Printed by T. C. [Thomas Creede] for W. P. [William Ponsonby]. London. 1595.
FIRST ENGLISH EDITION. Folio. (11.1 x 7.5 inches). x11,222pp. Lacking last, blank, leaf. Decorated with woodcut engraved ornamental title page and engraved head and tailpieces. Tiny (3mm deep) chip to the fore edge of the title page and the first few leaves are just a little browned but overall a lovely clean and crisp copy with good margins. Finely bound in recent 'Grolier' period style full calf binding. Spine with five raised bands. Compartments ruled, lettered and fully decorated in gilt. Burgundy title label, gilt. Triple blind ruled border on boards, surrounding a triple blind ruled panel which frames an elaborate decorative onlay and gilt design. A lovely copy in a fine period style binding of this rare work. "The first example in Italian literature of a national biography" (Britannica). "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. 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). With translator's dedication and Machiavelli's own Introduction ("Proeme"). Pollard and Redgrave 17162.