By Floris Solleveld
Giambattista Vico died in poverty in January 1744, having spent his last pennies on a new edition of the Principi di Scienza Nuova. Outside Naples, nobody cared. No notices appeared in the learned journals; no obituaries were read at royal or local academies. Eighty years later, his work was translated into German and French; in the 1860s, Michelet retrospectively called him “his sole guiding spirit”, and a statue was raised in the Naples public gardens. Anthony Grafton’s foreword to the Penguin edition of the New Science compares it to Newton’s Principia. And so, posthumously, Vico became the founding father he wanted to be. It is a historical Cinderella story too good to be true.