Zanobi Buondelmonti

Place Of Sender



Niccolò Machiavelli

Place Of Destination


Relevance to the Project


Type of Record

Standard (Letter text)

Type of Document


Main Subject

Comments of Buondelmonti and many other friends from the Orti Oricellari on M.’s Vita di Castruccio Castracani.

The letter provides feedback on M.’s fictional biography of Castruccio Castracani, which he had written during a mission in Lucca. Since the Medici were disposed to nominate him as historiographer, he composed this work to prove his qualification for this commission. Buondelmonti celebrates the text and its mission as a success. This letter provides evidence for the importance of seemingly ‘otiose’ literary skills in the context of M.’s rehabilitation.

The Genesis of the Castruccio Castracani

Although his plan of recommending himself as a political advisor or agent to the Medici by writing and presenting the Principe had obviously failed, in 1520 M. started working on a short ‘biographical’ text in order to prove his legitimacy and qualification as a historiographer. Sent by Florentine companies to carry out commercial negotiations in Lucca, he seizes the occasion to collect material on the history of Castruccio Castracani (Signore of Lucca in the 14th century) and wrote down a short piece: La vita di Castruccio Castracani (for the context and the genesis as well as the relation between historical facts and fiction in M.’s Castruccio, see Black, Machiavelli, 223–228). However, rather than being as simple as an ‘occasional’ writing, the biography of Castruccio was composed with highly strategic intentions. Ultimately, the Castruccio Castracani provides a fine example of the potential professional benefits of the so-called otium litteratum at the borderline between vita activa and vita contemplativa.


Otium litteratum within the “compagnia”

The letter written by Zanobi Buondelmonti (also in the name of numerous other members of the group, who had read his text) provides evidence of how important the contributions of the “compagnia” were in the production of Machiavellian texts during this period. Buondelmonti not only shows his gratitude for Machiavelli’s intention to dedicate the text to him and other friends – actually it was finally dedicated to him and Luigi Alamanni –, but offers substantial feedback on style, vocabulary, and the use of literary models. Furthermore, an appointment is made to discuss the details of text editing after his imminent return to Florence. Literary writing and otium are, thus, conceived of as social practices.

Onorando compare mio, noi ricevemo la vostra de’ XXVIII del passato insieme con la Vita di Castruccio Castracani composta da voi; la quale, e per essere cosa buona, e per conoscere anche che voi vi ricordate in ogni luogo degli amici vostri, ci è stata tanto cara del mondo. Leggemola e consideramola così un poco insieme, Luigi, il Guidetto, il Diaccetino, Antonfrancesco e io, e generalmente ci risolvemo fussi cosa buona e ben detta. Notòssi bene certi luoghi i quali, sebbene stanno bene, si potrebbono non di meno migliorare; come è quella parte ultima de’ ditterii e de’ tratti ingegnosi e acuti detti del detto Castrucci, la quale non tornerebbe se non meglio più breve, perché, oltre all’essere troppi quegli suoi detti o sali, ve ne è una parte che è da altri e antichi e moderni savi attribuita; una altra non ha quella vivacità né quella grandeza che si richiederebbe a un tanto uomo. Ma ve ne resta tanti buoni che si possono di lui addurre, che la sua vita ne resta ricca assai. L’altre annotazioni sono più tosto circa alle parole che circa all’altre parte: delle quali tutte cose ci riserbereno a parlare a bocca con più piacere assai. Halla veduta e letta Jacopo Nardi e Batista della Palla, il quale è qui e sta bene e desidera assai la presenzia vostra, e lodanla asai. Pierfrancesco Portinari e Alessandro ancora, con i quali ero alla villa quando mi fu portata, l’hanno commendata generalmente: in quello che ciascuno si fermava o dubitava, e circa alla lingua e circa all’istoria, e alla esplicazione de’ sensi e concetti vostri, come ho detto, vi se ne parlerà a bocca.

Pare a tutti che voi vi dobbiate mettere con ogni diligenzia a scrivere questa istoria [sc. the Istorie fiorentine].


Source: Edizione nazionale delle Opere di Niccolò Machiavelli

My honored compare. We received your letter of the 18th of last month, along with the Life of Castruccio Castracani written by you. The latter was as dear to us as anything in the world, both because it is a good work and also because we know that you remember your friends everywhere you are. We read it and considered it thus together a while, Luigi, Guidetti, Diaceto, Antonio Francesco, and I. We all decided that it was a good thing, and well written. Of course, certain places were noted that, even though they are quite good, could nonetheless be improved: for instance, that last part with the apothegms and the witty and sharp sayings of said Castruccio, which would only turn out better if it was shortened, because in addition to these sayings or witticisms of his being too numerous, there are some of them that are attributed to other sages, both ancient and modern; another part does not have the liveliness or the grandeur that would be expected of such a man. But there remain so many good sayings that can be attributed to him that his life still remains quite rich. The other notations are rather concerning words than other considerations: but we shall save all these things for when we speak face-to-face, with much greater pleasure. Jacopo Nardi and Battista della Palla, who is here and is well and greatly desires your presence, have seen it and read it, and they praise it highly. Pierfrancesco Portinari and Alessandro also, with whom I was out in the country when it was brought to me, have universally commended it; as to what each of them hesitated or doubted about, concerning both language and the story and the explanation of your meaning and concetti, as I have said, we shall talk about that face-to-face.

It seems to everyone that you ought to set yourself to writing this history with all diligence.


Source: Atkinson/Sices: Machiavelli and his friends. Their Personal Correspondence.

R. Ridolfi, Vita di Niccolò Machiavelli (Florence: Sansoni, 1978), 284; R. Black, Machiavelli, London/New York 2013; A. Montevecchi,”Vita di Castruccio Castracani,” in Enciclopedia machiavelliana (Rome: Ist. della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2014), online access; A. M. Cummings, The Maecenas and the Madrigalist. Patrons, Patronage, and the Origins of the Italian Madrigal (Philadelphia: 2004), 23.



The Role of Zanobi Buondelmonti

Zanobi Buondelmonti is one of the dedicatees of Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy as well as of the Vita di Castruccio Castracani. In M.’s dialogue Dell’arte della guerra we encounter his fictional alter-ego as a discussant.


The Mission to Lucca

Robert Black highlights the interest of the Medici in the mission to Lucca: “[A] failed Lucchese merchant was attempting to give priority to gambling debts over commercial obligations with several important Florentines including Iacopo Salviati, who was Leo X’s brother-in-law, married to Lucrezia, daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Hence the interest taken in the affair from the beginning by Cardinal Giulio and indeed the entire ‘most illustrious house’ of Medici. Beginning in November 1519, Giulio had written repeated letters and had had numerous meetings with Lucchese envoys. Finally he decided to send an experienced negotiator in the person of Machiavelli to Lucca. […] By the end of his stay, Machiavelli was able to secure the appointment of a board of arbitration acceptable to both sides. The mission to Lucca signaled Machiavelli’s return to active involvement in Florentine affairs at the highest level: his idle years had finally ended” (Black, Machiavelli, 224).


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Cite as: Judith Frömmer, Andrea Guidi

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