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PUFENDORF’S PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION OF 1667 1 - Samuel von Pufendorf, The Present State of Germany 
The Present State of Germany, trans. Edmund Bohun, edited and with an Introduction by Michael J. Seidler (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007).
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PUFENDORF’S PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION OF 16671
You have asked me in many letters, dearest brother Laelius, about my intentions and thoughts while traveling around Germany for so long, and I want now to explain these to you in a few words as I am finally drawn homeward by your insistent requests. For our nation is otherwise known for its disinclination to traveling about, because we believe that our talents shine forth by virtue of their own natural goodness and do not need external refinement. Among those beyond the Alps [i.e., Germans], however, one acquires a certain reputation for wisdom if one has so much as seen Italy from the highest mountains.
You know how the matter which I crossed the Alps to accomplish detained me at the Bavarian court longer than expected. There, in my eagerness to relieve the boredom, I began to read more carefully the things written by one or other of us [Italians] about the German [Thirty Years’] War. For the Germans themselves have more faith in these authors than in their own citizens, who are either clearly partial toward one or other side, or afraid to tell the whole truth; and their most prominent book about that war, spread over many volumes, deserves more than the Chaos of the ancients to be called “an unfinished and disorderly heap.”3 As I read it I was overcome by astonishment at the great exertion brought bear, at the number and horrors of the battles waged, and at how a land which its citizens no less than outsiders had labored to destroy for thirty years could survive such great disasters. Hence my mind was filled with a desire to examine more closely the strength and wealth of this nation [gens ], the variety of its peoples, and also the kind of connection holding so immense a body together.
I demonstrated great patience in this task, almost more than could be expected from a fastidious Italian. For in addition to learning the German language (which surpasses all European languages in difficulty) required for that end, I began also with the conviction that the state [status ] of Germany could not be thoroughly known except by one who had examined from head to toe all writers of that nation [nationis ] who have treated of public law, as they call it. Therefore, I asked a certain councillor with a library well-stocked in that field, somewhat presumptuously, to supply me with the authors whom he thought most appropriate for my purpose. This person, seeking to be as accommodating as possible but also to exhibit his extensive holdings, used two strong servants groaning under the weight of several carrying trays to fill my chamber with books, to the point that there was hardly any room left for me. And, he added, these were just an appetizer for the time being, to prepare my stomach for the proper meal that would soon follow. Here I was stunned, like one who has stepped upon an unexpected snake among sharp brambles,4 and groaned over the many torments that I had voluntarily brought upon myself. For it did not seem appropriate, on the one hand, that I should be exhausted by a mere glance after having shown such eagerness to learn; yet, on the other hand, the expression of curiosity about another country [respublica ] did not seem so great a crime that I deserved to die so cruel a death.
As I stood there sweating, I was finally relieved by something I once heard from one of our native [Italian] scholars: that Germans are infected by an incurable writer’s itch5 —even though very few of them can produce anything capable of evoking the applause of their refined contemporaries by virtue of either its inventive cleverness or creative charm. Nonetheless, [he said,] lest they be too sparing of paper, which perishes anyway, most of them combine randomly gathered bits and pieces into a mass to which hardly a grain of judgment has been added. Nor do they consider it plagiarism to sell as new, works of others which have [only] been touched up in a few places. Some of them, finally, believe that they deserve a place among authors because they have reduced a more extensive work to a compendium or—God willing—to tables, as a mnemonic aid or to relieve stupidity. And so, to be honest, I rather expected that by knowing one of these writers I would know the lot of them, because most [also] regard themselves as legal experts, among whom it has become a rule to copy one another faithfully.
