the order of the March 1518 edition (C, 1-29, 250-69), as opposed to the Yale edition, which prints almost all the parerga before More's text (Y, 1-37, 248-53) in an order that doesn't exactly match that of any of the early editions. The Yale edition did make a valuable contribution in drawing attention to this hitherto neglected introductory material, but foregrounding it too much also risked confusing readers. The marginalia of the early editions, which in the Yale edition are typeset within indented boxes in the text, are printed in the margins of the Cambridge edition in a tiny hard-to-read italic font even smaller than that of the footnotes. In contrast, Prévost's translations of the marginalia, which are also printed in the margins, are quite readable.

  7. The Cambridge edition contains a "Brief Guide to Scholarship" (C, xlii-xlvi), a bibliography (C, 277-84) and a short index (C, 285-90). Prévost's edition also has a bibliography of modern scholarship (P, 727-44), and a detailed index (P, 745-76) that includes definitions of key critical terms used in his introduction. This is a practice that I wish more literary theorists would follow. The Yale edition also includes a bibliography of primary sources (Y, 259-66) and an extensive index of names (Y, 589-629). (All the secondary works of modern scholarship devoted to Utopia, listed in the "Brief Guide" and the "Works Cited" sections of the Cambridge edition can also be found cited in my Bibliography of Thomas More's Utopia in EMLS 1.2.) Everything about the Cambridge edition, including the care taken over accidentals, indicates that it is a labour of love, incorporating the best fruits of modern Morean scholarship, and as such it deserves a place in the libraries of modern Utopia scholars, alongside the Yale and Prévost editions.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at EMLS@UAlberta.ca.

© 1996, R.G. Siemens (Editor, EMLS).
(December 31, 1996)