Venice: Giovanni Antonio and Nicolini da Sabio, Melchior Sessa, 1537.
3rd Edition. Hardcover. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Very Good. Item #003364
8vo (160 x 103 mm). , 200 leaves. Woodcut device on title-page. Signatures: *8 A-Bb8. 19th-century three-quarter vellum with some minor gilt tooling, upper cover with the gilt arms of the Bridgewater family (very little rubbing and soiling). Text crisp and clean throughout with just a little soiling and faint marginal staining of title-page and a few leaves elsewhere. Provenance: early manuscript annotations verso of last blank leaf; the Bridgewater family library* (binding, armorial bookplate and shelf-mark to front-pastedown); Henry Huntington. A very good copy with ample margins. ----
One of two Venice editions printed in 1537 (the others by Zanetti) and the third edition overall of Machiavelli's Discourses, preceded only by Antonio Blado's published 1531 in Rome, and a 1534 edition published by Sessa. In 1540, the first Aldine was published. Shortly after the forced retirement in 1513 to his country estate, Machiavelli began to write his Essay on the first ten (books) of Livy, but shortly after, interrupted it and devoted all his energy to Il principe, a development of one of several themes touched upon in the Discorsi, a work of political history and philosophy, to which he returned upon finishing his more celebrated work. Titus Livius' (or Livy's) Ab urbe condita, a monumental history of ancient Rome written in Latin between 27 and 9 BC, which relate the expansion of Rome through the end of the Third Samnite War in 293 BC, in fact was only the point of departure for the Discorsi, in which Machiavelli set forth his own views on the origins and perpetuation of states and principalities in general. Machiavelli frequently describes Romans and other ancient peoples as superior models for his contemporaries, but he also describes political greatness as something which comes and goes amongst peoples, in cycles. He was an ardent student of the political structures of antiquity, but neither an atheist nor the advocate of trickery or cruelty for its own sake. The relationship between his polemics and his descriptions of political realities retains even now something of the power that made him Hamlet's evil Machiavel of political folklore in the late sixteenth century.
"Machiavelli founded the science of modern politics on the study of mankind - it should be remembered that a parallel work to 'The Prince' was his historical essay on the first ten books of Livy. Politics was a science to be divorced entirely from ethics, and nothing must stand in the way of its machinery." (PMM 63).
Jean-Jacques Rousseau considered the Discourses . . . to be more representative of Machiavelli's true philosophy: Machiavelli was a proper man and a good citizen; but, being attached to the court of the Medici, he could not help veiling his love of liberty in the midst of his country's oppression. The choice of his detestable hero, Cesare Borgia, clearly enough shows his hidden aim; and the contradiction between the teaching of The Prince and that of the Discourses on Livy and the History of Florence shows that this profound political thinker has so far been studied only by superficial or corrupt readers. The Court of Rome sternly prohibited his book. I can well believe it; for it is that Court it most clearly portrays. (Rousseau, Book III).
*The Bridgewater family library was acquired by Henry Huntington en bloc in 1917 from the fourth Earl of Ellsemere; at the time, it was the oldest family library still in private hands. Small portions of the library were sold in the 19th century; Henry Huntington sold some books from the collection at auction between 1918 and 1924. The rest of the collection comprises the core of the Huntington Library's early English collections.
VERY RARE: OCLC traces only two copies (held by the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève and the Staatsbibliothek Berlin).
References: BM STC/Italian II 293; Brunet 3:1274; Graesse 4:323; Printing and the Mind of Man 63 (note); J.-J. Rousseau, The Social Contract). - Visit our website for additional images and information!
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