Karl Marx, Capital, first English edition

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When Karl Marx’s was finalizing the first volume of “Das Kapital”, he already planned an English translation. An English translation seemed important because British socialism was dominated by trade unionism and Marx wanted to divulge his ideas among the new American working class. But it took 20 years to complete the first English translation of volume one.

 

For years, Marx and Engels tried to find a translator and an editor for “Das Kapital”, while several unauthorized translations were started or planned. On September 5, 1877 Adolph Sorge (1828-1906), a member of the First International, wrote from New York, that he has invited the journalist Adolph Douai (1819-1888) to translate the book in the United States. Marx prepared a “Verzeichnis der Veränderungen für eine amerikanische Ausgabe des ersten Bandes des ‘Kapitals’”, but one year later, Sorge and Marx agreed that Douai was not reliable.

 

 

Finally, the third German edition of the first volume of “Das Kapital” was translated in England by the socialist businessman and lawyer Samuel Moore (1823-1899) and the biologist Edward Aveling (1849-1898), the partner of Eleanor Marx. Marx’s daughter contributed with the first list of the “Works and authors quoted” in ”Capital”.

 

In the Editor’s preface Friedrich Engels noted: “When, soon after the author's death in 1883, it became evident that an English edition of the work was really required, Mr. Samuel Moore, for many years a friend of Marx and of the present writer, and than whom, perhaps, no one is more conversant with the book itself, consented to undertake the translation which the literary executors of Marx were anxious to lay before the public. It was understood that I should compare the MS. with the original work, and suggest such alterations as I might deem advisable. When, by and by, it was found that Mr. Moore's professional occupations prevented him from finishing the translation as quickly as we all desired, we gladly accepted Dr. Aveling's offer to undertake a portion of the work ; at the same time Mrs. Aveling, Marx's youngest daughter, offered to check the quotations and to restore the original text of the numerous passages taken from English authors and Bluebooks and translated by Marx into German.”

 

Friedrich Engels wrote on May 23, 1886 to another of Marx’s daughters, Laura Lafargue: “Gestern bin ich mit Edward bei S. S(onnenschein) gewesen, und jetzt muß der Vertrag nur noch formell unterzeichnet werden, und dann geht das Ms. sofort in Druck. S.S(onnenschein) & Co. zahlen uns für die ersten 500 verkauften Exemplare 10% des Bruttopreises und 12 1/2% für alle weiteren Exemplare. Die erste Auflage soll eine Bibliotheksauflage sein, in 2 Bänden zu 32 sh.; der Satz soll sofort stereotypiert werden, aber so, daß bei der 2. Auflage in gewissen Grenzen Änderungen vorgenommen werden können.“

 

On January, 11, 1887 Engels announced to Friedrich Sorge in Hoboken: „Hiermit geht registered an Dich ab die englische Übersetzung des ‘Kapital’(...)Das ‘Kapital’ geht hier reißend ab, für Zufuhr nach Amerika ist gesorgt.“ The same day he wrote to Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis in Den Haag: „Die englische Übersetzung des „Kapital" ist soeben herausgekommen, und grade für Amerika im rechten Moment.”

 

 

So the first English translation of volume one of “Das Kapital” seems to have been published in January 1887, but the history of Swan Sonnenschein editions is confusing. Some library catalogues mention an 1886 edition. The 1908 edition of volume one lists:

“First edition (in 2 volumes), May, 1886;

Second, February, 1887;

Third, September, 1888;

Fourth, January, 1891;

Fifth, January, 1896;

Sixth, November, 1900;

Seventh, May 1901;

Eighth, March, 1902;

Ninth, July, 1903;

Tenth, September, 1904;

Eleventh, January, 1906;

Twelfth, February, 1908.”

These dates differ from some dates printed on the title pages, the 1889 edition is missing in this list.

 

 

The second and third volume of “Das Kapital” were translated only 20 years later, not in England, but in the United States.

 

 

 

 

Capital, volume I

1st English edition, 1887

1.

CAPITAL: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF CAPITALIST PRODUCTION BY KARL MARX TRANSLATED FROM THE THIRD GERMAN EDITION, BY SAMUEL MOORE AND EDWARD AVELING AND EDITED BY FREDERICK ENGELS VOL. I. LONDON: SWAN SONNENSCHEIN, LOWREY, & CO., PATERNOSTER SQUARE. 1887

Two volumes, XXXI, p. 1-363, 365-816

2.

V Contents

IX Editor’s preface, November 5, 1886

XV Author’s prefaces,

1 Book I. Capitalist production

801 Works and authors quoted in “Capital”

3.

S. Cowan & Co., Strathmore Printing Works, Perth.

Published: 1887

Original binding: burgundy cloth, lettered gilt on spine

 

Bibliography:

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Zweite Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung II, Band 8

Zweite Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung II, Band 9

Lew Golman, “Die Herausgabe der Werke von Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels in englischer Sprache”, in: Marx-Engels-Jahrbuch 1, Berlin, Dietz, 1978, p. 435

Waltraud Falk, Frank Zschaleer, “Zur Geschichte der englischen Erstausgabe des ersten Bandes des ‘Kapitals’”, in: Marx-Engels-Jahrbuch 12, Berlin, Dietz, 1990, p. 203

 

 

From the collections of the Karl Marx Memorial Library Luxembourg

 

 

Copyright Karl Marx Memorial Library Luxembourg 2017

 

 

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