Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 January 2011
The issues in the textual history of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus that deserve attention can be grouped under the following headings: the genesis of the work; the printing of the Latin text; the early translations; the “Annotations to the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus”; and the later modern editions of the text.
The actual writing of the TTP must have occupied its author from the summer of 1665 to the final months of 1669. The earliest reference to the composition of a work that was eventually to be published as the TTP is to be found in Spinoza's Ep. 30 of the beginning of October 1665, to Henry Oldenburg. Spinoza had broached the subject in a preceding letter, written on September 4 (now lost). This can be inferred from Oldenburg's reply. After enumerating several scientific experiments conducted by Fellows of the Philosophical Society, Oldenburg (in what appears to be a somewhat skeptical vein) contrasts these with Spinoza's new project:
I see that you are not so much philosophising as theologising, if one may use that term, for you are recording your thoughts about angels, prophecy and miracles. But perhaps you are doing this in a philosophic way. Of whatever kind it be, I am sure that the work is worthy of you and will fulfil my most eager expectations. Since these difficult times are a bar to the freedom of intercourse, I do at least ask you please to indicate in your next letter your plan and object in this writing of yours.