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Democracy in America

HeinOnline's interactive digital edition of the classic Tocqueville work, edited by Alan Keely, Associate Director for Collection Services at Wake Forest Law Library.

Bowen 1862 (Cambridge: Seever and Francis)

Because the majority of HeinOnline users are likely to be English speakers, an English translation serves as the basis for the digital edition. There was no question that the specific edition selected would need to be based on the last editions Tocqueville saw through to press, therefore containing his final thoughts on his work. The consensus of modern scholarship is that the most accurate editions of the French text published during Tocqueville’s lifetime are, for the first volume, the 13th edition (Paris: Pagnerre, 1850); and, for the second volume, the 12th edition (Paris: Pagnerre, 1848).

No translation is perfect. As Bevan states in the translator’s note to his 2003 edition (New York: Penguin  Books, 2003), the “inherent pitfall faced by any translator, namely, how to transport a two-hundred-year-old language into a modern idiom which, in itself, will not date over the ensuing decades; at least Tocqueville has managed that in his own text.”  

The original intent of the Bowen edition was to prepare an exact reprint of the Henry Reeve translation published in London in 1862 by Longmans, which likely represented Reeve’s final thoughts on his translation. However, in comparing Reeve’s translation with the original text, Bowen considered the translation, in his words from the preface, to be “utterly inadequate and untrustworthy.”  Bowen felt that his edition, at least of the first volume, should be considered a completely new translation. Of the second volume, he felt Reeve’s translation was much better than that of the first volume. Bowen also included and updated the notes that John Spencer included in the first American printing of the complete Democracy in America—the 4th edition (New York: Langley, 1841). 

While newer English translations published in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century are more attuned to the nuances and subtleties of the French and English languages, copyright restrictions prohibit the use of these editions for this project. It should be noted that attempts were made to acquire the rights to the Nolla/Schleiffer Historical-Critical edition and to the Goldhammer Library of America edition, but they were unsuccessful. Further, of the numerous editions that have been published since 1945, most are of the problematic Reeve translation. Hence, given the bibliographic linkage between the various editions from Tocqueville and Reeve to Bowen, the Bowen text published in its first edition (Cambridge, Mass.: Sever and Francis, 1862) was chosen to serve as the basis for our digital edition.