Tracts on Liberty by the Levellers and their Critics (1638-1659), 7 vols. Edited by David M. Hart and Ross Kenyon (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2014). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2595,
Note from the Editors
Every effort has been made to transcribe these 17th century political tracts as accurately as possible. They have been checked against facsimile copies of the originals which in many cases were of very poor quality. Some of the problems the editors encountered were the vagaries of 17th century spelling, the faint print of the text in marginal notes and in long quotes in Latin, and the sometimes casual approach to the typesetting of the text. We have marked illegible words or characters in the text with the statement [Editor: illegible word]. Sometimes, when it has been impossible to decipher the text (especially in marginalia) we have have indicated this with the following statement: “The following marginalia text is unreadable and Liberty Fund has made no effort to partially transcribe it.”
We have made no attempt to modernize the spelling but we have corrected obvious errors such as transposed or missing characters. In many cases the front page of the texts had elaborate even exotic layout of the text which we have attempted to reproduce electronically. In some of the texts, if there was any space remaining at the end, the author or the printer would insert additional material such as Parliamentary or legal announcements or rebuttals of their opponents' latest tract, thus making the pamphlet a kind of anthology or even a newspaper. We can’t help but note the similar frustrations of one of the printers who inserted a disclaimer in one of Lilburne’s pamphlets which we quote here:
The Printer to the Reader.
Reader, the shortnesse of time, the absence of the Authour, and the difficulty of the Language in the Charter, not being ordinary Latin, but such as Lawyers use, which is so far above my capacity, that caused me to erre when I used the best skill I could in my Art. Pardon me therefore (I pray thee) and with thy wisdome, learning, and good disposition, help me in this case. And for the faults in the English, the meanest capacity may bee helped thus …
In John Lilburne, The Charters of London: or, The second Part of Londons Liberty in Chaines discovered (18 December 1646), Tracts on Liberty, vol. 3.
It is also hard to attribute the authorship to some of the pamphlets because they had multiple authors or the author published it anonymously in order to escape the wrath of the censors. Some of the pamphlets were even written while the author was in prison for previous infractions of the law. To indicate that a pamphlet is attributed to a person without conclusive proof of authorship we place his name in [brackets].
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