Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, Diego, Idea de un príncipe político cristiano


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MS 382, c. 1438


Diego Saavedra Fajardo

(Algezares, Murcia 1594 – Madrid 1648)

We can affirm that of all the Spanish emblem books that make use of the discursive emblematic structure, that of Diego Saavedra Fajardo is the one that best reveals the preoccupations of the Hispanic world of his day, and the one which possesses the greatest degree of interweaving of the universality native to the emblem with the concrete historical and political background of Spain in the first half of the seventeenth century. This is nothing more than a reflection of the personality of the book’s author, an indefatigable traveler to all the European courts in the defense of the interests of a Monarchy immersed in endless disputes.

In 1640, when the first edition of the Idea de un príncipe político cristiano representada en cien empresas appears, the disintegration of the Spanish Empire was a fact made manifest in the insurrections of Catalonia and Portugal, the culmination of a long series of conflicts which, following the ascension to power of Count-Duke Olivares, intensified on all fronts. The direct, first-hand knowledge of the complexities of political negotiation, not always an immaculate exercise, combined with a moral reflection tied to the values of the Counter Reformation, in conjunction with the distillation of broad readings, resulted in a body of work whose primary intent is to orient and instruct the good ruler.

Of course, Saavedra Fajardo’s intellectual formation was solid. He studied canonical law in Salamanca but his works transcend to a great degree the narrow focus of his studies and demonstrate a propensity towards integrating the writings of the spectacular array of authors of his generation. On the other hand, on some documents his signature appears as "chaplain", and he enjoyed the ecclesiastical benefits fitting of one who had received minor orders (canon of Santiago and later, of Murcia, for example) but there is no documentary evidence of his ever having received major orders.

Quintín Aldea Vaquero established a division in Diego’s biography accepted by the majority of researchers: the Roman period (1610-1633) and the central European period (1633-1646). Indeed, around 1610 he traveled to Rome, doubtless in the entourage of the Count of Lemos, along with writers of the stature of Mira de Amescua or the Argensola brothers. As confirmed in a legal brief by Saavedra with a 1630 date, the services rendered in Italy were multiple and of ever-increasing responsibility, lasting until 1623 when the King named "procurador y solicitador en la Corte Romana de los negocios de estos mis Reinos de Castilla, de las Indias y Cruzada" [Attorney and solicitor in the Roman Court of the business of these my Kingdoms of Castille, of the Indies and the Crusade]. Thus, his prestige as a diplomat grew and he was assigned to various delicate missions (the conclaves of Gregory XV and Urban VIII, "interim" ambassador in Rome in 1631 – the moment in which he crafted some subtle Noticias de la Negociación de Roma – a trip to Madrid to report on the jurisdictional excesses of the Roman Curate and on the nunciature of Madrid, etc.). But he also earned the reputation as being "un poco altivo y arrojado" [a little haughty and brash], and of being "naturalmente fogoso" [naturally spirited], according to the words of the Marquis of Castel Rodrigo, quoted by Aldea Vaquero.

The second period began when Saavedra was sent as the Spanish representative before Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, deeply immersed in the conflict of the Thirty Years’ War, with the urgent mission of trying to suture the split of the imperial league in the face of the French, the Dutch and the Swedish; a rupture considered especially severe after the Treaty of Fontainebleau, in which Catholic Maximilian had allied himself, with nefarious personal consequences, with the French. Saavedra was totally successful in his goal of reintegrating into a harmonious cause the Habsburg interests and those of Maximilian, and from that point on he participated in a multitude of minor negotiations appropriate to those turbulent years, including preparations for the famous battle of Nördlingen (1634).

For all of these efforts Saavedra received the continuous and effusive praise of Olivares, who also bestowed upon him the extremely elevated position of plenipotentiary in the imperial Diet of Ratisbon and, almost simultaneously, the title of knight of the Order of Santiago. (1640). This places us in the same year in which he needed to carve out time to correct the proofs of the Empresas políticas and one therefore comprehend the scope of that definition of "naturally spirited" in his ability to carry out such complicated tasks and to find occasion, as well, to take up the pen "in the laborious leisure of my continuous trips through Germany and other provinces, [and concluding] in the roadside inns what I had meditated upon along the road", as he says in the prologue. A work written in this manner, then, was not born of a desire to rest from the fatigues deriving from his preoccupations, but rather in order to delve deeper into theoretical political and moral principles and to expound upon his own experiences in a format that was attractive, persuasive and from a literary point of view, exceptional.

