Bench Memos

Editions of the Federalist

A reader of my “Perennial Publius” series has written to ask what edition of the Federalist I would recommend.  Quite a while ago another asked why I wasn’t linking to each essay in some online location (there are multiple websites containing the whole Federalist series), and my answer to him was that I wanted people to go out and buy a copy of the Federalist in a book if they were really interested.  So, what book?

There are lots of editions; I have several but not all.  Of current editions worth using, there’s Charles Kesler’s Mentor paperback, a new version of the old pocket-sized standby edited by Clinton Rossiter, but with Charles’s wonderful new introduction.  The Modern Library edition is recently updated with a new introduction by Robert Scigliano, also quite good.  The Liberty Fund edition edited by George W. Carey and the late James McClellan is a unique reprint of the 1818 Gideon edition (Madison’s favorite), while scholars frequently rely on the Jacob E. Cooke critical edition from Wesleyan University Press, still in print since 1961, but the most expensive on the market.

In my classroom this semester, and at my elbow for the Publius series here, though, is the new edition by the English historian J.R. Pole, from Hackett Publishing.  It’s affordable, based on the authoritative Cooke edition, with Pole’s highly useful annotations, and printed in a size and format that please the eye more than most (if less sturdily bound for hard use than Liberty Fund’s equally affordable volume).

There are others.  These, in my view, are the good ones.

Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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