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First Published in igod 


" T7IRENZE, la Bellissima e Famosissima Figlia di Roma" 
A was no mere metaphor of Dante, but a very true title 
of the First of Modern States. 

The cumulative energies of the Florentines had their focus 
in the corporate life of the Trade- Associations, and in no other 
Community was the Guild-system so thoroughly developed as it 
was in Florence. 

A complete and connected History of the Guilds has never 
been compiled. The present work is put forth, perhaps rather 
tentatively than exhaustively, to supply the omission. 

The subject is a large one, and the founts of information are 
many and various. I have tasted at many springs and drunk 
from many wells and my subject-matter has been drawn from 
the following sources : ( i ) Manuscripts Twelfth to Sixteenth 
centuries ; (2) Printed matter Books and Periodicals; (3) Letters 
from Authorities and Friends ; (4) Personal Knowledge of Florence 
and the Florentines. 

In the study of Manuscripts I have entered largely into 
the labours of such experts as Emily Baxter, Guido Biagi, 
R. Davidssohn, Lewis Einstein, F. T. Perrens, J. A. Symonds, 
and Pasquale Villari, and I have freely used their readings. 

This I have done because of initial difficulties of time and 
emolument for original research. The early Constitutions and 
Statutes of many of the Guilds were written in an almost 
insolvable mixture of abbreviated Latin and vernacular Tuscan 
the deciphering of which would easily consume any man's 
natural life-time. When I sought for some student to undertake, 
even a superficial survey, I was met with the crushing but prac- 
tical reply " the game is not worth the candle ! " 


In the Catalogue of Printed Books, etc., in my Bibliography, 
I wish to indicate the following as most helpful : Biagi's " Private 
Life of the Renaissance Florentines," Cantini's " Legislazione 
Toscana," Cibrario's " Delia Economia Politica del Medio Evo," 
Davidssohn's two works, Einstein's " Italian Renaissance in 
England," Hyett's " Florence : her History and her Art," Ilde- 
fonso's " Delizie degli Erudite Toscani," Perrens' " Histoire de 
Florence," Peruzzi's " Storia del Commercio e dei Banchieri di 
Firenze," "Leader Scott's" Works, Symond's Works, Villanis' 
(G., F., and M.) Works, and Villari's Works. 

Quite invaluable have been " Collections of Tuscan Laws, 
etc.," " Le Consulte," " L'Osservatore Fiorentino," " The Florence 
Gazette," and " Statuta Populi et Communis Florentiae, 1415," 
published at Friburg in 1778 indeed, the last of these authori- 
ties I have used fully as representative of the middle period of 
the epoch of the Renaissance. 

My correspondence has placed at my disposal most useful 
assistance from the late Rev. S. T. Baxter and Mrs Baxter 
(" Leader Scott "), Dr Biagi and Dr Villari, of Florence ; Signore 
Lisini, of Siena, and Mr Langton Douglas, of London. To all of 
whom I beg to offer my heartiest acknowledgments. 

In the same category I tender sincere thanks to Mr G. F. 
Barwick and the Staff of the Reading Room at the British 
Museum for useful services always courteously rendered ; to Miss 
A. R. Evans the devout student of Florentine lore for helpful 
research work ; to Miss E. De Alberti for excellent translations 
of Italian works ; and to my publishers for urbanity and kindly 

Omissions are unavoidable in a work of this character and 
scope, and further, I readily admit that I have not completely 
brought down my information to the latest date of my period : 
e.g. " The Guild of Bankers and Money-Changers " and "The Guild 
of Silk." This in no sense affects the purpose I have had in view, 
nor tells against the usefulness of my work. 


Where dates are in dispute I have chosen those which best fit 
into my general scheme. The British equivalents, which I have 
attached to the various coins current in Florence, are those which 
most nearly express the mean of the constant variations in value 
for example, I have taken the gold florin of 1252 as worth about 
ten shillings throughout the whole work. 

In many places, and especially in the last four chapters, I 
have followed my own line in attribution and criticism, regardless 
of conventional ideas. What I say, for instance, about Giotto and 
his Campanile, about the Comacine Guild, and about the Religion 
of the Florentines, I maintain upon their simple merits. My 
generally optimistic view of the pre-eminence of Florence and her 
people over all her rivals I am entitled to hold and to set forth, 
from the nature of the case. She was not only the Head of the 
Tuscan League, but the Head of Modern Civilization. 

I have purposely avoided giving prominence to individuals 
except the Medici, and I have abstained from dealing critically 
with the work of the Renaissance artists and writers all of whom, 
it has been my effort generally to show, were the protege's of the 
Guilds, in their corporate capacity, or of influential merchants. 

With respect to the Italian words which are plentifully and 
necessarily scattered all through the publication, something must 
be said. First of all, I have chosen obsolete and old spellings as 
being more in harmony with the times and circumstances under 
notice than modern renderings, for example : Cronica not 
Cronaca, Calimala not Calimara, Tiratolo not Tiratoio, or Tira- 
torio, Notaio not Notaro and so forth. In the second place 
the meanings, which I have usually added in the text to Tuscan 
words, are those which I consider best suited to the subject in 
hand. Where Dictionary meanings have failed me I have not 
hesitated to supply my own, in absolute accord with the context. 

The Illustrations are from many sources. Illuminated Manu- 
scripts at the British Museum and at the Laurentian Library in 
Florence have been laid under contribution. Whilst unhappily 
not retaining the exquisite colouring of those gem-like miniatures 


they have been reproduced both in their original dimensions and 
also by enlargement, but this has undoubtedly coarsened their 
delicate penmanship. 

A very interesting feature in these beautiful pictures is to be 
noted that, whereas the Florentine artists who drew them so 
skilfully have given us figures in Florentine costumes of the 
periods, they have added accessories of architecture, furniture, 
foliage, and the other details of the backgrounds, in terms of 
local environment. Both in Paris and in Flanders the superiority 
of the handiwork of Florentine illuminators was fully recognised, 
and such artists received warm welcomes and handsome re- 

The production, in the text, in their original sizes, of some 
of the splendid Florentine woodcuts of the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries has laid me under obligation to many kind people, and 
among them, Messrs Kegan Paul & Co. for numbers 2, 15, 37, 
41, 48, 54, 56, 59, 60, 61, from Kristeller's "Early Florentine 
Woodcuts," Bernard Quaritch, Esq., for numbers 68 and 69 and 
also for the reproduction, from a MS. Miniature, of number 28. 

I have further to acknowledge the kindness of Messrs. 
Sampson, Low & Co. for permission to reproduce woodcut 
number 52, of J. M. Dent, Esq., for number 7, of the Archivio 
di Stato Sienese (Signore A. Lisini) for Plate XXIX., and of 
Dottore G. Biagi for three plates from his " Private Life of the 
Renaissance Florentines." 

The small shields of arms, which appear at the end of certain 
chapters, are reproduced from drawings I made for the purpose. 
They are copied from sculptural and pictorial adornments upon 
the facades of the Guild Shrine of Or San Michele and the 
Palazzo della Mercanzia, and upon the overdoors of Guild Resi- 
dences, the Zecca, and other buildings some of which indeed 
were removed in the last century. 

The indexing of such a comprehensive work has been no 
light matter. I have endeavoured to give prominence to trades, 
traders, trade-customs, and trade-processes rather than to enume- 


rate ordinary historical names and facts. This holds true also in 
the Chronological Table. 

The inception, development, and completion of my task have 
enriched me with all the pleasurable toil and profitable enjoy- 
ment of my fascinating subject. My enthusiastic love of the 
" City of the Lily " has been a hundredfold enlarged as I have 
worked through my story of " The Guilds of Florence." 

E. S. 
LONDON, 1906 









CALIMALA" GUILD ..... 105 

HE GUILD OF WOOL ..... 139 











MAKERS ...... 296 











AND TANNERS ..... 358 
















BIBLIOGRAPHY ....... 585 

CHRONOLOGY .... . . 600 

INDEX ........ 607 





Subject I. Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century " Valeur 

Maxime." Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. 

British Museum. Harl. 4.375, fol. 179. 
,, II. Print. A View of Florence, XVI. Century "La Raccolta 

di Vedtite della Citta di Firenze" 1774. 
,, III. The Border. Illuminated MS., early XV. Century. British 

Museum. Add. 21.412. 


GIOVANNI . . . . . -4 

Miniature. Illuminated MS. " Biadajolo." Biblioteca Laurenziana, 
Florence. [By special permission of Dottore Guido Biagi.] 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., middle XV. Century " Des Clercs et 
Nobles Femmes" J. Boccacce. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 16, G. v., 
fol. ii. 

CAMPANILE AND DUOMO . . . . . .12 

Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Terra-cotta Rondel Exterior of Or San Michele, Luca Delia Robbia. 
Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Five panels from the Campanile : i. Boatmen of the Arno ; 2. Plough- 
ing in the Contado ; 3. Weaving Wool ; 4. Blacksmithing ; 5. Doctor and 
Pottery. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., XIV. Century " Valeur Maxime" 
Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. British Museum. Harl. 
4.375, fol. 123. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., XV. Century " Des Cases des Nobles 
Hommes et Femmes" J. Boccacce. British Museum. MS. 18.750, 
fol. I. 


"David" Andrea del Verrocchio. National Museum, Florence. 
Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Photograph Alinari, Florence. 





Miniature. Illuminated MS., XV. Century "Des Cases des Nobles 
Homines et Femmes" J. Boccacce. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 14, E. 
v., fol. 5. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., XV. Century"/^ Cases des Nobles 
Homines et Femmes" J. Boccacce. British Museum. Bib. Keg. 14, 
E. v., fol. 392. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., 1478 " M. Ciceronis Orationes. " British 
Museum. Had. 2.681, fol. I. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century " Valeur Maxime. " 
Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. British Museum. Harl. 
4.735, fol. 179- 


J. . . 104 


Carte cC Italia " Tar roc hi." Playing cards. Baccio Baldini, 1473-4. 
British Museum. Early Italian Prints, Vol. 16. 


I . . . . . . no 


Carte d* Italia " Tarrochi" Playing cards. Baccio Baldini, 1473-4. 
British Museum. Early Italian Prints, Vol. 16. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century " Valeur Maxime" 
Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. British Museum. Harl. 
4.735, fol. 151, B. 


CENTURY . . . . . . .118 

Print. C. Bonnard's "Costumes," vol. ii. p. 93. 


Photograph C. Baccani, Florence. 

Carved in stone over a house-door in the Via Calimarugga, XV. 
Century. Photograph G. Brogi, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., middle XV. Century "Des Clercs et 
Nobles Femmes" J. Boccacce. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 16, G. v., 
fol. 56. 

DYEING AND DYERS . . . . . . 151 

Miniature. Illuminated MS., XV. Century Libre des Proprietez^ des 
ChosesJ' Jehan Corbachon, 1482. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 15, E. 
iii., fol. 264. 


Tiratolo della Porticciuola (fArno XIV. and XV. Centuries. Photo- 
graph Specially taken. 




Oil Painting, Tuscan School, XV. Century. Uffizi Gallery, Florence. 
Photograph Alinari, Florence. 



Photograph Alinari, Florence. 

ARMS OF THE " GUILD OF WOOL " . . . . .168 

Terra-cotta Rondel. Museo dell' Opera del Duomo originally outside 
the residence of the Arte della Lana. Luca Delia Robbia. Photograph 
Alinari, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century "* Septem Vitiis" 
British Museum. 27.695, fol. 8. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS. late XIV. Century " Valeur Maxime. " 
Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. British Museum. Ilarl. 
4.735, fol. 135, B. 


Work of Giovanni Battista del Tasso, 1549. Photograph Alinari, 

PAYING TAXES XV. CENTURY (1467) . . . .189 

Fresco after the manner of F. and G. Martini. R. Accademia Senese di 
Belle Arti, Siena. [With acknowledgments to Signore Alessandro Lisini 
of Siena.] 

A MUSICAL PARTY ! . . . . . .198 

Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century " Valeur Maxi me. " 
Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. British Museum. Harl. 
4.735, fol. 151, B. 


CAPPUCCIO ....... 208 

Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., XV. Century "Ovide Metamorphos" 
Complainte des Malheureux. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 17, E. iv., 
fol. 87, B. 



Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


DONATELLO . . . . . . .228 

Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., middle XV. Century. "Libre des Pro- 
prietez des Chases." Jehan Corbechon, 1362. British Museum. Bib. 
Reg. 15 E. II., fol. 165. 


Terra-cotta Rondel. Originally upon the Exterior of Or San Michele. 
Luca Della Robbia. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 



SKINNERS IN CAMP . . . . . . .276 

Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century " Valeur Maxitne. " 
Simon de Hesledin et Nicholas de Coiresse. British Museum. Harl. 
4375> fol. 106, B. 


Courtyard of the Bargello. From the Corteggio Storico of May 1887. 
Photograph Alinari, Florence. 

SOLI, 1420 ....... 294 

From a Cassone. Accademia delle Belle Arti, Florence. Photograph 
Alinari, Florence. 


Terra-cotta Rondel. Exterior of Or San Michele. Fabbrica Ginori, 
after the Delia Robbia. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., XIV. Century " Albumazar Astronomic 
Latin*." British Museum. Sloan, 3.983, fol. 5. 


(The figure below the step represents Cimabue. ) Courtyard of the 
Bargello. From the Corteggio Storico of May 1887. Photograph 
Alinari, Florence. 

CENTURY . . . . . . .324 

Miniature. Illuminated MS. "Libre des Proprietez des Choses" 
Jehan Corbechon, 1362. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 15, E. ii., fol. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS., Libre des Proprietez des Choses. Jehan 
Corbechon, 1482. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 15, E. iii., fol. 99. 


Relief on Fa9ade, Or San Michele. Nanni di Banco, 1418. Photo- 
graph Alinari, Florence. 


Fresco, Campo Santo, Pisa " Building the Tower of Babel." Benozzo 
Gozzoli. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Terra-cotta Rondel Exterior, Or San Michele. Luca Delia Robbia. 
Photograph Alinari, Florence. 

SHIELDS OF ARMS ...... 356 

Photograph G. Brogi, Florence. 
AT AN INN ........ 362 

Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century " De Septem Vitiis. 
British Museum. J 27.695, Vol. 14. 




Fresco. Campo Santo, Pisa "The Vineyard of Noah." Benozzo 
Gozzoli. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Photograph C. Bacconi, Florence. 

"The Madonna and Child." Terra-cotta Lunette, Via dell' Agnolo, 
Florence. Luca Delia Robbia. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Miniature. Illuminated MS. " Biadajolo^ " Biblioteca Laurenziana, 
Florence. [By special permission of Dottore Guido Biagi.] 


Miniature. Illuminated MS. "Libre des Proprietez des Chases" 
Jehan Corbechon. British Museum. Bib. Reg. 15 E. ii., fol. 248. 


Carted 1 Italia "Tarroccki" Playing-cards. Baccio Baldini. Florence, 
1473-4. British Museum. Early Italian Prints, Vol. 16. 


St George Patron of the Guild of Armourers. Originally on the 
faade of Or San Michele Donatello. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Photograph specially taken. 



Photograph Alinari, Florence. 

AMIDEI ........ 462 

Print. Florence, 1830. 

Photograph Bacconi, Florence. 



Print. Florence, 1830. 




Thirteenth century Photograph of Drawing after F. Gambi, Florence. 

r 486 


Photograph specially taken. J 


Photograph Alinari, Florence. 




Fourteenth Century. National Museum, Florence (Collezione Carrand). 
Photograph Alinari, Florence. 

Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Photograph Alinari, Florence. 

ORTO, 1359 . . -S3 1 

Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Carte cC Italia " Tarrochi" Playing Cards. Baccio Baldini, 1473-4, 
Florence. British Museum. Early Italian prints. Vol. 16. 



Terra-cotta Frieze Spedale del Ceppo, at Pistoja. Giovanni Delia 
Robbia. Photographs Alinari, Florence. 



Coloured prints " // Tesoro d* Affreschi 7"oscane." Florence, 1864. J 



Coloured print " // Tesoro a" Affreschi Toscane" Florence, 1864. 


ORANGE, SIEGE, 1529-30 ..... 563 

Fresco. Sala di Clemente VII., Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, by Giorgio 
Vasari. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 


Photograph specially taken. 
THE " STINCHE" PRISON (demolished) 

Photograph of drawing after F. Gambi, Florence. J 
" IL PRESTO" THE PAWNSHOP . . . . -573 

Miniature. Illuminated MS., late XIV. Century De Septem Vitiis. 
British Museum MS. 27.695, fol. 7. 

THE MEDICI . . . . . . -578 

"The Adoration of the Magi," Sandro Botticelli. Gallery of the 
Uffizi. Photograph Alinari, Florence. 




From a large Print in the National Museum, Berlin. 



Woodcut. '''Flares Poetarum" Florence, 1492. 


Woodcut. Jacopo de Cessoli's " // Giuoccho delle Scacchi." Florence, 


Woodcut. Giovanni della Strada's " Orbis Longitudinis" Florence, 



Woodcut. Frontispiece of the " Suite of the Planets" by Sandro 
Botticelli and Baccio Baldini. Florence, 1460-1465. 



(By kind permission of J. M. Dent, Esq.) 


Woodcut. The " Suite of the Planets, " ' ' Mercury," by Sandro Botticelli 
and Baccio Baldini. Florence, 1460-1465. 


Woodcut. " Suite of the Planets,'' "Luna," by Sandro Botticelli and 
Baccio Baldini. Florence, 1460-1465. 



Print. " La Toscane et le Moyen Age^ Geo. Rohault de Fleury, Vol. I., 
Plate XIII. 1870. 


FERENTERINO, 1236 . ..... 95 

Muratori's " Antichite Itah'ane." Vol. VI. p. 9. 


Woodcut. Jacopo di Cessoli's "// Giuoccho delle Scacchi" (" Dellarte 
della Lana "). Florence, 1493. 



Woodcut. Chiarastella's " Storia di Flonnda." Florence, 1550. 





Woodcut. J. Ammon, " Le Moyen Age" P. Le Croix, Vol. V. 


Woodcut. J. Ammon, " Le Moyen Age," P. Le Croix, Vol. V. 


Woodcut. J. Ammon, " Le Moyen Age" P. Le Croix, Vol. V. 


Woodcut. "Carte d' Italia " " Tarrochi" Playing Cards, by Baccio 
Baldini. Florence, 1473-4. 

British Museum. " Early Italian Prints," Vol. XVI. 


Woodcut. Jacopo di Cessoli's " Giuoccho delle Scacchi" (" Detuercatan'i 
e Cambiatori"}. Florence, 1493. 

PAYING TAXES . . . . . . . 193 

Woodcut. Giorgio Chiarmi's "Libro di Mercatatie e Uranze" Florence, 


Engraving. Giovanni della Spada's " Vermis Seriens" Florence, 1550. 


Woodcut. Signed Stephanus fecit, Augusta, 1576. Print Room, 
British Museum. 


Woodcut. Petrus de Montagnaia's ' ' Fasicuhis Medecine. " Venice, 


Woodcut. Petrus de Montagnaia's " Fasicuhis Medecine." Venice, 


Woodcut. Petrus de Montagnaia's " Fasiculus Medecine." Venice, 


From a Miniature in an Illuminated MS. in the University Library at 
Bologna a Hebrew translation of Avicenna's "Canon of Medicine," 
Bk. V. Fourteenth Century. 

(By kind permission of Bernard Quaritch, Esq.) 

CARY'S . . . . . . . -259 

Woodcut illustrating the Canzone " Lo Tavernario con lo Speziale" 
Florence, 1596. 

[Notice the " Sportello" behind the apothecary, and the " Albarelli" in 
the window, ] 


Woodcut illustrating the Canzone " Belle Donne" Florence, 1596. 




BEFORE A GlOSTRE ...... 284 

From a Print Sixteenth Century. Florence. 

[Notice : The Capes of Vair.] 



METAL PLATES ...... 309 

Woodcuts. Vannucci Biringuccio's " Delia Pirotechnia," 1540. 

A SHOEMAKER'S SHOP . . . . . .316 

Woodcut. G. Boccaccio's " Decamerone. " Venice, 1492. 


SHOEMAKERS . . . . . . .319 


Woodcut. Jacopo di Cessoli's "// Giiioccho delle Scacchi" (" De Fabri e 
de Maestri"}. Florence, 1493. 


Woodcut. Bernardo da Firenze's " Le Bellezze e Chasate di Firenze" 
Florence, 1495. 



Code of Statutes Thirteenth Century. 


MANUFACTURERS" . . . . . -357 

INNKEEPER ........ 369 

Woodcut. Jacopo di Cessoli's " // Giuoccho delle Scacchi" (" Del- 
lauerniere e Albergatore "). Florence, 1493. 

KITCHEN OF AN INN ...... 373 

Woodcut. "// Contrasto del Carnesciale e della Quaresima" Florence, 



FARM LABOURER ....... 390 

Woodcut. Jacopo di Cessoli's "// Giuoccho delle Scacchi''' ("Del- 
lauortore "). Florence, 1493. 


Engraving. Giovanni della Spada's " Nova Reperta " (Oleum Olivarum). 
Florence, 1596. 


Engraving. Giovanni della Spada's "Nova Reperta" (Staphce sive 
Stapedes). Florence, 1596. 





Woodcut. Michael Angelo Buonarroti's Cartoon Portion of the Battle 
of Pisa, originally in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. 


Woodcut. Giovanni Boccaccio's " Novella del Grasso Legnaiuolo" 
Giunti's Edition, 1516. 



Outline Drawing. Miniature Illuminated MS., " Biadajolo. " Biblio- 
teca Laurenziana, Florence. 


Print. " La Toscana et le Moyen Age" Geo. Rohault de Fleury, Vol. 
II., fol. 67, 1870. 

BAKERS" ....... 443 



Print. Special Drawing, Leader Scott's "Cathedral Builders." (By 
kind permission of Messrs Sampson Low & Co., Limited.) 


Woodcut. Giovanni Antonio da Brescia, 1452-1582. " La Gravitre 
en Italic avant M. L. Raimondi" H. Delaborde. 


Woodcut. "// Contrasto di Carnesciale e della Quaresima." Florence, 


Woodcut. British Museum. Florence, 1494. 