There was still one link remaining in the chain of merits and honors that marked the life of Saavedra Fajardo, his designation as plenipotentiary for the Peace of Westphalia. It occurred in 1643 and the final signature on the treaty, in 1648, coincided with his death. These final years were personally harsh because illness took its toll on him and because he bore witness to the irreparable dissolution of Spanish hegemony. It is easy to project upon Diego, in these final years, the symbol of the decadence of the house of Austria and of ancient values, prostrate before the rise of a new Europe emerging alongside Spain. He died on August 24th, 1648 in Madrid.

Idea de un príncipe político cristiano representada en cien empresas

In addition to its purpose as a mirror of princes mentioned previously, and that the discourse of the life of the ruler should be a constant thread – relatively – throughout the different stages of his life, Saavedra’s book displays a central gravity in the theme of the reason of State. Saavedra presented to Olivares in 1631 a manuscript with the explicit title of Introducciones a la Política y Razón de Estado del Rey Católico Don Fernando [Introduction to the Politics and Reason of State of the Catholic King Don Fernando], the first draft of what would later become the Empresas políticas.

Beginning, fundamentally, with the answer to Machiavelli penned by the Jesuit Giovanni Botero (Della ragion di Estato libri dieci…, 1589, translated into Spanish by Antonio de Herrera, 1593) a lively dialogue was initiated in Spain on the limits and dividing lines between politics understood as the technique of maintaining and extending power, and the Christian moral tradition tied, generally, to a providential idea of state. Some notable landmarks in this debate appeared throughout Diego’s life, such as the works of Pedro de Rivadeneyra (Tratado de la Religión y virtudes que debe tener el príncipe cristiano, 1595), Juan de Mariana (De rege et de regis institutione, 1599) or Juan Eusebio Nieremberg (Maquiavelismo degollado, 1637), and let us not forget the Política de Dios (1626 and 1655) by Quevedo nor the dissemination of these ideas in some texts by Gracián (El Héroe, El Político, the Oráculo manual). They are works which, like those of Saavedra, bring together recommendations on the virtues that should adorn the ruler with theoretical political reflection seasoned with examples and historical dicta et facta. But, as Sagrario López Poza has indicated in her edition of the Empresas políticas, we must mention as a profound source of his ideas – especially the neostoic ideas, but also a similar utilization of history and a shared civil ethics – the Belgian Jesuit Justus Lipsius in his Politicorum sive civilis doctrina libri sex (1589, with a Spanish translation by Bernardino de Mendoza, 1604). Saavedra tries to distinguish, as did the previously mentioned Pedro de Rivadeneyra, between good and bad reason of state. In the final analysis, in the words of Sagrario López Poza, "reality inclines him towards an anthropological pessimism; the prince must be warned of the many tricks and vileness that other rulers can use with him so that he can avoid them; at the same time, he must exercise politics based on Christian virtues." The problem to be resolved is that Christian virtues do not harmonize easily with political exigencies such as lying, hypocrisy, dissimulation and the whole game of "contratretas" [counter tricks], to use a word dear to Gracián, which the good ruler must accept in his practical activity. Thus, based on the saying "qui nescit dissimulare, nescit regnare" of Louis XI of France, Saavedra constructs his impresa 43: "Ut sciat regnare" and dedicates quite a few pages – in this and other imprese – to a delicate weaving on such issues.

The choice of the emblematic mode is also revealing, for it allows the author, among other things, to elaborate each impresa like a small essay that is quite autonomous in relation to the others. Indeed, beginning with impresa 44 the logical order of the education of the prince is abandoned in order to offer advice of a political nature. Saavedra was well aware that he had constructed a book that was hardly organic in its presentation, and he tried to correct this in the second edition, regrouping the imprese, dividing the material in eight broad sections and adding at the beginning an index which is at the same time a summary or guide to be read quickly as well as a clarification of the meaning of the whole. This is all evidence of writing carried out in a fragmentary fashion, without any intention of constructing a unified treatise outside of the external device of dedicating the first impresa to the recently born prince and the final one to his death.

The choice of the emblematic form in Saavedra corresponds above all, as he affirms in the dedication, to a didactic purpose, where the play between the pictura, motto and commentary (discourse, according to his own terminology) is joined with mnemonic ends, following to some extent the recommendation of Erasmus that, in order to teach the maxims to the prince, one must "traérselas a la memoria con ahínco, ora con una sentencia, ora con una anécdota, ora con un símil, ora con un ejemplo, ora con un apotegma, ora con un proverbio" ["present them to the memory intently, at times with a sentence, at times with a simile, at times with an example, at times with an apothegm, at times with a proverb"] (Educación del príncipe cristiano).

