History and Archeology Italian Books I

The Giunta-Blado competion to print Machiavelli

Machiavelli, Niccolò (1469-1527)

Historie fiorentine di Niccolo Machiavelli cittadino, et segretario fiorentino. Florence, Bernardo Giunta, 27 March 1532.

4° (205x133 mm). Collation: [A]4, B-Z8, AA-EE8. [4], 9-224 leaves. As in many copies, lacking the final four-leaf quire signed FF, with the errata (fols. FF1-2), fol. FF3 blank, and the printer's device (FF4v). Due to a mistake in type settingfols. 139v (S3v), 140r (S4r), 141v (S5v), and 142r (S6r) are misprinted (see below). Italic and roman type. Woodcut printer's device on title-page. Contemporary limp vellum, recased. Flyleaves renewed. Preserved in a cloth case. A verygood, genuine copy. Light browning, a few pale marginal waterstains.


Rare first Florentine edition – printed only two days after the appearance of the first edition issued in Rome by Blado – of this landmark of historiographical literature, a keystone of Machiavelli's approach to Florentine history, a groundbreaking work significantly written in Italian vernacular rather than Latin. After Machiavelli's death in 1527 there was a rush to publish his remaining works, and a fierce rivalry arose between the Roman printer Antonio Blado and the Florentine printer Bernardo Giunta 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, Blado's and Giunta's editions of the Historie fiorentine appeared almost simultaneously. It is generally presumed that Blado's Roman edition, dated 25 March 1532, preceded Giunta's by two days. Some copies of the Giunta edition, as in this case, are dated 27 March 1532 in the colophon, while others are dated 16 March 1532, a feature which could in fact re-open the debate overwhich one constitutes the true editio princeps. It is possible that Giunta printed an incorrect date of 16 March to convince the public that his edition was indeed the first and to match the date of Giunta's dedication to Duke Alessandro de' Medici, printed on the verso of the title-page, which is followed by Machiavelli's dedication addressed to Pope Clemens VII. This volume is one of only a handful of copies in which leaves 139v, 140r, 141v, and 142r of quire S do not contain the pertinent text, but rather that already printed on leaves 139r, 140v, 141r, and 142v respectively, a highly interesting attestation to an error that occurred in the typesetting of one sheet of this quire, which was quickly corrected. In this copy, quire S could therefore actually belong to a first issue. 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).

Camerini 227; Pettas 243; Bertelli-Innocenti 17.

Bound in painted vellum for Marquis Luigi Sylva

Curtius Rufus, Quintus (fl. 1st cent. AD)

Q. Curtio De' fatti d'Alessandro Magno, Re de' Macedoni,tradotto per M. Tomaso Porcacchi, con alcune Annotationi, dichiarationi, & avvertimenti, & con unalettera d'Alessandro ad Aristotele del sito dell'India, & con la Tavola copiosissima delle cose notabili. Venice, Gabriel Giolito de' Ferrari, 1558.

4° (218x150 mm). Collation: *-****8, *****4, A-P8, Q6. [72], 249, [3] pages. Complete with the last blank leaf Q6. Roman and italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page and fol. Q5v. Woodcut decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Precious and unusual eighteenth-century, possibly Venetian painted vellum binding. Covers bearing at the centre a piece of coloured paper with painted decorations in black and green surrounded by strips of vellum decorated with floral patterns painted in green, black, and red watercolour. Vellum spine with green painted decorations and inked title. Coloured flyleaves with the same pattern as the piece of paper pasted on the covers. Some minor losses to the upper cover, one of the vellum strips on the lower cover is missing. A good copy. Small wormholes in the first leaves, only occasionally affecting the text; worm tracks to the lower blank margin of a few leaves. Some marginal staining, more prominent to the upper margin of fol. Q2. Early inked shelfmark ‘AA:III:i3' on the front flyleaf.

Provenance: unidentified sixteenth-century monograms ‘GF' and ‘CART' on fol. Q6v; on the same leaf the ownership inscription ‘Io Pietro Pavolo Byrne in Lodi 1670'; Marquis Luigi Silva (fl. eighteenth century; his armorial stamp in gilt‘D. LVIGI SYLVA' on the title-page).

$ 1,800

First edition of the Italian translation of the famous Historiae Alexandri Magni by Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus. A protégé of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, Tommaso Porcacchi (1530-1585) – the well-known author of Le isole più famose del mondo (1572) – was responsible for this version. This copy bears the armorial stamp of Luigi Silva, and is bound in painted vellum, showing similarities in material execution, decorative motifs, and colouring with the binding of the volume containing Il Cesano by Claudio Tolomei (here). Painted vellum bindings were greatly appreciated in the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries, above all in France and England, and were especially commissioned to binderies. However, this kind of binding is rarely found in volumes owned by Italian collectors, increasing the interest and value of this copy, as well as the one previously described.

Bongi II, pp. 62-64; Frati, Dizionario bio-bibliografico dei bibliotecari e bibliofili italiani, p. 519; M. F. Viallon, Catalogue du Fonds italien XVIe siècle de la Bibliothèque Municipale de Roanne, Saint-Etienne 1994; M. A. Foot, Pictorial Bookbindings, London 1986.