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National Edition of the Works of Cesare Beccaria


The project of bringing together all the great Lombard philosopher's works in one ground-breaking scholarly edition dates back to 1978. Many of Beccaria's writings were at that stage little known or unedited, but Mediobanca, with the whole-hearted support of Franco Venturi, Leo Valiani and Luigi Firpo, chose to honour the memory of Adolfo Tino, its Chairman of over twenty years' standing who passed away several months previously, with the launch of this National Edition. The dedication to Tino was far from casual, for his professional activities and private interests palpably reflected the dual ideals of justice and freedom, of desire for reform and involvement in public life, which so characterized the work of Beccaria two centuries previously. The project as a whole and the man to whose memory it was dedicated thus came to serve as a reaffirmation of Lombard Enlightenment ideology, as if to underline an ongoing commitment to the values and principles which in the eighteenth century had inspired one of the most fertile eras in the civic and intellectual history of Milan.

An advisory committee for the Edition was soon formed, made up of Carlo Capra, Aldo De Maddalena, Luigi Firpo, Ariberto Mignoli, Letizia Pecorella, Leo Valiani, Franco Venturi and Sergio Zaninelli. Firpo chaired the committee with exemplary devotion until his death in 1989, when Gianni Francioni took on the duties of director and co-ordinator, a role he continues to perform with his customary skill and clear-sightedness to this day.

The National Edition is not just a collection of Beccaria's complete works. It is a full critical edition, with proper philological apparatus including textual variants, appendices including previous manuscript and print editions, commentary and notes, and critical essays providing surveys of previous editions and setting out editorial criteria. The aim is to provide a full history of each of Beccaria's works, from the very first draft to the final print version published under his supervision. The Edition will have a total of 16 volumes, plus one final volume of addenda, documents and indices.

The first two volumes appeared in 1984. Volume I contains Beccaria's most famous work Dei delitti e delle pene ('On Crimes and Punishments'), edited by Gianni Francioni, followed by a seminal bibliographical essay on Italian editions of the treatise by Luigi Firpo. Volume II brings together Beccaria's philosophical and literary works, consisting of articles he published in the famous literary review Il Caffé, the Ricerche sullo stile ('Questions of Style'), poems, reflections, philosophical musings and other minor writings, edited by Luigi Firpo, Gianmarco Gaspari and Gianni Francioni. In the broadly 'philosophical' section of the Edition this leaves Beccaria's economic works,  which will form volume III. The texts to be included are Beccaria's early work Del disordine e de' rimedi delle monete nello Stato di Milano nel 1672 ('On the Confusion of Currencies in the State of Milan in 1672 and Remedies Therefor'), his Discourse on Public Economy and Commerce which he delivered as his inaugural lecture upon taking up a chair at the Scuole Palatine in Milan, and the first critical edition of his posthumous Lezioni di economia pubblica ('Lectures on Public Economy'), which so far has only been available in the heavily adapted Custodi edition published in 1804.

Volumes IV and V contain all Beccaria's correspondence. They were edited by Carlo Capra, Francesca Pino and Renato Pasta, and were published in 1994 and 1996 respectively. A total of 596 letters were brought together in chronological order. Of these 146 are by Beccaria himself, while the others, hitherto largely unpublished, were by his almost 200 correspondents, including some of the most famous names of the Italian and European Enlightenment. The circle of which they form part has been skilfully and painstakingly reconstructed by the volume editors, giving a wide-ranging and systematic historical overview of the cultural and social milieu of the time.

Publication of the largest section of the Edition, Governance Documents, commenced with the appearance of vol. VI in 1987. This section fills volumes VI through to XVI, covering the years from 1771 to 1793. 'Governance Documents' are defined as the documents drawn up Beccaria from 1771 until his death, in his capacity as member of the Milan magistrature, which at the time was responsible for economic issues via its representation on bodies such as the Supreme Council for Economic Affairs and the Council for Political Administration. Rosalba Canetta, who is the general editor of the Beccaria Governance Documents series, brought this important and illuminating series to conclusion in December 2009 with the publication of the two-part volume XVI.

There are over 6,000 Governance Documents , as compared with the barely 100 resolutions publicly available before the current Edition. The principle adopted was to include every document which has some connection with Beccaria’s role as public servant. This means the documents included are very wide-ranging, including notes on different cases, resolutions and full reports, minutes of meetings, official correspondence, votes, decrees, etc.

Once published in full, this body of work will contribute significantly to documenting the intense activity of managing the state apparatus undertaken by the Milanese magistrature at the end of the eighteenth century, as well as highlighting Beccaria's crucial role in this new cultural and political milieu, where state administration and economic thought were becoming increasingly important.

Last update: 24/04/2018 - 09:12