In order to fashion his essays, Saavedra resorts to an impressive first-hand erudition that rarely gives the impression of being gratuitous or ostentatious, but rather of being pertinent to support his argument and an appropriate adornment of his ideas. Likewise, the erudition tends to be explicit, with identification of the quotes, which once again demonstrates his didactical inclination.

The second edition of the Empresas increases the biblical references – in this case it is true that at times the quotes are inserted with some randomness – in an attempt to draw as near as possible to Catholic orthodoxy. Among the classical authors, the most frequently cited is Tacitus, a historian who was abundantly utilized due to a certain ambiguous anti-Machiavellianism by offering himself as a theoretician of a "reason of state" that could be opposed to that of the Florence native, besides being a reading of Saavedra mediated by the influence of Justus Lipsius. At the same time that the number of biblical quotes increases, there is a certain suppression of the Roman historian in the second edition. In any event, half of the quotes in the Empresas políticas proceed from the works of classical or contemporary historians. The Politics of Aristotle also weigh quite heavily on Saavedra’s book; he is followed by Seneca – also closely linked to Saavedra through Lipsian neostoicism. But he rejects the utilization of mythology, which is present only in those exempla that are extremely commonplace and sanctioned by tradition.

The first editions

The editio princeps of this work appeared in Munich in 1640, from the presses of Nicolao Enrico. Besides the 100 imprese of the title, it presents two engravings that could also figure in the count: one before the prologue and the other preceding the epigram that closes the book. The second edition features 101 imprese, but that did not result in a change in the title. It is important to point out that the great haste with which the first edition was printed made Saavedra uncomfortable with it, and within three months he ordered the publication of half a sheet of errata to be added to the remaining unbound; he proceeded almost immediately to the preparation of the second edition, which appeared in Milan in 1642.

Sagrario López Poza has carefully studied the process of this evolution from the first edition to the second, the definitive one from which the author finally derived satisfaction. We reproduce here in English translation some passages from the conclusions of the author in the "Introduction" to her excellent edition:

The new edition undertaken in 1642, this time in Milan, in fact corrects the errata discovered in the first, following closely the list of misprints that Saavedra had included in the Munich edition, but at the same time he expanded the work substantially and added aspects that were glaringly different from the princeps, which if in fact suffered from a certain organizational disorder, at the same time it offered a text that was more spontaneous and fresh, less burdened with bookish erudition. This would seem to corroborate that with the distribution of the first edition (probably not totally carried out) Saavedra was not only bothered by the errata, but also by aspects of a different nature, perhaps stylistic, but above all ideological, which he felt the need to modify. The first edition had carried the tacitist touches too far, which could possibly be associated by some with Machiavellians, and it also heaped praise upon Count-Duke Olivares, doubtless composed at a time in which his prestige was not so much in question. In all likelihood, somebody of great influence at court found a way to have weighty reprimands delivered to Saavedra that prompted him to undertake a revision of the entire work and introduce substantial changes.

In this new version he polished the style of some paragraphs, at times so lengthy that they occupy several pages, he eliminated 89 textual quotes from Tacitus (although some remained in the new text, camouflaged in distilled fashion in the words of Saavedra, without attribution of their source) and he eliminated passages with potentially dangerous political commentaries (especially those relating to Count-Duke Olivares), he added 475 quotes and exempla proceeding from the Bible (the 72 biblical quotations of the first edition become 547 in the second) and he introduced a new grouping of the imprese according to a structure arranged in eight thematic sections, resulting in a change in the order of the imprese followed in the first edition. Besides all this, there were also substantial changes made in the picturae. (pp. 92-93)

The engravings

There is general agreement in that the engravings of the first edition were executed, utilizing the technique of talla dulce (sweet carving), in the famous Munich press of the Sadelers, presided over at that time by Johannes Sadeler. The second edition was done in Milan, and the set of engravings, done with the same technique, was changed, in favor of a set of illustrations of a smaller size, with more Baroque characteristics, and perhaps with less communicative efficacy. Some of these plates (4, 14, 23, 40, 60, 66, 67 and 99) bear the signature of Cristoforo Bianchi, but it is hardly certain that he is the author of all the rest. In this second edition two new imprese are added, numbers 5 and 14, while numbers 95 and 96 of the first edition are recast as a single impresa with a new pictura and motto.