Woodcut. Lorenzo de' Medeci's (II Magnifico) "La Compagnia del 
Mantellaccio con Laggiunta, " Florence, 1584. 


CENTURY . . . . . . .482 

Print. Florence, 1521. British Museum. 


Woodcut. British Museum. Florence, 1494. 


Woodcat. Piero Pacini da Pescia's "Latide Devote di Diver si Autori." 
Florence, Early Sixteenth Century. 


Woodcut. Girolamo Savonarola's " Compendia di Revelazione,'' 1 
Florence, 1496. 

A DYING MERCHANT . . . . . 5 J 3 

Woodcut. Girolamo Savonarola's " Predica deW Arte del Ben Morire" 
Florence, 1496. 




Woodcut. A. Poliziano's " Conjurationes Pactiana Commentaria," 
1498 (J. Adimari, 1769). Florence. 


Print. <: La Toscane et le Aloyen Age" Geo. Rohault de Fleury, Vol. 
L, Plate VI., 1870. 



Woodcut. Giovanni Boccaccio's " Genealogie des Dienx. " Paris, 1531. 


Drawing, attributed to Girolamo Savonarola, in the National Collec- 
tion of Drawings, Florence. 

THE BIGALLO ....... 547 

Print. " La Toscane et le Moyen Age" Geo. Rohault de Fleury, Vol. 
I., Plate II. 1870. 


Woodcut. Agnolo Hebreo's " Rapprezentazione. " Florence, 1496- 

(By kind permission of Bernard Quaritch, Esq.) 


Woodcut. "Novella Pincevoli chiamata da Viola." Florence, 1496- 

(By kind permission of Bernard Quaritch, Esq.) 




Engraving. Giovanni della Spada's ''Nova Reperta." 1 Florence. 




I. FORMATIVE FORCES. Geographical position. Climate of Tuscany. "A 
favoured Race." Origin of Florence. Roman influences. Barbarian inroads. 
Charlemagne. " Firenze la Bella" The Popes. Collegium. The Commune. 

II. POLITICS AND PARTIES. Countess Matilda. Grandi and Popolani. 
Six Sestieri. Six Consuls. Early Records wanting. The Umiliati. Feuds 
and warfare. " Mutar lo Stato'" Guelphs and Ghibellines. Battle of 
Campaldino. Machiavelli's views. 

III. EDUCATION AND CULTURE. The Campanile "Gospel of Labour." 
Boastings "// Spirito del Campanile" Shopkeeper gentlemen. Dante's 
opinion of " Le Genti di Firenze" Learning the companion of daily life. 
Petrarch's aphorism. The University of Florence. Boccaccio. English 
travellers in Tuscany. Thomas's Diary. 

IV. TRADE ROUTES AND SEA POWER. Roman roads. Commercial 
agents. Buonaccorso Pitti. Ostellieri. Commercial Treaties. Vastness of 
Florentine commerce. Foreign Consuls. Six maritime Consuls. The " Arte 
del Mare \ " Florentine navy. International law. Reprisals. Florence head 
of the Tuscan League. 

THE classic Vale of Arno was, in latest of the Dark Ages, the 
wholesome nursery, where fair Florence gentle nurse 
fostered three young sisters : Art, Science, and Literature. 

No invidious Paris fared that way, casting apples of discord 
before the fascinating Graces of the Renaissance. No question 
ever arose as to whose was the subtlest witchery, but each de- 
veloped charms, distinct and rare, yet not outrivalling one the 
other. With harmonious voices blended, and ambrosial tresses 
mingled, the three interlaced their comely arms, and tossing with 
shapely feet the flowing draperies of golden tissue, which softly 
veiled the perfect contours of their beauteous forms, they gaily 
danced along. Their enchanting rhythm was the music of the new 

A X 


Civilisation : it we know and them but what of their origin ? 
whence came they ? and who were their forebears ? 

Commerce and Industry, well-matched and well-mated pair, 
very early made their busy home by Arno's healthful bed. Sheltered 
by the gracious cliffs of Fiesole and the umbrageous woods of San 
Miniato, they stretched their vigorous limbs along the virgin fields 
and pregnant uplands, dipping themselves anon, and theirs, in the 
tonic stream. Invigorated by the crisp Tuscan breezes, and 
cheered by the sunlit cerulean skies, they set about the rearing of 
their sturdy family. 

Industry, fond Mother, kept by the domestic hearth, un- 
wearyingly nourishing and encouraging her children, some of 
whom are chiselled upon Giotto's famous Campanile, whilst Com- 
merce, energetic Father, ranged the wide world over for markets 
for his wares, returning, ever and a day, with hands well filled with 
gold and other treasures rare. 

Together this strenuous pair evolved, from Nature's generous 
womb, the woolly web, the silky tress, and brilliant dye, which, 
sagely intermixed, by cunning hands, well dowered her growing 
offspring with health, and wealth, and wisdom too. 

To the intelligent student of Florentine History it comes as a 
matter of no surprise that her people, so violent in political 
quarrel, so refined in culture, and so magnificent in circumstance, 
was all the while a nation of shrewd business men enterprising 
merchants, skilful artisans, and diligent operatives. 

From the twelfth to the end of the sixteenth centuries Florence 
easily held the first place in the life and work of the known world : 
she was in fact Athens and Rome combined ! The reason of this 
pre-eminence must be adjudged to three potentialities : accidents 
of climate, geographical position, and peculiarities of race. 

The climate of Tuscany, a highland country of hills and 
plains, partook neither of the enervating temperature of the 
indolent south, nor yet of the rigour of the frozen north. Men 


throve mightily under stable atmospheric conditions which aided 
healthful labour and inspired enterprise. 

Geographically, Florence was the Mistress of the intercourse 
of the world. In her hands she held all the northern roads to 
Rome, whilst, Colossus-like, her feet were placed upon the water- 
ways of Venice and Genoa the emporiums of the south. From 
Pisa she ruled the seas. 

The race of Tuscans was a fusion of many vigorous strains ; 
Etruscan, Greek, Latin, and Teuton. Each ingredient had its 
special function in forming a people, physically and mentally, 
equal to any and every task they chose to set themselves. Dino 
Compagni describes the Florentines of the fourteenth century as 
" formati di bella statura oltra le Toscani" and calls them, "the 
favoured race." 

Vigour of mind and body, and the free exercise of industrial 
instincts, were the germs whence sprang all the splendid character- 
istics of the Florentines of the Renaissance. 

The Muse of Shelley sings thus : 

" Florence, beneath the Sun, 
Of cities, fairest one ! " 

The origin of Florence is wrapped in mystery and obscurity. 
Fiesole is said to have been one of her maternal forbears, and 
Dante calls : 

"Etruscan Fiesole the hilly cradle of a noble race." J 

Anyhow at a very remote period the warlike people of the hills 
were wont to descend to the river banks to barter with such 
intrepid lowlanders as adventured themselves so far. 

At the junction of the Fiesolean stream, the Mugnone, with 
the Arno, gradually sprang up a small settlement of peaceful men 
and women, and there centred the primitive markets of the country- 
side. This settlement speedily became a town of considerable size 
and importance, and was known to the Romans, civilly, as Fluentia. 

1 "Inferno," xv. 61-3. 


When Julius Caesar came to Fiesole to avenge a Roman defeat, 
wherein the Consul Fiorinus had been slain, he changed its name, 
marked on his military chart as Campus Martis, to Fiorentia, in 
honour of his kinsman's memory. 

Florus ranks Florence with Spoletium, Interamnium, and 
Praeneste as, "those splendid municipia of Italy"; and Pliny in- 
cludes " Fluentini vel Fiorentia " in his list of Romano-Etruscan 

Whilst dates are all uncertain we know that the Romans 
re-built the town on the usual Castrum plan of intersecting streets, 
and lived there amid all the usual edifices of a Roman commercial 
city. A great impetus was given to her growth and trade by the 
making of the splendid Flaminian road, which crossed the Arno 
at the point where the Ponte Vecchio still unites the two portions 
of the modern city. 

The civilisation and prosperity of the Roman Castra were 
swept away by the wild inroads of the barbarians from the North. 
Wave after wave of savagery rolled over all the land. Goths, 
Vandals, Longobarbs, and Saxons worked their will amid Arno's 
smiling fields and pleasant gardens. Last of all came Totila, the 
" Scourge of God," and hewed in pieces the remnants of her folk, 
and made of fair Florence nothing but a dunghill and a waste. 

Roman farmsteads, villas, baths, and theatres were levelled to 
the ground. Where, by busy gate and teeming quay and mart, 
had gathered crowds of skilful toilers, from fruitful fields and 
prolific flocks, from sea and riverside, from busy looms and noisy 
shops of smiths, instead were ruined walls and battered portals. 
Behind the scattered stones slouched the craven sons of hard- 
working sires. Their hands, devoid of honest crafts, sought only 
their fellow's pelf. 

Along with the conquering Longobarbs, or Lombards, came 
many a German family, to whom tracts of Italian land were 
assigned for habitation and for culture. Attracted by its fruitful 
promise many a bearded and fur-clad barbarian settled on Tuscan 
soil, and there, too, their chieftains built their castles employing 



the pressed labour of the wretched people of the land. From 
these strongholds did they exercise over-lordship on plain lab- 
ourers and rough workmen, whilst they, one and all, rendered 
due homage to their liege. 

The barbarians came, and the barbarians went, hundreds of 
years rolled by, and nought but the ancient Christian shrine of 
San Giovanni remained to tell where Florence once had been. 
There, under its sheltering eaves, the good Baptist, the second 
Patron of their weal : warlike Mars deposed, rallied the frightened 
relics of a city's throng, and the driven refugees from Fortune's 

By the river bank clustered frail hovels, the homes of simple 
fisher-folk, adding their quota to a new township ; and boats 
began once more to drop adown the stream in search of food and 
gain. Men breathed again, their hopes revived, and dreams of life 
and peace, of health and work were theirs. The old fire in their 
blood awoke the lion of their energies, and up, out of the ashes of 
the dead, phcenix-like, sprang another Florence. 

Under the virile rule of good Queen Theodolinda who, at 
Ravenna, held her Court, in the years between 556 and 625, busy 
hands unearthed the blocks of Roman masonry, and around the 
budding city they threw the Primo Cerchio the first mediaeval 
wall. A turn in the tide of misfortune had set in and fair Florence 
raised proudly aloft her head to greet the Monarch of the West. 

In 786, Charlemagne entered through her gates with an 
imposing retinue. He found her people rebuilding the Romano- 
Lombardic town and bestirring themselves in many useful 

The wise king noted the vigour and the intelligence of the 
townsfolk, and recognised especially their skill in dressing skins 
and wool. Greatly did he encourage these worthy crafts and 
granted new privileges. By decree l he extended the Comitatus or 
Contado to a three miles radius from the Baptistery. The tears 
he is said to have shed at Leghorn over the sight of intrusive 

1 G. Villani, Lib. iii. cap. 1-3. 


Viking ships sapping the resources of Tuscany, must have been 
brushed aside, as, approvingly, he bestowed upon the new city the 
title : " Firenze la Bella ! " and beautiful she was a flower- 
basket in the words of Faccio degli Uberti : " Che lira posta una 
gran cest dei fiori ! " 

Two sapient Popes Adrian I. and Leo III. did much in the 
eighth and ninth centuries to encourage the arts and crafts. No 
Italian could at that time do foundry work, consequently Greek 
artificers in gold and bronze, especially, were invited to settle in 
Rome. Rich silken hangings, which could not be manufactured 
in Europe, were imported from the East, and men were set to work 
to imitate them. 

Paschal I., Gregory IV., and Sergius II. took up the mantle of 
their predecessors, and encouraged industrial arts of all kinds. 
Bas-reliefs in metal and sanctuary lamps, glass vessels for the Mass 
and ornamental glass work, mosaics in pottery, lapidary objects 
encrusted with gems, enamel painting, fresco decorations, and 
many other ornamental and useful crafts were fostered not only 
in the Eternal City, but by craftsmen who travelled all over Italy 
and made settlements in Florence, and other places. 

And still the toilers toiled and still the city grew until, in 825, 
there was established, as in other centres of population, a Collegium^ 
a commercial university for the Arts and Crafts, under the 
auspices of the Emperor Lothair. This was the Coronation of 
Florence. Every head of a family, and every captain of a trade, 
became a ruling councillor in the popular government by public 

Fief of the Romano-German Empire in the tenth century, 
Florence commercially governed, taxed, and defended herself. 
Her influence and her example were extended on every side. 
Her markets attracted dealers and adventurers from every land : 
her industries workmen and apprentices. By liberating the 
peasants of the soil from the sway of feudal lords she became the 
mistress of their destinies as well as of her own. 

By all these means Florence laid the foundations of the only 


free government possible in the Middle Ages that of the 

It is a question of unusual difficulty to determine precisely the 
end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. 
Italians, and Florentines in particular, never quite sank to the 
dismal level of other peoples their faculties and energies were 
always far more acute and less benumbed than those of most of 
the inhabitants of the States around them. In a word Florence 
was a precious lantern, which burnt with unquenchable brilliance, 
and illuminated all the cities of Europe. 

Bonifazio III., Marquis of Tuscany, died in 1076, and left his 
titular sovereignty to his daughter, the Countess Matilda. 
Popularly known as " The great Countess," she dwelt at Lucca, 
holding frequent Courts in Florence when not engaged sword in 
hand upon the field of battle. Her fame was such that very many 
of the children born in Florence, and the Contado, were ever after 
named " Tessa," or " Contessa " in her honour. 

Matilda was renowned for her strict administration of justice, 
and, in the earlier years of her reign, she presided in person in the 
Court of Pleas, aided by assessors, whom she chose from among 
the Grandi^ or leading citizens. She greatly encouraged the 
industries and the commerce of the Commune, and readily 
sanctioned the warlike expeditions of the Popolani, or traders, 
against the aggressive nobles of the Empire. The Countess, 
nevertheless, had ambitions, beyond the circumscribed limits of 
the Contado, and left the city magnates to govern its affairs, 
pretty much as they liked. 

In 1078 Florence was encircled by her Second Wall, and, at the 
same date, she was divided into six Sestieri or Wards each 
under the presidency of a Buonuomo, chosen by Matilda from the 
families of the Grandi. This magistrate administered justice, 
governed the population, and commanded the armed men, of his 

In noi the Countess made a prolonged stay in Florence, and 


called together into Council the Anziani, or Ancients heads of 
Grandi families, and also the Capitudini or heads of Popolani trades, 
to frame a Constitution for the government of the Commune. In 
this instrument the Buonuomini adopt a new style, one indicative 
of personal authority and independence, namely : Consul a title 
hitherto borne only by supreme rulers of States. 

Upon the death of Matilda in 1115 no one took her place as 
ruler of Florence, but the government of the city was carried on 
by the Six Consuls who thus became the Rulers of the Commune. 
Florence at the same time threw off her allegiance to the Emperor, 
and proclaimed herself mistress of her own fortunes. 

The yearly records of the city which have been preserved, begin 
only in the twelfth century. Eighteen of these, written on the 
back of Sheet 71 of Codex 772 in the Vatican Palatine Library, 
cover the years 1 1 10 to 1 173. A longer series of Records, running 
from 1 107 to 1247, is preserved in Codex 776 in the Magliabecchian 
Library in Florence. In these documents are entries of the names 
of Consuls and other officers of State, together with notes of 
contemporaneous events connected with the progress, political 
and commercial, of the inhabitants of Florence. It has been truly 
said : " Merchants made her history, and merchants have 
chronicled the same." 1 

All the while another agency was at work, in the Middle Ages, 
which kept alive skilful toil and enterprising trade the agency of 
the monasteries. In these institutions manual labour was pre- 
scribed to prevent idleness. Some communities indeed were 
founded mainly upon co-operative principles : for example, the 
Umiliati or The Humble Fathers of St Michael of Alexandria. 2 

The Order originated in the banishment of numbers of Italians, 
chiefly Lombardians, into Germany by the Emperor Henry I. in 1014. 
These exiles associated themselves together, in religion and in toil, 
by working at various trades, more particularly that of dressing 
wool. Returning to their own homes in 1019, they retained their 

1 Dr Davidssohn, "Geschichte von Florenz " (Preface). 

2 L. Pignotti, "Storia della Toscana," vol. iii. p. 266, note. 



organisation, and kept up their occupations, whilst their diligence 
and integrity were renowned far and wide. 

Down to 1 140 the Umiliati were laymen, but in that year the 
Order was changed into one composed solely of men of Holy 
Order. It is true that they no longer worked themselves, but they 
gathered around their monasteries and cells, everywhere, great 
numbers of lay-workers, of all ages and of every class, whose 
labours they directed, and whose morals they protected. The 
head of this early Labour Bureau was called " Mercato" 

In no other city or republic did the Humble Fathers 
achieve anything like the success which marked their work in 
Florence. Indeed, in some places, the industry entirely failed 
to attract workers ; for example, in Pisa, where they had com- 
menced operations about the same time as in Florence, they 
were obliged, in 1302, to beg alms to maintain their factory ; and, 
a few years later, they were obliged to give up operations and quit 
the place entirely. In Florence it was very different, and their 
advent in 1238 was warmly welcomed, and its importance 
recognised by the shrewd manufacturers and operatives. 

Three conditions appear to have been constant in the political.) 
and commercial history of Florence, which, viewed in connection J 
with their possible effect upon one another, were absolutely con- J 
tradictory. First: the incessant warfare feuds, brigandage, and 
reprisals, which kept the population in a constant turmoil. 
Florence herself fomented some of these, as, by degrees, she 
acquired rural districts, and went on to conquer and to annex more 
distant townships and lands. Second : the extraordinary fre- 
quency with which the form of government was changed : " Mutar 
lo State " became a household proverb. Magistrates one day 
acclaimed and trusted, were on the morrow disgraced, dismissed, 
and even slain. Third : the amazing prosperity of the city, and 
the rapid increase of trade associations or Guilds, under fixed 
rules and duly elected officers. In truth, on one and the same 
day, a man might be called upon to fight to the death in 


some fell conflict, to exercise his privilege with respect to the 
franchise of the city, and to undertake some new industrial 
enterprise ! 

The following is the refrain of a Folk Song of Old Florence, 
sung by the sorrowing women, as they looked in vain for the 
return home of the bread-winners : 

" Gather up his tools and bring them 

With his apron of brown leather. 
Father, wilt thou not be going 

To thy work this summer weather ? 
Father slain and brother wounded 

They have struck them down together ! " 1 

The strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines which actually 
commenced soon after the death of the Countess Matilda, was a 
struggle for supremacy on the one hand, between a democracy of 
merchants and traders, aided by their work-people, and, on the 
other, an aristocracy of nobles and soldiers of fortune, backed up 
by their retainers. The names were first used in Florence in 1215, 
but were originally given by the Emperor Frederic II., the 
former to designate the upholders of the Pope, the latter to 
distinguish the adherents of the Empire. 

The Battle of Campaldino on June 1 1, 1285, proved, by the victory 
won for Florence, the progress made in commercial enterprise and 
prosperity. In spite of the many and lengthy wars with all her 
neighbours, Florence was in a good and happy condition. Her 
population was increasing rapidly in number and in wealth. Every 
man was making money in his trade, and everything went merrily 
like a marriage bell. Festivals and feasts were multiplied, 
children went about clothed in new garments of fine cloth and silk, 
and women, with garlands of fresh flowers and coronets of silver 
and of gold, the work of cunning craftsmen, sang and danced 
the livelong day. 2 

But the triumph of Campaldino was brief. Beneath the brilliant 
robes of her nobles and her merchants and the goodly garments 

1 Old Tuscan Folk Songs, " Vocero" 2 G. Villani, " Cronica," vii. 131. 


of her artisans and her peasants, there rankled still the class-hatred, 
which had ever threatened her internal peace. 

The constant feuds and factions which distracted Florence, 
from the first day, when, in 1 177, the Uberti tried to seize upon the 
Lordship, until the very end of the Republic, did nothing more 
or less than winnow parties and thresh out policies, leaving 
behind as a substantial result a solidarity which had no equal in 
Europe. Her rulers were men of sterling grit, and her laws, 
forced by exigency of circumstances, were perspicuous for liberty, 
large mindedness, and justice. 

Merchants of the " Calimala " the finishers of foreign woven 
cloth for example, carried on their business undaunted by troubles 
at home. Its members belonged to all and every party in the 
State. When the feud of the Donati and Cerchi was at its height, 
thirty-eight merchant-families sided with the former the Neri or 
"Blacks," and thirty-two with the latter the Bianchi or " Whites " 
whilst as many more were neutral. 1 

Machiavelli has, in his " History of Florence," given an ex- 
cellent and sententious view of the vicissitudes to which govern- 
ments are subject. He says : " The general course of changes 
that occur in States is from a condition of order to one of disorder, 
and from the latter they pass again to one of order. For as it is 
not the fate of mundane affairs to remain stationary, so when they 
have attained their highest state of perfection, beyond which they 
cannot go, they of necessity decline. And these again, when they 
have descended to the lowest, and by their disorders have reached 
the very depth of debasement, they must of necessity rise again, 
inasmuch as they cannot go lower." 2 

" Cities that govern themselves under the name of Republics, 
and especially such as are not well constituted, are exposed to 
frequent revolutions in their government." 3 

" The causes of nearly all the evils which afflict Republics are 
to be found in the great and natural enmities that exist between 

1 Villani, v. 38. 2 Machiavelli, " Le Istorie di Firenze," Lib. v. sect i. 

3 Machiavelli, Lib. iv. sect i. 


the people and the nobles, which result from the disposition 
of the one to command, and the indisposition of the other to 
obey." 1 

Perhaps the most perfect, and certainly the most beautiful, 
building in Florence is the famous Campanile. Vasari says: 
" Giotto not only made the design for this bell-tower, but also 
sculptured part of these stories in marble, in which are represented 
the beginnings of all the arts." These stories are told in panels of 
hexagonal shape, not in the conventional and devotional manner 
of the age, but freely from the standpoint of everyday life. Giotto 
gloried in his Florence and in her progress, and so he has adorned 
his Campanile with the records of her industries and of her 

His first subjects are " The Creation of Adam," and " The 
Creation of Eve " ; next he presents " The labours of Adam and 
Eve " the man working patiently with his spade, the woman with 
her laden distaff; and then "Jabal the father of such as have 
cattle," setting forth man's pastoral work. After Jabal follows 
his brother, " Jubal the father of all who handle harp and organ." 
Tubal Cain is next in order, the instructor of the art of working 
in metals. Labour in the vineyard, personified in Noah, succeeds ; 
and here ends the Scriptural subjects so called. The seven Arts 
and Sciences follow in turn Astronomy, Arithmetic, Geometry, 
Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric and Music, each pourtrayed in a 
separate panel. 

