Friday - 25 April 2014

You wait ages for a Prince, then two come along at once

13 July 2012Written by Ian McKay

Just three copies of the 1640, first English edition of Nicholas Machiavelli’s short treatise on political leadership have come to auction in this century, the last of them in 2005.

But this summer has brought not one, but two copies of Edward Dacre's translation of the 1532 original from which the word Machiavellian entered the English language.

In late 18th century calf, rebacked to preserve the old spine, a copy of Nicholas Machiavel's Prince... seen at Christie's on June 13 showed some glue staining to the front pastedown, a couple of marks on the title and some light pen scoring in an early hand, but it sold at a record £35,000.

Those disappointed at the King Street sale have a second chance at Keys of Aylsham on July 26-27, where another - found during a local valuation - will be offered with an estimate of £25,000-30,000. This, too, has a later but old binding and there are a couple of tiny wormholes, as well as what appears to be a thumbprint on the title, but who knows when another will come along?

As can be seen from the illustration here of the title page of the Norfolk copy, the book also includes the less familiar... Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca,a work in which reference is made to others whose criminal acts were carried out for reasons of political expediency.

The life of Castruccio (1281-1328), a condottieri, or mercenary soldier and leader in the era of Italian city states, was also the basis for Mary Shelley's 1822 novel Valpurga.

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