Continuing with the words of López Poza in English translation: "Likewise there is a change in motifs and mottoes in the former numbers 5, 19, 21, 38, 51 and 74, which correspond to the new imprese 6, 21, 23, 40, 66 and 99. The new 101, which corresponds to the former 100, changes the image somewhat and introduces a new motto. In number 4, which retains the same number in the second edition, the motif of the pictura is changed, but the lemma is maintained, as is the case with the modern numbers 18 and 57 (the former 16 and 68), although some elements of the pictura are slightly varied. The motto is changed, but with the image unaltered in those imprese that were numbered 6, 8, 12, 62, 69 and 86 in the editio princeps, which in the second edition become: 7, 9, 13 (with a slight modification in the motif), 62, 66, 54 and 87. The justification for these changes is not very clear. However, we can perceive a deliberate desire to eliminate the mythological motifs from the picturae, clearly the case for the new imprese numbered 6, 40, 96 and 99" (pp. 96-97).


Studiolum publishes this book on the CD “Corpus of Spanish Emblem Books.”

Here we present Emblem 45 (Non maiestate securus – Not safe in his majesty) of Saavedra's Idea de un príncipe político cristiano, in the editions of Milan 1642 (editio optima), Venice 1548 (Italian), Brussels 1649 (Latin), Amsterdam 1668 (French) and London 1700 (English):

Milán 1642 (editio optima):

El Leon (cuerpo desta emblema) fue entre los Egipcios simbolo de la vigilancia, como son los que se ponen en los frontespicios, i puertas de los templos. Por esto se hizo esculpir Alexandro Magno en las monedas con vna piel de Leon en la cabeza, significando, que en el no era menor el cuidado, que el valor, pues quando convenia, no gastar mucho tiempo en el sueño, dormia tendido el brazo fuera de la cama con vna bola de plata en la mano, que en durmiendose, le despertase, cayendo sobre vna vacia de bronze. No fuera Señor del Mundo, si se durmiera, i descuidara, porque no a de dormir profundamente, quien cuida del govierno de muchos.

Non decet ignavum tota producere somnum
Nocte virum, sub consilio, sub nomine cujus
Tot populi degunt, cui rerum cura, fidesque
Credita summarum. (Homer)

Como el Leon se reconoze Rei de los animales, ò duerme poco, ò si duerme, tiene aviertos los ojos. No fia tanto de su Imperio, ni se asegura tanto de su Magestad, que no le parezca necessario, fingirse despierto, quando esta dormido. Fuerza es, que se entreguen los sentidos al reposo, pero conviene, que se piense de los Reyes, que siempre estan velando. Vn Rei dormido en nada se diferencia de los demas hombres. Aun esta pasion à de encubrir a sus Vasallos, i a sus Enemigos. Duerma, pero crean, que esta despierto. No se prometa tanto de su grandeza, i poder, que cierre los ojos al cuidado. Astucia, i disimulacion es en el Leon el dormir con los ojos aviertos, pero no intencion de engañar, sino de disimular la enagenacion de sus sentidos, i si se engañare, quien le armava acechanzas, pensando hallarle dormido, i creyere, que està despierto, suyo sera el engaño, no del Leon, ni indigna esta prevencion de su corazon magnanimo, como ni tampoco aquella advertencia de borrar con la cola las heullas para desmentillas al Cazador. No ai fortaleza segura, si no esta vigilante el recato. El mayor Monarcha con mayor cuidado a de coronar su frente no con la candidez de las palomas sencillas, sino con la prudencia de las recatadas serpientes, porque no de otra suerte, que quando se presenta en la campaña el Leon, se retiran de sus contiendas los animales deponiendo sus enemistades naturales, i coligados entre si, se conjuran contra el, asi todos se arman, i ponen azechanzas al mas Poderoso.

Venice 1648 (Italian):

IL Leone (corpo di quest’Impresa) fù trà gli Egitij simbolo della vigilanza, come sono quelli che si pongono ne’Frontispitij, e porte de’Tempij. Perciò si fece scolpire Alessandro Magno nelle monete con vna pella di Leone in capo, significando ch’era in lui non minore la cura che il valore, poiche quando conueniua non spendere molto tempo nel sonno, dormiua steso il braccio fuori del letto con vna ampolla d’argento nella mano, quale dormendosi, lo destasse cadendo sopra vn concauo di bronzo. Non sarebbe stato Signore del Mondo, se addormentato, e trascurato si fosse, perche non deue profondamente dormire, chi hà cura del gouerno di molti.

Non decet ignauiam tota producere fortem
Nocte virum, sub consilio, sub nomine cuius
Tot populi degunt, cui rerum cura fidesque
Credita summarum.