Three panels are devoted to the crafts of Building, Pottery, 2 

1 Machiavelli, Lib. iii. sect. i. 

2 Some say this panel represents a Physician in his chair, attending to his patients. 
His pose is that commonly depicted in the examination of urine, and a similar pose 
is seen in woodcuts of the end of the fifteenth century : e.g. Jacopo de Cessolis's // 
Gitwccho delle Scacchi, printed by Antonio Miscomini, in 1493, where the doctor, or 
apothecary, as the Quenis Pawne, is testing some ointment or other mixture. Others 
assert that the panel exhibits a master-potter examining earthenware vessels, made in 
the Contado, and brought into the city by women with wicker bearing-baskets, as was- the 
custom. Probably the panel represents both Medicine and Pottery the row of boccali t 
albarelli, etc., on the shelf indicating the useful purposes served by the Potters' craft, and 
indispensable in the prosecution of the Science of Healing. 



and Wool-weaving the special industries of Florence. A dignified 
group comes next, probably illustrative of the Judicial function, 
and then three subjects, setting forth man's mastery over land, and 
air, and sea a horseman, an aeronaut (Daedalus), and a ship with 
its crew of navigators. 

Pastoral industries follow : Ploughing and Transport, with 
Painting Apelles, and Sculpture Pheidias. These chiselled 
pictures of life and life's activities have made of Giotto's Campanile 
a pulpit, whence for all time is preached the " Gospel of Intelligent 

The Florentines of old looked down with ill-disguised contempt 
upon the citizens of other States, and especially upon the in- 
habitants of cities which they had conquered. These in their turn 
had petty rivalries amongst themselves Siena, Pisa, Volterra, 
Montepulciano, San Gimignano, and the rest. Nothing pleased 
the citizens of Florence more than to boast of their victory in 
1260 at Montaperti, and of other successes, when they met people 
from the defeated cities. 

This peculiarly Tuscan characteristic led every city to boast of 
its own importance, and of the superiority of its public institutions 
and buildings. The " Spirito del Campanile" as it was called, was 
nowhere else more rampant than in Florence, where everybody 
seemed to be only too ready to disparage his neighbour, whilst he 
vaunted his own eminence, or the excellence of his craft, or the 
superiority of his City. 

The Florentines were essentially a nation of shopkeepers, but, 
at the same time, they were a Republic of independent gentlemen. 
Whilst industrious beyond all their contemporaries, and frugal 
beyond the generality of men, their leisure was marked by 
creations in Art, Science and Literature, and their table 
distinguished by mirth, erudition and hospitality. 

Each party in the State in turn sought to outdo the other 
in the advancement and adornment of his well-beloved city. 
Fine work set on foot by one party was elaborated by another. 
Wealth, honour, and dear life itself, were ever at the service 


of the State. Each man was, first of all, a citizen, and then a 
private individual. The glory of " Firenze la Bella " was the true 
seal of family distinction. 

The Commune flourished amazingly amid the invigorating 
influences of constant political disturbances, and became the centre 
of such a high and generous mental culture as has not a compeer 
in the world's history. This culture was a democratic trait, not the 
exclusive possession of the few ; and, as a true characteristic of 
the Florentines of the twelfth to the sixteenth century, it is 
exhibited in the architecture of Arnolfo, the painting of Cimabue, 
the sculpture of Giotto and the poetry of Dante. 

Speaking of the Acts, Statutes, and Laws of Florence, Dante 
represents the people as superior to all others in Italy for civil 
virtues, incorrodible faith, sincerity in religion, and noble charity. 
He considered that all these excellent qualities were the foundation 
upon which rested the commercial pre-eminence of the city. 

Florence was a Republic of merchants and artisans, and her 
citizens, distinguished as Nobili and Popolani, were united in the 
general designation " Le Genti di Firenze" " The People of 

A very important feature in the extraordinary enterprise and 
success of the merchants and craftsmen of Florence was the 
influence of education and literature upon all classes of the 
population. The commonest people were casuists, metaphysicians, 
diplomatists, keen observers of human nature, and instinctive 
judges of character. 

In the Middle Ages learning was regarded almost exclusively 
as the handmaid of religion, but in the era of the Renaissance 
it was looked upon as the companion of everyday life. 

One of the civil phenomena of the times of the Republic of 
Florence, and one very difficult to understand from our present 
point of view of educational economy, was the union in the persons 
of merchants and artisans, of fine literary taste and scholarly 
culture, with rare qualifications for political office and keen 
instincts for commercial enterprise. 


Industry, the object of which is ordinarily the supply of 
necessaries and luxuries, was, from the first, a means of power or 
at least amelioration in all the regions of human civilisation. It 
furnished Florentines with a Royal Road to the highest summits 
of Art, Science, Literature and Discovery. Whether nobles, 
merchants, craftsmen, or operatives, they have come down to us 
as philosophers, rhetoricians, astronomers, writers, poets, painters, 
sculptors, architects, and the rest. 

So keen was the interest displayed by all classes in all and 
everything which made for greater knowledge and ability in the 
prosecution of their various crafts, that teachers of every degree 
did not lack attentive audiences. In a letter of Petrarch to 
Boccaccio he calls the Florentine intellect quick and subtle 
rather than grave and mature : " O ingenia magis ceria quam 
matura ! " 

Historians, such as Ricordano Malespini, Dino Compagni, 
and Giovanni Villani, tell us many interesting stories about the 
universality of education in Florence in their days. Tailors left 
their benches to attend the Greek lecture, Blacksmiths laid aside 
their hammers for the pen of history, Woolcarders found time to 
study law, Barbers sought the chair of poetry, and Butchers went 
in for literary research, and so forth. There was " no one," says 
Dino Compagni, " in Florence who could not read," and " even 
the donkey-boys sang verses out of Dante ! " 

The initiation of the University of Florence was accomplished 
in the same manner as that which called the Guilds into ex- 
istence. It was the consequence of the great movement towards 
association which began to sweep over Europe early in the 
eleventh century. 

By the middle of the thirteenth century the association of 
learning and industry was fully recognised as a necessity for 
successful commercial pursuits. Classes were, from time to time, 
established for higher technical culture, and at length, in 1349, the 
" Studio Florentine* " was founded with an annual endowment of two 


thousand five hundred gold florins, about .1200 sterling, Clement 
VI. granting the Papal Bull for the recognition of the faculties. 1 

The development of the University was rapid : in 1348 there 
were only six scholce, faculties, under as many teachers, whilst 
in 1421, there were forty-two Professors, and by 1472, a great 
number of branch academies and technical schools were thriving 
amazingly. To the University of Florence belongs the distinction 
of the foundation of the first chairs of Greek and Poetry in Italy 
the former in 1360 and the latter in 1373. 

Among the earliest professors was Messere Filelfo, who had, in 
the latter part of the fourteenth century, as many as four hundred 
pupils belonging to leading families. In 1360 Giovanni Boccaccio 
the first Professor of Poetry introduced Leontius Pilatus to the 
Signoria^ by whom he was appointed first Professor of Greek. 
His appointment proved to be a great incentive for the Florentines 
to enter enthusiastically into the study of antique monuments, 
whence resulted their superiority in the subtilties of the plastic art. 

The Statutes of the" Universitas Scholarum" as the legal title 
had it, were submitted to the " Approbatores Statutarum Artium 
Communis Florentice" "The Revisers of Guild Statutes for the 
Commonwealth of Florence." They were drafted in the same 
spirit and order as the Statutes of the Guilds, with corresponding 
offices, byelaws, etc. 

Quite young boys were admitted to matriculate, as in the 
Guilds, and it was possible for a pushing youth to attain his 
doctorate or degree at the age of seventeen. 

Every student was required to be of legitimate birth, and a 
registered native of Florence. There was no age limit and no 
class qualification. Each was allowed an honorarium of one gold 
florin per month, a beggarly amount in truth, but medical 
students, who lived under very strict rules with respect to dissec- 
tions, etc., were privileged to receive an allowance of red wine and 
spices "just to keep up their spirits ! " 2 

1 Rashdall, "Universities of Europe," vol. ii. pp. 46-50. 
' 2 Statuta Populo Florentine, p. 74. 

v \ _> \ V X ""T" 

%. \ \ \ \ \ \ 

>5^ \ \ \ \ \ \ 



Four licensed merchants were appointed money lenders, or 
pawnbrokers, for students, who were forbidden to borrow of any 
other persons ; these officials were styled " Feneratori " usurers. 
No student might carry arms of any kind. 

The Rector was elected annually by the votes of the whole 
of the students, who had attained the age of eighteen, and 
to him were accorded discretionary powers over the whole 

Theological students looked to Rome for preferment and 
benefactions. In a Roll of the University of the year 1404 some 
students are mentioned as having asked the Pope for, and having 
obtained, two or three or more benefices mounting up in their 
gross revenues to the annual value of three hundred gold florins 
more or less apiece ! 1 

Strict sumptuary laws were enacted. Students were forbidden 
to wear garments of fine or " noble cloth " as the highly finished 
Florentine cloth was called ; whereas Professors were allowed this 
rich material. Black was prescribed for ordinary use, but on State 
occasions scarlet robes were worn ornamented with fur and gold 

A few only of the distinguished men connected with the 
University of Florence can be named here : Leonardo Bruni 
Aretino, (1369-1441) the reviver of the study of Greek, Leon 
Battista Alberti, (1405-1472) architect and scientist, Angelo 
Poliziano, (1414-1494) philosopher and writer, Antonio Minucci, 
(1431-1487) reader-in-law and history, Pico della Mirandola, 
(1461-1494) theologian and moralist, and Leonardo da Vinci, 
(1452-1519) engineer and humanist. 

English travellers in Tuscany, and there were many especially 
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, saw of course very much 
to astonish them. Two of these, Sir Richard Guylforde and Sir 
Richard Torkington, were the first to give expression to their 
impressions in writing. Their " Diaries," made in 1506 and 1516 
respectively, were dictated by the spirit of medievalism. The 

1 Statuta Populo Florentiae, p. 383. 


civilisation of the Renaissance, which they encountered, seems to 
have been quite beyond their comprehension. The things which 
struck them most strongly were the manufacture of glass at Murano, 
and the use, by the Venetians, of basins and ewers in their daily 
ablutions ! 1 

In the middle of the fifteenth century two other English 
travellers went on their separate ways through Italy. They were 
far and away more intelligent, and more in touch with the 
movements of the age, than the pair which had preceded them. 
Great admirers of the Florentines, they eulogise both their charac- 
teristics and their customs. 

Hoby's " Diary " is full of personal experiences. Everybody 
with whom he had intercourse charmed him by their gentlemanly 
manners. He was, later on, induced, solely from this experience, to 
write his famous translation of " // Cortigiano" The richness of 
domestic decoration also impressed him. He slept, he says : " in a 
chamber hanged with cloth of gold and velvet," whilst on the bed 
was, " silver work, and the bolsters were of rich silk." 2 

Thomas's narration 3 is of a more ambitious character ; he con- 
trasts the universities of Italy, wherein the students were mostly 
gentlemen, with similar English centres of education, where, as he 
writes, " there mean men's children are set to school in hope to live 
upon hired learning." The Italians, he says: "are modest in dress 
and neat at table and sober in speech." Regarding the division of 
classes he was impressed by the fact that the leading merchants 
were, for the most part, gentlemen. " If there are," he writes, " three 
or four brothers, one or two of them go into a trade ; and, in case 
there is no division of their father's patrimony, then the merchants 
work for their brothers' benefit, as well as for their own. And in- 
asmuch as their reputation does not suffer by reason of their trade, 
it follows that there are more wealthy men in Italy than in any other 

He admired too the skill and comparative wealth of the 

1 Camden Society, 1881. 2 Egerton MSS. 2148. British Museum. 

3 "A Historic of Italic," 1549. 


working classes. " I regard," he writes, " the Italian artificers as 
being the finest and most inventive workmen of all others." He 
adds, later on, speaking of the cities of Lombardy in particular, 
" there is almost no craftsman's wife that hath not her gown of 
silk, and her chain of gold ! " 

With respect to Florence, all classes struck him by their talka- 
tiveness, and their manifest desire to appear eloquent. " He is 
not," he writes, "reputed a man among them that cannot play 
the orator in his tale, as well in gesture as in word." The 
Academy was one of the most interesting sights he saw during 
his visit. He describes how the learned Florentines, from various 
grades of society, met there, the Duke amongst them. One, 
chosen beforehand, would ascend the pulpit and deliver an 
oration lasting more than one hour. " Never have I heard," writes 
the narrator, " reader in school, nor preacher in church, handle 
themselves better." 

After the fall of the Roman Empire the trade routes, with 
their hostelries and posts for horses, were restored by Charlemagne, 
and maintained by successive Emperors and their feudatories. 
Three kinds of establishments were provided by the Imperial 
Government for their couriers and for foreign expeditions, 
I. Civitates, in the towns where numbers of horses were kept for 
despatch anywhere throughout the State. 2. Mutationes, in 
the villages where relays of animals were stabled for immediate 
use. And 3. Mansiones, in the country where men and horses,, 
engaged in long and wearisome journeys, might rest awhile. 

Generally commercial travellers from Florence were men 
travelling in companies, but frequently enough all the members 
of a family went abroad with father or son, who had received 
the appointment of resident agent, in a foreign city, of some rich 
business house. 

The interests of the forwarding company were supposed to be 
the principal object of these journeys, but, as a rule, a good deal 


of quite natural self-interest was associated with the expedition, 
which was never devoid of adventure and romance. 

A notable soldier, merchant, diplomatist and man of letters, 
Buonaccorso Pitti, in his Chronicle, 1 relates how he accomplished 
his journeys in France and Germany in the year 1395. "Being 
obliged," he writes, " for the service of the Florentine Republic 
to undertake a mission to Paris I set out on the 28th of January 
of the same year. I took the road to Friuli, and spent thirty-five 
days among the snow with the diggers clearing the glacier, before 
I was able to pass with ten oxen. I stopped in turn at Constance, 
Basel, and Langres. ... I returned by way of Burgundy and 
Germany. After my arrival at Treviso, I sent on my laden pack 
horses to Padua, whilst I went on to Venice. I left Venice on the 
22nd of March, rested at Mestre, and was at Padua that night. 
On the morning of the 23rd I set out, with two good riding horses 
belonging to the Lord of Padua, and, without eating and 
drinking, I reached Ferrara at eight o'clock that evening. Here 
I hired some of the Marquis' horses, and went on to San Giorgio, 
within ten miles of Bologna. In the morning, before sunrise, I 
arrived at Bologna, and taking two fresh horses I reached 
Scarperia late at night. I arrived in Rome early in the morning 
of March 25th. 

This distinguished Florentine, who had already, in 1374, been 
sent as Ambassador to Paris was also something of a financial 
plunger. He made hazardous investments, gave and accepted 
loans at high rates of interest, and was addicted to selling for a 
fall as we now say. One day he was rolling in riches, and the 
honoured guest of princes and wealthy merchants; the next, he 
was out of elbows, and could not raise a few soldi for a shave at 
Burchiello's ! 

Many of the agents of Florentine commercial houses became 
famous in the annals of their city no less than in the greater world 
of Europe. Filippo degli Scolari, a traveller for the " Calimala" in 
Hungary, was appointed cashier to the king, and director of 

1 Cronica, (?) 1396. 



the currency. He restored the kingdom and was named Governor 
of Servia and Captain-General. Castruccio Castracani, a 
member of the Interminelli banking-house, who was exiled in 
his youth for a trivial offence, raised himself as a soldier and a 
statesman until he was elected Lord of Lucca. Farinata degli 
Uberti merchant, soldier and statesman, became the master of 


Tuscany. Niccolo Acciaiuoli a member of the noted steel manu- 
facturing house, ruled the kingdom of Naples as dispenser of 

Along the trade routes were Ostellieri Commercial Inns at the 
disposition of the members of the Guilds. The Ostellani undertook 
to lodge and feed Florentine merchants and their agents upon their 
journeys, and to store their merchandise. These men were under 
the observation and order of the Guild Consuls and visiting in- 
spectors. They were forbidden, under penalty of losing their 
licences, to participate in mercantile speculations. They were 


established in Paris, Caen, Aries, Perpignan, S. Gilles, and other 
places in France, and also throughout Flanders and Germany. 

Trade routes crossed and re-crossed one another, but all 
converged upon Florence ; and over these her merchants entered 
into arrangements with their respective rulers. In early days, 
however, it was a common practice for the hill tribes to swoop 
down upon pack trains, which conveyed to and fro consignments 
of merchandise. To safeguard her commercial interests Florence 
entered into many treaties with her neighbours : Pisa 1171 ; Lucca 
1184; Signori del Mugello, who were robber chieftains 1200, 
for safe cond ucts ; Bologna 1 203, against reprisals ; Faenza 1204, 
with respect to jurisdiction ; Perugia 1218, concerning the wool 
and silk trades; Maremma chieftains 1251, for security of cattle 
droves, etc. Several treaties were made with Siena and Pisa which 
treated of territorial as well as commercial policy. 

With respect to sea-borne merchandise, the chief ports for the 
trade of Florence were Ancona, Rimini, and Venice, on the east, 
and on the west, Pisa, Leghorn, and Genoa. 

The commercial relations of Florence grew apace. Goro Dati 
glories in the fact that, as he puts it, " The Florentines were 
well acquainted with all the holes and corners of the known 
world." 1 In the fourteenth century more than three hundred 
agents were despatched every year upon commercial journeys. 

Resident Florentines were first appointed Consuls at foreign 
ports in 1329. The qualification for this important office was 
simply citizenship, but only such men as might be expected to 
extend the fame and influence of Florence, by their own personal 
force of character and aptitude for business, were chosen. 

These officers were established in Eastern ports, where each 
was assisted by a secretary, with a monthly salary of four gold 
florins, two assistants and a native dragoman. Each Consul had 
three horses at his disposal. He was forbidden to engage in trade, 
or to act in any way for other States. His salary was paid by rates 
levied upon merchandise entering and leaving the port. 

1 Goro Dati, '' Istoria di Firenze," Lib. iv. p. 56. 


In London the income of the Florentine Consul was obtained 
by percentages upon the Lettere di Cambio^ bills of Exchange, 
and upon the values of cargoes sold and bought At Con- 
stantinople, Lyons, Bruges, and other principal trading centres 
similar rates were in force. Florentine merchants and bankers 
were found in numbers everywhere, in Turkey there were fifty- 
one houses, in France twenty-four, at Naples thirty-seven, and 
so on. 

The first substantial gain to the Republic was the concession 
of land at various foreign ports for the erection of residences for 
the Consuls, offices, warehouses, hospitals, and churches. Between 
the year 1423 and the end of the century resident Florentine 
Maritime Consuls had been appointed at Alexandria, Naples, 
Majorca, Constantinople, in Cyprus, and away on the shores of 
the distant Black Sea, and in Persia, India, and China. 

To each of these high officials were attached Chancellors, 
Purveyors, Interpreters, Inspectors of all kinds, and clerks, and 
quite a numerous body-guard of men-at-arms. In short, miniature 
Florences sprang up everywhere, and claimed, and obtained, equal 
rights, privileges, and honours as were accorded to the mother 
city. The expenses of these establishments were borne by freight 
dues on cargoes entering and leaving port. Pisa was the most 
accessible port in Tuscany, and she was well worth all the sacri- 
fices which the wars with her brave and industrious inhabitants 
cost the men of Florence. She had a Consul all to herself, who 
ranked as the chief magistrate of a great maritime Guild, or 
University, in connection with the " Calimala " merchants of the 
capital city. The bulk of the raw wool imported by the Woollen 
Manufacturers, and the foreign cloth consigned to the " Calimala" 
was landed on her quays, and despatched thence to Florence, or 
to the several depots established at Prato, Empoli, Volterra, and 

It is impossible to say exactly when the Florentine merchants 
and venturers first turned their attention to the acquisition of 
maritime facilities. Probably the successes of the Pisans, the 


Genoese, and the Venetians, opened their eyes to the possibilities 
before them. Naturally the three cities did all they could to 
impede the rivalry of their inland sister, and probably, had not 
their own internal dissensions played such an important part in 
their commercial prosperity, they would have succeeded in 
hampering her ambitions. 

Apparently the first actual step taken by Florence to acquire 
seaboard rights was in 1254, when Pisa granted free import and 
export to Florentine merchandise. The treaty of that year was 
the ground-work of the many disputes between the rival cities 
which led to the ultimate downfall of Pisa. For many a long 
year however Florentine merchants were content to make use, by 
hire, of the ships of maritime States. 

Rosso Bazzaccari, a ship-master of Pisa, in 1279, lent his fine 
new vessel the San Pietro to Nasico Nassi, a merchant of 
Florence, to transport from Porto Pisano two hundred mule loads 
of goods to Palermo. 1 

The power of Florence was so great in 1285 that the people 
of Pisa, wishing to maintain good relations, sent an embassy to the 
Florentine Government. The ambassadors took with them great 
opaque glass bottles of what purported to be rich white Vernacera 
wine by way of presents ; but they were found to be full of gold 
florins ! 2 

Many treaties were made with Pisa for the benefit of Florentine 
transport trade. These were all more or less favourable, although 
the Pisans did not hesitate to tax Florentine goods when and how 
it suited them. In 1329 Florence was placed upon the same 
footing as Pisa, and her merchandise was relieved of all restrictions. 
In 1356 the port of Talamone was acquired from the Sienese, in 
consequence of Pisa's reversion to taxation, and the Florentine 
merchants hired fourteen war galleys to protect their trade from 
the Genoese and Pisans. The capture of Pisa in 1406 gave 
Florence possession of the whole seaboard of Tuscany. 

