Book History

Author: Niccolo Machiavelli
Machiavelli was born in Florence on May 3, 1469 and died there on June 21, 1527. He was a diplomat for Florence for a number of years until the Medici family came back into control over the province and dissolved the republic's government. He then retreated to his farm where he began to write. Works by Machiavelli include The Prince(Il Principe), Discourses on Livy(Discorsi), The Art of War, The Mandrake, and Clizia. He wrote many works in the areas of history and politics but also authored poems and comedies as well.
Bibliographic Information
This particular book is in fact two of Machiavelli's works bound together. The first work is I discorsi di Niccolo Machiavelli and the second Il Principe. According to the title page the work claims to have been printed in Palermo in 1584 and that it was published by appresso gli heredi d'Antonielle degli Antonielli, which translates to "the heirs of d'Antonielle degli Antonielli. However, research quickly turned up that this book was actually printed in London by the publisher John Wolfe
Physical Description
The book is approximately 16cm tall, 11cm wide, and 5cm thick. It is bound in what appears to be vellum, which has clearly shrank over time. Due to the shrinking, ridges have formed throughout the cover. The binding glistens and is a dull gold color. The pages are bound together using string wound through holes in the paper. The paper is in fairly good condition. One can still easily read this copy as the ink has not deteriorated much.
Publisher: Appresso gli heredi d'Antonielle degli Antonielli a.k.a. John Wolfe
This work was printed in London by a well known bookseller and printer named John Wolfe. Wolfe was born sometime around 1547 in Sussex, England. He was indentured to a printer by the name of John Day. Following his apprenticeship he traveled to Italy where he became acquainted with Italian printing practices. He returned to England and began printing. It was not uncommon for Wolfe to print books in Italian. Wolfe printed Petruccio Ulbadini's book La vita di Carlo Magno in 1581 and five of Machiavelli's works during the years 1584 to 1588. Wolfe published all of the Machiavelli works under false names and places of print.
Machiavelli's works are quite well known and are common in most libraries and bookstores, as well as being easily accessible in electronic form. They have also been translated into many different languages. There have been countless editions of The Prince and Discourses printed through the years. This 1584 edition is quite rare. Research has shown that there are only 26 other copies known to be located throughout the U.S.A. and Europe.
Donaldson, Peter S. Machiavelli and the Mystery of State. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Roe, John Alan. Shakespeare and Machiavelli. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002.

Johns Hopkins University. Modern Language Notes volume 21. Johns Hopkins Press, 1906.

Nederman, Cary, "Niccolò Machiavelli", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

I Discorsi di Nicolo Machiavelli: Sopra la Prima Deca di Tito Livio was printed in the year 1584. This particular volume measures 16 cm tall by 11 cm wide. It consists of two hundred numbered leaves. The pages are bound in a vellum covering, brown in color with several stains, which have shrunk and cracked over the years. The pages are held in place by six strings running the length of the spine and connecting to the cover. The volume includes two works of Niccoló Machiavelli bound together. The first of these works is the Discourses on Livy. The second work is The Prince. The text of this volume is in Italian. Although the cover is worn, the pages are in good condition. There is some fading, which can be expected considering the book’s age, but there is no detectable bleeding on any of the pages. This attests to the high quality of paper that was used in that time period. The cover page of the first work in the volume, I Discorsi, bears a number of marks made in the top right corner. The only other markings found in the volume are the names of three of its previous owners. One of these was Kate Doggett Boggs, who lived in downtown Fredericksburg during the 1920s and 30s, where she also ran an antique shop named The Quarters.[1]

The title pages of both of the works included in this volume bear an imprint claiming their place of print to have been in Palermo in the year 1584 and the publisher to have been appresso gli heredi di Antoniello degli Antonielli, which translates into English as “the press of the heirs of Antoniello degli Antonielli.” These are false imprints. The volume was actually printed in London by the famous printer John Wolfe. [2]

John Wolfe was a significant figure in the print culture of late sixteenth century London. He learned his trade through an apprenticeship to a printer in England before travelling to Italy where he spent some years printing before returning to London. He was notorious for his involvement in illegally printing works without a license for them throughout his early career. Later in his career he was appointed to the distinguished post of Printer to the City of London.[3]

This volume is significant not only because of John Wolfe’s involvement, but also because it is considered to be the first example of a false imprint to be printed in England.[4] It is also regarded as the first of Machiavelli’s works to have been printed in England.[5] Besides this volume located in the Simpson Library of the University of Mary Washington, there are twenty six other copies of this edition in libraries across the United States and Europe.[6]

1. "The Garden Club of Virginia: Historic Restorations Project." (accessed December 11, 2011). Also see "Historic Home - Stevenson-Doggett house." (accessed December 11, 2011).

2. Peter S. Donaldson, Machiavelli and Mystery of State (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 91. Also see: John Alan Roe, Shakespeare and Machiavelli (Cambridge, England: D.S. Brewer, 2002); Johns Hopkins University, Modern Language Notes, Volume 21 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1906).

3. Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), 122,256-357.

4. Donaldson, 90.

5. John Alan Roe, Shakespeare and Machiavelli (Cambridge, England: D.S. Brewer, 2002), 3-4.

6. Information from
I Discorsi di Nicolo Machiavelli
Submitted by Corey B. Sims
Published: 1584
Call Number: OVER JC 143 .M16 1584