Come il Leone si conosce Rè degli animali, ò dorme poco, ouero se dorme tiene aperti gli occhi. Non fida tanto nel suo Imperio, nè tanto s’assicura della sua Maestà, che non gli paia necessario fingersi desto, quando stà dormendo. È forza, che si diano i sentimenti al riposo, ma conuiene che de i Rè si pensi, che stiano sempre vegliando. Vn Rè addormentato in niuna cosa è dagli altri huomini differente. Anco questa passione deue coprire à i suoi Vassalli, ed à i suoi Nemici. Dorma; credono però che sia desto. Non si prometta tanto della sua grandezza, e potere che chiuda gli occhi alle cure. Astutia, e dissimulatione è nel Leone il dormire con gli occhi aperti, ma non intentione d’ingannare, ben sì dissimulare l’alienatione de’suoi sensi, e se s’ingannerà chi gli armaua assedij, pensando trouarlo addormentato, e vederà che sia desto, sarà l’inganno suo, non del Leone; nè questa preuentione è indegna del suo cuore, come nè tampoco, quell’auuertenza di cancellare con la coda le orme, per negarle al Cacciatore. Non v’è sicura fortezza, se vigilante non stà la prudenza. Il maggior Monarca deue con maggior cura coronare la sua fronte, non con la candidezza delle semplici colombe, ma con la prudenza de’cauti serpenti; perche non altrimenti che quando si presenta nella campagna il Leone, si ritirano dalle sue contese gli animali, deponendo le sue naturale inimistadi; e collegati frà sè, contro di lui si congiurano, quasi tutti si armano, e pongono al più Potente assedio.

Brussels 1649 (Latin):

LEO (figura praesentis Emblematis) apud Aegyptios vigilantiae fuit Symbolum, quales sunt, qui in frontispiciis & portis templorum collocari solent. Atque hinc Alexander Magnus in monetis effingi voluit cum pelle leoninâ in capite, ut significaret non minùs curâ se pollere, ac robore: quippe qui (si quando parciori somno utendum esset) dormire consueverat, brachio extra lectum porrecto, & globum argenteum manu tenens; ut si fòrs arctiùs indormiret, ille in subjectam pelvim aeneam delapsus, tinnitu suo eum mox rursum excitaret. Nunquam sanè orbem suo subjecisset imperio, si quieti & somno solùm indulgens, rerum omnium curam abs se abdicâsset: neque enim altùm debet stertere, qui multorum regendorum gubernacula suscepit.

Non decet ignavum totâ producere somnum
Nocte virum, sub consilio, sub nomine cujus
Tot populi degunt, cui rerum cura, fidesque
Credita summarum. (Homer)

Leo igitur, cum animantium Regem se esse sciat, aut parum dormit, aut si dormit, nimiùm apertos servat oculos. Non tantum suo confidit imperio, nec de suâ majestate tantoperè securus est, ut necessarium non arbitretur, vigilantem se fingere, etiam dum somnum capit. Opus est equidem, ut sensibus sua quandoque quies concedatur; expedit interim sic opinari de Regibus, quòd semper excubent. Rex somno deditus nec hilum ab aliis differt hominibus. Etiam hanc ipsam passionem subditos suos, ac hostes, quantum potest, celare debet. Dormiat, modò vigilare eum credant alii. Ne sibi tantum de dignitate suâ & potentiâ polliceatur, ut curae ac solicitudini claudat oculos. Astutia est, & dissimulatio in leone, oculis apertis quietem capere, non tamen fallendi studio, sed dissimulandi solùm consopitos sensus; & si quis fortè insidias illi struens deciperetur, existimando vigilem esse, quem dormientem offendere cogitabat, ipse sibi erroris caussa est, non leo: nec indigna haec praeventio magnanimo ejus pectore, uti nec astutia illa, quando caudâ obducit pedum vestigia, ad fallendos venatores. Nulla ars, castrúmve satìs munitum est, nisi solertia excubet. Major Monarcha majori cum curâ frontem suam coronare debet, non candore sincerarum columbarum, sed prudentiâ astutorum serpentium: neque enim aliàs, quàm quando Leo in arenam prodit, ferae caeterae suas ponunt inimicitias naturales, & depugnare inter se desinunt; quin jam communi concensione conspirant omnes contra illum, armant sese, & tanquam fortiori moliuntur insidias.

Amsterdam 1668 (French):

La Majesté ne luy suffit pas.

