Discorsi di Nicolo Machiavegli cittadino & Secretario Fiorentino.

MACHIAVELLI Niccolo (1540.)



Woodcut 'testina' portrait of Machiavelli on title page, woodcut initials. 

8vo (150 x 95mm). ff.[8], 215, [1]. Early limp vellum binding (remboitage?) spine with title inked in later hand (endpapers renewed). 

Venice: Comin de Trino, [November]

A rare, early Venetian edition of Machiavelli's Discorsi, owned by English clergyman and antiquarian Charles Lamotte FRS FSA (1679-1742) and with his annotations throughout.


"Lamotte was of Huguenot extraction and was born around 1679. He was educated at Westminster School then Trinity College, Cambridge. Ordained deacon in the London diocese in March 1704, he was made a priest six months later in the Diocese of Peterborough and almost immediately was introduced as Vicar of Weekley by Ralph, 1st Duke of Montague". Following several local appointments and rectorships in Northamptonshire on the Montague estates, as their chaplain, in 1732 he was appointed chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales.  Alongside his spiritual duties and vocation, Lamotte's principal interest was in the classics; in 1725 he was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries and penned several essays on a variety of subjects relating to classical architecture, literature and art, including his Essay Upon Poetry and Painting, with relation to sacred and profane history. With an Appendix concerning obscenity in writing and painting (for the Royal Society, 1730). In his Essay, his only work on aesthetics, 'Lamotte employs a "rhetorical" critical method whose principles and areas of interest derive from Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises...His concern with religious and historical "truth" in art reflects what were probably the two greatest interests in his life - theology and antiquarian studies' (Malek, 467). 


Lamotte's engagement here with Machiavelli's treatise on Livy indicates that his interest in the classics was evidently already well underway as a young man, pursuing his studies at Cambridge in the late seventeenth century. A critical commentary on the Ab Urbe Condita of Livy on the growth of the Roman Empire - with comparisons drawn by Machiavelli between Rome and the political situation in Florence - the work is divided into three parts: the first deals with the foundation, constitution and stabilisation of a developing state; the second, state expansion; and the third, the pursuit of stability in peacetime and conflict. 


The extensive marks Lamotte has made throughout this copy range from highlighting - by way of underlining particular phrases and passages, and drawing manicules - to marginal annotations in which particular elements of the text are translated and summarised; essentially, index notes, drawing out salient points and indicating the structure of Machiavelli's argument. For example, 'the difference betwixt good and ill' (f.5v), 'how a prince should gaine the people' (f.31r), 'how tirany [sic] is begotten' (f.60r), 'the way to make a commonwealth last' (f.13v) and so on. In some places Lamotte's annotations demonstrate critical engagement with the text - 'an ill maxime' (f.47v), for example, is written alongside Machiavelli's discussion of systems of punishing captains in the army in the Republic being based on ancient, rather than modern customs; 'a great example against succession' (f.21r) against Machiavelli's assertion that 'all Emperors that succeeded by inheritance or succession, apart from Titus Caesar were terrible'; 'a common error of most nations' (f.87v) alongside a passage explaining the failings of nations and territories in repelling Roman forces; among others. A handful of annotations might speak to Lamotte's esteem of antiquity, as well as his perception of the role of faith in society. He has annotated a passage illustrating 'why the ancient times are approved and the present are damned' (f.84); and others discussing the role of religion in society (f. 26r, f.90r-v), though the passage in which Machiavelli asserts that the religion of the ancients, in honouring sacrifice, action and glory over contemplation and humility made their society strong, and his own, weak, has little underlining or notes, simply a brief 'the difference of things esteemed' in the margin (f.90v). 


Machiavelli began to write the Discorsi in 1513 when he was sent into exile, and completed it in 1517; it was first printed in Rome in 1531 (Antonio Blado). A Florentine edition was printed, hot on the heels of the Roman, in the same year, and the first Venetian edition was published just a year later in 1532, from the presses of Nicolini da Sabio. There was as great an appetite in Venice for the Discorsi as for the Principe, perhaps greater; the model of political system the Prince dealt with -- the acquisition and consolidation of power in the hands of a single sovereign -- appealed less to a Venetian audience than the republicanism at the centre of the Discorsi (Bertelli & Innocenti, 50).  The first Aldine edition of the Discorsi was printed in the same year as da Trino's edition, and there does not appear to be consensus regarding precedence, though Bertelli & Innocenti state that Comin da Trino's edition followed that of Aldus, and is based on the text of the Zanetti edition of 1537 (B&I, 51). The present edition is considered to be the first, with the woodcut portrait of Machiavelli on the title page, and the basis for the woodcut image on the title pages of the so-called 'testina' editions of the seventeenth century (see Gamba).  


Both the nature of Lamotte's annotations and that he was reading the present work as part of, or alongside his studies is interesting in the context of changing perceptions of Machiavelli and his works in England in this period; this volume and its annotations would provide a rich source for further study in this context. The so-called 'classical republicans' of the seventeenth century - "Milton, Andrew Marvell, Algernon Sidney, [James] Harrington, and a number of lesser figures - were impressed by the stability of Venetian constitutional forms and through them by the Greek and Renaissance Italian theorists of mixed government, of whom Polybius was the most representative among the ancients and Machiavelli - the Machiavelli of the Discourses -among the moderns" (Pocock, 551); though this would change over the course of the following century. 


Title page with early pen trials, and several early ownership inscriptions, one deleted. 


Minor trimming to text block, some loss to annotations though minor and still legible. Final leaf torn, lower portion lacking and part of final typographic device supplied in facsimile. 


Provenance: 1. 'Roelans F. ' inscribed on title page in sixteenth-century hand, surname 'Roelans' or 'Roelandts' may indicate early Dutch or Flemish provenance. 2. 'Ex Libris Caroli Lamotte Trin. Coll. Cant AB'. written on title page in late seventeenth-century hand, that of clergyman Charles Lamotte (1679-1742), Chaplain to the Duke of Montagu (Vicar of Weekley, then Scaldwell; Rector of Warkton), subsequently Chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales (from 1732), author of An Essay upon poetry and painting, with relation to sacred and profane history. With an Appendix concerning obscenity in writing and painting (London, 1730), dedicated to the Prince of Wales.. 

Bertelli & Innocenti, 51.  Gamba, 605. BMSTC (Italian), 400. Not in Adams. 

G. Giorgini, 'Five hundred years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli's "Prince"', The Review of Politics, 75 (2013), 625-40. J. Malek, 'Charles Lamotte's "An Essay upon Poetry and Painting" and eighteenth-century British Aesthetics', The Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism 29.4 (1971), 467-73. P. McKay, 'The Literary Career of Charles Lamotte', Northamptonshire Past & Present (Northamptonshire Record Society, 2014; open access). J. G. A. Pocock, 'Machiavelli, Harrington and English Political Ideologies in the Eighteenth Century', The William and Mary Quarterly, 22 (1965), pp.549-83.

[OCLC: UCLA, Newberry Library. UK: Aberdeen.].

Stock Code: 246653

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