Two other ports were acquired by Florence in the early part 

1 Archivio di Pisa, Atti Pubblichi. - Villani, vii. 97. 


of the fifteenth century : Porto di Venere, a small harbour in the 
Gulf of Genoa, in 141 1, for the sum of eight thousand four hundred 
gold florins as a check to Genoese trade ; and Livorno Leghorn 
in 1421 for one hundred thousand gold florins. 

In 1421 / Set Consoli del Mare Six Maritime Consuls were 
elected over and above the trade Consuls already established at 
Pisa. All six resided at Pisa till 1426, when three were stationed 
in Florence. Their duties were in the main similar to those of the 
Consuls of the Guilds. In fact the sea and its navigation were 
annexed to the Republic of Florence and were enrolled among 
her Arti! 

The three Consuls at Pisa were occupied mainly as follows : 
i. To watch all the commerce of the Port. 2. To encourage 
traders and navigators to use that Port. 3. To prevent contra- 
band and to protect Florentine merchandise. 4. To prepare the 
way for commercial treaties with other cities and states. 5. To 
examine all bills of lading and ships' business papers. 6. To 
inspect the crews, and supervise the wages paid out. 7. To inspect 
the vessels, and undertake repairs. 8. To keep accurate ledger 
accounts, etc. etc. 

The three Consuls resident in Florence were required : I. To 
receive and file reports from Pisa. 2. To furnish every sort of 
shipping information, which they were required to post in the loggia 
of the Mercato Nuovo and in other public places. 3. To approve 
the appointment, or the reverse, of all men named for foreign 
consulates. 4. To receive complaints and suits in respect of 
marine matters, and to adjudicate thereupon. 5. To make 
representations to the Council of State in cases requiring official 
interference, etc. etc. 

The Sea Consuls settled the number of the crew of each vessel 
and its armament, and appointed the officers ; but relatives of the 
Consuls could not be enrolled. Vessels taking the Eastern route 
sailed usually in September, those to the west in February. 
Fifteen days before their departure public notice was posted. 
Merchants, skippers, and crew, were permitted to reside at Pisa 


fifteen days before departure and ten days after arrival, but on no 
account for a longer period. 

Contracts with seafaring-men were drawn up by the Maritime 
Consuls. Sometimes they loaned galleys at a monthly, or yearly, 
rental, reserving certain rights and extorting certain conditions. 
For example, in 1429, to Domenico Dolfini a galleon was con- 
signed for five years, on condition that he made five voyages 
annually, freighted his vessel with gold, silver, wax, and some 
thousand pieces of Florentine made cloth, and discharged his 
cargoes only at Porto Pisano. 

Both at Pisa and in Florence the Maritime Consuls were 
charged with numberless responsibilities outside their technical 
authority. For example, at Pisa, the three Consuls performed the 
functions of the old city magistrates, and had the superintendence 
of the forests, fisheries, etc., in the neighbourhood of the city, and 
of the export of native grown corn, together with the duties of the 
drainage and cultivation of the land. 

The " Arte del Mare" was an immediate and immense success. 
In the year of its initiation six guardships were completed in the 
Port of Livorno which had been declared a free port for Florentine 
merchandise. Through her Maritime Consuls Florence encouraged 
foreign workmen to settle at Pisa and Livorno, and at her minor 
ports, who were masters of shipbuilding. To each man was 
granted a gold florin a month for the space of two years with free 
quarters for ten years. Shipwrights and caulkers were exempt 
from all taxes for a period of twenty years. 

Four broad beamed galleons Galee di Mercato, and six 
shallow bottoms Fuste, were put on the stocks forthwith, and one 
of each was launched month by month. The timber came from 
the Forests of Cerbaie in Tuscany, which were declared State 
property, in 1427, and the Mugnone saw-mills were erected at the 
public expense. 

The cost of this first Florentine mercantile fleet was charged 
upon the revenues of the Corte di Mercansia, Tribunal or Chamber 
of Commerce, whereof one hundred thousand gold florins were set 



apart each month. The command of the squadron was given to 
Andrea Gargiolli, a citizen and merchant of Florence, and he was 
appointed also Superintendent of Marine at Pisa. 

Direct sea-borne commercial relations with England seem to 
have existed since 1329, and in 1385 Sir John Hawkwood was 
sent as ambassador to Florence to negotiate a Treaty of Commerce ; 
but not until the year 1441, did the Republic despatch a Florentine 


built and manned fleet to English ports. Ten galleons sailed that 
year to England and ten to Barbary, whilst the ensign of " The 
Florentine Lily " flew in every port in Europe and the East. 

Freights by other than Florentine galleons were subjected to a 
rigid tariff, which had a tendency to rise with the increase of 
trade. In 1457 the tax upon each piece of foreign cloth delivered 
at Porto Pisano, amounted to one gold florin, but some years after 
the large sum of sixty gold florins was extorted. 

By the year 1458 quite a considerable fleet of armed vessels 
was collected at the mouth of the Arno, to convoy the galleons of 


commerce. The earliest trade routes by sea were, eastward, 
Tunis, Alexandria, Cyprus, Jaffa, and Constantinople, westward, 
Sicily, Majorca, Barcelona, Marseilles, Algiers. Certain vessels 
traded direct with British and Flemish ports. The voyages were 
accurately timed, and so regulated that a serviceable connection 
was maintained between all ships at sea. Porto Pisano was 
the ultimate rendezvous of all freight vessels. 

The first private merchant ships were built in 1480, and to 
their owners were conceded the rights hitherto held by the six 
Maritime Consuls. They were permitted to sail when and how 
they liked, and to load whatever freight their owners, or skippers, 
desired ; but all parties interested in the enterprise were placed 
under the same conditions as had obtained previously. Beyond 
this owners paid toll for the use of the piers, harbours, and ware- 

By the end of the fifteenth century the merchant navy of 
Florence numbered eleven great and fifteen small galleons all in 
full commission, and her special galleon-florin, coined in 1422, 
at the instance of Taddeo Cenni, a Florentine merchant at 
Venice, was in free circulation at high exchange. In short the 
" Arte del Mare;' " the Guild of the Sea," was the parent of the 
present day syndicate of Lloyds ! 

The invention of the compass did very much to simplify the 
trade routes by sea voyages were shortened, coasting pirates were 
eluded, and ports of call became unnecessary. 

The oversea commerce of the Renaissance and its development 
led to the world's supremacy of Florence in material prosperity 
and social progress. Goro Dati, writing about this ascendancy, 
valued the stationary funds of the Republic in his day the middle 
of the fourteenth century at twenty million gold florins. 1 

What is now called International Law was entirely unknown in 
old Florence and her borders. Nothing appeared to those busy 
traders more reasonable than to shut the door against neighbours 

1 Goro Dati, " Istoria di Firenze," c. viii. pp. 129-131. 


who would not submit to their terms, and to impose taxes upon all 
foreign products. Hence the treaties with Siena, Volterra, Pisa, 
Genoa, Lucca, Arezzo, and other communes and cities, were dictated 
rather from commercial than from political motives. 

Contracts of assurance were usually made out for all consign- 
ments whether of goods or bullion. They were aimed against 
three chief contingencies accidents by land, risks by sea, and 
depredations of light-fingered gentry in general. The premiums 
paid by Florentine merchants ranged from six to fifteen per cent, 
of the declared value of the goods. 1 

The question of reprisals or retaliation was always very important 
in the policy of the Florentine merchants. The origin of the 
system goes far back to the days of Frederic II. In 1239 the 
Podesta of Pisa, having failed to forward to the Vicar of the 
Empire, Gebhard d'Arnstein, the sum of nearly five thousand 
pounds due to Count Ridolfo di Capraja, the latter received 
authority and license to "make distraint for that sum upon the 
goods and persons of the Pisans." The custom grew apace, until in 
1298 the merchants of Florence put reprisals into force against 
Perugia for the sum of six hundred lire, Fano for two thousand, 
Spoleto for two hundred and fifty, Pisa for fifty-five, and Forli 
for fourteen hundred. Each of these towns had borrowed money 
from Florentines, or had distrained merchandise on its way to or 
from Florence. Viterbo, Venice, and Padua came in for similar 
treatment. 2 

Against Sinola, where, in 1297, a sumpter-mule laden with fine 
Florentine cloth had been stolen, the Podesta, with the advice of 
the Consuls of the Seven Greater Guilds, accorded a sum of two- 
hundred and forty gold florins, for the value of the goods,, two 
hundred for damage, and forty for expenses attached to the suit. 
The same year the Pisans were adjudged a fine of eight hundred lire 
against the pillage of a ship laden with corn. 

Under date August 14, 1329, Ser Nerio Mici di Bibbiena com- 

1 G. A. L. Cibrario, " Delia Economia Politica del Medio Evo," vol. ii. p. 244. 

2 Provvisione ix. 174, 185, 208, etc. 


plained to the Officials of the Mercanzia that he had suffered 
highway-robbery, in the Borgo Ghiaceti. He asserted that he 
cried out, "Accor^ uomo ! AccoS uomo!" "Help! Help!" but 
that no one came to his assistance. Then he tabled a list of 
the articles of which he had been despoiled : a wreath of gold 
and silver, four fine mitre ornaments, six fine linen mitres, three 
dozen broad decorated belts, two dozen embroidered filagree 
belts, three dozen black leather belts, three dozen belts of plaited 
hair, two dozen pairs of breeches, two dozen San Ghalgano 
belts, twenty yards of imitation Piste^ woollen cloth, two pairs 
of tailor's scissors, two ounces of crushed silver, twelve feet 
embroidery in fine gold, eighty measures of silver, one red fur 
lining for a man's cloak, one knife chest with four knifes, three 
dozen fine leathern pouches, six dozen plain pouches, one purse 
wrought in gold, and very many other articles of various 
kinds. The unfortunate man then entered a legal process, and 
claim for damage, against two unknown inhabitants of Borgo 
Ghiaceti. 1 

With respect to the levying of retaliations upon cities and 
towns outside Tuscany, the difficulties were, naturally, very great. 
It frequently taxed, to the utmost, the patience and the ingenuity 
of her merchants and their agents to avoid a resort to arms. 
Indeed many of the minor military expeditions, of which the 
Florentines were so lavishly fond, were due to this question and 
its solution. 

Questions of retaliation were constantly cropping up between 
Florence and her great rivals Genoa and Venice, and, as a rule, they 
were settled to the advantage of the tactful and resourceful men 
who led her destiny. With respect to foreign nations, the immense 
wealth and influence of the Florentine merchants, and the heavy 
monetary responsibilities incurred by rulers and leading men with 
Florentine bankers, had undeniable force in the settling of trade 

All questions of retaliation or reciprocity were submitted to a 

1 Dr Davidssohn, " Forschungen ziir Alteren Geschichte von Florenz," p. 190. 


Tribunal sitting in Florence, composed of a Judge from the 
establishment of the Podesta, and one from that of the Captain 
of the People, and their findings were approved, or not, by the 
Priors and their assessors. As head of the "Tuscan League of 
Cities," Florence held a predominant place, and her law was 
smartly laid down for the acceptance of her allies. 

In later days such matters came before the Tribunal of the 
Mercanzia with the assistance of the three resident Maritime 
Consuls and delegates from the interested states or cities. 

Stemma del Popolo di Pirenze. 
A red cross upon a white field. 


f See page 84 \ 


I. ORIGIN. Collegia Opificum et Artificium. Community of interest. 
Mutual protection. Lothair. First Florentine Consuls . Potcnte, Grasso, Minuto. 
Ancient families. Consorterie, or " Society of Towers." Compagnie, or " Trade 
Corporations." Early notices of Trades. 

II. DEVELOPMENT. Buonuomini, or Trade Consuls of Guilds. The council 
of the " Heads " or " Priors " of the Seven Greater Guilds. First List of Guilds 
seven Greater fourteen Lesser. Podesta Guido Novelli. Gonfalonieri. 
Standard Bearers. Military element. Charles of Anjou. Five Intermediate 
Guilds. Struggles between Capital and Labour. Giano della Bella. Second 
List of Guilds twelve Greater, nine Lesser. " Defender of the Guilds." Freedom 
of industry. The " Ordinamenti della Giustizia? A Code of Guild Statutes. 
Financial Position of the Guilds. Duke of Athens. " Le Potense" The 
" Parte Guelfa." The " Ciompi " Rising. Michele Lando. Three Workmen's 
Guilds Artieri e operai. Numberless minor trade associations. Third List of 
Guilds. Four Universities of Trades under the Medici. Shrinkage and decay. 

III. CONSTITUTION. Compulsory Guild membership. Scioperati! Con- 
ditions and Rules. Apprenticeship. Women eligible. Officers. Differences and 
disputes. Emigration of Artisans. Pains and Penalties. Sundry Prohibitions. 
Hours of work. Public clocks. 

Origin of the Florentine Guilds has been rightly traced to 
the Corporations of Merchants and Artisans, which existed 
in Rome under Numa Pompilius. They were called " Collegia " or 
" Corpora Opificum et Artificium" 

These " Colleges," which by their constitutions could be mobi- 
lised for military purposes, also bore the name of " S choice" 
u Schools " or " Professions." In times of peace they were styled 
" Scholce Artium" but in war they were enrolled as " S choice 

Men of like age, instincts, tastes, and occupations forgathered in 
the several " Scholce" which safeguarded their common interests 
and looked after their morals and general well-being. Each 

1 Dr Giuseppe Alberti, " Arti e Mestieri," Milano 1888, chap. i. 
C 33 












>,^-;i 'i. Jt ^.Jjy^ ^ rt ^. A a ^i 














tAN ' X I- LVD A> XX. Wilt 







AJd-Vi ?UEQ4WK> 





A CALENDAR. With Rondels of monthly occupations calculated for the Feast of 
Easter from 1465 to 1517. 



" Schola " was furnished with a staff of duly qualified and legally 
appointed teachers, who instructed young men and boys in the 
duties and responsibilities of craftsmanship. Under the supreme 
authority of the State each " Schola " or " Collegium " was governed 
by its own officers chosen from among, and by, its admitted 
members, the chief of whom were designated " Consuls." 

For a lengthy period the " Scholce " flourished exceedingly, and 
were productive of immense benefit to all classes. From the fall 
of the Roman Empire, however, until well into the ninth century, 
the "Scholce" seem to have suspended their benevolent operations : 
anyhow very little is heard of them or their members. Ceaseless 
feuds and devastating wars scattered far and wide merchants and 
artisans alike. The lamp of industry and the torch of commerce 
were extinguished. The land was laid bare, cities and towns 
were destroyed, or became camps of mercenary soldiery. 

Still some of the industries and enterprises which the " S choice" 
had fostered were carried on fitfully and uncertainly in families, 
or by individuals working alone, without regular organisation. 
When the stress of adversity became less severe, and security of life 
and property were more assured, traditions, which had been handed 
down in secret from father to son, again became formularies. 

Community of interest the needs of mutual defence, and 
the advantages of co-operation, once more asserted themselves. 
Here and there sprang up revivals of something of the economy 
of the old Roman " Collegia" This was the condition of things 
in Italy when, in 825, the Emperor Lothair issued his "Constitu- 
tiones Olonenses" wherein eight cities and towns of northern Italy 
were named as suitable centres of population for the establishment 
of new " Collegia " or " Scholcz" 

These were Bologna, Cremona, Florence, Ivrea, Milan, Padua, 
Turin, and Venice. The "Scholce" in each place bore a different 
designation, each indicative of the special industrial economies of 
the several cities. For example : at Bologna " Compagnie" at 
Florence "Capitudini" or "Arti" at Padua " Fragili" at Venice 
" Consorti " or " Matricole " ; whilst Rome retained the original 


style of " Collegium " or " Universitas" It is not a little interest- 
ing to note that in the case of Florence, the title " Capitudini"- 
Heads of Families, exactly expresses her political constitution, 
whilst the designation " Arti" indicates her industrial character- 

Apparently the Florentines were somewhat slow in availing 
themselves of the provisions of Lothair's " Constitutiones" Rome had 
Consuls at the head of her industries in 901, Ravenna in 990, 
where the Corporations of Butchers, Fishermen, Merchants and 
others were regularly organised, and Ferrara in 1015. Florence 
made no distinct sign until the first year of the twelfth 
century. For nearly three hundred years she had been going 
through an almost countless succession of petty strifes and class 
jealousies until at length we find her people in two camps, 
Grandi the nobles and Popolani the traders. 

These nobles were the lineal descendants of the old Teuton 
lords, who, after playing the role of robber-captains, made over- 
tures to the traders, and were by them received as leaders of 
punitive and aggressive expeditions against raiders and their 
strongholds. As early as 1081 a joint expedition against bands 
of robbers, which infested the territory of Florence, and despoiled 
the trains of pack mules passing to and fro, proved the wisdom of 
united action between noble and trader. 1 

Some of these Grandi, such as the Uberti, the Donati, the 
Alberti, the Caponsacchi, the Gherardi, the Lamberti, and the 
Ughi united the life of landed proprietors with the occupation of 
city magnates. 2 

Many noble families were also allowed a ruling influence in the 
affairs of the trade associations, and not a few scions of nobility 
sought admission as active agents in commercial pursuits. 3 These 
nobles laid aside their titles, and even changed their names that 
their absorption into the industrial life of the Commune might be 

1 F. T. Perrens, " Histoire de Florence," vol. i. p. 190. 

2 P. Villari, "Two Centuries of Florentine History," vol. i. p. 93. 

3 S. Ammirato, "Dell' Istorie Florentine," Lib. Hi. pp. 288-290. 


complete. The Tornaquinci, Popoleschi, Tornabuoni, Giachiotti, 
Cavalcanti, Malatesta, and Ciampoli were among the Grandi who 
thus threw in their lot with the Popolani. Speaking of the early 
noble families associated with the trade of Florence Dante says : 

" Already Caponsacco had descended 
To the market from Fiesole : and Guida 
And Infangato were good citizens." ] 

In this way the division of the population into two parts was 
modified, and we find Florence arranged in three classes : I. 
Potente the ruling-class, 2. Grasso the middle-class, and Minuto 
the working-class. 

The population of Florence, her trade, and her fame, increased 
by leaps and bounds ; but along with her prosperity a dangerous 
rivalry was developed between the noble families and their 
retainers, and the merchants and their workpeople. The latter, 
whilst readily admitting nobles into their trading and industrial 
societies, resented the Grandi claims to pre-eminence in the control 
of public affairs. 

Usurpation of power, on one hand, was met by encroachment 
of privilege, on the other. A spirit of rancour was engendered 
which for many generations embittered the conditions of Florentine 
life. The breach between the two extreme parties in the Commune 
widened gradually, and the influence of the middle-class was 
ineffectual to bridge the gulf. 

The nobles formed themselves into defensive organisations 
under the designation of Consorterie or Societa delle Torre 
Society of the Towers. Each Consorteria consisted of a noble 
family, or a union of noble families, their households and 
dependants. They built embattled palaces, which served them 
as residences in times of peace, and as fortresses in times 
of popular tumult : " Famiglie di Torre e Loggie " became a 
common expression for families of distinction. 

Early in the thirteenth century there were upwards of seventy 

1 " Paradise," canto xvi. 121-123. 



" Towers," and twenty of them had " Loggie," or arcades, for 
festivities and show. Some of them rose to a height of 270 feet, 
but in 1250 they were all pulled down to a height of fifty feet in 
compliance with the demand of the Popolani. It is a thousand 
pities that no pictured representation of Florence and her Towers 
has been preserved ; probably she presented a far more imposing 
appearance than even San Gimignano does to-day. 

Of the noble families who as early as 1186 had Towers within 
the city boundaries were the Uberti, Malespini, Amidei, Buondel- 
monti, Donati, Adimari, Pazzi, Tosinghi, Ubaldini, Caponsacchi, 
Amieri, Nerli, Vecchietti, Tornaquinci, Soldanieri, Abati, and 

To counteract the power of the nobles the traders ranged them- 
selves in Compagnie Companies or Corporations ; each one being 
made up of families of merchants engaged in similar industries, and 
their workpeople. These Compagnie were not only associations, with 
fixed rules and regulations for the prosecution of the trades, but 
they were also bands of men, trained in the art of self-defence, 
and quite able to give a good account of themselves in days of 

Researches into the Archives of Florence 1 reveal the existence 
of the following traders and trades during the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries : 

934. "Amalpertus diaconus et 

1021. " Florentius paliarius " 

1028. "Ursus pistor" 

1031. " Martinus caballarius " 

1032. " Casa Florentii Sarti " 

1038. " Johannis, qui tornario vocatus 


" Olivus faber " 
1050. " Setherimus pellicarius " 
1070. " Paganus, qui vocatur vinadro" 

Minister and doctor. 

Horse- jobber. 
Tailor's shop. 


1 Dr Davidssohn, " Forschungen ziir Alteren Geschichte von Florenz." 



1073. " Aezo sellarius" 

1076. " Barone scutarius " 

1084. " Bonus f. Johannes baro" (for 


1087. "Rusticus Calzolarius " 
' Ildebrandus q. Petri qui fuit 

vocatur marmorajo " 

1089. "... tegularii" 

1090. "Johannes f. Rodolfo, pugni- 

tore " 

1091. " Benzolus pentelarius " 

1094. " .... Curtis di Marmorio" 

1095. "Vivenzo aurifex " 

1096. " Petrus tintore " 

1098. " Paganuccio galligario " 
1 101. " Sichelmus stafarius " 
1 104. " Bonizo olearius " 
1 1 08. " Florentius clavajolus " 
1 1 10. " Martinus beccadore " 
1113. " Johannes zocolarius " 
1 1 28 " Florentius spaliarius 
1132. "Beriguallo f. barlittario" 
1 1 36. " Scartone pettinario " 
1 1 39. " Lupaccia lo tricco " 
1141. " Bernerius Campanarius " 

1 146. " Johannes(faber)f. Brictonis" 
" Uguicione calderarius " 

1147. "Bernardus mugnarius" 

1148. " Petrus f. Petri pelliparius " 
1 1 58. " Marcellus tabernarius " 

1 184. " Ildebrandus catularius " 
1 1 88. " Angito piezicario " 
1191. " Ugolinus granario " 

" Martinus pignolajuo " 
1 193. " Guerius tonditor " 














Wooden-shoe maker. 