LE Lyon a esté autrefois le symbole de la vigilance chez les Egyptiens, & il en est encore de mesme auiourd'huy de ceux qu'on a coustume de mettre au frontispice & sur les portes des Temples; c'est pour ce sujet qu'Alexandre se fit graver sur les Monnoyes de son temps, avec une peau de Lyon sur la teste, comme pour donner à entendre que le soin n'estoit pas moindre en luy que la valeur, puis qu'en effet, lors qu'il n'avoit pas le temps de dormir beaucoup il se couchoit le bras estendu hors du lit, tenant en sa main une boulle d'argent, qui l'éveillant au plus profond de son sommeil, en tombant dans un bassin de bronze preparé pour cét effet: il n'auroit pas esté maistre de tout le monde, s'il eust pris trop de plaisir à dormir; car enfin il ne faut pas que ceux qui gouvernent les autres, dorment avec excés. †

Comme le Lyon se reconnoist Roy des Animaux, il dort peu, ou dort les yeux ouverts; il ne se fie pas tant sur son Empire, & sur sa Majesté, qu'il ne luy semble encore necessaire de feindre d'estre éveillé lors mesme qu'il est endormy. L'on sçait bien que les sens ont besoin de repos; mais il faut faire en sorte autant qu'il se peut que les Peuples ayent cette pensée de leurs Rois, qu'ils veillent incessamment; Un Roy ne differe aucunement des autres hommes dans le sommeil; C'est une passion qu'il doit mesme cacher à ses Sujets & à ses Ennemis; Qu'il dorme tant qu'il voudra, pourveu qu'on croye qu'il veille, qu'il ne se repose point tant sur sa grandeur & sur son pouvoir, que de se laisser aller à fermer les yeux à la vigilance & au soin; C'est une astuce & une feinte au Lyon que de dormir les yeux ouverts, non que son dessein soit de tromper, mais seulement de dissimuler l'alienation de ses sens; & si par cette feinte, ceux qui luy voudroyent dresser des embûches se trouvent trompez, le trouvant éveillé lors qu'ils le croyoyent endormy; cette tromperie n'est pas à l'égard du Lyon, mais au leur seulement, & pareille precaution n'est aucunement indigne de son genereux courage, non plus que la prudence qu'il a d'effacer ses vestiges avec sa queuë, pour les cacher aux chasseurs. Il n'y a point de forteresse asseuré, si la vigilance n'y fait la garde; Plus un Monarque est grand, plus il doit couronner avec soin la dignité de son front, non de la candeur des simples Colombes, mais de la prudence des serpens avisez; car tout ainsi que quand le Lyon se prepare au combat, tous les autres animaux reservant à une autre fois leur particuliere querelle, se bandent unanimément contre luy; de mesme parmy les hommes tous s'arment & conspirent contre le plus puissant.

† Non decet ignavum tota producere somnum
Nocte virum, sub consilio, sub nomine cujus
Tot populi degunt, cui rerum cura, fidesque
Credita summarum;

London 1700 (English):

THE Lion, the body of this devise, was among the Aegyptians the Emblem of Vigilance, and us’d to be set in the Frontispieces and Porches of their Temples. Hence Alexander the Great was engraven upon his Coin with a Lion’s skin upon his head, to intimate that he was not less carefull and vigilant than valiant; for if at any time affairs requir’d that he should not spend much time in sleep, he was us’d to lie with his arm out of bed, holding a Silver ball in his hand, that if he should fall asleep, that falling into a brass Bason set underneath for that purpose, might waken him. He had never conquer’d the world, had he been sleepy and lazy, he ought not to snore away his time, who has the Government of People committed to him. †

Thus the Lion knowing himself to be King of Beasts, sleeps but little, or if he does, ’tis with his Eyes open: he does not confide so much in his Empire, nor relie so much on his Majesty, as not to think it necessary to seem to be awake even while he sleeps. The Senses do indeed require rest sometimes, but even then ’tis necessary Princes should be thought to be awake. A sleeping King differs not from another man: This Passion he ought to conceal from Friends as well as Enemies; he may sleep, provided others think him waking. Let him not depend so much upon his Authority and Power, as to shut his Eyes to Care and Circumspection. ‘Tis a cunning Dissimulation in the Lion to sleep with his Eyes open, not with a design to deceive, but only to hide his sleepiness. And if any one designing against him be deceiv’d, finding him awake whom he thought he had seen sleeping, ‘tis his own fault not the Lion’s. nor is this pretence below the greatness of his Mind, no more than that other piece of cunning, of smoothing over the Tract of his feet with his Tail to deceive the Huntsmen. There is no Fortress secure unless guarded by Vigilance. The greater the Prince is, the greater care he ought to be crown’d with, not with the Sincerity of innocent Doves, but the prudence of subtle Serpents. For as when the Lion enters the Field, the other Beasts lay aside their natural Enmity, and give over fighting, and with joint force combine against him, so among men all arm and unite against the strongest.

