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An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding (EHU) was first published in 1748. From 1758 to 1777 this work appeared in the collection published under the title Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects (ETSS). The last edition seen through the press with Hume's supervision appeared in 1772. This edition is the copytext in the present edition. The posthumous edition of 1777 has been consulted for evidence of late authorial changes and generally has been followed when the changes are substantive, but not when they are purely formal. A history of Hume's editions of EHU, with pertinent bibliographical data, is provided in the Introduction.

The text was initially prepared from a photocopy of the 1772 edition of ETSS in the Hume collection of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Libraries.1 This copy has been inspected for printing or photocopying vagaries by collating it with three originals of the 1772 edition privately acquired by the editor. In addition, two of the privately acquired copies and seven additional copies obtained from libraries2 were optically (or 'mechanically') collated against one of the other privately acquired copies using a McLeod Portable Collator.3 David Fate Norton and his associates performed these collations of the 1772 copies either at his office or at the Colgate Collection of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Libraries in Montreal. Several variants were discovered by these collations, but none proved to be significant.4 All differences appear to have been generated by imperfect inking or type problems (breakages of type or slippage in the position of the type during printing). In pg cviaddition, no cancels were discovered in a physical examination by the editor of six bound copies.

Variant readings among the several editions of EHU, reported here for the first time, were collected over a ten-year period by both visual collation and computer collation. Two independent, complete visual collations were performed against the copytext, and multiple complete computer collations were performed by comparing the copytext to all other editions published from 1748 to 1777. All apparent variants were verified by consulting the original printed texts, and computer files were corrected whenever mistakes of entry were detected. Using this procedure, each file of each edition was checked for accuracy at least three times after the initial collation was completed. The accuracy of the computer file of the copytext was corroborated by twenty independent computer comparisons with the corrected computer files of the other editions. After this work was completed and a full critical apparatus constructed, all texts of all editions were independently collated (for both formal and substantive variants) using the program Collate developed by Peter Robinson at the Oxford Computing Centre. All variants discovered by this method were compared against the variants produced by the previous methods, and all discrepancies eliminated after consulting the original printed texts.

Also included in this volume is an Advertisement, or notice, that Hume published late in life. This Advertisement expresses some of his views about the importance of his later works, including An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. The Advertisement was printed in January 1776 in three formats to be placed in the unsold copies of the 1768, 1770, and 1772 editions. No copies of the versions printed for insertion in the editions of 1768 and 1772 have been discovered. The 1777 edition is the base text in the critical edition. Several copies of this edition have been collated and compared to two copies of the 1770 edition that have survived.5

The rationale behind the choice of copytext and the acceptance of substantive changes in the 1777 edition, as well as the methods used to convert the copytext into the critical text, are explained in the Editorial Appendix. This appendix also contains an account of editorial policy with regard to substantive emendation, choice of punctuation, correction of errors, and the like. A record of all substantive variants in editions prepared for the press by Hume is included.

All references made by Hume in his footnotes (and endnotes in the 1770–7 pg cviieditions) have been checked against appropriate early modern editions of the sources and have been corrected whenever Hume or his compositor introduced errors into the citation of units such as page, book, and chapter numbers. The sources that warrant these corrections appear in the works listed in the Catalogue or in the Reference List. Occasionally Hume's numbering is correct for the editions of his day, but the numbering system is no longer standard. Whenever a conflict of numbering systems occurs, the numbering in both editions is cited by the editor, with the older numbering system in parentheses. All emendations to the notes are reported in the Editorial Appendix.

Editorial explanation of Hume's spare footnotes is found in the annotations. This material provides more complete information on the works cited by Hume. Precise volumes, books, chapters, sections, lines, verses, and the like have been supplied, wherever feasible.6 No editorial intrusions appear in the text itself, but numbers are placed in the margin at the head of each paragraph and line numbers have been added, in order to establish a universal reference system that allows precise citation without use of page cviii


1 Shelf-mark B1455 1772 v.2 c. 1.

2 Special Collections Divisions of the following libraries: Chuo University, Tokyo (Vault); Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC (shelf-mark B1455 1772 Cage); New York State Library, University of the State of New York, Albany, NY (shelf-mark B1455, 1772); Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (shelf-mark B1455, 1772); Guy W. Bailey/David W. Howe Library, University of Vermont (shelf-mark B1455, 1772); Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin (shelf-mark B1455, 1772); McGill University, copy 2 (shelf-mark B1455 1772 v.2 c.2). The editor has inspected, but not collated, additional copies of the 1772 edition from the National Library of Scotland, the British Library, and the Honnold Library, Claremont.

3 Randall McLeod, 'Collator in a Handbag'.

4 The variants in EHU were: (1) p. 17, line 7, poorly set piece of type, showing a shadowy image of an inverted L (Folger Shakespeare copy and editor's personal copy); (2) p. 56, line 6, two commas after 'principle' (McGill copy); (3) p. 102, last line, missing the catchword 'fruits' (Folger Shakespeare copy); (4) p. 127, an extra '3' at the foot of the page—a press figure (McGill copy, Chuo copy, and Bodleian copy), indicating resetting in the course of production.

5 Copy 1 is in the Liverpool University Library; copy 2 has been in a private collection held by the late A. Wayne Colver.

6 Many of the works cited in Hume's footnotes and in the Catalogue and Reference List vary from edition to edition in their organization and numbering, especially by comparison with 20th-century editions. These variations can be subtle and confusing. For example, Locke's numbering in his fifth and final edition of the Essay (the most widely reprinted edition) is different from the numbering in the fourth edition, on which the critical edition of Locke and references in the present edition of Hume are based.

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