Having steeled my mind in this way, I proceeded patiently to read through from the beginning one of these works that was more conspicuous than the rest on account of its bulk, and that I had heard especially commended by many people.6 It was one, as well, about which I correctly believed that, as a compilation of all previous works, it had been treated similarly by those that followed it. In this author, that which could have made me indignant in the case of others somehow seemed like a relief. For the more impertinent things were stuffed randomly into the account, the more quickly I seemed to be carried [through it] toward the end. Now it was certainly possible in this way to gain a sufficient familiarity with the German Empire’s external appearance. It seemed quite absurd, however, that though the author displayed everywhere a feverish knowledge of the Civil [i.e., Roman] Law and attached to it whatever he had ever read or heard, I found nothing there which revealed even a mediocre understanding of sound politics. For annotating those prior works requires only a moderate diligence, and no intelligence, and those who rush before the public in order to explain the structure of so irregular a state [as the German Empire], while barely cognizant of their country’s [Germany’s] history and of civil science, might rightly be described as asses playing the lyre.7
Now after I had made it through that tedious reading and discovered, as well, that most authors go astray playing the same tune, I decided that I should take a different path; and [so], putting aside the inanities of worthless little books, I began rather to examine whatever seemed doubtful by asking men who had been tested in practical affairs. The fruits I derived from this undertaking were not inconsiderable. For beside the fact that I learned many things which you would seek in vain in books, that curiosity also earned me much good will from a people already well inclined toward outsiders. They were especially pleased to find in me none of that revulsion toward their affairs that is so familiar in most [other] outsiders. And the more boldly and frankly they saw me dealing with them, the more generously they embraced me as an imitator, as it were, of the candor for which they themselves so enjoy being praised. So I finally decided to make more use of the good will thus offered to me by this people.8
Having finished the business in Munich to my satisfaction, I therefore betook myself to Regensburg at a time when the recent fear of a Turkish war had drawn many princes there.9 Here it was quite easy to behold the character [ingenium ] of German affairs with one glance, and [to see] how loosely that structure [i.e., the empire] hangs together. But with my Bavarian friend preparing the way, I was also able to get to know a man whose equal I have hardly ever met in Germany, who was then in charge of the court at Mainz and highly regarded by most Germans.10 He received me with the greatest kindness, such as an unknown traveller could hardly expect from a man whose favor the learned often thought it honourable to seek even through public flattery. And, indeed, this man’s support not only gained me many friends in Regensburg, but when I had indicated to him my intention to travel through a part of Germany he also equipped me with letters to various courts which, like friendship tokens, generated for me a most gracious hospitality.
Next I followed the Danube down to Vienna where several of my countrymen, whose fortune there had been very favorable, saw to it that I was not regarded as a foreigner. Then something advantageous happened, in that a certain Imperial minister with whom I had already become friends was sent off to the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg. I was quite pleased to join him as a companion when he invited me, especially once he had assured me that the reputation of Italian sobriety could protect me from drowning in wine because of excessive politeness. For according to that nation’s customs, it is generally regarded as cowardly to value one’s own health over the customary libations thereto.
After leaving Berlin I was received at the court of the Duke of Braunschweig. There, beside other things, I was most pleased to converse with a professor from a neighboring university whom I had already heard highly recommended in Regensburg for his knowledge of German affairs.11 For he also agreed with me in most respects concerning the state of Germany and readily shared with me his writings, which reveal a much different character than that other heap of books. In them, although much was stated freely enough, it was nonetheless quite clear that he had concealed more than a few things so as not to offend the powerful or incite the complaints of dullards against himself. From that time on, I first thought of setting these things to paper, because I hoped that perhaps the truth would be more readily accepted if it came from a stranger lacking in partiality, or not suspected of currying favor or exacting revenge.
Having come thus far, it seemed lazy not to visit the Netherlands. This would have detained me longer if your insistent letters, as well as affairs at home, had not brought me to think seriously about returning to our fatherland. Therefore, ascending along the Rhine, I experienced at Düsseldorf the same kindness previously shown to me at Neuburg [in Bavaria]. Nor was Bonn any less hospitable. I seemed less welcome at Mainz because I had, through imprudence, greatly praised the services of that minister who had, in the meantime, been dismissed from their employ for I know not what reasons.12 Despite being in a hurry, I was compelled to halt in Heidelberg by a desire to see the Palatine Elector,13 whose character and wisdom—many people had told me—are unequalled among German princes. And, indeed, though the fame he enjoys for his praiseworthy qualities is not slight, he seemed so to live up to his reputation that I consider it among the chief fruits of my travel through Germany to have called on that prince and seen his endowments close up. The pleasantness of my stay there allowed me to devote only a few days’ time to Stuttgart, though I do not regret having visited it as well.
You see now, dearest brother, how I spent my time among the Germans, and how valuable it has been to have partaken so substantially of the hospitality extended by this very forthright nation. I can offer it no other thanks now except a true depiction of its Empire. I trust, at least, that this little work will not be unappreciated by my own countrymen, because it also sets forth most of the things into which they themselves usually inquire when seeking to know the countries of outsiders, presented with a disciplined brevity to satisfy the fastidious.
I gladly dedicate it to you, dearest brother, not only to make up for the delay which has caused you no small bother in taking care of my affairs, but also to assure you that there was something in Germany to exercise my curiosity. For, otherwise, both your favors toward me and the mutual affection between us are too great to be adequately expressed, even in part, by such a small token.14 Farewell.
[1 ]This first English translation of the preface is based on Monzambano, De Statu Imperii Germanici, 1667, which is no. 4 in Salomon, “Literaturverzeichnis,” 11.