† Non decet ignavum tota producere somnum
Nocte virum, sub consilio, sub nomine cujus
Tot populi degunt, cui rerum cura, fidesque
Credita summarum;


History of editions of the Idea de un príncipe político cristiano


Principal editions in Spanish
[We have selected those which, in our judgement, are the most relevant ones]

• Idea de un Príncipe Político Christiano representada en cien empresas, en Mónaco, en la emprenta de Nicolao Enrico, a 1 de Marzo 1640
• Idea de un Príncipe Político Christiano rapresentada [sic] en cien empresas, en Mónaco a 1 de Marzo 1640. En Milán a 20 de Abril 1642
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Valencia: Gerónimo Vilagrasa, 1655
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Amberes: Ierónimo y Iuan Bapt. Verdussen, 1655
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Valencia, herederos de Christos Garriz, 1656
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Amsterdam: Ioh. Ianssonius Iunior, 1659
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Valencia: Juan Lorenzo Cabrera, 1664
• Idea de un príncipe político cristiano representada en cien empresas, Valencia: Jerónimo Villagrasa, 1665
• Idea de un príncipe político cristiano representada en cien empresas, Madrid: Andrés García de la Iglesia, 1666
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Valencia: Francisco Ciprés, 1675
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Amsterdam: Janssonium, 1684
• Idea de un príncipe político christiano representada en cien empresas, Valencia: Vicente Cabrera, 1695
• Idea de un Príncipe Político Christiano, en Valencia, en la Imprenta de Salvador Faulí, 1786, 2 vols.
• Obras de don Diego de Saavedra Faxardo…, Amberes: Juan Bautista Verdussen, 1677-1678. Es un volumen que contiene, además de la Idea…, La república literaria de Saavedra.
• Obras de don Diego…, Amberes: Juan Bautista Verdussen, 1678-1681. El vol. I contiene, además de la Idea…, La república literaria de Saavedra, con paginación propia
• Obras completas, Madrid, Benito Cano, 1789
• Idea de un príncipe político-christiano, en Valencia, en la oficina de Salvador Faulí, 1800-1801, 2 vols.
• Obras, Madrid: M. Rivadeneyra, 1853 (reed. en 1861 y 1947). Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, nº 25.
• Idea de un príncipe político-christiano representada en cien empresas, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1958, 4 vols. Ed. de Vicente García de Diego.
• Obras completas, Madrid: Aguilar, 1946. Ed. de Ángel González Palencia.
• Empresas políticas, Samanca: Anaya, 1972. Ed. y selección de Manuel Fraga Iribarne.
• Empresas políticas. Idea de un príncipe político-cristiano, Madrid: Editora Nacional, 1976, 2 vols. Ed. de Quintín Aldea Vaquero.
• Idea de un príncipe político-christiano representada en cien empresas. Murcia: Real Academia Alfonso X el Sabio, 1985 (reimpr. 1994). Ed. facsímil de Milán, 1642.
• Empresas políticas, Barcelona: Planeta, 1988. Ed. de Francisco Javier Díez de Revenga.
• Empresas políticas, Madrid: Cátedra, 1999. Ed. de Sagrario López Poza.

We believe that it will be useful for researchers to include here Pedro Campa’s note on the editions of Saavedra Fajardo (Emblemata Hispanica. An Annotated Bibliography of Spanish Emblem Literature to the Year 1700, Durham-London: Duke University Press, 1990, pp. 84-5.):

The editions of Saavedra Fajardo’s Empresas políticas in Spanish fall into three recognizable families with a common prototype, the Milan 1642 edition. In 1655 the first two families emerge. The Verdussen editions of Antwerp that culminate with the set of complete works of Saavedra Fajardo in 1681 constitute one family. The other family is formed by the Valencian editions of Villagrasa, the heirs of Garriz, Ciprés, and Mateo Cabrera. The two Madrid editions, which can be considered as part of a sub-family, are based on the Valencia 1660 edition of Garriz. The third family is represented by the 12mo (pocket editions) of Amsterdam, probably based in the Antwerp 1655 edition of Verdussen.

Garriz calls his (Valencia) 1656 edition, since he counts all previous editions, "a corrected fourth edition which emends all the mistakes contained in the others." In 1665 Villagrasa calls his edition of Valencia "a corrected third printing which emends all mistakes contained in the others." Francisco Ciprés published in 1675 the last of the carefully produced Valencian editions which he calls, as he counts his own as well as other Valencian editions, a "sixth printing which emends all the mistakes contained in the others" The two Mateo Cabrera editions (Valencia 1664 and Valencia 1695) are the most crudely produced items of the Valencian family. The Verdussen editions of Antwerp were produced with great care; the one contained in the complete works of Saavedra Fajardo (1678-81) evokes the quality of the printing and the beauty of the engravings found in the Munich edition of 1640 (pp. 84-5).

