Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio. Nuoamente corretti, & con somma diligenza ristampati


Machiavelli, Nicolo

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Aldus, Venice. 1540. First Aldine edition. 8 unnumbered leaves, 215 leaves, 1 leaf colophon unnumbered. 8vo (156 x 95 mm). Aldine device on title and final leaf. Later brown full calf, gilt decoration to boards and spine, marbled endpapers, partly worn, all edges red. Front cover with discoloration, title page repaired, partly with some spotting to the beginning, upper margin damp stained to leaf 80. Bookplate of Gian Paolo Jolanda Rocco. Last leaf with monogram stamp C, some staining. Roman and italic type. Text in Italian. (Renouard 120:5).

Machiavelli explains why he wrote the Discourse, noting that he brings new modes and orders—a dangerous task given the envy of men, but one motivated by the desire to work for the common benefit of humanity. He also notes that while his work may not be perfect, it deserves to be heard, because it will aid others after him in fulfilling his vision. He complains that the Italian Renaissance has stimulated a desire to imitate the ancients in art, law, and medicine, but that no one thinks of imitating ancient kingdoms or republics. He traces this to an improper reading of history that suggests that imitation of ancient political virtue is impossible. He declares his intention to overcome this view of the ancient world by examining Livy and modern politics.

The Discourses shows a radically different outlook on the world of politics. In this carefully argued commentary on Livy’s history of republican Rome, Machiavelli proposed a system of government that would uphold civic freedom and security by instilling the virtues of active citizenship, and that would also encourage citizens to put the needs of the state above selfish, personal interests. Ambitious in scope, but also clear-eyed and pragmatic, The Discourses creates a modern theory of republic politics.


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