Home / news / Discovery of an Italian manuscript from the 16th century … Controversy over its attribution to Machiavelli, the owner of the “Prince”

Discovery of an Italian manuscript from the 16th century … Controversy over its attribution to Machiavelli, the owner of the “Prince”

Many readers know the advice of the Italian political theorist Niccol Machiavelli (1469-1527) famous for his book “The Prince” which he wrote in 1513 after his dismissal from the position of advisor to the government of Florence, but is there a manuscript of the writings of the Italian author? Does he have unpublished works that he did not find?

Machiavelli said about his book – which was published after his death – that it “benefits those who understand him,” and summarized in it all the qualities that the prince and the ruler should adhere to, stressing his most famous advice “the end justifies the means” he directed to the rulers, to help them cling to power by every means Possible.

Among those interested in Italian literature, there are questions about the possibility of finding writings in the handwriting of their authors. Is it possible to find any work written in the handwriting of the famous poet Dante Alighieri, or on a signature at the bottom of one of the papers with his pen?

When asked where to search for anything written in Dante’s handwriting, the chief Italian scholar of ancient writings, Emmanuel Casamasima – a former director of the National Central Library in Florence – said the answer lies in the collection of medieval manuscripts kept by the library.

Although the manuscript everyone wants to find has not yet appeared, the scholars keep searching and do not lose hope.

Accidentally discovered

In his report, published in the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”, writer Paolo Di Stefano said that the exciting discoveries in this field are often more by chance than the result of constant persistence, but coincidence does not mean a lack of effort, and this is what happened in the case of the new discovery of work Unpublished by Machiavelli, it is not a handwritten work, rather it is a hitherto unknown text that was discovered while doing “boring” indexing tasks.

The writer goes back in time, specifically to the life of Giuliano de Ricci (1543-1606), the grandson of Machiavelli.

Giuliano, a minor political figure in the Medici retinue, and his cousin Niccol were reportedly given the task of “arranging” the grandfather papers.

In this regard, Giuliano compiled a large number of Machiavelli’s literary texts and other documents inherited from the family will, which his grandson himself copied into a volume.

Known as “Apografo Ricci”, this volume is part of the Platen Collection of the National Library of Florence.

The writer mentioned that the indexing of the so-called Platin Collection – which includes 1500 manuscripts – was not completely completed, and only a year ago, thanks to the initiative of David Speranzi, head of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books, the “Manus Online” project was launched with the aim of preparing a complete inventory, and it was natural that he supervised On the job is the current successor of Casamasima Luca Bellingeri, director of the National Library of Florence, founded in 1861.

Contrary to expectations, this task was entrusted to the scholar of ancient writings Daniel Conte, and this has already led to the discovery of a handwritten manuscript by the famous Italian historian and statesman Francesco Guicardini – a friend and critic of Niccolo Machiavelli – containing an unpublished text on military matters.

A new discovery

The real great discovery came a few weeks ago, when Conte came across a previously unreferred manuscript that in many ways resembled “Apografo Ricci,” a composite manuscript that Giuliano himself collected in the second half of the 16th century, and was briefly recorded as “Chronica”.

The manuscript consists of 3 sections, the most important and surprising of which is the second section, which contains 100 papers divided into two volumes, with many historical parts not completely known until now that belong to Machiavelli himself, although not written in his own handwriting, but by the scribe under the supervision of his grandson Giuliano .

These written works documented year after year the work of the Second Counselor of the Republic of Florence, a position that Machiavelli held between 1498 and 1512, however, no final date can be attributed to the original text.

In fact, records and notes document – almost in the form of a diary – events that occurred over a long period of time (1497-1515), such as accounts of decisive moments in the history of Italy and European conflicts, including the clashes between the French and the English, and a description of the Battle of Marignano 1515. Between the French army of Francis I and the Swiss.

Machiavelli’s sources of inspiration

Conte notes that the nature of these materials should help give a clearer idea of ​​how Machiavelli worked and use his memoirs to understand contemporary issues of his “political” conceptions.

These writings complement the historical portions that his grandson collected in the volume “Apografo”, in which Giuliano stated that he had copied “notes taken from papers or notebooks written by Machiavelli in his own handwriting.”

Like most of Machiavelli’s notes copied in “Apografo,” the original copy of the rediscovered manuscript has disappeared.

These manuscripts are attributed to Machiavelli through various unambiguous evidence of an ancient, philosophical and historical nature, which Conte will present in the critical edition to be published by a university high school based in Pisa (Scuola Normale di Pisa) in the series “The Opening”.

Manuscript guides

First, it was established that these manuscripts were written by Machiavelli through the annotations of Giuliano de Ricci himself who wrote “Niccolo Machiavelli” on the front page of the two volumes and wrote the text in his own handwriting just as he used to do when he copied the signature of his grandfather.

In fact, Giuliano’s entries were not always reliable, especially since his grandfather wrote in a cursive and informal script, making it difficult to understand.

He himself confirmed that he was facing many difficulties by saying, “I found the original copy to be fragmented, incomplete, and in a very shabby state.”

Second, the history of the manuscript indicates that it belonged to Machiavelli. It was kept in Giuliano’s house without interruption until the 19th century, along with Machiavelli’s papers and other documents that ended up in the Palatine Library.

The 19th-century binding method shows similarities to other volumes that contain texts attributed to Machiavelli without a doubt.

Third, there is a particularly interesting feature of the content, as I extract the beginning of the text from a historical fragment already known from the 19th century by Machiavelli.

This opening was contained in a manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library and prepared by Machiavelli’s other grandson, Canon Niccol de Bernardo.

In that manuscript the text remained incomplete after one page, while it continues in the manuscript that has now been rediscovered in the Platin Collection of the Library of Florence.

Fourth, there is another “detail” indicating that the work belongs to Machiavelli. For the sake of preparing the manuscript, Giuliano de Ricci employed 3 scribes whose handwriting could be clearly distinguished, and according to Conte’s analysis, one’s handwriting corresponds to the historical parts of Machiavelli that are already known. In the volume “Apografo Ricci”.

Fifthly: This may be the most important point. The text provides judgments and considerations that reflect Machiavelli’s thought, and are consistent with the ideas expressed in well-known passages of his works. A clear example of this is the story of the death of Cesar Borgia, which evokes the famous seventh chapter of the book “The Prince” which talks about suppressing March of the so-called “Duke Valentino”.

It is true that part of the new texts under study coincide with those in two works of similar structure to the texts of Piaggio Buenachorsi, who was a close friend of Machiavelli, yet Conte noted that a detailed comparative study “highlights differences in style and thought between the authors. Boring and laconic in his style, compared to Machiavelli’s, which is very enthusiastic. “

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