Principal translations

• Di D. Diego Saavedra Fachardo. Rappresentata con bellissime imprese, quali dimostrano il vero esser politico, con esempi historici, e discorsi morali. Dall’ultima, e più copiosa editione hora trasportata dalla lingua spagnuola, dal signor dottor Paris Cerchieri, Venice: Marco Garzoni, 1648
• L’idea di un principe politico christiano rappresentata con bellisime imprese… trasportata dalla lingua spagnuola, dal… Paris Cerchieri. Venice: 1654
• L’idea del prencipe politico christiano. Di. D. Diego Saavedra Fachardo. Rappresentata con bellissime imprese, quali dimostrano il vero esser politico, con esempi historici, e discorsi morali. Dall’ultima, e più copiosa editione hora trasportata dalla lingua spagnuola, dal sig. dottor Giovanni Pesaro. Dell’scoll mo sig. Leonardo. Venice: Nicolò Pezzana, 1678
• L’idea del principe politico christiano, di. D. Diego Saavedra Fachardo. Rappresentata con bellissime impresse, quali dimostrano il vero esser politico, con esempi historici, e discorsi morali. Dall’ultima, e più copiosa editione hora trasportata dalla lingua spagnuola, dal sig. Dottor Paris Cerchiari. Venice: N. Pezzana, 1684

• Idea principis christiano-politici, centum symbolis expressa, a Didaco Saavedra Faxardo, Brussels: Iannes Mommaritius suis et Francisci Viviendi sumptibus, 1649
• Idea Principis Christiano Politici 100 Symbolis expressa…, Cologne: Constantinum Munich, 1650
• Idea principis christiano-politici 100 symbolis expressa a Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Amsterdam: Ioh. Ianssonius iunior, 1651
• Idea principis christiano-politici 100 symbolis expressa a Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Amsterdam: I. Van Meurs, 1651
• Idea principis christiano-politici 101 symbolis expressa a. Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Amsterdam: Ioh. Ianssonius iunior, 1658
• Idea principis christiano-politici 101 symbolis expressa a Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Amsterdam, Ioh. Ianssonius iunior, 1659
• Idea principis christiano-politici 101 symbolis expressa a. Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Amsterdam: J. J. Schipper, 1659
• Idea principis christiano-politici symbolis CI. expressa à Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Ab innumeris priorem editionum mendis expurgata. Amsterdam: I, Blaev, 1660
• Idea principis christiano-politici symbolis CI. expressa à Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Paris: Fridericum Leonardum, 1660
• Idea principis christiano-politici centum symbolis expressa a Didaco Saavedra Faxardo… Editio novissima, à mendis accuratè expurgata. Cologne: J. C. Münich, 1669
• Idea principis Christiano-politici centum symbolis. Ed. noviss. Expurgata. Jena, 1686 (También con un frontispicio grabado con el pie de imprenta: «Francofurti et Lipsiae»).
• Didaci Saavedrae Faxardo eq. idea principis Christiano-politici, centum symbolis expressa. Editio omnium locupletissima. Pestini, Prostat ap. Jo. Gerardum Mauss, 1748

• Ein Abriss eines Christlich-Politischen Prinzens In CI. Sinnbildern und mercklichen Symbolischen Sprüchen, Amsterdam: Johan Janssonio, dem Jungerem, 1655

• Christelijke Staets-Vorst in-Modert sin Spreken afgebeed, Amsterdam: Jan Jacobsz Schipper en Borrit Janzs Smit, 1662

• Le prince chrestien et politique; tr. de l’espagnol… par I. Rov… Paris: Compagnie des libraires du Palais, 1668. 2 vols.
• Le prince chrestien et politique; tr. de l’espagnol… par I. Rov… Suivant la copie à Paris, Par la Compagnie des libraires du Palais, 1668. (En el frontispicio se lee: «A Amsterdam, Chez Jean Schipper, 1670»).

• The Royal Politician Represented in One Hundred Emblems. Written in Spanish by Don Diego Saavedra Faxardo …. With a Large Preface, Containing an Account of the Author, his Works, and the Usefulness Thereof. Done into English from the Original. By Sir Ja. Astry. Londres: M. Gylliflower and L. Meredith, 1700. Trad. de Sir James Astry.


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