"The Florentine Histories can be set alongside The Prince and the Discourses as an exemplary, lasting work. Dedicated to Pope Clement VII, Machiavelli's Florentine Histories take readers through Florence and its history from the fall of the Roman Empire until 1492 and the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent…" -Christopher Celenza, Machiavelli
"In the Florentine Histories Machiavelli has the chance to make the protagonists speak in their own voices to persuade or dissuade their fellow-citizens to uphold or reject a course. He can show deliberative rhetoric in action, and make ancient Florentines speak to the Florentines of his times to urge them with powerful and wise words not to imitate the errors that caused the decline of the city."-Maurizio Viroli, Machiavelli
"The first example in Italian literature of a national biography" (Britannica)
FIRST FLORENCE EDITION, possibly the first edition overall, of an essential Renaissance text. SCARCE.
Niccolo Machiavelli did not write that which we call history today. For him, history and historiography were one and the same, and the Florentine Historie is the best example of that. In 1520, Machiavelli was commissioned by Giulio de' Medici to write an account of the history of Florence. The book he produced "is the first example in Italian literature of a national biography, the first attempt in any literature to trace the vicissitudes of a people's life in their logical sequence, deducing each successive phase from passions or necessities inherent in preceding circumstance, reasoning upon them from general principles, and inferring corollaries for the conduct of the future." (Britannica).
It is all the more unusual because Machiavelli followed the humanist style "of inventing speeches. Even though he was not present and could not have been present, he puts appropriate speeches into the mouths of actual historical figures as if they were characters in a play of his... Fact, in their [the humanists] view, needs to be filled out with opinion, and it is the duty of the historian, in the absence of scribes and witnesses, to infer human intention and to make it explicit in speeches, adding sense to actions in order to arrive at truth." (Harvey Claflin Mansfield, Machiavelli's Virtue).
The reason behind Machiavelli's historiography as history is that he believed that histories should not just tell an account of what happened and when, but should be beneficial to the people of which they speak. Today, our historians are meant to distance themselves from their subjects; to Machiavelli, an intimate relation to the country about which he wrote was a necessity. The Florentine Historie, therefore, was not solely a commissioned work, but a tribute to "Machiavelli's desire to write a history that would inspire all lovers of the common good of man in whatever age or nation." The speeches he fabricated, the emotions behind the mere events he wrote about "are developed beyond dramatic requirements into expositions of social and political truths suggested by Florentine events. Incidentally, these orations enabled Machiavelli to deal with the problem of the Medici." (Allan Gilbret, Machiavelli).
While Florentine Historie would not be considered an honest historical account today, the history that was presented to the Cardinal, by then Pope Clement VII, is perhaps truer than mere factual history. Because "his historical context includes both the facts of his time, which would have influenced his writing of history, and the historiography characteristic of his time, together with the conception of history underlying those historiographic methods," he created a far more complete image of Florence than could ever be garnered from an impersonal examination of the city's archives (Mansfield).
ON THIS EDITION: After Machiavelli's death in 1527 there was a rush to publish his remaining works, and a fierce competition began between the Roman printer Blado and the Florentine printer Guinta to be the first to press. Although Giunta had been given the approval of Machiavelli's heirs and rushed to honor his fellow Florentine with elegant editions of his works, both Blado's and Giunta's editions of The Florentine History appeared almost simultaneously. It is now presumed that Blado's Roman edition, dated 25 March 1532, preceded Giunta's by two days. Some copies of the Giunta edition are dated 27 March 1532 in the colophon, while others such as the present copy are dated 16 March 1532. It is possible that Giunta printed an incorrect 16 March date to convince the public that his edition was indeed first.
Florence: Bernardo di Giunta, 1532. Quarto, contemporary full blind-ruled decorative calf rebacked. Without the four errata leaves, as usual. Two early signatures to title page. Small hole to title page (not affecting text), occasional light soiling to margins. A beautiful, clean, wide-margined copy of an exceptionally rare and important edition.
Price: $35,000 .