Who Seeks Shall Find...
It’s a little pleasure of mine to visit bookstores everywhere in the world and to ask if they would have the book “Mandragola” by Machiavelli. It might sound silly but each time there is a little tension inside of me while I await the answer. Instead of ordering it online, I always hope that I one day step into a bookstore and that they would say “Yes of course, and it is in stock too”.
I didn’t count how many times in the last ten years I have asked this question to people working in bookstores but I learned that there are three kind of answers I can expect.
The first type of answer is a question back “who did you say is the author?”. Then I feel a little disappointed. Not that I think that everyone should know the name Machiavelli, but in such cases it is always a certain predictor that they do not have this book. Mandragola or the Mandrake Root is a comedy play, and it is not so commonly known that Machiavelli wrote such kind of works. When they haven’t heard of Machiavelli, they surely won’t have this particular book.
Sometimes the answer is, without consulting their store software, “I’m sure we have The Prince by Machiavelli. Let me look if the book you mention is available too”. This is than most of the time an indication that the person I talk to is really interested in books and that he knows about classic works in literature. These days, 500 years after it was written,“The Prince” is still in print and it continues to influences people who think and want to learn about power. Most large general bookstores in the world are selling a copy of “The Prince”.
Finally, in some rare instances I’m very lucky when I ask my question because the person I talk to knows more about the writings of Machiavelli and is able to show me on their bookshelves the “Discorsi on Livy” or “Florentine Histories”. It was in this way that I once found “The Art of War” by Machiavelli in a bookstore in Taiwan. But even in these cases, unfortunately for me, I did not met someone who knew the work “Mandragola”. There was this one exception in Florence Italy, the birthplace of Machiavelli. A local bookstore had a whole pile of the book “Mandragola”. But it was written in Italian and since I’m not able to speak this language I did not buy a copy.
Today I was in Georgetown Washington DC and found this nice little bookstore “Bridge Street Books”. It’s exactly the kind of place I love. Small and with people working inside who really know their craft. So I entered and after enjoying the love for books they have, that shows by the way the bookstore is decorated, I asked my question “Would you by any chance have the book Mandragola by Machiavelli?” The answer was unexpected but gave me a nice feeling: “Yes, I show you upstairs”. Rod Smith, the shop manager, brought me right away to the book “The Portable Machiavelli” by Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa (1979). It is a collection of texts which includes “The Mandrake Root”. This is why I like these little bookstores so much. The people who run it have a passion for what they do and they choose carefully what to put on their shelfs. So many times I found little pearls of books in these kind of places. Thanks Rod and keep up the good work!
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