MACHIAVELLI, Niccolò. Machiavels discourses. upon the first decade of T. Livius

London, printed by Thomas Paine for William Hills and Daniel Pakeman, 1636


FIRST EDITION thus. 12mo. pp. [xlvi], 646, [ii]. A¹², a¹², B¹² (-B1 cancelled), C-2E¹², first and last blanks present. Roman letter, some Italic. Text within box rule, small typographical ornament on title, small woodcut initials, early autograph on verso of f.f.e.p., “No 105 Nathaniel lavander his booke”. Light age yellowing, tiny rust hole in C6. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in handsome contemporary calf, covers bordered with a triple blind and single gilt rule, spine gilt ruled in compartments, edges gilt ruled, a.e.g. spine a little worn, expert restoration to small tear, upper corners worn. In folding cloth box.

First edition, a handsome copy, of Machiavelli’s discourses in English translated by Edward Dacres, dedicated by him to James Duke of Lenox. “Hitherto political speculation had tended to be a rhetorical exercise based on the implicit assumption of Church or Empire. Machiavelli founded the science of modern politics on the study of mankind — it should be remembered that a parallel work to ‘The Prince’ was his historical essay on the first ten books of Livy. Politics was a science to be divorced entirely from ethics, and nothing must stand in the way of its machinery” PMM 63.

The Discourses on Livy is a major work of political history and philosophy written circa 1517, published posthumously with papal privilege in 1531.The subject is ostensibly the first ten books of Livy’s Ab urbe condita which relate the expansion of Rome through to the end of the Third Samnite War in 293 BCE. Machiavelli saw history in general as a way to learn useful lessons from the past for the present, and also as a type of analysis which could be built upon, as long as each generation did not forget the works of the past.Machiavelli frequently describes Romans and other ancient peoples as superior models for his contemporaries.  The Discourses in this first English translation had a very great impact in England in the following years particularly on the Levellers. The classic Levellers pamphlet the ‘Vox Plebis’ quoted, almost verbatim, many passages from Dacres’ translation of the Discourses. “Machiavelli’s works were available to readers in 16th century England in Latin, Italian, and French editions, and to a lesser extent in manuscript translations in English. But the prospective audience was considerably widened by Edward Dacres printed English translation of the discourses (1636) and the Prince (1640). Dacres prefaces to his translation implies that Machiavelli could be a valuable guide to those desiring to know their enemy and fight fire with fire. Thus, the discourses recommended to those who might be called to steer the ship of state through troubled waters. .. Within a few years, during the English Civil War, Machiavelli was being taken to heart but some of the most zealous Protestant fundamentalists in England; the levellers, a political movement that combined the more radical regiments in Oliver Cromwell’s army of Christian warriors with support from some of the grittier neighbourhoods around London” J. S. Maloy. ‘The first Machiavellian Moment in America.’. “Machiavelli .. had no liking for despotism, and considered a combination of popular and monarchical government best. No ruler was safe without the favor of his people. The most stable states are those ruled by princes checked by constitutional limitations… His ideal government was the old Roman republic, and he constantly harked back to it in the Discourses… It is hardly disputable that no man previous to Karl Marx has had as revolutionary an impact on political thought as Machiavelli” (Downs, 12).

A very good copy of this important work.

ESTC S109049. STC 17160.