Woollen-comb maker. 

Fruit and vegetable seller. 









Corn chandler. 

Maker of fine linen. 



1195. u Martinellus orciolarius " Dealer in glazed-pots. 

1198. " Bartholus speciale" Apothecary. 

1199. "Reinaldus pancone " Carpenter's - bench and 


1205. " Perinus corregiarius " Strap-maker. 

1207. "Guillelmus barbiere" Barber. 

1209. " Cice pergamenarius " Parchment-dresser. 

121 1. " Ristoro f. Pieri buorsajo " Purse-maker. 

"Servodeo osste" Inn-keeper. 

" Ispenello kasciajulo " Cheese-merchant. 
" Albizi di Fferrare pezzaio 

di Lung' Arno" Ragseller. 

Ammirato gives an account of how the city was governed in 
I2O4, 1 and the order of precedence for the magistrates. At the 
head were two Consuls called the Military Consuls, precursors of 
the Podesta and Capitano del Popolo, then three Priors of the 
three principal Guilds, " Calimala" " Wool," and " Bankers," next 
six Senators of the City, one Officer of Justice, twelve " Buonuomini" 
" Good Men " two representing the people of each sestiere, and 
lastly, Special and General Councils of influential citizens, the 
latter including all the above officials with the exception of the 
members of the Special Council. In addition six Syndics or 
Inspectors were appointed by the three Priors one for each 
sestiere, who reported to them daily all that passed public and 
private in their several quarters. 

This magistracy exhibits the immense power of control in 
public business, both commercial and political, exercised by the 
representatives of the Guilds, for the six Senators of the city were 
appointed one by each of the six Greater Trades, in fact they 
were the Consuls of the Guilds. 

The year 1204 is also memorable for a treaty between Florence 
and Siena, which, whilst safeguarding the liberties of the Sienese, 
vastly increased the renown and the fortune of the Florentines. 

1 Ammirato, Lib. i. pp. 62-67. 


This document is the first which bears the signatures of the Priors 
of the Trades or Guilds. 

In the Government of Florence several sub-councils bore their 
part. One of these, the third in dignity and authority, was the 
" Consiglio delle Capitudini delle Sette Arti Maggiori" the " Council 
of the Heads of the Seven Greater Guilds." This Council was 
summoned whenever new taxes had to be levied, and in all matters 
which concerned the trade and progress of the city. 

In 1236 Thirty-six Buonuomini assembled in council at the 
residence of the Consuls of the " Calimala " merchants, by special 
ordinance, to determine the styles and precedence of the principal 
trade-corporations working in Florence. They placed them in 
two divisions which they called " Greater " and " Lesser Guilds," 
respectively accentuating thus the distinction between the popolo 
grasso and the popolo minuto. In the former category they arranged 
in the following order : I. " Giudicie Notai " Judges and Notaries ; 

2. Mercatanti o Arte di Calimala Merchants of the "Calimala" ; 

3. " Cambio " Changers of Money ; 4. " Lana "- Woollen-Manu- 
facturers ; 5. " Seta" Silk-Manufacturers; 6. " Medici e Speziali" 
Doctors and Apothecaries ; 7. " Pellicciai e Vaiai " Skinners and 

In the second category were placed the following Crafts : I. 
" Beccai" Butchers; 2. " Calzolai" Shoe-makers ; 3. " Fabbri" 
Black-smiths; 4. " Cuoiai e Caligai" -Leather-dressers and 
Tanners; 5. " Muratori e Scarpellini" Builders and Stone- 
masons; 6. " Vinattieri" Wine-merchants; 7. "Fornai" Bakers; 
8. " Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli " Olive-oil merchants and Provision- 
dealers; 9. " Linaiuoli Linen-manufacturers; 10. " Chiavaiuoli 
Lock-smiths; n. " Corazzai e Spadai" Armourers and Sword- 
makers; 12. " Coreggiai" Harness-makers and Saddlers; 13. 
u Ltgnaiuoli" Carpenters; and 14. " Albergatori" Inn-keepers. 

The year 1266 was a most important one in the annals of the 
Guilds. Count Guido Novell!, who had been Podesta for two 
years in succession, and was virtually absolute master of Florence, 
invited two members of a quasi-religious Order in Bologna, to follow 


him in the Chief Magistracy. The Order, or Club for such it 
really was, was called " Fratelli delta Santa Maria Vergine" ; but, 
in jest, " Capponi di Chinto " " Crowing cocks " ! Its members 
were young men of good family of the degree of knight, who, 
through the gaiety and luxury of their lives, were popularly known 
as Pratt Gaudenti Jolly- Fellows ! 

The two " Frati " in question were Roderigo degli Andalo, and 
Catalamo de' Malavolti, the former a Ghibelline and the latter a 
Guelph. 1 

The new Podestas were duly installed in the Badia the official 
residence of the Head of the State. To assist them a Council of 
Thirty-six Buonuomini was chosen by Novelli, composed of 
Merchants and Artisans in equal numbers, and one half Ghibellines 
and one half Guelphs. 

This Council met daily in the Offices of the" Calimala" Merchants 
to give counsel to the Podestas to deliberate for the common 
good, and to provide for the expenses of the Government of the 
Republic. The business that first engrossed their attention was 
the reorganisation of the Guilds. Two aims were kept in view ; 
First, their greater efficiency in industrial and commercial enter- 
prise, and, Secondly, their adaptation to the warlike circumstances 
of the times. 

The Council drew up a list of the six more important Corpora- 
tions, placing the professional "Guild of Judges and Notaries" at 
the head, as in 1236. After a careful and detailed examination of 
all existent regulations and provisions, the outcome of traditions 
and customs, the Council drafted a tentative Constitution gene- 
rally suitable for the several Guilds. 

In each Guild were appointed three chief officers: (i), 
" Consul " as the representative of the Guild in the supreme 
Government of the Republic; (2), "Capitudo" Head or Master, 
as the controller of the internal affairs of each Guild ; 
(3), " Gonfaloniere" Standard-bearer or Leader, as the director 
of civil functions and military affairs. 

1 Villani, vii. 13. 


The last appointment was an absolute novelty, and it indicated 
an important development of the political character of the Guilds, 
no less than a new departure in the Government of the Republic. 
To each " Gonfaloniere" was committed the care of a Standard, or 
Banner, upon which was emblazoned armorial bearings there and 
then assigned to each Guild, the free use of the same being 
allowed to the craftsmen, who thus became bands of armed 
citizens, to be called to their Standards when occasion required. 
" These Standards, Banners, and Ensigns," says G. Villani, " were 
ordered to the intent that if any one of the city rose with force of 
arms, the members and associates of each armed Company or Band, 
might under their Gonfalon stand for the defence of the people and 
Commonwealth." x 

These Bands were called " Companies of Militia," which in the 
city numbered twenty and in the Contado ten to twenty. Accord- 
ing to the same authority, there were in the year 1338 twenty-five 
thousand men between the ages of sixteen and seventy capable of 
bearing arms. 

Documents 2 of the year 1266 prove conclusively that the policy 
which dictated, and brought to a successful issue, the arrangement 
of the Guilds in that year, was strongly opposed by the Ghibelline 
Podesta, acting in sympathy with the Grandi. But the popular 
movement was too strong for him, and he had not only to yield, 
but to smooth the way for an alliance with the Pope. 

The new constitution of the Guilds was distinctly democratic 
in character, and raised violent opposition from the aristocratic 
party in the State, who ultimately succeeded in sweeping away 
the Thirty-six Buonuomini, and restoring the ascendency of the 
Ghibelline nobles. 

King Charles of Anjou, who in 1268 usurped the office of 
Podesta, revived the Guelphic influence. He recalled the 
" Thirty-six," but appointed a sort of private advisory Council 
of twelve Grandi. To allay popular feeling against reactionary 
government, Charles accepted a Council of One Hundred, taken 

1 Villani, xi. 92. - Archivio Fiorentino, Atti Pubblichi, 1259-75. 


exclusively from the Popolani, to assist his Privy Council. At 
the same time the Consuls of the Seven Greater Guilds were 
constituted a Court of Final Appeal in all causes, political and 

The Popolo Minuto, the members of the Lesser Guilds, were 
entirely ignored, and consequently a vast political and social 
antagonism was called into existence, which, later on, broke out in 
destructive revolution. 

Below the Popolo Mtnuto, which consisted really of only those 
members of the Lesser Guilds who had received the franchise, 
was the great body of the population, the Ciompi, or working 
classes, " Wooden Shoes," as they were called derisively, with no 
civic rights of any kind. They were denied the privilege of free 
association, in Companies, Corporations, and Craft Guilds, and the 
conditions of labour were nearly as hard as had been those of the 
early inhabitants of Florence, under the system of the old Lombard 

Times however were changing, and there was an ever rising 
ambition among the lowest classes to attain at all events the 
freedom of the franchise, and the power of trade-association, if 
not the right to a share in the government of the Republic. 
Forces were slumbering which needed very little awakening, and 
that awakening was not far off. 

Gradually, but surely, the Lesser Guilds were rising in im- 
portance, not only on account of the number of their members and 
the social status which their increased wealth gave them, but 
because of the investment of money which members of the Greater 
Guilds effected in the various minor Crafts. 

What was really a levelling-up of classes was achieved in 1280, \J 
when five of the Lesser Guilds had attained such influential J i 
positions, that they were publicly acknowledged as a group apart J 
from the other nine, and were designated Arti Mediant, "The 
Intermediate Guilds." They were in order of importance as 
follows : 


1 . " Beccai" Butchers wholesale and retail. 

2. " Calzolai" Shoe-makers and leather workers. 

3. " Fabbri" Smiths and workers in metals. 

4. " Maestri di Pietre e di Legnami" Master-masons of stone 
and wood. 

5. " Rigattieri" Retail-cloth and Linen-merchants. 

The Five Intermediate Guilds to whose chief officers the 
distinction of Consul had not yet been accorded, were often invited 
to join the deliberations of the Consuls of the Seven Greater Guilds 
on equal terms. Such occasions were April, 1285, September, 1287, 
July, 1293 and January, I29/. 1 

At the election of Priors in 1293, among whom was Giano 
della Bella, along with well known members of the families of 
Albizzi, Gualterotti,and Peruzzi there spoke Lapo Salterelli a Judge, 
and Dino Pecora a butcher. These associated consultations 
were usually held in the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and were 
presided over by the Podesta and by the Capitano del Popolo. 

These Five Intermediate Guilds do not appear to have taken 
any steps for actual enrolment among the Seven Greater Guilds. 
The reason may possibly have been that their antecedents and 
associations were dissimilar. There is ever a social gulf between 
the leisured and professional classes and the ranks of the tradesman 
and the artisan. 

Probably however we must look a little more thoroughly into 
a question which presents such an unexpected aspect. Eman- 
cipation from a position of inferiority social and political and 
incorporation by a higher circle of prestige and influence, must 
have had vast attractions for the shopkeepers and superior 
workmen of Florence. On the other hand the danger of absolute 
absorption into an elaborate system of civic life, wherein the 
dominant powers were supreme in rank, wealth, and authority was 
quite apparent. 

The role of the Five Intermediate Guilds was that of holding 

x. a balance between the two political elements of the time the 

1 " Le Consulte della Repubblica Fiorentina," vol. i. pp. 75-97. 


aristocracy and the democracy. By joint action they were enabled / 
to check the ambitious usurpations of the nobles and merchants / 
and, at the same time, to restrain the revolutionary aspirations of / 
the working classes. 

A very well written manuscript, 1 preserved in the British 
Museum, entitled " // Foro Fiorentino overo degli Uffizi antici della 
Citta di Firenze. Trattato di J^ommaso Forli" has the following 
"List of the Guilds" under the date 1282 : 

I. Twelve Greater Guilds. 

1. Giudici e Notai. 

2. Kalimala. 

3. Lana. 

4. Cambio. 

5. Seta. 

6. Medici e Speziali e Merciai. 

7. Vaiai e Pellicciai. 

8. Beccai. 

9. Calzolai. 

10. Fabbri. 

11. Maestri di Pietre e Legnami. 

12. Rigattieri. 

II. Nine Lesser Guilds. 

1. Vinattieri Wine-merchants. 

2. Albergatori maggiori Greater Innkeepers. 

3. Venditori del Sale Dealers in salt. 

4. Galigai grossi Master Tanners. 

5. Corazzai e Spadai Armourers and Sword-makers. 

6. Chiavaiuoli e Ferraiuoli vecchi e novi Lock-smiths and 
workers in iron old and new. 

7. Sanolacciai e Coreggiai e Scudai Harness-makers, 
Carriage-builders and Shield-makers. 

8. Legnaiuoli grossi Master-carpenters. 

9. Fornai Bakers. 

The same authority says that this order was retained until 
1 MS. no. 28.178. B. M. 


1415, when the Guilds were again arranged as Seven Greater and 
Fourteen Lesser, and so continued until 1534. 

In 1282, Bartolo de' Bardi, of the " Calimala " merchants, sitting 
for the sestiere of Oltrarno, Rosso Bacherelli, of the " Bankers," 
sitting for San Piero Scheraggio, and Salvi del Chiaro Girolamo, 
of the " Wool-merchants," sitting for San Pancrazio, were elected 
Priors. They held office for two months, and assumed the right of 
residence with the Captain of the People, in the Badia, and " by 
their lordly manner, created an aristocracy among the Traders." x 

During their tenure of office a new officer was created, with the 
title of" Difensore del? Arti e degli Artefici^ e Capitano e Conservatore 
delta Pace " " Defender of the Guilds and Crafts, and Captain and 
Keeper of the Public Peace." The first holder of this dignity was 
Bernardino della Porta a wool-merchant of renown. Thus there 
were three supreme magistrates the Podesta or President of the 
Republic a foreigner ; the Captain of the People a noble ; and 
the Defender of the Guilds a merchant. 

To the " Defender " were attached two councils composed 
exclusively of members of the three Senior Guilds. The following 
year, through the incessant representations of their Consuls, three 
more Priors were added, Ghanus Detaineti for the " Arte della Seta " / 
Viezus Vecosii for the "Arte de' Medici e Speziali" ; and Toginus 
Aurifex for the "Arte de' Pellicciai e Vaiai" At the same time the 
title of the " Defender of the Guilds " was changed to " Captain of 
the Guilds," and he took precedence of the " Captain of the People," 
immediately after the Podesta. 

The ever-growing wealth of the Merchant Guilds and the 
strongly aristocratic tendencies of their members awakened feelings 
of discontent and jealousy in the Craftsmen of the Lesser Guilds. 

Whilst in theory all citizens strove for the common good, 
in practice differences arose from time to time, and, under many 
pretexts, became more or less acute between the members of the 
several Guilds with respect to customs, processes, privileges, and 

1 "Le Consulte," pp. 116-140 (Dr Hartwig). 


Merchant and artisan alike did not hesitate to break with old 
established methods. Questions as to price and sample, and 
business agreements, which had ruled industries for years, were 
openly disregarded. Each man sought to take advantage of 
his neighbour, in short a sort of inner-toll system was erected 
between trade and trade, and between man and man. 

To such a pitch did these vexations reach, that on June 3<Dth 
1290 the Priors issued a Decree which re-established the freedom 
of trade, and prohibited custom-dues, and compositions, of every 
kind within the limits of Florentine territory. Secret Inspectors 
were appointed to see that no craftsman, whether belonging to the 
Greater or to the Lesser Guilds, attempted infractions of the liberty 
of labour and of sale. 1 

On July 3rd of the same year two Decrees were passed by the 
Priors, which prohibited Merchant Guildsmen under heavy penalties 
from creating monopolies, compacts, and agreements, for spurious 
sales. Every sort of business procedure calculated to lead to the 
imposition of arbitrary prices for commodities was also strictly 
prohibited. 2 

Any merchant or trader guilty of neglect of these provisions 
was subject to legal proceedings and was liable to a fine of one 
hundred pounds. Moreover the Guild, to which such an one 
belonged, was mulcted in a penalty of five hundred lire for not 
enforcing the decrees ; and the Consuls, Rectors or Priors were 
each fined two hundred lire. 

Other Decrees were passed in 1291 and 1292. In the latter year 
the Consuls and Heads of all the Guilds met in Conference, and 
added one more severe regulation to the Code of Prohibitions 
namely, erasure from the Matriculation Registers of the respective 
Guilds, of the names of offenders convicted of fraud and falsifica- 
tion of every sort and kind. 

Appeals to the Pope, to the Emperor, or to any foreign power 
or prince, were severely punished ; and the Notaries who assisted 

1 Archivio del Stato di Firenze, Provvisione iv. p. 29. 
2 Provvisioni ii. c. 24-25, c. 30-31, and iv. c. 175-177- 


in drawing up such appeals, were punished by suspension from 
their offices. These measures, Draconian almost in character, 
formed efficient bulwarks against usurpations and encroachments 
on the part of the Merchant aristocracy upon the liberties and 
rights of the Artisan democracy. 

Liberty of industry was always a distinguishing mark in the 
political constitutions of the Republic. In 1475 the Signoria 
actually passed a Law enacting that every man was free to gain 
his living as he liked, without reference, as to capacity, to judges 
of law and doctors of medicine ; and without let or hindrance from 
unscrupulous citizens. 

A conspicuous and important landmark in the liberties and 
trade of the Republic was fixed by the passing of the " Ordinamenti 
della Giustizia" which became law on January i8th, 1293. They 
have been called the Magna Charta of Florence. Their sponsor, 
if not actually their author, was the famous Giano della Bella, who, 
although belonging to the noble house of Pazzi espoused the 
popular side. 

This famous Edict, which contained twenty-four paragraphs or 
provisions, was promulgated for the protection of the people 
against the increasing usurpations of the nobles. The three 
principal provisions were : 

1. The exclusion of the Grandi from the Government. 

2. The punishment of the Grandi for offences against the 


3. The extension of the powers of the Craft-Guilds. 

Up to this period the office of Prior had been always open to 
any Grande who was a member of a Guild. This privilege was 
henceforth to be enjoyed only after the noble had renounced his 
rank with the public approval of the Council of State. 

Among the penalties was sentence of death upon any noble 
who, either by his own hand or by that of a paid agent, took the 
life of one of the people. His property was also ordered to be 
confiscated, and his house razed to the ground. 1 

1 P. E. Giudici, " Storia dei Comuni Italian!," Bk. vi. 


The " Ordini" as they were also called, confirmed the 
number and order of the Guilds ; and, at the same time, enacted 
that every member and apprentice should be required, upon 
entry, to take a solemn oath, for the maintenance of peace and 

The promotion of trading companies alien to the Constitutions 
of the Guilds, and agreements and contracts, unsanctioned by 
recognised commercial law and custom, were made capital offences. 
Any Guild entering upon such transactions, or condoning them, 
was declared liable to a fine of one thousand lire, and its Consuls, 
five hundred each. 

The passing of the " Ordini" of course roused angry and powerful 
opposition on the part of the nobles and aristocratic merchants. 
Their resentment was in a sense shared by many of the craftsmen 
and shopkeepers, who depended upon the patronage of the richer 

By the end of the thirteenth century a vast number of trade 
customs and business usages had become fixed, which, whilst in 
some measure safe-guarding the interests of the Guilds, led to 
more or less confusion and uncertainty in commercial matters. 

In 1300 a revision of these Statutes, Regulations and Bye-laws 
was determined upon by the Heads of the Guilds in consultation 
with the Chief Magistrates. On April 4th a " Commission of 
Seven Merchants" was appointed with power to choose other 
seven members, Neri Berri being named President, and hence the 
Commission is known by his name. The fourteen Commissioners 
were secluded in the monastery of the Servite Brothers for many 
days ; food, stationery and thirty-two lire being allowed to 
each Commissioner. 1 Their deliberations were attended with 
unanimity, and they embodied their resolutions in the form of 
Statutes which, in 1301, received the approval of the Consuls of 
the Guilds and of the Chief Magistrates of the Republic. They 
were entitled " The Statutes of the University of Commerce of 

1 Provvisione x. 216-226. 


The Statutes were made generally applicable for all the Guilds, 
and the embodiment of them, in the form of a charter of incorpora- 
tion, provided each Guild, whether of merchants or craftsmen, with 
the main part of its corporative constitution. The " Calimala " 
Guild, as being the leading trade organisation of the city, led the 
way by adopting the new Code. 

The signatures x attached to the report of these deliberations 
are interesting as showing not only the order of precedence at that 
date of the Seven Greater Guilds but also the various degrees and 
styles of the signatories. The names of "Judges and Notaries" 
come first, they are six one for each sestiere, and of these three 
are judges, styled "Dominus ," and three are notaries one being 
styled " Dominus" and the other two simply Ser or Messere. 
Next in order come the signatures of the four Consuls of the 
" Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries ; " two are styled " Magister 
medicus " the others have no title. 

Then follow the names of the three Consuls of the " Guild of 
Bankers and Money-changers," they have no titles, but one is 
distinguished as " Piero Borgi who has his office in the old market," 
and so forth. Four Consuls of the " Merchants of Calimala " come 
next, without any distinguishing titles ; and they are followed by 
the six Consuls of the " Guild of Wool," also untitled, except 
the first, who is styled " Ser Notarius " a lawyer wool-stapler ! 

The " For San Maria Merchants " are represented by four Consuls 
three untitled and the fourth is styled "Dominus " ; and last come 
the four Consuls of " the Skinners," each of which has the name of 
his special constituency added : i. " de populo Sancti Stephani a 
Ponte" 2. " de populo Sancte Cicilie" 3. " de populo Sancte Marie 
Ughi" and 4. " de populo Sancte Liber ale" 

The financial position of the several Guilds at the beginning of 
the fourteenth century may be understood by their proportionate 
co-relation in the payment of taxes levied by the State. On 
October 1321 the Guilds were mulcted in the following 
amounts : 

1 " Le Consulte," vol. i. p. 27. 


The Guild of Wool .... 2000 gold florins. 

