View full screen - View 1 of Lot 231. Nifo, Agostino | The only substantial text of "The Prince" printed in Machiavelli’s lifetime.

Nifo, Agostino | The only substantial text of "The Prince" printed in Machiavelli’s lifetime

Nifo, Agostino | The only substantial text of "The Prince" printed in Machiavelli’s lifetime

Nifo, Agostino | The only substantial text of "The Prince" printed in Machiavelli’s lifetime

Nifo, Agostino

De regnandi peritia ad Carolum .VI. Imper. Caesarem semper augustum. Naples: by Caterina De Silvestro, 1523

8vo (192 x 130 mm). Bound second following Nifo's Libellus de rege et tyranno (Naples: Evangelista Presenzani, 1526), both works neatly ruled in red, first work with title within woodcut border, ornamental woodcut initials, and final blank, second work with guide letters for dedication and first book, lacking final blank. Bound in an attractive nineteenth-century retrospective binding of Italianate fanfare style, with Papal arms, evidently originally intended to deceive and most likely the work of Théodore Hagué: brown morocco, the covers with interlacing floral strapwork, painted and with onlays of red, green, blue, and gray, all outlined in gilt, central arms of Pope Pius IV, gilt pointelle cornerpieces, spine gilt in seven compartments with simple strapwork design, edges gilt and gauffered, remnants of ties; new endpapers, slightest rubbing to extremities. Red morocco solander box, gilt-lettered "Bound for Pope Pius IV about 1560."

Agostino Nifo (1469/70–1538?) was a Renaissance Aristotelian philosopher who held teaching posts throughout Italy: Padua, Naples, Rome, Salerno, and Pisa. At one of his stops, Nifo became acquainted with Niccolò Machiavelli's Il Principe, which was extensively circulated in manuscript after its completion in 1513, even though it was not published until 1532, several years after the author's death.

Nifo translated extensive passages of Il Principe into Latin and published them, without attribution, in De regnandi peritia (On the Art of Ruling), giving his own work the distinction of including the first published portion of one of the most significant and influential political treatises in history.

While Nifo has ofttimes been dismissed as a mere plagiarist, his position is a bit more nuanced than that. In the first instance, the concepts of literary property and proprietorship simply didn't exist in the sixteenth century. But what is more important is that while Machiavelli posited that immoral means were justified in allowing princes to achieve their goals, Nifo argued that ethical principles should be maintained even in politics. Nifo may have used Machiavelli's words, but he was not making Machiavelli's case; most critically, Nifo differentiated, as Machiavelli did not, between tyrants and princes.

Very rare: we find no copy in the Anglo-American auction records since the George Dunn sale at Sotheby's in 1917.


Adams N289; BMSTC (Italian), 468; cf. G. Giorgini, "Five Hundred Years of Scholarship on Machiavelli's 'Prince,'" in The Review of Politics 75.4 (2013):625-40

Condition as described in catalogue entry.

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