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From O.6.17.

The year 2013 marks the quincentenary of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Il Principe, one of the most widely read political writings of all time. The Italian Collections at Cambridge University Library wish to celebrate this anniversary by drawing attention to some of the early and fine editions of the work itself and to a sampling of the extensive holdings of recent scholarship.

  • Early editions and translations
  • Anti-Machiavellism
  • Recent scholarship


Early editions and translations

The Prince was not printed until 1532, when editions were produced at Rome and Florence. The earliest edition represented among the holdings of the University Library is that produced in Venice by the famous Aldine press in 1540 (click here to see the record).

The second earliest edition in the Library's holdings (see its record here) is a false imprint from 1584, purporting to have been issued at Palermo by the heirs of Antoniello degli Antonielli. In fact, it was printed at London by John Wolfe. It has been suggested by Bertelli* that Wolfe might have produced this edition with a view to supplying readers in Italy, where the work had been put on the Index librorum prohibitorum in 1559. But it is more likely, given the almost universal condemnation of the Prince and its political maxims throughout sixteenth-century Europe, that Wolfe was simply concealing his own responsibility for the edition in order to turn a profit while keeping himself out of trouble.

It was to be more than 50 years before the first English translation would be published. This version, by Edward Dacres (who had translated Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy a few years earlier), appeared in 1640, at a moment of high political tension, as Charles I’s ‘personal rule’ was beginning to crumble (see the record here). It was reissued several times in the 1660s before being supplanted by a new translation by Henry Nevile, which appeared in an edition of Machiavelli’s complete works (see Qq*.1.179(C), Acton.a.51.80 and O.8.21).

The influence of the Index made it very difficult to print Machiavelli in Italy itself, so editions for the Italian market were often produced in the Protestant cantons of Switzerland. Fine examples of this are the "Testina" editions of Machiavelli’s works, so called after the title-page image of the author (copied from the likeness in the Comin de Trino edition of 1541). The University Library has two copies of the first ‘testina’ edition, as well as copies of later printings (Peterborough.R.2.18 and S.10.11). You can see images of them in the picture gallery on the right.

What really spread knowledge of the Prince throughout Europe was the Latin translation done by the Italian radical Protestant exile Silvestro Tegli for the benefit of North European readers. This was frequently reprinted and the University Library has copies of the first edition and of many of its successors:



Even before it appeared in print, Il Principe was known in manuscript to a limited circle of readers. One of them, Agostino Nifo, actually plagiarised it, translating sections of it into Latin to form the basis of his De regnandi peritia (1523), but also omitting or toning down some of the more controversial aspects of the original work.

Rightly or wrongly, the Prince soon came to be seen as a handbook for amoral political power-brokers. This was at odds with the prevailing view (in theory at least) that good government should be Christian in both its ends and its means. As a result attacks on Machiavelli and his subversive ideas became increasingly common, not least because politics in practice seemed to many observers to be following his perverse prescriptions. ‘Anti-Machiavellism’ became a cultural phenomenon in its own right. It is hardly a surprise that the Prince was included in the Index librorum prohibitorum.

The Prince soon became known in France thanks to a translation published in 1553, and it was not long before Machiavelli’s ideas were subjected to criticism there. During the French Wars of Religion, the Huguenots (Protestants) associated Machiavellianism with the allegedly tyrannous and corrupt political practices of the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici. In 1576, the Huguenot lawyer and theologian Innocent Gentillet wrote his Discours sur les moyens de bien gouverner, which became significantly known as the Anti-Machiavel. This was widely translated and reprinted, and the Library has several copies, in French, Latin and English (click on the links to see the records):

In Italy, too, anti-Machiavellian treatises were widely read. 1589 saw the publication of Giovanni Botero’s Della ragion di Stato, which sought to put Christian ethics and religion back into a nonetheless realistic account of the exercise of power. See the links below to check our holdings of this work:

The "Discorsi sopra Cornelio Tacito" (1594) of Scipione Ammirato argued along similar lines:

The impact of the Prince in sixteenth-century Spain was not as wide as in France, but Machiavellian ideas were well enough known for the influential Jesuit (and biographer of Ignatius Loyola) Pedro de Ribadeneyra to produce a refutation in his Tratado de la religion y virtudes que debe tener el principe christiano para gobernar y conservar sus estados, contra lo que Nicolá Machiavelo y los políticos de este tiempo enseñan, of which the Library holds two editions in Latin and one in Italian:

In very different times, in the era of the Enlightenment, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia wrote the famous "Anti-Machiavel, ou, Essai de critique sur Le prince de Machiavel" (1740), edited by Voltaire, in which he took issue with the Prince chapter by chapter:


Recent scholarship

Both Machiavelli and the Prince attract incessant critical attention from a wide range of scholarly perspectives and in a variety of languages. The many books that have been acquired by the University Library in this field over the last 30 years or so comprise critical editions, commentaries, conference proceedings, biographies, and monographs. Here is just a small selection of them.