The Guild of Silk .... 400 

The Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries . 330 

The Guild of Butchers .... 325 

The " Calimala " Guild . . . . 320 

The Guild of Judges and Notaries . . 100 

The Guild of Bankers .... 100 

The Guild of Masters of Stone and Wood . 80 

The Guild of Locksmiths and Workers in Iron 80 

The Guild of Carpenters . ... 50 

The Guild of Flax .... 38 

The Guild of Skinners and Furriers only 20x3 lire, whilst the 
smallest contribution was that of the " Society of Cross-bow 
Makers "eight lire! 

The Duke of Athens began his term of office as Podesta in 
1342, by yielding to the solicitations of the nobles and more 
prominent merchants, but, when he saw that his overtures met 
with distrust, and that a movement was being made to curtail his 
authority, he looked about him for some other source of support. 1 
By way of currying favour with the lower people, at the head of 
the Priors, whom he nominated, he placed a butcher, and with 
him three merchants and three artisans. This course met with 
violent opposition, but the Duke persevered in his democratic 

His own position was largely due to the favour of the populace, 
and consequently he was bound to make some returns. Of the 
inferior classes he always spoke as " Le bene Popolo " " The good 
people." Among smaller, but quite significant, measures, he 
permitted the "Association of Wool-Carders," subordinate 
hitherto entirely to the Guild of the Wool-merchants, to have 
and to display a baiiner of their own, bearing upon it a Lamb. To 
the*" Association of Wool-Dyers," who represented that they were 
oppressed by the two great Guilds of " Calimala " and " Wool," he 

1 Villani, xii. 8. 


conceded the privilege of being ruled by Capitudini of their own 
free choice. 

For the benefit of the lowest orders of the population the Duke 
formed six Brigate or Societies one for each sestiere, with the style 
of "La Potenza " or Local Authority. The duties of these Societies, 
which were comprised of the more prominent men or leaders of the 
lower classes, in each quarter, were to elevate the tastes and 
pursuits of the people, and to encourage them to emulate the 
fashions of the better-to-do citizens. 1 

These measures proved to be encouragements and incentives 
to the people to seek, by fair means or by foul, a general better- 
ment of their social and political conditions The way was thus 
made clear for the terrible "Rising of the Ciompi" in 1378, 
which registered the high-water mark of democratic ascendency. 
Several causes contributed to the accomplishment of this coup 

Jealousies and feuds between the nobles and the aristocratic 
merchants of the Greater Guilds were incentives to imitation on 
the part of the operatives. The Parte Guelfa through its 
immense wealth and power had become an instrument of op- 
pression. The promise of liberty and equality made by the dis- 
comfiture of the Ghibellines was not redeemed. Espionage and 
tyranny were rife. Every man's hand seemed raised to oppress 
those beneath him in position or in wealth. Such were the 
embers of a smouldering fire, which only needed the torch of 
revolution to kindle into a portentous conflagration. 

Piero degli Albizzi in 1370 made no secret of the intention of 
his family to convert the Republic into an Oligarchy. The Ricci, 
the Strozzi, and other influential families sided with the Albizzi. 
The Popolo Minuto saw the danger which threatened the liberty of 
the tradespeople and artisans, but in Salvestro de' Medici, whose 
family ranked among the first of the Popolo Grasso, the popular 
cause found a true champion. 

Salvestro was appointed to the office of Gonfaloniere di Giustizia 

1 Marchionne di Coppo Stefani, " Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani," viii. 566. 


in 1370, and he at once summoned an assembly of the people in 
the Palazzo Vecchio. An immense throng filled, not only the 
Palace, but the Piazza della Signoria. Upon Salvestro's threat to 
retire from office, under the opposition of the oligarchical party, 
dire confusion arose, and, at the height of the excitement, Benedetto 
degli Alberti looked out of a window and shouted : " Viva il 
Popolo ! " 

This was the spark which fell upon inflammable material. 
The cry was re-echoed through the city. Shops were closed and 
the whole of the populace was under arms. TheParte Guelfa also 
armed, but did not dare to provoke an encounter with the masses, 
who surged up from every quarter of the city. 

The Consuls of the Greater Guilds intervened, but to no effect, 
and the armed Companies of the Guilds under their banners 
marched into the Piazza. The"V0;//" supposed these Bands 
were arrayed against them, and at once the spark blazed into 
flame, which devoured the palaces of the Albizzi, Pazzi, Strozzi, 
Soderini, Castiglionchi, Caviccioli, Buondelmonti, Serragli and 
of other noble families. Fire was put to the Residences of the 
Consuls of the Guilds, and some of them were wholly destroyed, 
whilst the archives, documents, and the rolls of matriculation, 
of many of the Guilds were ruthlessly consumed. 

A reign of terror followed, and the city was given over to pillage 
and outrage. At length an attack was made upon the Supreme 
Magistracy sitting at the Palazzo Vecchio. The magistrates fled, 
and the mob, headed by a wool-comber called Michele Lando, 
bearing the Gonfalon of Justice, which had been seized at the 
Office of the Gonfaloniere, rushed into the Council Chamber. 

Lando turned about, and facing his followers, cried out, " See 
the Palace is yours, and the city is wholly in your hands. What 
will you do now ? " 

"Make you Gonfaloniere di Giustizia!" was the tumultuous 

A new Government was installed on July 23rd, consisting of 
nine Priors, three from the Seven Greater Guilds, three from the 


Fourteen Lesser Guilds, and three from three new Guilds of Opera- 
tives, the latter being enrolled in response to the demand of the 
victorious democracy. 

Lando was confirmed in the office of Gonfaloniere di Giustizia^ 
" who," as writes Dino Compagni, " in courage, prudence, and 
goodness surpasssed any citizen of that time, and deserved to 
be remembered among the few who have done good to their 

The other demands of the " Ciompi " were agreed to, namely : 
i. The reduction of the taxes, 2. The increase of State interest 
upon workmen's savings, 3. The rescinding of laws against small 
debtors, 4. The recall of exiled workpeople, and 5. The ex- 
tension of the municipal franchise. The three new Guilds, with 
the assistance of the "Nine of Commerce" and the "Ten of 
Liberty," were established under rules and regulations similar to 
the Statutes of the Greater Guilds. 

The first of these Subordinate Guilds was made up of nine 
or ten thousand Wool-washers, Wool-sorters, Wool-beaters, Wool- 
combers, and Wool-carders, who had hitherto been attached to 
the Great Wool Guild. To this Corporation was granted a banner 
bearing a figure of the Angel of Judgment with a sword and a 

The Second Guild was composed of Dyers, Fullers, Carding- 
comb-makers and Loom-makers, and Weavers of wool, silk and 
flax : their banner displayed a white arm upon a vermilion field, 
the hand holding a sword upon which was inscribed " Giustizia " 
" Justice." 

The Third Guild united together Sheep-shearers, Butchers, 
Menders of skins, Hosiers, Knitters, Tailors, Makers of doublets, 
of banners, of church ornaments, of sandals, etc. etc. Their 
banner bore the Divine Arm with a red sleeve, thrust out of a 
cloud and holding a branch of olive. 

The latter two Guilds numbered only some four thousand 
members between them, hence the first of the three held a position 
of greater importance ; and, by reason of its members belonging 





to one industry alone, that of wool, it presented a much more 
homogeneous appearance than did the other two Corporations. 1 

There is much uncertainty as to the manner in which the 
Statutes of 1301 were adapted to the peculiar conditions of the 
new Corporations. Nevertheless there are entries in the Records 
of the six sestieri, and in those of the Councils of the Capitudini 
or Priors of the Three new Guilds, which show that their officers 
ranked as equals with those of the other Guilds in the tenure of 
public office. For example : in Santo Spirito are named Giovanni 
dei Capponi, Woollen-manufacturer of the " Guild of Wool- 
merchants," and Leoncino de Francino, Carder, of the "Guild of 
Wool-workers"; in San Giovanni Giovanni di Bartolo, Spicer 
and Apothecary of the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries," and 
Benedetto da Carlova, Sandal-maker of the " Guild of Workmen 
and Artificers. 2 

The Incorporation of these three Guilds gave much satisfaction 
to the humbler and rougher citizens. The labouring class, though 
viewing with natural envy the pleasanter lot of their richer fellow- 
citizens, were really animated with the grand old Florentine 
spirit. This natural leverage, which was a constant force for the 
amelioration and advancement of every class, was based upon the 
universal sense and appreciation of high ideals. 

Prospects of contentment, however, were speedily dimmed, and 
the newly enfranchised craftsmen became once more restive. 
They began to assume the manners, and even the dress of the 
richer citizens, and to cultivate a taste for the exercise of arms. 

The old spirit of insubordination was not dead, and men re- 
fused to work under the existent conditions of labour. Gwstre, or 
Tournaments, and feasting in the Markets, had fascinations which 
were undeniable. Workshops were closed, and the streets were 
filled with idlers and merry-makers. Disorder and rioting soon 
became the order of the day. The axiom, " if a man wishes to eat 
he must work," was ignored, and famine stared the city in the face. 

1 M.S. Strozzi, Diario d' Anonimo, p. 517. 

2 Marchionne di Coppo Stefani, " Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani," x. 797. 


The Three new Guilds made a further demand that a staio 
bushel of corn should be given free to every man who asked for 
help. They also proposed a division of public money. The whole 
of the " Ciompi" assembled in the Piazza Santa Maria Novella and 
prepared to urge these demands by force of arms. 

Michele Lando again proved his grit. He set the great bell 
tolling, and, when the militia companies of the Guilds had 
assembled, he led them in person against his former associates, 
crying : " Long live the Trade Guilds and the People ! " The un- 
disciplined mob gave way, and the wool-comber Gonfaloniere 
yielded up his gonfalon, a pledge that peace was assured. This 
was the end of the " Ciompi " Rising. 

The predominance, nevertheless, of the democratic power was 
of short duration, for the year 1382 was marked by the strenuous 
exertions of the nobles and aristocratic merchants to reduce the 
ascendency of the Popolo Minuto. Reforms were introduced 
into the election of dignitaries : the office of Gonfaloniere di 
Giustizia was again limited to members of the seven Greater 
Guilds, that of Prior was shared equally by the seven and by the 
fourteen Lesser Guilds. The Three new Guilds were suppressed, 
and the number of recognised Guilds was reduced to the original 
Twenty-one. 1 

In 1387 a concession was however made to the claims of the 
operative members of the community, whereby two new Priors 
were appointed to represent particularly the working population. 
Thus the eight Priors, who formed the new Signoria, stood by 
twos for each of the four quarters of the city ; and this arrange- 
ment was confirmed by the Council of State in I393- 2 

The subject of the Precedence of the Guilds, and their several 
degrees of honour on the Roll of the Guilds, is one which can 
never be satisfactorily explained. Some of the Guilds which 
appear low down in the scale were composed of men of the highest 
distinction, for instance, the great architects and sculptors of the 

1 A. von Reumont, "Tavole Cronologiche." 
2 L. Cantini, " Legislazione," vol. i. p. 29. 


Renaissance belonged to the Lesser Guild of " Masters of Stone 
and Wood!" Again, why should the "Butchers" be thirteen 
degrees higher than the "Bakers"? Probably in old Florence 
herself this inconsequent arrangement could not have been made 
clear. After all it was not so much a comparative table of 
industries as a relative scale of operators which fixed each trade 
and its agents in a conventional position upon the tablets of 
Florentine Society. 

Below the fourteen Lesser Guilds were, from time to time, 
groups of workpeople, who enrolled themselves in trade associa- 
tions, which were never recognised as Guilds in the generally 
accepted meaning of the term. Under date 1285 there is a 
paragraph in a Codex : Manoscritti varii, referring to the Arte de* 
Frenai, the " Guild of Bridle and Bit-makers," and the payment 
made to the Guild on behalf of some land between the Porta Balli 
and the Porta Via Nuova. 

The Records 1 of 1309-1316 name many such associations under 
the general term Arte, Guild : " Bottariai" Coopers, " Arcariai" 
-Bow and Arrow-makers, " Madiariai" Trough-makers, 
" Cerckiariai" Basket-makers, " Baldrigariai panni" Cloth- 
remnants and cuttings-dealers, " Ritagliai" Retailers of Sundries, 
" Fcrravccchiai" Scrap-iron dealers, * Pollaiuoli" Poulterers, and 
" Materassai " Mattress-stuffers. 

The Archives have a curious entry under date February 6th, 
1321, in the shape of a list of Guilds which had paid their propor- 
tion of the Gabella, or war loan, levied the previous year. The 
loan in question amounted to the sum of 300,000 gold florins, 
;i 50,000, and was undertaken not only by the whole of the 
Merchant and Craft Guilds of the time, but also with the co- 
operation of the all-powerful Parte Guelfa. 

The number of Guilds or Corporations scheduled rises to 
forty-four \ They include " Fornaciariai" Iron founders, ninety- 
two lire, " Dadat2toli" Dice-makers, two and two-thirds gold 
florins, and " Prestatori Ronzoni" Horse-jobbers, sixty-seven lire. 

1 Archivio del State di Firenze, 245. 


In 1327, among the Corporations which are scheduled as con- 
tributories to the year's public taxes, the following additional 


"Guilds" are named: "Vaginariai" Scabbard-makers, "Maestri 
d' Abace e Gramatici" Rope and Hemp-merchants, " Cuociai"- 
Cooks, and " Fabbricanti deW Utensili di Cucina " Makers of 


cooking-utensils. " Sarti " Tailors, and " Cunatori " Cradle and 
chest-makers, are named in 1378 as separate associations, and so 
are " Barbieri" Barbers and Hairdressers, " Ricamatori" Em- 
broiderers, and " Tessitori di Drappi " Stuff- weavers. These five 
associations are also grouped together as a distinct Arte or Guild. 
The why or wherefore of this alliance it is impossible to state. 

Again reference is made frequently to Conciatelli House-tilers, 
" Conciatori di Fornace " Glass-blowers, " Rivenditori " Old- 
clothes Dealers, 4< Incisori in Rame " Engravers in brass, " Vemi- 
catori" Varnishers, " Velettai" Canvas-makers, " Cereriai" 
Wax-moulders, "Tintori" Dyers, and "Cardatori" Wool-carders. 
These groups of workpeople, however, were generally subordinated 
to one or other of the Greater Guilds, and to the more important 
of the Lesser Guilds. 

Throughout the fifteenth century the number and precedence 
of the Guilds remained unaltered. In 1415, the order was as 
follows : 

I. Le Arti Maggiori the Greater Guilds (7) : 

1. L' Arte dei Giudici e Notai Judges and Notaries. 

2. V Arte di Calimala Merchants of Foreign Cloth. 

3. L? Arte della Lana Woollen-manufacturers. 

4. L Arte de' Cambiatori Bankers and Money-changers. 

5. L Arte della Seta Silk-manufacturers. 

6. L' A rte d Medici e Speziali Doctors and Apothecaries. 

7. L Arte de y Pellicciai e Vaiai Skinners and Furriers. 

II. Le Arti Minori the Lesser Guilds (14) : 

1. L' Arte de* Beccai Cattle-dealers and Butchers. 

2. U Arte dJ Fabbri Blacksmiths. 

3. L Arte de' Calzolai Shoemakers. 

4. L' Arte de y Maestri di Pietre e di Legnami Master 

Stone-masons and Wood-carvers. 

5. L 1 Arte de* Rigattieri e de 3 Linaiuoli Retail-Dealers 

and Linen Merchants. 

6. L Arte de' Vinattieri Wine-merchants. 


7. L* Arte degli Albergatori Inn-keepers. 

8. V Arte de* Galigai Tanners. 

9. L* Arte degli Oliandoli Oil-merchants. 

10. L' Arte de 1 Coreggiai Saddlers. 

11. L? Arte de' Chiavaiuoli Locksmiths. 

12. L* Arte de* Corazzai Armourers. 

13. D Arte de* Legnaiuoli Carpenters. 

14. Z,' Arte de' Fornai Bakers. 

An attempt was made in 1426 by the aristocratic party in the 
State to reduce the number of the fourteen Lesser Guilds to seven. 
The leaders in this movement were the Albizzi, ever opponents of 
the popular cause, under the leadership of Niccolo da Uzzano ; 
but they were thwarted in their endeavours by the chivalrous 
opposition of members of the rising Medici family, who consistently 
posed as the friends of the people. 

Early in the fifteenth century, in view of the increased import- 
ance of the operative classes and the improved conditions of labour 
and wages, two new Arti^ or Guilds, were enrolled, though not 
formally incorporated. One of these, called DArte de 1 Merciai, 
"Guild of Haberdashers," was an association of small shop-keepers 
and traders; the other, UArtede' Lavori^ comprised the inferior 
class of operatives and unskilled labourers. 

The Guild system had by the year 1530 reached the zenith of 
its magnificence and power, but then new economic forces came 
into action, which led to the decadence of much that was 
characteristic of the Florentine industry and commerce. These 
forces had perhaps little effect upon the Greater Guilds, but in the 
Lesser Guilds and among their members they were productive of 
many reforms and rearrangements. 

A final grouping of the Lesser Guilds was effected in 1534. 
By a Provvtsione dated July 17 of that year, the "Fourteen Lesser 
Guilds " were divided into four Universities. Each University was 
ruled by one Consul, one Chancellor, two Provveditori, three 
Treasurers, three Syndics or Inspectors, and four Donzelle 


Sergeants or Porters as the word came to mean. The Consuls 
were chosen from each associated Guild or Corporation, in turn, 
and served for six months. 1 

In the First University were placed : " Beccai" Butchers and 
Cattle-dealers, " Oliandoli" Oil and General Provision Merchants, 
and " Fornai^ Millers and Bakers; with the common title of 
" L'Universita di For San Ptero"" University of Saint Peter's 
Gate " so called from the locality of greatest activity. 

In the Second were: " Calzolai" Shoemakers, " Galigai" 
Tanners, and " Coreggiai" Saddlers; under the style of "LUni- 
versita de' Maestri di Cnoiame" " University of Master- workers in 

The Third included '. Fabbri" Blacksmiths, " Ckiavaiuoli" 
Locksmiths, " Maestri di Pietre e di Legnami " Master 
Builders, " Corazzai e Spadai " Armourers and Sword-makers, 
and " Legnaiuoli" Carpenters; and they collectively bore the 
designation of "LUniversita de' Fabbricanti" "University of 

With this third University were incorporated the trade associa- 
tions of " Incessori in Rame" Copper-plate workers, " Ottanai " 
Copper-smiths, " Calderai " Braziers, " Ferraiuoli" Edge-tool 
makers, " Ferravecchiai " Scrap-iron dealers, and " Stagnaiuoli " 
Makers of pewter. In fact all workers in metal, wood, and stone 
were allied in one University. The privilege of matriculation into 
the " Arte e Universita de' Fabbricanti" was extended, soon after 
the incorporation of the Guild, to residents in the City and 
district of Pistoja and other districts. Members living more than 
three miles beyond the Contado of Florence proper were required 
to pay fourteen piccioli, every six months, for the privilege of 
membership, whilst city workmen paid five piccioli? 

The Fourth University united five dissimilar corporations: 
" Rigattieri" Retail cloth-dealers, " Vinattieri" Wine-merchants, 
"Albergatori" Inn-keepers, " Linaiuoli" Workers in flax, and 

1 Benedetto Varchi, " Storia Fiorentina," 1721. 

2 L. Cantini, " Legislazione,'' iv. 247. 



" Sarti" Tailors; their title was "DUniversita de* Linatuoli" 
" University of Linen Drapers." 

This system of amalgamation was necessary for various reasons. 
First and foremost, the shrinkage in Florentine industries through 
foreign competition ; secondly, changing fashions and customs, 
and the invention of fresh trades; thirdly, absorption of the 
richer members of the Craft Guilds into the more aristocratic 
society of the nobles and merchants. 

The fifteenth century closed upon a Florence so prosperous, 
beautiful and salubrious that she was without a rival in Europe. 

The shutting of manufactories and shops, which was re/narkable 
in the sixteenth century, did not however prove decadence in 
wealth and influence, but simply that fewer men found it needful 
to engage in humble callings. The ranks of the monied and 
leisured classes were being steadily fed by new made men ; whilst 
at the other end of the social ladder there was a marked decrease 
in poverty and mendicancy. In fact by the middle of the 
sixteenth century the limit of this volume Florence presented 
the rare spectacle of a State whose citizens were either all 
wealthy, or, at least, comfortably off. Not till then did the spirit 
of leisured ease begin to enervate the mental and physical vigour 
of her enterprising people. 

The old Florentine proverb, which ran as follows : " Chi vuol 
che il mento balli alle mani faccia i calli " " Who wants his mind 
active must make his hands hard," had proved its truth ! 

Some idea must now be given of the general conditions of 

Every man and boy, turned sixteen years of age, was obliged 
to become a member of a Guild or Trade Corporation. Any one 
who failed in this respect was dubbed " Scioperato " " Loafer," and 
had no voice in the city's affairs. He was a bye-word and a 
mocking to every passer-by, and was treated to more kicks than 
denari, and, not uncommonly, was taken up and lodged in a 
dungeon, or his feet placed in the stocks, as being a useless in- 


j cumbrance and a disgrace to the city. Moreover, his family lost 
caste in whatever circle it was, and had even to pay a penalty for 
possessing such a good-for-nothing fellow ! 

On the other hand, the strenuous life of good Florentines in 
the prosecution of their many industries is very strikingly ex- 
emplified in a will of the year I395. 1 A certain Lapaccino del 
Toso de' Lapaccini, who died during that year, left an instruction 
that a penalty of one thousand gold florins should be paid by 
each and all of his sons who, between the ages of sixteen and 
thirty-five, should spend a whole year without working at some 
trade or undertaking some commercial enterprise. 

To enter a Guild five conditions had to be fulfilled : 

1. To be a native born Florentine. 

2. To have two sponsors for family and personal character. 

3. Never to have been before magistrates for any misdemeanour. 

4. To be possessed of a property qualification either his own 
or accruing at the death of his father. 

5. To pay a tax of silver to the State by way of caution- 


6. To pay an Entrance-fee to the particular Guild. 

The silver tax varied, it was fixed from time to time by the 
Signoria, and was looked upon as a poll-tax or capitation-fee. 
The payment of this tax conferred immediate political rights upon 
the payee. The Entrance-fee, generally a fairly good round sum, 
varied according to the circumstances of the individual or his 
family. Its payment entitled the payee to full membership in 
his Guild. 

