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Title-page to Hobbes's 'Leviathan' (London: Andrew Cooke, 1651): an allegory of governance and the nature of civil and ecclesiastical authority. A crowned man whose body is made of numerous human bodies, emerges from a mountain at the foot of which is a city, holding a sword in his left hand and a crozier in in right hand; below is the title inscribed on a tapestry and surrounded by ten framed allegories: castle, crown, cannon, military trophies, battle on the left, church, bishop mitre, thunder, inscribed trident and forks, and assembly of magistrates;. 1651
- Production date
Height: 241 millimetres (trimmed)
Width: 155 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 2005 cat.105)
The history of the attribution of this frontispiece is curious. British writers traditionally listed it as anonymous, not realising that from the middle of the seventeenth century French authors had known that it was by Abraham Bosse. The Abbé de Marolles had included an impression in his collection under Bosse's name before it was purchased for Louis XIV in 1667. Mariette in the eighteenth century knew this, and from him the knowledge descended to Bosse's French cataloguers (see A.Blum, 'L'Oeuvre Gravé d'Abraham Bosse', Paris 1924, no.604). The first to link the two traditions were M.Corbett and R.Lightbown in 'The Comely Frontispiece', London 1979, pp.219-30, and the reader can be referred to their text for a full commentary.
Hobbes wrote Leviathan while in exile in Paris between 1640 and 1652. Although the text was printed in London in 1651, the titlepage must have been devised and executed in Paris by Hobbes and Bosse in close collaboration. It must have been Hobbes who devised the concept of the plate, and Bosse who made the design. The figure of Leviathan, wielding both religious and secular power, and formed of men who had come together in a voluntary and artificial covenant to form a commonwealth, embodies the argument of Hobbes's book in a vividly concrete form. The manuscript fair copy of the book that Hobbes presented to Charles II (British Library, Egerton Ms.1910) contains a careful copy of Bosse's plate (not, as is often stated, Bosse's original design for it).
Although he never came to London, Bosse was linked in other ways with the English. In 1641 he had collaborated with Claude Mellan on the portrait frontispiece for the Parisian edition of James Howell's 'Dendrologie, ou la forêt de Dodonne', a translation of the book first published in London the previous year (Richard Godfrey will publish as article on this print in Print Quarterly). Bosse was also a 'particular' friend of Evelyn, who translated his 1645 treatise on etching and engraving (Sculptura p.97 and 149-51), and several letters from Bosse to him survive in the Evelyn papers (cf. cat.81).
See also K.Brown, British Library Journal 4 (1978), pp.24-36 'The artist of the Leviathan titlepage'; and 'Abraham Bosse, savant-graveur' (Paris & Tours, 2004), cat.268.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 Jan-Mar, Ipswich, Christchurch Mansion, Printmaking/St. Britain
2000 May-Jul, Bristol, City Mus and AG, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2000 Oct-Dec, Lancaster, Peter Scott Gallery, Printmaking/Stuart Britain
2000/1 Dec-Feb, Banff, Duff House, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2001 Feb-May, Cardiff, National Mus, Printmaking in Stuart Britain
2006 Oct-Dec, Antwerp, Rubenshuis, Royalist Refugees...
2009 Feb-April, Leeds City Art Gallery, RANK...
2009 April-June, Sunderland, Northern Gall of Contemp Art, RANK
2009 July-Sep, Blackpool, Grundy Art Gallery, RANK
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Leviathan, or the Matter, Forme and Power of A Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil (1651)
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
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