Publishing the Prince

History, Reading, and the Birth of Political Criticism

Subjects: History
Paperback : 9780472033430, 216 pages, 10 B&W photographs, in text, 6.125 x 9.25, November 2008
Ebook : 9780472025282, 216 pages, March 2010
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An in-depth look at how Renaissance reading practices set the basis for Enlightenment political criticism

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Copyright © 2005, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


As new ideas arose during the Enlightenment, many political thinkers published their own versions of popular early modern "absolutist" texts and transformed them into manuals of political resistance. As a result, these works never achieved a fixed and stable edition. Publishing The Prince illustrates how Abraham-Nicolas Amelot de La Houssaye created the most popular late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century version of Machiavelli's masterpiece. In the process of translating, Amelot also transformed the work, altering its form and meaning, and his ideas spread through later editions.

Revising the orthodox schema of the public sphere in which political authority shifted away from the crown with the rise of bourgeois civil society in the eighteenth century, Soll uses the example of Amelot to show for the first time how the public sphere in fact grew out of the learned and even royal libraries of erudite scholars and the bookshops of subversive, not-so-polite publicists of the republic of letters.

Jacob Soll is Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University.

Cover art courtesy of Annenberg Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania
Jacket Design: Stephanie Milanowski

"Jacob Soll traces the origins of Enlightenment criticism to the practices of learned humanists and hard-pressed literary entrepreneurs. This learned and lively book is also a tour de force of historical research and interpretation."
---Anthony Grafton, author of Cardano's Cosmos and Bring Out Your Dead

"Brilliant. How the printed page changed political philosophy into investigative reporting, and reason of state into the unmasking of power."
---J. G. A. Pocock, author of The Machiavellian Moment

"Soll's path-breaking study is a 'must read' for all those interested in the history of political thought and early modern intellectual history."
---Barbara Shapiro, University of California Berkeley

"Soll has done [Amelot] and his context justice, writing as he does with a clear, singular, and welcome voice."
---Margaret C. Jacobs, American Historical Review

Jacob Soll is Professor of History and Accounting at the University of Southern California and the author of The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Secret State Intelligence System. He is a 2011 MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and a 2009 winner of a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He is also co-editor of the series Cultures of Knowledge in the Early Modern World, together with Ann Blair and Anthony Grafton.