A considerable difference was made in the amount of each of 
^these payments as Members of the ^Merchant Guilds, or as 
members of the Craft Guilds. The members of the former were of 
two classes: (i) Maestri Masters or full members and (2) Dis- 
cipuli Probationers or apprentices. In Latin manuscripts, and 
early printed books of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, " dis- 

1 L'Osservatore Fiorentino, Vol. iv. p. 193. D. M. Manni, Osservazione e Giunte 
Istoriche sopra i, etc., Sigilli, Tom. xi. p. 106. 



cipulo " is used in a general sense. The members of the latter, 

the Craft Guilds, were of three classes: (i) Maestri Masters, 

(2) Lavoranti Workmen, and (3) Garzoni Apprentices. 

The Tirocinia or Apprenticeship was for five to seven years, 

but sons of Masters were entitled to easier and shorter terms 

generally four or five years. 

At the end of his time the apprentice was still bound to 

work for his master for three years with a small annual recompense. 

At the end of that period the workman was entitled to call himself 

Capo lavoro Master-workman. The sons of Masters were also 

permitted to serve a workman's probation of two years only ; they 

also paid reduced taxes and lower fees. 

In his tenth year each individual paid his Master's Recognition 

fee, or Buona Entrata, and became a full-blown Master of his 

Craft. 1 

A few extracts from the records of Apprenticeships will be 

interesting as showing the variety of employments and the details 

of mutual arrangement between master and apprentice at certain 

dates : 

1272. A father, from ^Ema, binds his boy to a Tanner for eight 
years. The lad to receive " clothes and board as befits a 
merchant and artisan of that trade." 

1274. A man binds his son for two years as discipulo to a Retail 
cloth-dealer to learn the trade the father paying down 
three lire. 

1291. A man "of the parish of San Giovanni di Chuota, in the 
country of Count Guido Novelli, gives his son, as discipulo 
for three years, to Messere Cambizzino , a Shoemaker, of 
Uberti in the parish of Santa Felicia in Piazza. The 
master to give yearly a tunic, a vest, hose, and a pair 
of good shoes." 

1293. Another binds his nephew for one year to his master an Inn- 
keeper the latter to give the apprentice " wine and food 
and bed all of good kind and worthy of the trade." 

1 Dr G. Albert!, " Le Corporanzione d'Arti e di Mestiere." 


1295. A young man "from Castelnuovo is apprenticed as 
discipulo to a Locksmith for one year, the master being 
bound to pay him forty soldi" 

1300. A man " binds his orphan brother for five and a half years 
to Ricchio Bonsignori and Venturi Ammanti, Merchants 
dwelling in a house upon the new bridge of Rubaconte. 
The discipulo to receive food and clothing, good and 
decent, as well as shoes ; and to be cared for, whether well 
or ill, up to anything less than a month." 

1306. A certain man from San Savino in Monte Carelli engages 
himself as discipulo to a Baker, of the parish of S. Pancrazio, 
for seven years to receive clothing and board and lodg- 
ing," and so on. 1 

That women were not disqualified by their sex from enjoying 
the rights of membership in the Guilds is proved by many entries 
in the articles of matriculation and the records of association. 
For example in 1294, in the Council of Capitudini, Donna Santa, 
wife of Palmerio of the popolo of San Ambrogio, who wished to be 
admitted as a worker into the "Arte e Universita Zonariorum" " the 
Company of Belt and Girdle-makers," states that she has paid, to 
the Treasurer of the Guild, three pounds, by way of Entrance-fee. 
Thereupon, by the approval of the Council, she swears to observe 
all the statutes and regulations of the Guild ; and Messere Lapo 
Benci, the Rector, admits her to full membership. A witness's 
signature is appended to the instrument of enrolment, " Corsus 
Guellilme, Rector artis Coregiariorum" Rector of the " Guild of 

In the earliest records of the Trades we find the style of 
"Consul" borne by the Heads of each Craft the title also 
accorded to the rulers of the Commune. This led to considerable 
confusion, for example, in the negotiations entered into with the 
people of the Commune of Pogna, in 1 1 84, for the protection of 
the latter, the "Consuls of Florence" attach their signatures above 
those of the " Consuls of the Trades." 

1 Davidssohn, " Forschungen zur Alteren Geschichte von Florenz." 




A document 1 of 1193 contains an account of the Convention 
between the Commune of Florence and the Lords of the Castle of 
Trebbio, in which the confusion of titles is overcome by the use 
of the designation " Rettore" Rector, for the Heads of the 

Again another change was effected in the style of the " Rettore " 
in 1 204, when " Priore " Prior was adopted ; but this was very 
shortly dropped, because it also clashed with the designation of 
the three Priors of the Three Great Guilds. " Consul " was 
again used as the title of the Heads of the Guilds, when that 
style ceased to be borne by the Head of the State. 2 

No citizen might serve the office of Consul unless he was in the 
active exercise of his calling, and resided at his shop or place of 
business. All who were elected were required to be natives of 
Florence, except in the Guilds of "Judges and Notaries" and " Masters 
of Stone and Wood " both of which were open to foreigners. 

Every citizen appointed to the supreme office of the Guild was 
compelled to serve his term or submit to the payment of a fine of 
one hundred gold florins. 3 

Divided counsels, as might have been expected, constantly 
broke the unanimity of the Council of Consuls of all the Guilds. 
Something of the sort occurred with respect to the peace negotia- 
tions instituted, in 1280, by the Cardinal Latino dei Frangipani 
acting as Papal Legate. 4 

These were attempts at a reconciliation of the adherents of the 
two great parties in the State, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, 
for the repatriation of the latter. Among the commissioners 
were Lapo del Prato, Orlando Baldovini, and Cervo del Foro, re- 
presenting respectively the Intermediate Guilds of Butchers, Black- 
smiths, and Shoemakers. They, along with the Consuls of the 
Judges and Notaries, the Silk Merchants, and the Doctors and 

1 Archivio delle Riformagione, Bk. xxvi. 

2 L. Cantini, " Legislazione," vol. i. 

3 Statuta Populi et Communis Florentiae, collected 1415. Friburg, 1782, vol. ii. p. 
159. Rub. i., ii., iii., iv. 

4 Marchionne di Coppo Stefani, " Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani," vol. ix. 96. 


Apothecaries, promised, in the names of their Guilds, to do all in 
their power to carry out the conditions proposed, and vigorously 
to oppose all attempts to set the peace settlement at nought. 

The names of the Consuls of Calimala, Wool Merchants, 
Bankers and Money-changers, Skinners and Furriers, and Retail 
Cloth Dealers were not appended to the document. Hence we 
may conclude that they were not favourable to the Cardinal's 
terms. Anyhow the Settlement came to nothing, and the Parte 
Guelfa waxed still stronger. 

The constant and erratic changes which took place in the 
standing and powers of the Guilds and of their Consuls, are 
nowhere better set forth than in a Codex of the thirteenth century. 1 
In the list of Consuls from October 1295 to May 1296 two were 
appointed to sit in the General Council of the Guilds by each of 
the Twelve Greater Guilds, except that of the "Judges and Notaries/' 
whose representatives had the prescriptive right of presiding at the 
meetings without special election. 

The same Codex goes on to state that the number of Consuls 
elected for the above, and other purposes, was variable and 
disproportionate, for example : " Calimala " had only three ; 
" Bankers " four to six ; " Wool " and " Shoemakers " five to six ; 
" Silk," " Doctors," and " Butchers "four ; " Smiths "three to 
five; "Retail-dealers" two to seven, "Furriers" one to six 
and "Masters of Stone and Wood" three. Doubtless these 
variations were caused by the nature of the business which 
engaged the attention of the General Council, or by special trade 

From time to time disputes and jealousies arose about the 
election of Consuls of the various Guilds, and caused heart-burnings 
and even feuds among the members of the several Corporations. 
Many efforts were made by the Priors to put an end to these 
quarrels. In 1329 they summoned a general representative 
Council to consult as to the best measures to adopt in face of the 
universal dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. 

1 Archivio delle Tratti Fiorentini, Codex LIX. 


From each duly-constituted Guild they chose two members 
with the Gonfaloniere of each. The result of their deliberations 
was that no man should be elected to the office of Consul, in any 
Guild, who failed to receive at least fifty votes of fully qualified 
members. The candidates elected were authorised to hold office 
for four months. 

The voters' list for each Guild in the election of Consuls was 
enclosed in a small box, the keys of which were held by the 
Consuls for the time being. All these boxes were packed into 
a large chest of which only the Captain of the People, the Priors 
of the Guilds, and the Standard-bearer of Justice had keys. Such 
precautions were numerous, and were necessary to preserve in- 
tact the good faith and just practice of the members, and the 
Constitution of each Guild. 

Disputes between the Guilds, whether in their corporate 
capacity or in relation to individual members, which could not be 
arranged in the courts of the Consuls, nor terminated by the 
Consuls of all the Guilds in united session, were referred, first 
of all to the * Tribunal of the Mercanzia/ and finally laid before 
the Podesta, the Captain of the People, and the Defender of the 
Guilds, as a Supreme Court of Appeal. The ruling of these 
three dignitaries was accepted as decisive. 

Once every year, in January, each of the Guilds appointed a 
Syndic to assist the Consuls in carrying out their injunctions. 
They were required to swear before the Captain of the People, in 
the presence of the two Councils and the Heads of the Greater 
Guilds, to render true and laudable service to the State, and to 
cause the members of their Craft to observe just obedience to 
Magistrates. They were required to examine the credentials of 
all companies, leagues, conventions, undertakings, obligations, and 
contracts, which they found existing among the people. All such 
as were contrary to, or deviated from, the strict letter of their 
Constitutions were annulled and forbidden. 

They were also required to enter, in the Registries of their 
Crafts and Districts, the names and dates of baptism of all men 


from eighteen to seventy years of age, with their trades or occupa- 
tions, and habitations ; and to add notes as to health, character, 
ability and diligence. 

The Companies of families, or traders, numbered usually 
many persons ; for example, in the State Archives, there is 
a notice dated October 28, 1304, of a declaration of bank- 
ruptcy, before the Court of the Podesta, of the Ranieri Ardinghelli 
Society, or Company, with eighteen partners, fourteen of the 
latter family and five of the former, merchants of the " Calimala" 
The total liabilities were one hundred and twenty-three thousand 

The emigration of skilled artisans and artificers was strictly 
forbidden by several Provvisioni issued at various times. The 
classes of workmen mostly indicated were of the " Calimala " Guild, 
finishers of foreign cloth, of the " Wool Guild," dyers and 
fullers, of the " Silk Guild," weavers of gold and silver cloth. 
With intense earnestness and constant watchfulness the merchants 
and manufacturers strove to retain to Florence the production of 
all merchandise, in the manipulation of which the Florentine workers 
excelled other workpeople. In nothing was the keen spirit of 
monopoly more conspicuously exhibited. 2 

Offences of every sort and kind, whether against the Guild 
Statutes, or against individual Guilds, were heavily punished, as 
were those committed against persons not members of the Guild 
in question. In the " Council of the Hundred" a petition was pre- 
sented in 1 292, by the Priors of the " Calimala" Merchants praying 
that felonies, or other misdemeanours, committed by members of 
Guilds, should be punishable only through the Courts of the 
Consuls of each Guild. The petitioners undertook: (i) to be 
answerable for such persons on pain of fine for breach of promise 
and (2), to subject delinquents to expulsion from their Guilds, and 
to prohibition from engaging in the several industries connected 

1 Archivio del Stato di Firenze, 65 f., 146. 

2 L. Cantini, "Legislazione," viii. p. 225. 


Among a number of prohibitions set forth by the Signoria and 
put in operation by the Consuls of the Guilds were the following : 

1. No animal suffering from disease shall be allowed to drink 
at the public fountains. 

2. Swallows shall not be interfered with, and frogs shall not 
be carried through the city. 

3. No one shall be allowed to spin tops in the streets, and 
boys shall be whipped for throwing stones at fish in the river. 

The hours of work of course varied from time to time, and 
were different in the several industries. From dawn to dusk was, 
as elsewhere, the rule, with breaks for food and rest. There were 
not more than two hundred and seventy-five working days in the 
year, for Church Festivals and other holidays consumed the remainder. 

Clocks were not common in old Florence and only well-to-do 
people carried watches, consequently the time of day was regulated 
by the striking of bells. Perhaps the earliest record of a public 
clock is dated March 15, 1352, on which day the big clock of 
the Palazzo Vecchio struck the hours for the first time. 

The first bell used to mark the flight of the busy hours was 
that hung up in the Campanile of the ancient Church of Santa 
Maria Ughi, which was situated in the Piazza delle Cipolli, just 
behind the Palazzo Strozzi. Every afternoon at three o'clock 
sundry strokes told workmen to cease from their toil. This early 
hour was due to the fact that in winter at dusk, the city gates were 
closed alike to egress as to entry, for many labourers lived in the 
Contado outside the city walls. 

There is a legend of an attractive flower and herb-seller called 
Berta, who left a sum of money to the Church of Santa Maria 
Maggiore, that at four o'clock a supplemental bell should be rung, 
winter and summer, to indicate the completion of the day's paid 
labour. This bell was called "La Trecca""the Fruiterer's bell," 
and, from its shape, " La Cavolaia" the " gentle cabbage ! " The 
first Grand Duke, Cosimo I., transferred the functions of the 
workmen's bell to the big bell of the Duomo, and directed it to 
be rung at half-past three daily the year round. 


The bell of the Bargello went by the name of " La Montanara" 
from the name of the town whence it was taken by the Florentines 
in 1302. This bell tolled every evening to warn loyal citizens to 
lay aside their arms and withdraw themselves indoors. To this 
custom was due another name, "La Campana delle Armi" 
Cosimo I. ordered that any servant found idling in the streets, 
or hanging about for want of work, at the evening tolling of this 
bell, should have his right hand amputated ! At all public execu- 
tions " La Montanara" tolled during the progress of the condemned 
to the gallows. 

On the succession of Alessandro de' Medici to the place of his 
fathers, on May I, 1532, Florence became the capital of a Duchy. 
By his order " La Campana " was taken down and broken in pieces, 
" lest its sound should awaken echoes of lost freedom ! " The 
last knell tolled on October 1st, 1532, and it marked the close of 
an eventful strenuous life. The liberties of a free people, and of 
a free parliament were buried in the grave of the Republic of 
Florence ! 

Stemma de' ''Priori de' Liberia," 1434. 
(Red " Liberia " on a white field.) 




I. ORIGIN. Judicial system built up upon the requirements of Trade. 
Florentine love of Equity. Bologna in 1262. College of Judges. Early 
mention of Consuls of the Guild. 

II. CONSTITUTION. Proconsul and his Court. Matriculation obligatory 
for a legal career. The two sections of the Guild and their precedence. Guild 
jealousies. Rules of membership and examinations. 

III. TRIBUNALS. The Podesta and the Capitano del Popolo. Their Courts. 
Courts of the six Sestieri. Or San Michele. The Contado. Giudici alia Rota. 
The Mercanzia. Court of Appeals. "// Statuto di '96." Sessions of Courts. 
Sentences. Debtors. Capital Offences. Trivial Suits. Stinche. Sumptuary 
matters. Women litigants. Amusing cases. The "Stick"! Gambling. 

IV. JUDGES. High esteem. Messeri. Dress. Salaries. Sportelli. Veniality 
Sacchetti's skit. Boccaccio's strictures. Knighthood. The Ringhiera. 

V. NOTARIES. Special training. Each his own manual sign. Guarantees 
required. The Notaio della Riformagione. Chancellors of the State. Lucra- 
tive fees. Each Department of State, Guild, Business-house, etc., their own 
special Notary. Advisers and pleaders. Special commissions. Everybody 
happy to go to law with his neighbour I Disqualifications and tricks. Dress. 
Statistics of Legal Profession. Ser Lapo Mazzei. Demeanour of legal 
functionaries. College of Judges and Notaries, 1597. 

IT seems, at first sight, to be somewhat of an anachronism to 
include a Guild of legal and professional persons among the 
Trade Corporations of the Republic of Florence. 

Although the members of the Guild of Judges and Notaries 
were in no sense men of business, strictly so called, their functions 
were absolutely necessary to the prosecution of the industries and 
the commerce of the artisans and merchants around them. On 
the other hand, the judicial system of Florence was built up 
mainly upon the requirements of trade, the interests of which 



were paramount in the political constitutions of the city and its 

Extraordinary characteristics of the Florentines of the Middle 
Ages were their love of equity and reverence for justice, and their 
administration by persons and councils without bias or partiality. 
Throughout the whole history of Florence nothing is more 
remarkable than the frequency and regularity with which the aid 
of individuals and powers wholly external to the purposes in view 
was evoked. The most notable example of this is offered in the 
selection of foreigners to fill the highest office in the State that 
of Podesta. It was considered, quite rightly, that a stranger 
would be likely to bring to bear upon all questions submitted to 
his judgment a mind absolutely free from all leanings to one side 
or the other. 

The application of this principle was looked for by the 
pioneers of the industrial and commercial activities of Florence, 
in the settlement of all matters relating to trade and traders. 
Whilst family ties and class distinctions were exacting and pro- 
hibitive in the allocation of judicial functions to men brought 
up and educated within the bounds of the Commune, no such 
limitations existed with respect to men trained in other centres 
of learning. 

Bologna, the mother of universities, was at an early date 
the source to which the men of Florence looked for their legal 
advisers. Her fame as the teacher of jurisprudence was un- 
rivalled, and her faculty of law attracted students from every 
city and country in Europe. In 1262 there were upwards of 
twenty thousand men engaged in the study of canon and civil 
law within her confines. Many a clever young Florentine found 
his way thither, and having made his name as a legal expert, he 
was welcomed home again as a valuable assistant to his father or 
his father's partners in business. 

The prosperity of the city, and the prospect of honour and 
emolument at the hand of the rich citizens, also attracted men 
of other States, who had qualified in law. Upon all such 



\_Sef page 32} 




graduates of the University the degree of " Doctor-juris " was 

The constant and increasingly numerous questions, disputes, 
and settlements, inseparable from all intercourse between man 
and man, trade and trade, created the necessity of a publicly 
recognised body of men learned in law and equity. 

A College of Judges existed in Florence during the twelfth 
century, but the actual date of its establishment is conjectural. 
Anyhow rolls of membership and records of acts are extant of 
the year 1 187. 

The first mention of a Tribunal of Judges is in a document 
of the year 1 197. This probably led to the formal incorporation 
of a Guild of Judges, at the same period that the early Compagnie, 
or Companies of the merchants and artisans, were developed into 
the more ambitious Arti or Guilds. 1 

A document 2 of the year 1 193, preserved in the Archives of 
Florence, contains an account of a convention made between the 
Commune of Florence and the Lords of the Castle of Trebbio, in 
which are named the Seven Rettori Rectors of the Guilds. This 
is especially interesting as the instrument in question was drawn 
up for signature by certain Judges and Notaries of the city. 

In the Treaty of 1204 between Florence and Siena, the 
signatures of the Consuls of five Guilds are appended, namely : 
Judges and Notaries, Call mala, Wool-merchants, Bankers and 
money-changers 5 and Silk-merchants. Again in 1229 the Treaty 
with Orvieto is similarly signed, and it is noteworthy that the 
Consuls of the " Guild of Judges and Notaries " come first in each 
case. Such records prove that the Guild had been in active and 
honourable existence for many years. 

At a State Council, held on April I5th, 1279, summoned to 
discuss matters relating to the Court of Rome, whereat all the 
Guilds were represented by their Consuls, the signatures of 
Dominus Ugo Altoviti, Dominus Jacobus Gerardi, Dominus Alberti 

1 L. Cantini, " Legislazione," i. 105-107 and iii. 62. 

2 Archivio della Riformagione, Bk. xxvi. 


Ristori, Ser Benzi Dandi : Notarius, Dominus Gerardus Maneti : 
Notarius, Ser Cioe fil. Jacobi Buere " Consules Judicum et 
Notariorum" are appended first. 

The precise meaning of the title " Consul " is clearly set forth 
in distinction to that of "Judge." The former's office was "pro 
manutendum Justitice" for the maintenance of Justice, the 
latter's was " ad causas cognoscendum et termination" for the 
searching and determining of causes. This distinction is 
strikingly brought out in the use of the two terms in documents 
of i 197, 1225, 1227 and 1235. 

These documents, and the Statutes of the Guild, were always 
written in Latin, and never exhibited in the vernacular. All such 
authorities and enactments, however, were required to be copied 
out in the ordinary language of the time : the erudition of the 
notaries employed being evidenced by the use, more or less, of 
the " della Crusca " or polished manner. The exemption of the 
" Guild of Judges and Notaries " from this custom was a mark of 
the superior learning of the members, who were habituated to the 
study and use of the classic tongue. 

In the Archives, and other authorities, the infrequency of 
reference to the "Guild of Judges and Notaries" is quite remarkable. 
Whilst the different industries were being gradually formed into 
Corporations the legal faculty appeared to have no cohesive exist- 
ence. This may have been due to the fact that judicial and notarial 
functions were originally called into play as complementary and 
subservient to the interests of the various commercial operations. 
Goro Dati, however, in speaking of the Guild, says : " It has a 
Proconsul at the head of its Consuls ; it wields great authority, 
and may be considered the parent stem of the whole Notarial 
profession throughout Christendom, inasmuch as the great masters 
of that profession have been leaders and members of this Guild. 
Bologna is the fountain of doctors of the Law, Florence, of 
doctors of the Notariate." * 

1 " Storia di Firenze," ed. 1775, p. 133. 


