VICO, Giovanni Battista.. Principj di una scienza nuova intorno alla natura della nazioni.

Naples, Felice Mosca., 1725

Duodecimo (165 x 105 mm.), 270 pages, 6 unnumbered leaves. Our copy has manuscript corrections on pages: 35, 46, 59, 60, 61, 108, 142, 173, 249, 267; and the three-line paper slip pasted on verso of the last page of text. Contemporary interim paper boards with manuscript title on spine. Browning and foxing due to the poor quality of the paper but a very fine copy completely untrimmed.The very rare first edition of this ground-breaking historiographical work, untouched in its original state.‘The vehicle by which the concept of historical development at last entered the thought of Western Europe' (Toulmin, The Discovery of Time, 125)‘Many 20th-century notions of anthropology, comparative law, literature, religion and linguistic philosophy can be found in the pages of this book' (PMM)The son of a Neapolitan bookseller, Gimbattista Vico (1668-1774) earned a degree in utroque iure at Naples. After working as a private tutor, he was appointed to a professorship of rhetoric in the same university and, in 1734, he became Historiographer Royal to Charles III, King of Naples.The first edition of the Scienza Nuova was written in 1723-25 and offered, with a dedication, to Cardinal Lorenzo Corsini, later Pope Clement XII. Although Corsini's acceptance implied financial assistance to the publication of Vico's work, he eventually withdrew his support. Unable to find a more generous patron, Vico had to excise three-quarters of the original 1,000 pages and have the work printed at his expense in a minute typeface, in 12mo, on low-quality paper (Croce, Bibliografia, 35-37). The present copy, in interim boards, untrimmed and awaiting binding, has come down to us as it was then, fresh from the printer's press. ‘This first edition is very scarce; in 1729, four years after its publication, its rarity was renowned'; copies were sold, even then, at a high price (Parenti, Notizia, 11).The work offered a new philosophical system, opposed to Descartes – a scienza embracing the general knowledge of human civilisation, based on the interaction of philology, history and law. To Vico, philology and etymology were useful epistemological instruments for the understanding of the ancient past. Poetry in particular, he explained, conveyed history through myths enshrouded in allegory. He also saw history as a cyclical pattern, composed of corsi and ricorsi, by which civilisations moved from barbarism to a refined humanity, only to elapse back into the former. These ideas, so opposed to 18th-century classicism and positivism, were instead celebrated in 19th-century philosophy, linguistics and nationalism.Reprinted and enlarged in 1730 and 1744, the 1725 edition remains nevertheless the one in which Vico's philosophy ‘was expressed with less depth and self-confidence […] yet with greater ease and spontaneity, so that the common reader will find it less obscure' (Fasso, ‘Quattro auttori', 79).PMM 184; Croce, Bib. Vichiana, 34-41; Brunet V, 1175. WorldCat locates three copies in the US and one in the UK.Croce, Bibliografia Vichiana (Naples, 1947); M. Parenti, Notizia bibliografica sulle edizioni originali della ‘Scienza Nuova' (Florence, c.1950); G. Fasso, I ‘quattro auttori' del Vico (Milano, 1949).

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