There are in English several histories of three or four of the more important members of the Medici family; but there is none, either in Italian or English, of that family as a whole, the history of no less than nine out of thirteen generations having remained hitherto unwritten.
The history of the Medici is a deeply interesting story; while, besides its intrinsic interest, it helps us to acquire much knowledge about the re-birth of Learning and Art, about the history of Europe in perhaps its most important period, about the birth of Science, and about the great collections of Art possessed by Florence. For without referring largely to all these subjects no true picture of the Medici can be given.
My aim has been to write of them as a family--their rise, their "course upon the mountain-tops of power," and their decline and end--and to keep the parts always in subordination to the whole. It may perhaps be thought that more might have been said in the case of one or two members of the family; but to have gone into greater detail regarding individuals would have had the effect of obscuring the general view, besides making the book far too long.
This history takes a somewhat different view of the Medici from that which has hitherto generally obtained. It is a strange fact that in their case the violent partisanship which swayed the historians of their time has been carried on into our own, and writers about them, whether belonging to their age or ours, are banded into two furiously opposing camps; making it very difficult to arrive at a true estimate. Those on the one side can see no faults, and give a picture which . . .