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The English first edition of Leviathan was published in 1651. Sixteen or seventeen years later, Hobbes returned to this celebrated and notorious work of political philosophy, and translated it into Latin. This Latin text was first published in 1668 as part of Hobbes's Opera Philosophica.

Translation always involves interpretation. In the case of Leviathan Hobbes took advantage of the opportunity afforded by translation in some measure to recast the book. Whole sections of the original English version were omitted. Others were, in Noel Malcolm's words, "so thoroughly rewritten as to constitute new texts".  

The most famous phrase in Leviathan is Hobbes's summary account in chapter 13 of the unpleasantness of the state of war that obtains if there is no "common Power" to keep men in awe. In these circumstances, Hobbes says, man's life is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short". When Hobbes looked again at this phrase for the Latin translation, he dropped an adjective. In 1668, "vitaque hominum" is only "solitaria, indiga, bruta & brevis". Why might Hobbes have offered no Latin equivalent for the English word "nasty"? Possibly because there was no single Latin word which captured its full range. In the mid-17th century "nasty" meant, at its most simple and basic, "filthy" or "dirty". But this core meaning was surrounded by various strands of more or less metaphorical meaning. Of persons, it suggested annoyingness or contemptibleness. Of situations, one branch of signification was pungently physical: to say that a state of affairs was "nasty" was to imply that it was repellent, disagreeable, or nauseating. Another branch of signification, however, was ethical: in 1651 a "nasty" situation might entail lewdness or moral corruption. All of these possibilities are active in the 1651 Leviathan.

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