The Guicciardini family was among the most eminent in Florence in the Renaissance period. Because of his assiduous sifting of official documents, Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540), the friend of Niccolo Machiavelli and author of the massive ten-volume Storia d'Italia, is often hailed as the 'father of modern history'. Francesco's nephew, Lodovico Guicciardini (1521-1589), shared his uncle’s intellectual and literary bent, but he was drawn to travel, venturing across much of continental Europe.
Lodovico’s account of ‘the Low Countries’ (principally modern-day Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, but also taking in the Schleswig-Holstein region of norther Germany and the Dunkirk area of northeastern France) was one of the bestsellers of the sixteenth century. First produced in an Italian version in 1567 by the Antwerp printer Guillaume Silvius, it was swiftly reprinted in other languages (French, Latin, Dutch, German). The description it contains of Antwerp as ‘the loveliest city in the world’ – a rare compliment coming from a Florentine – is still fondly cited by Belgians. At a time when most European centres were cramped, grubby and malodorous, Antwerp boasted broad, clean streets and large houses, but besides its physical attractiveness it was also, in the mid-sixteenth century, one of the world's leading cultural centres. Guicciardini's Antwerp-based contemporaries included the painter Pieter Brueghel the elder, the great philologist Justus Lipsius and the innovative cartographers Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius.
A handsome folio, containing many hand-coloured maps and illustrations, the Library’s French edition of Guicciardini's masterwork was donated by Henry Shaw in 1908.