  • BARTHAS, Jérémie, L'argent n'est pas le nerf de la guerre: essai sur une prétendue erreur de Machiavel . Rome: École française de Rome, 2011. P520.b.71.450.
  • NAJEMY, John M., (ed.), The Cambridge companion to Machiavelli. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 206:2.c.201.16 .
  • VIROLI, Maurizio, Machiavelli's God. Princeton, N.J. ;Woodstock: Princeton University Press, c2010. 206:2.c.201.17 .
  • DE POL, Roberto, (ed.), The first translations of Machiavelli's Prince :from the sixteenth to the first half of the nineteenth century. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2010. 206:2.c.201.18 .
  • POWELL, Jonathan, The new Machiavelli :how to wield power in the modern world. London: Bodley Head, 2010. 545:42.c.201.17.
  • ARIENZO, Alessandro; BORELLI, Gianfranco, (eds.), Anglo-American faces of Machiavelli: Machiavelli e machiavellismi nella cultura anglo-americana (secoli XVI-XX). Milano: Polimetrica, 2009. 206:2.c.200.477.
  • BENNER, Erica, Machiavelli's ethics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, c2009. 194.c.200.641.
  • VIROLI, Maurizio, How to read Machiavelli. London: Granta, 2008. 2008.8.6210 .
  • VIVANTI, Corrado, Niccolò Machiavelli: i tempi della politica. Roma: Donzelli, c2008.2009.7.1066.
  • PHILLIPS, Tim, Niccolo Machiavelli's The prince: a 52 brilliant ideas interpretation. Oxford: Infinite Ideas, 2008. 2008.8.7570 .
  • FORTE, Juan Manuel; LOPEZ ALVAREZ, Pablo, (eds.), Maquiavelo y España: maquiavelismo y antimaquiavelismo en la cultura española de los siglos XVI y XVII. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, c2008. C202.d.8032 .
  • RIGAUD, Jacques, Le Prince au miroir des médias: Machiavel 1513-2007. Paris: Arléa, c2007.C201.d.3486 .
  • ALBUQUERQUE, Martim de, Maquiavel e Portugal: estudos de história das ideias políticas. Lisboa: Alêtheia Editores, c2007. 585:2.c.200.34.
  • Machiavelli, Niccolò,1469-1527, Niccolò Machiavelli's The prince on the art of power. New illustrated ed., with an introduction by Cary J. Nederman. London: Duncan Baird, 2007. C202.c.8531 .
  • VIROLI, Maurizio, Il Dio di Machiavelli e il problema morale dell'Italia. Roma: Laterza, 2005. 206:2.d.200.7 .
  • ANGLO, Sydney, Machiavelli - the first century: studies in enthusiasm, hostility, and irrelevance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. 206:1.c.200.1393 .
  • MÜNKLER, Herfried; VOIGT, Rüdiger; WALKENHAUS, Ralf (eds), Demaskierung der Macht: Niccolò Machiavellis Staats- und Politikverständnis. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2004. C202.c.3349.
  • SULLIVAN, Vickie B., Machiavelli, Hobbes, and the formation of a liberal republicanism in England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 206:2.c.200.130.
  • FALCO, Maria, (ed.), Feminist interpretations of Niccolò Machiavelli. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylavania State University Press, c2004. 206:1.c.200.481.
  • SFEZ, Gérald, Léo Strauss, lecteur de Machiavel: la modernité du mal. Paris: Ellipses, c2003. C200.d.5606.
  • ROSIN, Nicolai, Souveränität zwischen Macht und Recht: Probleme der Lehren politischer Souveränität in der frühen Neuzeit am Beispiel von Machiavelli, Bodin und Hobbes. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač, c2003. 206:1.c.200.838.
  • GRADY, Hugh, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Montaigne: power and subjectivity from Richard II to Hamlet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. 724:5.c.200.212.
  • GRIGOREVA, V.IU., Florentsiia v Moskve : idei Makiavelli v Rossii XXI veka. Moskva : Florentiiskoe obshchestvo, 2002. 2004.9.2435.
  • MYERSON, George, Machiavelli's The prince :a beginner's guide. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002. 2006.8.1973.
  • VIROLI, Maurizio, Niccolò's smile: a biography of Machiavelli. London: Tauris, 2001. 206:2.c.200.108 .
  • SFEZ, Gérald; SENELLART, Michel, (eds.), L'enjeu Machiavel. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, c2001. C201.c.7735 .
  • SKINNER, Quentin, Machiavelli: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. JC143.M4.S55 2004.
  • SKINNER, Quentin, Machiavelli: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. 2002.7.84.
  • HOEGES, Dirk, Niccolò Machiavelli: die Macht und der Schein. München: C.H. Beck, 2000. 578:44.c.200.6.
  • BERNS, Thomas, Violence de la loi à la Renaissance: l'originaire du politique chez Machiavel et Montaigne. Paris: Kimé, c2000. 206:1.c.200.668.
  • MARTELLI, Mario, Saggio sul Principe. Roma: Salerno editrice, c1999. 206:1.c.95.303 .
  • DE ALVAREZ, Leo Paul S, The Machiavellian enterprise: a commentary on The Prince. DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 1999. 206:2.c.95.81 .
  • VIROLI, Maurizio, Machiavelli. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. 206:2.c.95.17 and 2000.9.1286.
  • Edizione nazionale delle opere di Niccolò Machiavelli. Roma: Salerno, 1997-. 20 volumes. 206:01.c.16.1-18. 206:01.c.16.30.
  • SKINNER, Quentin, Machiavelli. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 1998.8.2452.
  • COYLE, Martin (ed.), Niccolò Machiavelli's The prince: new interdisciplinary essays. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. 1997.8.4838 .
  • BERMUDO AVILA, José Manuel, Maquiavelo, consejero de príncipes. Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona, 1994. 206.c.99.771 .
  • BOCK, Gisela; SKINNER, Quentin; VIROLI, Maurizio, (eds), Machiavelli and republicanism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. 206.c.99.35.


*BERTELLI, Sergio; INNOCENTI, Piero. Bibliografia machiavelliana. Verona: Valdonega, 1979. B151.MAC.10