The autograph of a letter, largely unpublished, written by Guicciardini to Machiavelli was found in Paris at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Professor Marcello Simonetta found it and included it in the new edition of his book ‘Francesco Guicciardini, between autobiography and history’ published by Ronzani publisher.
Dated 7 August 1525, the letter which until today was known but only partially due to imperfect copies, is strategic for the analysis of the Guicciardinian vision of history, it contains the famous phrase “ambuliamo in tenebris” which pessimistically defines the human condition and in particular a moment of war and uncertainty which is sadly topical.
The discovery of Simonetta – senior scholar of the Medici Archive Project in Florence, where he lives, among the curators of the national edition of Machiavelli’s Letters and author of numerous books – allows to correct, explains the editor’s note, various lessons and to fill the gaps in the two known apographs (the Ricci Apograph and the Vat. lat. 6528), allowing us to state with certainty that the central body of the letter concerns the estate of Finocchieto, visited by Niccolò on behalf of his friend a few days earlier. Twenty years ago Simonetta had also found the Machiavellian letter of 3 August 1525 with the mocking “review” of Finocchieto as an allegory of bad government.
The autograph found is preserved in the Nouvelles Acquisitions Françaises of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, num. 1470, third volume of the Recueil de lettres, quittances et pièces diverses, la plupart des XVIe et XVIIe siècles, formé par le Dr. Payen.
Dr. Payen was the French physician and scholar, as well as distinguished Montaignist, who evidently bought this and other autographs from the Succi collection at the Parisian auction on April 10, 1863. The letter had disappeared from circulation until now. In Simonetta’s book there is another important element. The reflection around a little-known but truly original and explosive text, the Accusatoria, in which Guicciardini imagines being pilloried by a republican magistrate.
This speech, underlines the editor’s note, “is usually treated by scholars as a mere rhetorical exercise, but Simonetta demonstrates that the charges are all true and incontrovertible. And therefore he formulates against Guicciardini the accusation of practicing a form of autobiography disguised as historiography, or an oblique self-justification of one’s work. An accusation that is not entirely unfounded, as can be seen by reflecting on the ambiguous role of actor, and not only of spectator, that he had to play in the most dramatic situation of Italian history, from 1494 to 1527 (with the Sack of Rome, of which he was personally responsible) “. (HANDLE).

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