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  • Politica: Six Books on Politics or Political Instruction
  • Jeanine G. De Landtsheer
Justus Lipsius . Politica: Six Books on Politics or Political Instruction. Ed. and trans. Jan Waszink. Bibliotheca Latinitatis Novae 5. Assen: Royal Van Gorcum BV, 2004. xii + 840 pp. index. append. illus. bibl. €94.50. ISBN: 90–232–4038–3.

Editions of Latin texts from the Renaissance and early modern period seem to be quite popular. In Renaissance Quarterly 57.3 (Fall 2004) John Monfasani has brought the I Tatti series to our attention, in his review of Craig Kallendorf's Humanist Educational Treatises. The present book, too, Jan Waszink's edition of Justus Lipsius's Politica, is part of a new series of Neo-Latin texts, Bibliotheca Latinitatis Novae, published by Royal van Gorcum in Assen (The Netherlands) and clearly following the design of the well-known Teubner. The series is aimed at "Latinists as well as modern linguists, Renaissance and early modern historians, historians of art, science and law, and all other students of the Classical Tradition" and provides an English translation as well. Among the available titles are John K. Hale, ed., John Milton: Latin Writings (1999); Jan Waszink et al., eds., Hugo Grotius: The Antiquity of the Batavian Republic, with notes by Petrus Scriverius (2000); Adrie van der Laan and Fokke Akkerman, eds., Rudolph Agricola: Letters (2002: most recommendable!); and Dorothy Pritchard Huber and Mark Riley's edition of John Barclay's Argenis (2004).

Also in 2004 appeared Jan Waszink's edition of one of Justus Lipsius's most influential, but also most complicated, works, the Politica sive civilis doctrinae libri VI qui ad principatum maxime spectant (first published Leiden: F. Raphelengius, 1589), dedicated "To the Emperor, the Kings and the Princes." It was reissued and reprinted more than forty times, until late in the eighteenth century, in its whole [End Page 699] or in an abbreviated form, and was translated into Dutch, French, Italian, English, German, Polish, and Castilian. With his Politica Lipsius follows in the footsteps of such illustrious predecessors as Machiavelli and Erasmus. In books 1 and 2 he dwells in a more general way upon the virtues to be expected from a sovereign and discusses the purpose and the various forms of government. Book 3 focuses on prudentia civilis, the major quality of a king, and the importance of choosing wise and honest counselors and ministers. Book 4 discusses a some demanding problems, with which the sovereign will inevitably be faced, such as the levying of a sensible and fair amount of taxes, or the relation between religion and state, and the king's attitude towards dissidents, or the question whether a sovereign is allowed to use guile and deceit. In the final books the author treats the prudentia militaris: the need for a smoothly organized, efficient, and well-behaving army. To avoid burdening taxes, religious discord, and incursions of undisciplined soldiers, Lipsius obviously wrote his advice with the miserable situation of his native country in his mind.

But the Politica is also a real tour de force: the author has presented his "guide for good government" in a cento, a continuous chain of quotations from classical authors, linked by a commentary of his own. The typography of the Plantin Press keeps the distinction between Lipsius's own sentences (in Roman type) and the quotations (in italic) with short references to the sources in the inner margins, an effect carefully respected by Jan Waszink in his edition (in his corresponding English translation the sources from the Latin text — usually without chapters or paragraphs — are substituted by the exact, modern references).

In his introduction Waszink discusses Lipsius's ideas against the background of his life and work on the one hand, and the evolution of political thought and morality in the sixteenth century on the other hand. Waszink also pays attention to the reception of the treatise when it was issued — the rift with Coornhert, the risk of its being put on the Index of Forbidden Books, the encouragement of Lipsius's Jesuit friends — and the reception of his ideas in later centuries. After elaborating on the format of the work (with attention for commonplace books) and its structure, the...


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