Lettere di Principi,
le quali si scrivono o da principi,
o ragionano di principi.

Libro Terzo.

(Venice: Appresso Giordano Ziletti, 1577)
     Lettere di Principi is a collection of letters to, from, or about a wide variety of early-sixteenth-century European rulers, noblemen, and princes of the Roman Catholic Church. The collection was published in three volumes between 1569 and 1577 by Giordano Ziletti, a prolific printer-publisher operating in Venice throughout the 1560s and 1570s. Ziletti’s preface to the first volume (1569) indicates that he reproduced the letters “for the most part exactly, and [from] genuine originals, without any fraud or change”. He says, however, that the volume is a second printing intended to eliminate any printing errors, misspellings of names, or incorrect dates which may have crept into the first printing despite “every diligence” toward exactitude.[1]

     The first volume (1569) includes a dedication by Jeronimo Ruscelli addressed to Cardinal Carlo Borromeo.[2] It contains the usual fulsome praise of the dedicatee commonly seen in such dedications. The goal of such a dedication was, of course, the attainment of financial patronage from the dedicatee. As the cardinal-nephew of the reigning pope, Pius IV, Borromeo was certainly in a position to facilitate such support. Whether that support materialized for either Ruscelli or Ziletti is not known, though both remained highly active in Venice into the 1580s.

     The collection is arranged more or less chronologically within each volume. The third volume, in which these letters are found, contains letters written between 1528 and 1574. It includes letters from such luminaries as Cardinal Campeggio (written a decade after the “Great Matter” of Henry VIII), a letter from Henry II of France addressed to the leaders of Siena, one from Pope Julius III, as well as numerous others to and from various Italian noblemen, noblewomen, and Catholic bishops and cardinals. A small number of the letters do not have their authors or recipients identified, but appear to have been included on account of content related to important persons or events of the era. The two letters transcribed and translated here are among the unidentified, though each is explicitly dated from London in July of 1553.

     The letter was re-published in 1600 by the Italian historian Bartolomeo Zuchhi (1570–1630) as a model for how a secretary (“a most noble profession”) might write a precise and factual account of observed events. Zucchi attributed the letter to Giovan Battista Leoni, a career diplomat and prolific writer of letters in the service of the Venetian city-state.[3] Leoni is generally thought to have been born in about 1542, however, so that he would perhaps have been a mere child in 1553. It is therefore likely that Zucchi misattributed the letter, though it was almost certainly written by a member of the Venetian diplomatic entourage present in London in the early 1550s.

     To my knowledge, neither of these letters has ever been published in English, and no historian writing on the subject of Jane Grey or the succession dispute of 1553 has ever cited them. They are presented here for what I believe is the first time in the modern era.

     My transcription of the letters in the original Italian is rendered in a font that attempts to reproduce that of the printing of 1577. This includes the use of ‘u’ for both ‘u’ and ‘v’, and ‘ʃ’ for ‘s’ in many instances. I have also sought to preserve the original wording spacing (or lack of spacing), sentence lineation, and line breaks. Like Ziletti, I have used “every diligence” to avoid errors in the transcription. The astute reader will note, however, that there are seeming errors, especially in capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. These are, however, present in the original and attributable either to typesetting errors or to the idiosyncracies of sixteenth-century orthography.

     In translating the letters, I wanted to maintain the syntax and rhythms of sixteenth-century written English, as though the letters had been originally written in that language and style. Thus some words and phrases are translated rather freely, though I do hope that the original author’s meaning is not altered in any way. I am self-taught in Italian, and would therefore be very grateful to any reader who may be able to offer corrections of my translation. Full credit will of course be given in a footnote.


J. Stephan Edwards, Ph.D.
Palm Springs, California
20 November 2013

Due lettere riguardo La Signora Iana Graia d’Inghilterra,
scritto in Londra in Luglio di 1553

(Click on the image-button at left for the Italian original. Opens in a new window.)
Two letters concerning Lady Jane Grey of England,
written in London in July of 1553

(Click on the image-button at left for the English translation. Opens in a new window.)
  NOTES :      
Giordano Ziletti, Lettere di Principi, le qvali si scrivono o da principi, o a principi, o ragionano di principi, Libro Primo (Venice: Appresso Giordano Ziletti, 1569), ff.5r-v.
The dedication is dated 15 December 1561. Borromeo is one of those fascinating figures of the era who became Cardinal even before being ordained as a priest. He was the nephew of Giovanni Angelo Medici, who became Pope Pius IV in December 1559. Borromeo was made a Cardinal in January 1560. He was ordained as a priest in September 1563, consecrated as a bishop in December of that same year, and appointed as Archbishop of Milan in 1564. Borromeo became a leading figure in the so-called Counter-Reformation. He was, for example, a supporter of Catholic English exiles in Italy during the reign of Elizabeth I. Borromeo died in 1584 and was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in 1610.
  Bartolomeo Zucchi, L’Idea del Segretario dal Signor Bartolomeo Zucchi da Monza, Academico Insensato di Perugia ... Parte Seconda (Venice: Presso La Compagnia Minima, 1600), f.5r and pp. 28–34.  





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