Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519-1574) was a statesman of eminent ability who ruled Florence as an absolute prince. His rule was intelligent, skillful, and despotic, and he was regarded by many as the incarnation of Machiavelli's Prince. While recounting the life and deeds of Cosimo in the Vita, Aldus exercised considerable discretion and literary judgment, being careful not to offend the wrong people or to stir up unpleasant memories.
The Vita di Cosimo de' Medici is the major work of the Aldine Press during its operations at Bologna. Earlier, when Aldus the Younger wanted to transfer the press to Bologna, he had to petition local authorities. The Vita may have been designed to influence favorably those who were to make the decision. The work sufficiently impressed the reigning duke and son of Cosimo, Francesco de' Medici, that Aldus was offered the chair of belles-lettres at the University of Pisa.