In 2013 a Swedish publishing company (Atlantis, Stockholm) completed its fine enterprise of publishing the main works of that great Italian philosopher and defender of freedom, Niccolò Machiavelli. A selection of the Italian thinkers letters is available (Niccolò Machiavelli, Brev, Atlantis, 2013, 125 pages).

The common picture of the philosopher is mostly misleading. His importance is almost universally underestimated. In reality he announced an enterprise that affected all humanity: the creation of the modern world.

This was a work that would bring common benefit to everyone (Discourses). That was the great enterprise.

The leading American expert on Machiavelli, Professor Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University has identified what he believes is the key phrase in all the works available to us.

This phrase can be found in Chapter 15 of The Prince:

But since my intention is to write something of use for those who understand it, it seemed more suitable to me to go after the effectual truth of the matter than after an imaginary one.

In the Swedish translation of Paul Enoksson the same phrase is rendered:

Men daa min avsikt aer att skriva naagot som kan vara till nytta för den som foerstaar det, tycks det mig baettre att tala om det som är sant (verita effetuale, my comment) aen om det som bara aer fantasi.

Most likely ”effectual truth” means that the philosopher is interested in the truth that is leading to action in the world. In the Middle Ages speculation dominated and for the new world of the Renaissance that thinking was impractical.

Enoksson’s selection of letters is mainly a good one. Naturally the letter of December 10, 1513, is in the new Swedish edition. In this letter the writing of The Prince is first mentioned (the book was not published until after the death of Machiavelli. Personally I would have liked more of the diplomatic letters. Which reveal much about the basic thinking of foreign policy of the time, Preferably it should have been those which deal with the foreign policy of the Venetian republic.

If Atlantis in the future would like to publish more by and about the great Italian there is an excellent catalog for the 2013-2014 Machiavelli exhibition at Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Firenze, La Via al Principe: Niccolò Machiavelli da Firenze a San Casciano, Imago, 2013, 228 pages, large format).


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