Book History

Author: Machiavelli, Niccolo
Niccolo Machiavelli was a politician, diplomat, and philosopher in Florence, Italy during the Renaissance. Among many different writings, in and outside of the political spectrum, he is most renowned for his work The Prince which is a staple in the study of political science and political ethics. Classically educated in his youth, Machiavelli quickly rose through different political ranks beginning with being elected as the head of the second chancery in Florence and eventually making his way into positions of diplomatic and military authority. Following his retirement, Machiavelli spent his time writing everything from manifestos on political conduct and philosophy to poetry and comedies. His more widely known writings include The Art of War, The Prince, History of Florence, and The Discourses on Livy, or simply, The Discourses.
Bibliographic Information
The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel was published in 1675 in London, England by John Starkey. Served as a compilation of Machiavelli's various works, spread out over 582 pages. Translated from Italian to English. First edition.
Physical Description
The paper is unbleached, high quality, white, linen-rag paper, imported from France. Bound with leather brown, calf's leather with a mottled treatment, elaborate gilded wording and tooling along the spine, and marbling on the outer-edges of the pages. It's dimensions are 13.25 inches tall, 8.1 inches long, 1.75 inches wide.
Illustrator: N/A
Publisher: John Starkey
Printer/bookseller in London in the late 17th Century.
This particular volume seems to appear in top Universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale and the University of Michigan. However, the edition we have at the University of Mary Washington is fairly unique in age and edition. This book was printed in 1675 and the oldest I came across in most of the academic institutions was printed in 1680, while most of the editions I came across were third editions printed in 1720. From what I could find, this book was only printed into its third edition and has consistently been printed in English. Not all the editions were produced for or by John Starkey. No more than 4-5 copies seem to be accountable for as many are electronic copies of one of the existing five. All of the digital copes or e-book versions of this text are digitized copies of one of the three editions.
Blaire, Ann M. Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Darnton, Robert. The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future. New York: Public Affairs, 2009.

Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Gaskell, Phillip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2000.

Mayer, Robert. “Nathaniel Crouch, Bookseller and Historian: Popular Historiography and Cultural Power in Late Seventeenth-Century England.” Eighteenth Century Studies 27, no. 3 (Spring 1994): 391-419.

Pocock, John G.A. The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.

Weissberger, L. Arnold. “Machiavelli and Tudor England.” Political Science Quarterly 42, no. 4 (December 1927): 589-607.
Considered one of the founders of modern political thought, Niccolo Machiavelli’s writings a have been cornerstones to the practice of politics and international affairs for centuries. Machiavelli’s published works spread rapidly throughout Europe and were published many times over, in many different languages; indeed, his works were so popular that, in many cases, his more popular works were combined into a single book. The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel, Citizen and Secretary of Florence. Written Originally in Italian, and from Thence Newly and Faithfully Translated into English is a prime example of Machiavelli’s most popular works being translated to English then published in London. Thorough examination of the physical book itself offers us a unique look into the production of books in 17th Century London while also showing that the book was most likely marketed to richer members of English society.

The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel was printed in London in 1675 for a Mr. John Starkey. Starkey was a printer in London. Like many of his fellow printers in the city of London, Starkey also was a bookseller; he would print books he thought would sell well and then sell those at a wholesale price while simultaneously functioning as a general bookseller, selling books published by other publishers.(1) Starkey’s confidence in his ability to sell The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel is apparent through the amount of money he invested in printing it.

Producing a book during the 17th Century was expensive due to the high price of high-quality paper, but in the case of The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel, Starkey would have invested a considerably higher amount of money in paper alone while also spending more on added designs to the paper during printing. The average quality book produced in England, was produced on low quality, brown, English-made paper while The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel was printed on expensive, high quality paper made from white, linen scraps which was only produced by foreign mills in Normandy.(2) This made the paper even more expensive. Adding to the cost of the book, Starkey also had the book printed with elaborate title pages and designs applied with an engraved copper plate. Starkey’s investments in expensive, foreign paper and elaborate page designs, shows that he was fairly certain that the book would sell regardless of the cost to him.

The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel was bound with brown calf’s leather and tooled with gilded lettering and designs while the outer edge of the book’s pages were painted so that, when closed, the books pages would appear marbled. The binding and marbling was either paid for by the consumer or Starkey; either way, making such an investment in the book proves the book was indeed a luxury item, intended to be purchased by the richer members of society.

In conclusion, the heightened cost of paper coupled with expensive additions such as a leather binding, elaborate title pages and designs, marbling on the outer-edge of the book, and gilded designs and lettering are clear indicators that The Works of the Famous Nicolas Machiavel was marketed towards the richer members of English society. Even though it is unclear who paid for the binding of the book and its other artistic additions, we can be sure that if the additions were done by Starkey or by the buyer that the book’s eventual owner would have been someone able to afford the final product.

1. Phillip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2000), 180.

2. Ibid, 60.

Submitted by John Crowell-Mackie
Published: 1675
Call Number: DG731.5 .M32 1675