Strange Bedfellows

Like many others, I was immediately taken by the pdf and the ebook. For all their many shortcomings, digital books–and the digital library we assemble out of them–are important tools for any self-respecting dilettante. Now that I work in a college without a functional library, my old desire to assemble a ‘library’ is more urgent and honest (there is something cheap about having too many digital books, it seems like a substitute for reading them).

So, I now am something of an expert in scouring the internet for free books, most provided by self-proclaimed anarchists, marxists, and archivists. Shaftesbury has brought me into stranger quarters: classic liberalism, staunch defenders of the free market, people who seem to think that the unfettered market can exist alongside dignity and self-respect (something I seriously doubt). The Liberty Fund is “a foundation established to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.” Their notion of what this ideal looks like if far from my own.

That said, the Liberty Fund’s edition of Shafesbury is really excellent. I have purchased the paper version, but the pdf is found below. The paper volumes are really lovely, crisp, cleanly printed, with the correct amount of Orientalism and Anglo affectation to help bring you into Shaftesbury’s world.

As the publishers write of their edition: “The cuneiform inscription that serves as our logo and as the design motif for our endpapers is the earliest-known written appearance of the word “freedom” (amagi), or “liberty.” It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 bc in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash”


Enclosed with the three texts is a collection of woodcuts, reprints of those packaged with the initial edition.  The most important feature of the text for me is the preservation of the original spelling and punctuation, something the Cambridge edition ‘corrects’, but, with the extensive Greek and Latin quotations translated into English, something I sorely need.


Paper version aside, the Liberty Fund gives their texts away online. While I prefer the paper, the following are good for a resource.

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