There have been only three different English translations of the Arte della guerra, all made before the nineteenth century.130
The translation of Peter Whitehorne, or Whithorn, was published in 1560, 1573, and 1588, more printings at the time than of any other translation of a foreign military work. Appended to each of the editions was the translator’s own important technical manual,Certain Waies for the orderyng of Souldiers in battelray…. The editions of 1573 and 1588 also include a translation by H. G. (probably Henry Grantham) of Giralamo Cataneo’s Most brief tables to knowe redily how manye ranckes of footemen armed with Corslettes, as unarmed, go to the making of a iust battayle, from an hundred vnto twentye thousande, first published in Brescia in 1563. Unfortunately, most of the facts about the life of this interesting Elizabethan personage have been erased by time. He describes himself as both a student and a fellow of Gray’s Inn, but his name is not to be found in the register of that institution. According to his account he served ten years campaigning against the Moors in North Africa with the imperial forces of another Machiavelli fancier, Charles V. The translation of The Art of War was made in Africa some years before publication. In 1563 Whitehorne also published his translation of Fabio Cotta’s Italian rendering of Onasander’s Strategicus. Little else is known, except that in his memoirs, Sir Thomas Hoby, diplomat and translator of Castiglione, mentions his acquaintance with Whitehorne in Italy during 1549 and 1550.
A reprint of Whitehorne’s translation of The Art of War was published in 1905 (London: David Nutt), with an introduction by Henry Cust, as volume 39 of the Tudor Translations.
A translation by Henry Neville (1620-1694), or Nevill, was included in his single volume, folio edition (London, 1675), The Works of the Famous Nicholas Machiavel. Subsequent editions of the work appeared in 1680, 1694, and 1720. Neville was of a well-known, propertied Berkshire family. He left Oxford University without a degree, after having studied at Merton College and University College, and toured the continent, visiting Italy. Upon his return in 1645, he plunged into republican activity, and became closely associated with James Harrington, the author of the Commonwealth of Oceana (1656). He was returned to parliament for Reading in December 1658. During 1659 he was one of Harrington’s close collaborators in the Rota, and acted as a kind of parliamentary agent for that interesting society of republicanism which included John Milton, Andrew Marvell, Christopher Wren, John Aubrey, William Petty, and Samuel Pepys. In October of 1663 Neville was charged with being involved in the Yorkshire uprising and imprisoned in the Tower. After a year he was cleared of the charge and released. The remainder of his life was spent in retirement and study. He expounded his views on the nature of a republican government for England in his Plato Redivivus, or aDialogue concerning Government (London, 1681), which is a dialogue between an Englishman and a Venetian. Neville refers to Machiavelli as “the Divine Machiavel,” the “best and the most honest of the modern Politicians.”
Ellis Farneworth (d. 1763) included The Art of War in his translation, The Works of Nicholas Machiavel, published in two volumes in London in 1762. A second corrected edition in four volumes came out in 1775. Farneworth was an Anglican minister who had attended Eton and Jesus College, Cambridge. While caring for his flock in various parishes in Cheshire and Derbyshire, he found the leisure to translate several works from the Italian, including Leti’s Life of Pope Sixtus the Fifth (London, 1754), and Davila’sHistory of the Civil Wars of France (London, 1758).
The translation used here is that of the 1775 Farneworth edition, in the slightly modified form of the single reprint of 1815, printed in Albany, New York, by Henry C. Southwick. The title of the volume is: The / Art of War. / In Seven Books. / Written / by Nicholas Machiavel, / Secretary of State, / to the Republic of Florence. / To which is added, / Hints Relative to Warfare, / by a Gentleman / of the State of New York. The “hints,” which form an appendix on torpedo warfare, have not been included. The identity of “a Gentleman of the State of New York” is unknown. No indication is given in the volume as to who is responsible for the slight textual alterations of the Farneworth translation. Peter Whitehorne’s dedication to Queen Elizabeth I, included in the Farneworth edition and the 1815 reprint, has been retained, see below, pp. 231-238. The detailed book headings, which Farneworth evidently adapted from those by Whitehorne, have been revised and incorporated into the table of contents. Farneworth’s footnotes have been omitted, and new ones designed for today’s reader have been added. The primary purpose of the new footnotes is to indicate the sources used by Machiavelli, to identify persons, places, and events, and to refer to relevant passages in the other works of the author.
Machiavelli is a superb prose stylist. Macaulay in 1827 maintained that his prose was clear and unaffected: “The judicious and candid mind of Machiavelli shows itself in his luminous, manly, and polished language.” In the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica John Addington Symonds aptly termed it “an athlete’s style, all bone and sinew, without superfluous flesh or ornament.” On the quincentennial of the Florentine’s death, T. S. Eliot praised his literary skill, deeming it superior to that of Montaigne and Hobbes. In view of such a consensus, the Farneworth translation presents something of a problem. It is a leisurely paced and very readable paraphrase, often elegant, and sometimes lively, with a rather picturesque quality of expression. But the “bone and sinew” of the original has been padded generously with the flesh and ornament of pleonasm and interpolation. Moreover, there are frequent inaccuracies and omissions. The goal of the present revision, however short it may fall, has been to correct these inaccuracies and omissions, and to give some indication of the stylistic merits both in Machiavelli and in Farneworth. Occasionally, readability has been sacrificed for the literal, as when virtù and fortuna have been left untranslated.
The text followed is that of the Arte della guerra e scritti politic minori (Milan: Feltrinelli Editore, 1961) edited by Sergio Bertelli. Signor Bertelli’s notes have been indispensable in both editing and revising the translation. Machiavelli’s sources have often been consulted. And ever within reach of the editor’s table has been Burd’s classic guide to the sources, and Father Walker’s splendid critical edition of The Discourses.