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The Prince (1580, 1643)

Lower Library F.23.14, K.16.69

Early printed books preserve not only writings, but readings. What is printed with a text (an introduction, a commentary, or as here, a choice of companion texts) can tell us about how its meaning was understood and contested at the time.

When Pietro Perna printed the first Latin translation of Niccolò Machiavelli's Prince – on the face of it, a manual for a ruthless autocrat – he added to it the anonymous work A Vindication Against Tyrants, reclaiming The Prince for his own republican politics. Perna presumably believed The Prince exposed autocratic tactics (though probably not, like Rousseau, that this was Machiavelli’s 'secret intention'). Hieronymus de Vogel's 1643 edition adds further texts, and a frontispiece showing a prince whose rule relies on violence.

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