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Reference: Shelfmark b80 B2(3)

Here we have a 1580 copy of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Il Principe (The Prince), followed by two controversial Protestant works. The volume was published by the Protestant printer Pietro Perna of Basle.  In 1560 he published Sylvester Telius’s Latin translation of The Prince; in 1580 he reprinted it and bound it with the Huguenot treatise Vindiciae contra tyrannos and Theodore Beza’s De iure magistratuum.

This copy belonged to the 16th/17th-century English writer Gabriel Harvey, and contains annotations in his hand.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)

Niccolò Machiavelli, a famous and controversial political philosopher, is perhaps most renowned for his work Il Principe (The Prince), a political handbook on how to rule and exercise power. He was born in Florence in 1469, into an old Florentine family with a history of political involvement but of no substantial wealth. His father, Bernardo, an educated humanist who practised law, passed on his beliefs in the value of education to his son. From an early age, Machiavelli received the best humanist schooling of his day, which saw him begin learning Latin at seven years of age and later culminated in his attendance at lectures in the University of Florence.

Machiavelli’s political career began in June 1498 when he was elected as 2nd Chancellor to the Great Council of Florence, and was later appointed as secretary to the ‘Ten of War’, a committee in charge of Florence’s foreign policy and military. He later became a diplomatic envoy for the republican government which saw him in a position to negotiate with kings, emperors and popes, but he was later shunned by the ruling Medici family for eight years following their return to power in 1512.  The following year he was arrested, incarcerated, and tortured for suspected complicity in a plot against the Medici.  He was released shortly afterwards, and devoted much of the remainder of his life to writing.

Gabriel Harvey (1552/3–1631)

Gabriel Harvey was an English writer, born in Essex. He was a notable scholar, who received his education at Cambridge University and gained a fellowship at Pembroke Hall.  Harvey collected a substantial library, and was in the habit of annotating his books with copious manuscript notes.  This copy bears his autograph and manuscript notes by him.

History of the copy

This copy of Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos belonged to Robert Williams Vaughan of Hengwrt, and bears his ownership label from the nineteenth century.

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