[2 ]Read S.P.D. (salutem plurimam dicit) for S.P.Q. See Severinus, ed. Salomon, 27, and Louis-Alphonse Chassant, Dictionnaire des abréviations latines et françaises (Hildesheim: Olms, 1989; reprint of 5th ed., Paris, 1884), 155. Christian Thomasius (Severini, ed. Thomasius, 1, note a) speculates that Pufendorf assumed an Italian persona so that he would be read by Roman Catholics.
[3 ]The language is from Ovid, Metamorphoses I.7, and the reference to Johann Phillip Abelin[g], author of Theatrum Europaeum, oder Beschreibung aller denkwürdigen Geschichten, die hin und wieder, vornehmlich in Europa hernach auch an anderen Orten der Welt, sowohl in Religion als Polizeiwesen von J. Christi 1617 sich zugetragen, 21 vols. (1635–1738). Abelin died before 1637 and was responsible for only the first two volumes (through the year 1633), though the work was continued through 1718 by various others. Abelin also wrote an Arma Suecica, on the wars of Gustaphus Adolphus (published 1631–34, in 12 parts), and an Inventarium Sueciae (1632).
[4 ]Virgil, Aeneid II.379–80.
[5 ]This comment echoes that of the Venetian ambassador to Germany, Gasparo Contarini (1483–1542), who had written home to his senate that “the Germans, more than any other nation, are addicted to writing.” See Monzambano, Über die Verfassung, trans. Breßlau, 24, note 1. This is an initial example of the work’s method of concealment, its use of anonymous third parties to express controversial views, which is especially evident in the discussion of religion in chapter 8.
[6 ]Probably a reference to Johannes Limnaeus (1592–1663), whose five-volume Ius publicum Imperii Romano-Germanici (vols. 1–3, Straßburg, 1629–34; 2 vols. of additions, Straßburg, 1650/1660) offered the first systematic examination of the empire’s constitution. See Monzambano, De Statu Imperii, ed. Thomasius, 14–15, note q. Thomasius borrows here from Hippolithus a Lapide (i.e., Bogislaw Philipp Chemnitz). On Lapide, see VI.7, note 6, p. 169.
[7 ]Thomasius (Monzambano, De Statu Imperii, ed. Thomasius, 16, note t) says here: “By civil science and solid politics he [Pufendorf ] understands not Aristotelian politics, and the vulgar or useless questions customarily treated here, but the obligations [nexum ] of rulers and ruled in individual states [respublicas ], a knowledge of the human race and its affects, and of the nature of human affairs.” History, especially recent or modern history recounting actions motivated by reasons of state, provided one of the empirical foundations of Pufendorf’s politics and natural law theory.
[8 ]This is ironic, of course, since the work’s irreverent frankness about the real condition of the empire actually set off a firestorm of indignant protest and eager refutation—as Pufendorf must have anticipated.
[9 ]The Reichstag (Imperial Diet)—from the German verb tagen, to meet or assemble “for a day”—was the periodic (albeit irregular) convention of the estates of the German Empire; it remained in permanent session after its 1663 meeting at Regensburg. That session dealt largely with the emperor’s appeal for help against the Turks, who were defeated the following year at St. Gotthard, in Hungary. See Schindling, “Development of the Eternal Diet.”
[10 ]Johann Christian Freiherr von Boineburg (1622–72), minister to the elector of Mainz ( Johann Philipp von Schönborn) 1652–64. On Pufendorf’s relation to Boineburg and their important correspondence in 1663, see Hochstrasser, Natural Law Theories, 47–60. Boineburg was also instrumental in advancing Leibniz’s career by suggesting that he dedicate his Nova Methodus (1667) to the elector.
[11 ]Hermann Conring (1606–81), professor of natural philosophy, medicine, and politics in Helmstedt. On Conring, see Constantin Fasolt’s introduction to Conring, New Discourse, ix–xxii; and for his relations with Pufendorf, see Hochstrasser, Natural Law Theories, 47–60.
[12 ]Boineburg fell out of favor and was dismissed in the spring of 1664, placing Monzambano’s account after this time. Döring, “Untersuchungen,” 198–99, suggests late 1665 or early 1666 as the date of composition, based on the work’s relevance to the Wildfangstreit during summer/fall 1665. See pp. xi–xxii of the introduction.
[13 ]Karl Ludwig, elector of the Palatinate (1649–80), had brought Pufendorf to Heidelberg in 1661. He encouraged the present work and may have helped shape it—see the 1706 preface, p. 10, and the introduction, p. xi. Pufendorf’s singling him out for praise was regarded as evidence for his own authorship of the pseudonymous work.
[14 ]The Severinus/Laelius relationship reflected Samuel’s ties to his supportive older brother, Esaias, with whom he remained close even when their political views began to diverge in the 1680s. Pufendorf’s Dissertationes academicae selectiores [Select academic dissertations] (Lund, 1675) was formally dedicated to Esaias.