…in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full no private man can want anything…
Does the world really need another edition of Thomas More’s Utopia? Kept in print more or less continuously since it was first published in 1516, the translations and editions of this book, not to mention the scholarly interpretations and academic dissertations based upon this slender volume, would likely constitute the mass of a medium-sized island in themselves. It takes a bit of audacity to introduce yet another version of Utopia. Yet I have done so here because what the world does not have, and what I believe it needs, is a complete English-language translation of Utopia that honors the primary precept of Utopia itself–that is, that all property is common property.
This digital edition of Utopia is open: open to read, open to copying, open to modification. On this site Utopia is presented in different formats in order to enhance this openness. If the visitor wishes to read Utopia online they can find a copy. If they want to download and copy a version, I’ve provided links to do so in different formats for different devices. In partnership with The Institute for the Future of the Book I provide an annotatable and “social” text available for visitors to comment upon what More – or I – have written, and then share their comments with others. Those who like to listen will find a reading of Utopia on audio files, and those who want to watch and look can browse the user-generated galleries of Utopia-themed art and videos. For people interested in creating their own plan of an alternative society, I’ve created Wikitopia, a wiki with which to collaborate with others in drafting a new Utopia. More versions for more platforms are likely to be introduced in the future.
The Open Utopia is assembled from translations and editions of More’s Utopia that are in the public domain. The Preface, Introduction and footnotes, written by me, are licensed under Creative Commons, as are the few new translations I commissioned especially for this volume. The Creative Commons “by-sa” license allows users to freely use, study, copy, share, and modify the work, as long as attribution is given and the content remains free to share. (The complete ancestry of the Open Utopia can be found under Sources.)
The Open Utopia is a complete edition, meaning that I have included all of the letters and commendations, as well as the marginal notes, that were included in the first four printings of 1516-18 in which More himself had a hand. Non-scholarly editions of the book often omit this material, but I believe these letters and notes, written by the author and his friends among the European literati, are essential for understanding what More was doing in and with his Utopia. (The first-time reader, however, can comfortably skip ahead to Book I and Book II, backtrack through the letters More wrote to Peter Giles that lie on either side, and then wander at their leisure through the other letters, commendations and marginal notes.) I have also supplied a cast of contributors and copious footnotes of my own–not to bog the reader down with the intricacies of academic debates, but to give historical, literary and etymological context, providing the twenty-first-century reader with the information that More’s learned sixteenth-century audience was likely to know.
Thomas More’s Utopia is more than the story of a far-off land where there is no private property. It’s a text that instructs us how to approach texts, be they literary or political, in an open manner: open to criticism, open to participation, open to modification, and open to re-creation. I’ve done my best with the Open Utopia to convey this message and continue the tradition.
Onward to Utopia!
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