Translations of Italian letters from Fulgenzio Micanzio

Scope and Content

This scribal manuscript contains the English translations made by Hobbes of 76 letters by the Venetian patriot Fr. Fulgenzio Micanzio sent between 1615 and 1625 to William Cavendish, 2nd Earl of Devonshire (1590-1628). The letters appear to be in two books now bound as one, and are in the hand of two scribes. There is an annotation in the front of the volume written in Hobbes's own hand that reads: "Translated out of the original Italian Letters by Th: Hobbes Secretary to the Lord Cavendysh.". These were likely translated from Italian not for Cavendish's benefit (as his Italian language skills were very good) but for the benefit of other people in Cavendish and Hobbes's network who may have benefited from the news Micanzio's letters revealed.

The first letter is dated, No. I from Venice, 30 October 1615, and No. 67 from Urbino, 21 March 1625. The remaining nine have no date or place of origin but they are obviously in close sequence with the preceding letters. The first 64 letters are numbered in the margin of the MS. Nos. 65-76 are unnumbered and it is clear from the paper and binding that they were included in the volume as an appendix. The numbered letters fill pp. 1-248, as numbered by the scribe himself.

All the letters are from the same correspondent, they are all in the same 'newsletter' style and deal with the same subjects: political events in Italy, England and in Europe generally, with repeated references to the Archibishop of Spalato; literary matters, with special reference to Lord Bacon and translating his works into Italian. The writer signs himself (if at all) in a number of different ways: 'F. Fuigentio Servita', 'F Fulgentio de' Servi', 'F Fulgentio', 'F.F'. Other signatures are 'V.S' (twice); 'D.L'; 'D.D'; 'F.L.'; 'L.F'; 'Giorge Grey'; 'Gior': 'Gray': 'G.G.'; 'G.B'.; 'G.F.': 'B.B'; 'B.M.'; 'N.N'; 'P.F.'; 'P.S.'; 'R.'; 'Senei Fontan': 'S. Fran.'; (once each) and one letter (number 29) dated from Venice, 12 April 1622, is signed at the bottom of the page "Signor Cava". At the top of the next page is a note, supplied by the translator: "Signor Cavlier Foscarini, who had been Ambassador in England, was for some matter of state strangled in prison and afterwards hanged on the Publick Gallowes with his heeles upward".

The margin of the manuscript is freely annotated with notes indicating the subjects of the text. The notes were possibly supplied by Cavendish himself, since the word 'my', referring to the recipient of the letters occurs in some of them. The margin notes, some of which seem to highlight subjects of relevance to the future 2nd Earl, would seem to confirm this manuscript was produced for Cavendish's reference (as well as for the benefit of others in his circle) and that it was under instruction as Cavendish's secretary that these copies were made. Page 37 for example has a note that reads: "Congratulation of my new honour" [his title change to Lord Cavendish on his father's receipt of an earldom] and "Expectation of the essays". The latter is likely a reference to copies of translated Bacon essays Cavendish had promised Micanzio (see Noel Malcolm,1984). And page 44 has a margin note that reads: "He will be ready to express his devotion towards me in the person of my brother Bruce when he sees him" - referring to Cavendish's brother-in-law Edward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss.


The current arrangement is based on that in the 1977 RCHM report. This item appears at the end of the RCHM listing.

Other Finding Aids

CELM ref: HbT 37.

Formerly cited in IELM, II.i (1987) as HbT 69.

This item is described on p. 22 of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Report on the MSS and papers of Thomas Hobbes (1977) .

Custodial History

This item was acquired in the 19th century and formerly owned by G. Dyer with a letter relating to his ownership inserted into the front of the volume.


A transcript of these letters is in the British Library, Add. MS 11309.

This manuscript is discussed in:

Gabrieli, Vittorio, Bacone, la riforma e Roma nella versione Hobbesiana d'un carteggio di Fulgenzio Micanzio , "EMS", 8 (1957), pp. 195-250,

Shillinglaw, Arthur T., Hobbes and Ben Jonson , "TLS" (18 April 1936), p. 336,