The magistracy of the Guild was composed of the Pro- 
consul and eight Judges, who were styled Consuls as in the 
Merchant Guilds. The Proconsul was the co-opted head of the 
Consuls, and it was requisite that he should have exercised the 
legal profession, for at least twenty years, and that without 
reproach of any kind. This highly placed dignitary, at all 
public functions took precedence immediately after the Podesta 
and the Captain of the People. He was the first of all the 
Consuls of all the Guilds, and to him was accorded a supremacy 
in their jurisdiction. He was accorded a Palace for his residence, 
in the street, later on, called Via del Proconsolo. 1 

The Proconsul and Consuls could at any time summon a 
meeting of the whole of the members, both judicial and notarial. 
They could also associate with themselves, as assessors, any 
number of judges when occasion demanded. They sat in all 
civil and criminal causes affecting members of the Guild. Their 
advice was sought whenever new laws were proposed to the State 
by any section of the inhabitants. 

With respect to the Guild itself, the Proconsul and Consuls 
presided at the matriculation and enrolment of new members. 
The examination incumbent upon candidates was conducted by 
the same high officials. 

Membership in the Guild was sought by the sons of noble 
families and of the influential merchant citizens, quite as much on 
account of the social position it bestowed, as for its professional 

Matriculation was obligatory upon all who sought legal 
appointments. No person however was eligible for matriculation 
who had resided ten or more years away from Florence ; or whose 
father, brothers, or uncles had failed to pay in full all dues required 
by the State. Capacity for legal functions, and ability in notarial 
exercises, were incumbent upon all candidates, who were subject 
to a rigorous public examination by the Consuls. 

The association of the Judges and the Notaries in one Society 

1 Cantini, iii. 169. 


was an early necessity of commercial convenience and legal juris- 
prudence. The delivery of judgments, and their registration, 
involved two distinct but inseparable functions. 

Whilst in the internal economy of the Guild all members were 
equal in brotherhood, in all public business priority of position 
was accorded to the Judges. There was, at all times, no little 
jealousy on the part of the Notaries at their apparent inferiority 
of station. Sometimes the rivalry became serious, and in 1287 
it led to a partial separation of the two branches of the 

Each division, in that year, elected separate Consuls to 
manage its affairs apart. All Guild business which required the 
consent, or dissent, of both divisions, Judges and Notaries, had 
to be voted upon, first in separate Session ; and then, an adjourn- 
ment was made to the Church of San Piero Scheraggio, where a 
final decision was arrived at by a union of votes. 

By the end of the century the disagreement was suppressed, 
and the labours and honours of the Guild were loyally borne by 
both sections together. Henceforth the high tone which charac- 
terised the bearing of Judges and Notaries raised the Guild in 
honour and reputation to the highest place in the hierarchy of 
Corporate Life. 

The Residence of the Consuls of the " Guild of Judges and 
Notaries " was at the corner of the Via de' Pandolfini, a modest 
building which offered little rivalry with the fine palaces of the 
Consuls of the Merchant Guilds. Over its principal entrance was 
put up the Stemma or escutcheon of the Guild a gold star in a 
blue field. These armorial bearings were varied in later times 
and four blue stars in a golden field were substituted. 

The Podesta was the Supreme Judge in all criminal causes, 
but he delegated his authority to the three Senior Judges of the 
Guild not being Consuls ; and rarely, if ever, sat in Court, 
except in special cases, which involved the honour of the State. 
The first Podesta, appointed in 1207, was Gualfredotto 


Grasselli, of Milan. He had for his Council four Judges and 
fourteen Notaries. The "faimliga" household, of the Podesta 
usually consisted of seven Judges called " Collaterali" three 


Knights, eight Esquires, eighteen Notaries, ten Horsemen, two 
Trumpeters, twenty Javelin-men, and one page. 

The Capitano del Popolo had three Judges, two Knights, four 
Notaries, eight Horsemen, and nine Javelin-men attached to his 
person. He took cognisance of civil causes such as trade 
disputes, commercial frauds, and industrial questions generally. 


His functions were commonly discharged by a Court of three 
Senior Judges. Uberto da Lucca was appointed first Captain of 
the People in 1251. 

These two Chief Magistrates always subscribed the oath of 
allegiance to the Commune before the Proconsul and the Consuls 
of the " Guild of Judges and Notaries." The former was bound 
over to defend the Republic, and to lead her forces in time of war ; 
whilst the latter was charged with the protection of the Guilds, 
and of the peace of the city. 

In each sestiere of the city as originally divided under the 
rule of the good Countess Matilda, was a Tribunal presided over 
by the Buonouomo, whose title was early recognised as Consul. 
From the year 1242 he was assisted in the discharge of his duties 
by two Judges, two Notaries and two Provveditori^ or Superin- 
tendents of the Court. 

The two Judges took cognisance respectively of civil and 
criminal causes, under the styles of u Giudice Civile dei Quatieri " 
Civil Judge of the Quarter and "Giudice dei Malafizi"- Judge of 
Misdemeanants. Each Tribunal displayed a sign or banner with 
armorial bearings, which were also worn by the officials attached 
to each court in addition to the escutcheon of the Guild. 

By the middle of the thirteenth century, however, all causes 
and trials were removed to the Central Tribunal established at 
Or San Michele. This was first held in the church or oratory, 
and then in the granary, but the inconvenience of crowding 
became so great, that buildings were erected in the Orto or garden 
attached to the Sanctuary. Over the entrance were put up the 
escutcheons of the Guild, a great golden star upon a light blue 

To the Judges, who presided here in rota, were assigned 
the investigation of claims and dues, the interpretations of rules 
of precedent and procedure, the meanings of enactments, and the 
determination of all matters affecting custom and antiquity which 
arose in any and all of the Guilds. Criminal suits also were heard 
in this Central Court of Justice and determined. 


In the fourteenth century a return was made to the earlier 
system of Courts of the Sestieri, a step made imperative by the 
increase of the population, and the inability of the Central 
Tribunal at Or San Michele to deal with the business which 
came before it. 

Tribunals were established at Santa Maria Novella for the 
Sestiere of San Pancrazio and Borgo SS. Apostoli ; at Santa 
Croce for the Sestiere of San Piero Maggiore, or Porta San 
Piero, and San Piero Scheraggio ; at San Giovanni for the 
Sestiere of Santa Maria Maggiore and Porta del Duomo ; and at 
San Spirito for the Sestieri in Oltrarno. 

To these four Courts were assigned, in 1343, equal portions 
of the Contado, where population and building had increased in a 
wonderful manner. The old Central Tribunal was retained for 
special causes, and consequently the duties of Judges and Notaries 
were largely augmented. 

Another addition to the facilities of suitors was made in 
connection with the extension of the municipal jurisdiction to the 
Contado in the creation of a movable Court of " Doctores et 
Sapientes Juris" or men skilled in legal technicalities under the 
presidency of the Priors of the Greater Guilds, who attended by 
rota and attached their names to the decisions of the Court. This 
council of experts, practically a Court of Assize, as we understand 
the term, was served by six Judges appointed by the Proconsul 
and Consuls of the Guild. They were well paid, in considera- 
tion of the inconveniences and difficulties attending the 
exercise of their authority ; but they were required to deposit 
caution money to the amount of two hundred lire each, as a 
guarantee of just and equitable conduct when beyond the city 
boundaries, and so, in a way, were a law unto themselves. 

The "Consiglio di Giustizia" or "Giudici alia Rota? Council of 
Justice was appointed in 1502. Five Judges Doctors of Law 
were elected for a term of three years. They sat twice a week 
in the lower and inner chamber of the Palace of the Podesta. 
This hall had a pavement of circular blocks of red and green 


marble like a wheel hence the alternative title of the Court, 
" Judges of the Wheel." Their decisions were laid before the 
Proconsul, to whom the delivery of sentence was assigned. 

This arrangement, which was maintained until the end of the 
century, was very excellent and far more conducive to the 
despatch of legal business than the former haphazard systems. 
At the same time ecclesiastical suits were wholly removed from 
the purview of the Court, and ecclesiastical personages were no 
longer appointed assessors, as had been the custom. 

The " Giudici alia Rota " was removed in the sixteenth century 
to the Piazza dei Castellani renamed Piazza de' Giudici, 
and now the quarters of the National Library. 

The most important legal Tribunal in Florence was "La Corte 
delta Mercanzia? Founded somewhere about the year 1296 it 
embraced the attributes of a Court of Justice and the functions of 
a Chamber of Commerce. It was composed of six Senior Judges, 
members of the " Guild of Judges and Notaries," under the 
presidency of a foreign juris consult or doctor of laws, generally 
a graduate of the University of Bologna. This President bore 
the style of Ufficiale Forestiere^ a title which reveals, quite char- 
acteristically, the innate desire of the Florentines of old for the 
absolutely free expression of an unbiassed and impartial 
judgment in matters concerning the general well-being of the 

The President of the Court, by the way, as a matter of form, 
was required to be enrolled a member of the " Guild of Judges 
and Notaries." He had the power to summon before him all 
citizens who, by themselves, or by their partners, incurred 
liabilities abroad ; and also all persons who were supposed to be 
in possession of information or evidence relative to any suit. In 
agreement with the six Judges he could requisition all merchants' 
and tradesmen's books, and could compel defaulters to make such 
restitution as the Court directed, at the demand of any foreign 

The Code which this bench of judicial dignitaries were called 

f. - 

- - 

~ ; 

" : 

w i. 

.L - 


upon to administer went by the name of " // Statute di 'p6." Its 
objects, which were threefold, were : 

1. To insure that Florentine merchants, and their merchandise, 

should go with all possible security and freedom 
throughout the whole world. 

2. To secure that the credit of the State should be maintained 

under all circumstances and at all hazards. 

3. To provide that foreigners should have no just cause of 


The jurisdiction of the Court was, at first, confined to the 
interests of the six Greater Guilds ; but, as the inferior crafts 
grew in influence, it was extended over the members of the 
fourteen Lesser Guilds, and later on, over all sorts and conditions 
of men. 

The greatest difficulties with which the Mercanzia had to con- 
tend were in connection with international questions. These arose 
from the fact that every Florentine trader in a foreign land was 
regarded as a surety for his fellow-citizen at home. It was to 
this Tribunal that all questions affecting the interests of Florentine 
commerce beyond Tuscany were submitted for adjudication. 1 

It is interesting to note, in the records of Florentine history, 
how strikingly the highmindedness and judicial probity of her 
merchants and craftsmen were exhibited in the favourable view 
taken by the Mercanzia of appeals addressed to it by foreigners. 
The most elaborate precautions were taken that the subjects of 
other States should have no excuse for complaining of partial or 
unfair treatment. 

The Mercanzia was also the final Court of Appeal in cross 
suits between members of the various Guilds. 2 One of the many 
and customary disputes which arose daily between traders in the 
Market and their customers came before the Tribunal of the 
Mercanzia on March 31, 1315. Two innkeepers sought to 

1 Giudo Benoli, " La Giurisdizione della Mercanzia di Firenze nel Secolo, xiv. 
Saggio Storico Giuridiceo,*' Firenze, 1901. 

2 Archivio del Stato di Firenze, "Mercanzia" 1030, f. 13. 


restrain two fishmongers from selling eels, salted and fresh. The 
fish in question had come from Padua, and was offered for sale 
in the Mercato Nuovo, and the innkeepers declared it unfit for 
use although they had purchased it, and now they declined to pay 
for it. 

Among other functions, almost too numerous to mention, the 
Court took charge of the goods and effects of deceased members 
of the Guilds, and appointed trustees to manage such estates for 
the benefit of the lawful heirs. 1 

In 1327 the seven Magistrates of the Mercanzia had been 
appointed collectors of the Assay, or Masters of the Mint, for the 
" preservation of the good fame of the city, which is spread 
abroad through the whole world, for the lawfulness and value of 
the good coin and the golden florins made therein." A later 
decree in 1394 gave the Mercanzia the right to proceed against 
forgers and depreciators of the coinage, as well as against makers 
of " corners " for the hardening of the money-market. 

Powers were also exercised by the seven magistrates to re- 
open closed accounts, to inquire into misapplication of monies, to 
tax debtors' statements, and to sit as a Court of Bankruptcy. In 
the latter behalf the Mercanzia acted during the severe banking 
disasters which followed the course of the war between England 
and France in 1340. 

In 1347, by a further extension of its powers, it embraced in 
its jurisdiction questions and offences touching maritime affairs. 

Indeed, the " University of the Mercanzia," as it was fully 
styled, was to all intents and purposes the prototype of our 
modern Courts of Arbitration. 

The Tribunal of the Mercanzia was held at the residence of 
the Vfficiale Forestieri, a massive edifice in the Piazza della 
Signoria between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Uguccione. 
There also resided, during their tenure of office, the six assistant 
Judges. Within the Hall of Audience, immediately over the seats 

1 Lapo Mazzei, " Lettere di uno Notario a uno Mercante del Secolo, xiv.," vol. ii. 
42, note 2. 


of the Judges, were frescoes of the Seven Virtues, designed by 
Antonio Pollaiuolo. On the facade Taddeo Gaddi painted his 
celebrated fresco " The Six Virtues and the Six Judges." 
Although this, alas, has long ago disappeared, the shields bearing 
the coats-of-arms of the Greater Guilds, cut in stone, still remain 
over the principal entrance. Above all runs the legend : "Omnis 
sapientia a Domino Deo est." 

The greatest period of the Mercanzia was from 1391 to 1470. 
In the latter year Lorenzo il Magnifico arrogated to himself much, 
if not all the functions of the Ufficiale Forestiere, and greatly 
reduced the authority of the Tribunal. 

Lorenzo's successors, as Rulers of Florence, were, many of 
them, not too scrupulous in their administration of public affairs : 
law and order frequently yielded to circumstances and expedi- 
ency. In 1532 the Signoria was abolished and Alessandro de* 
Medici proclaimed Gonfaloniere di Gzustisia for life. Hence- 
forward Florence became the victim of what she had striven for 
centuries to avoid il governo (Tun solo. 

Certainly, at times, glimpses of freedom and good government 
are seen as the years roll on. For example, in 1568, Cosimo I., 
first Grand Duke of Tuscany, gave a new constitution to, and 
bestowed many privileges upon, the Tribunal of the Mercanzia. 

With respect to the Sessions of the various Courts in old 
Florence little is known of the hours or the procedure. Business 
was, however, greatly interrupted by the frequency of public 
holidays and ecclesiastical festivals. No Judges sat on Sundays, 
and on Saints' Days, of which there were upwards of thirty in 
the year. At Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Pentecost, Corpus 
Christi, feasts of Saint Mary, and of Saint John the Baptist, 
many days of vacation were observed. 

In addition to the public courts the Councils of the various 
Guilds in council required the assistance of Judges, who not only 
acted as assessors, but were the actual proclaimers of the decisions 
arrived at. 

The laws against debtors were very severe. Not only was it 


permissible for creditors to subject unfortunate debtors to personal 
ill-treatment, but they were liable to imprisonment at the instance 
of the Magistracy, " with scant provision, crowded and packed 
together in a filthy place." 

At a council of the Twelve Greater Guilds held December 7, 
i 304, Guilio, Vanno, and Chelo, silk-manufacturers, merchants of 
the "For Santa Maria" were declared defaulters, and the Syndics 
were instructed to sell their goods. The same course was followed, 
in February 1305, when the Society or Company of Lamberteschi 
Lamberti, failed. 1 

A law of I398 2 compelled debtors to act as executioners. 
On the other hand it was provided that whenever the great Bell 
sounded, summoning the citizens to general meeting, no one 
should be liable to arrest for debt. 

Judicial sentences erred often enough on the side of severity. 
It was consequently a common practice for appeals to be 
addressed to higher courts for a redress of penalties. The re- 
duction of a sentence in no way lowered the position or prestige 
of a Judge. If they were accounted rigorous they were always 
in accord with the directions of the Statutes, and with the 
Code of morals of the time. License was ever associated with 

As indicative of the methods pursued against the perpetrator 
of a capital crime there is an interesting record 3 of the case of 
a man named " Lorenzo Fieri Chorus, of the Popoli of Santa 
Felicita, who, on February 1 8, 1318, was adjudged, by the Council 
of One Hundred, to pay three thousand lire for wounding to the 
death a certain person unnamed of the Popoli of SS. Apostoli, 
with whom he was at peace. The father of the criminal having 
paid fifty lire, according to the decision of the same Council in 
the November following, and the said Lorenzo, who is now 

1 Archivio del Stato cli Firenze, Provvisioni xii. f. 100, and f. 104. 

2 Ademollo, Lib. ii. 425. 

3 Archivio del Stato di Firenze, under date December 30, 1318, noted by Davidssohn, 
" Geschichte von Florenz," vol. ii. 


banished and an outlaw, having concluded friendship and 
marriage with the family of the deceased, his petition for resti- 
tution of civic rights is granted, and he is directed to be brought 
into the city, and conducted to San Giovanni without having to 
submit to the ignominy of wearing a fool's cap or mock-mitre." 

44 In Florence," to quote the words of Francesco Guicciardini, 
the famous historian (1483-1540), it commonly happens that 
when a man has committed some violent offence no attempt is 
made to punish him with severity, but efforts are made to assist 
his escape on his engaging to disarm and not to renew his evil 
conduct." 1 

Capital punishment and physical torture were resorted to 
only in extreme cases, or in times of popular tumult. Fines and 
imprisonment were the punitive measures meted out by the 
Judges to delinquents. Suspension, too, from the prosecution of 
his craft was the ordinary punishment of an artizan found guilty 
of misdemeanour. 

The Archives are full of references, of course, to the rulings 
of all the Courts. Generally the suits were of a trivial character ; 
but, in those days, as now, when a man was determined not to be 
mulcted in costs, he did not hesitate to carry his case to the Court 
of Appeal. For an instance of this, a tavernaio, a small tavern- 
keeper, in 1279, appealed to the Superior Court against the 
sentence of twenty soldi imposed by the four Consuls of the 
" Guild of Butchers." The man appears to have lost his appeal 
because he had, upon the evidence of one of the Consuls, sold 
drink in contravention of the regulations of the trade. 

The State Prison, called Stinche, was erected in 1307. The 
name was derived from the Castello di Stinche in the Val di 
Geve, which belonged to the Cavalcanti. A popular movement 
against the growing power of this ancient family led to the 
capture of the castle. Its garrison were made prisoners and con- 
signed to the dungeons under the prison, which thus gained its 

1 F. Guicciardini, "Opere Inedite," vol. iii. 177 (Counsels of Perfection). 


It not unfrequently happened that prisoners were left to die 
miserably and alone in the Stinche and the other prisons of 
Florence. Condemned criminals were imprisoned, if sentenced 
for a life incarceration, or for a respite before execution, in the 
dungeons of the Bargello, where also was an oubliette. Human 
skulls and bones have frequently been discovered under this 

The release of a prisoner was a somewhat rare occurrence ; 
it was usually effected on a Sunday or Saint's-day, when, by a 
touching religious ceremony, the prisoner was conducted to the 
Church of San Giovanni, and offered at the altar, which he 
quitted a free man. 

Women, to judge by a great number of legal enactments, 
gave the authorities much trouble. They were absolutely for- 
bidden to enter a Court of Justice, and Judges were warned not to 
give ear to their complaints. A Statute of 1294 gives this 
quaintly ambiguous caution : " Women are a sex to be looked 
upon as most dangerous in disturbing the course of justice ! " 

Many sumptuary laws were, during the fourteenth century, 
directed against the excess of feminine adornment, and these 
Judges were called upon to administer strictly. Many they very 
cunningly evaded by invoking the aid of Notaries, upon whom 
reposed the worry of investigation and the odium of correction. 

A tale is told by Sacchetti x of Messere Amerigo Amerighi 
of Pesaro, a Judge, during Sacchetti's priorate, who was directed 
to execute certain orders for the regulation of the fashions of the 
time. He instructs a Notary well versed in such matters to 
prepare a statement. The Notary reported that one woman, 
whose headdress was too high, refused to lower it, saying, " Why, 
no, don't you see it is a wreath." Another, wearing many buttons 
on her dress, defended herself with the remark, " Yes, I can wear 
these, they are not buttons, you see they have no hanks." A 
third, accused of wearing ermine, replied, " This is not ermine, 
it is the fur of a suckling." When the unhappy Notary asked : 

1 F. Sacchetti, "Novelle," cxxxvii. vol. i. p. 327. 




" What is this suckling ? " she replied : " Oh, it is only an 
animal ! " 

A good woman and a bad one equally require the stick!" 
was an old and familiar saying of the Florentines : somewhat 
harsh and ungallant perchance, but never more applicable than to 
would-be female litigants ! 

The Statutes with respect to gambling, card playing, etc., are 
frequent and minatory, and their application gave the Judges 
endless trouble and presented many inconsistencies. The " Archi- 
vio delta Grascza" preserve many such acts, and also show how 
greatly worried judicial dignitaries were in Florence in the 
enforcement of such decrees. A friend of Messere Amerighi 
indeed scribbled upon the margin of one of the excellent Judge's 
sumptuary Summings-up : 

" If there is a person you do hate. 
Send him to Florence as a magistrate ! Wl 

The ability, integrity, and urbanity of the Florentine Judges 
soon gained approval all over Europe. This recognition had a 
reflex influence upon the individuals, and encouraged them to 
live up to their high reputation. The esteem in which the office 
of Judge was held in Florence is evidenced by the honourable 
title of "Messere" which was generally accorded to the judicial 
members of the Guild. 

Judges were accorded equal precedence with Knights and 
Doctors of Medicine in all ceremonies, whether public or private. 
They were always invited to marriage feasts as guests of the 
highest distinction. In common with their equals, Judges wore 
long red cloaks, lined with miniver, and an inner and tighter 
fitting garment of the same colour. Degrees in official rank 
were exhibited by variations in the length and fulness of their 
robes, and in the quality and quantity of fur adornments. The 
head covering, a close fitting cap, with a falling curtain or 
sash, was also red. 

1 See Guido Biagi, "The Private Life of the Renaissance Florentine," p. 46. 


Some counsels of perfection, almost whimsically written, are 
found by any who have time to search the Archives of Florence 
for matters relating to the " Guild of Judges and Notaries " and 
its individual members. 

One learned and sententious scribe says : " Bear well in 
mind that when you pronounce a sentence you go on straight- 
forwardly, loyally, and justly ; and do not let yourself be swayed 
aside from this, either by bribes, love or fear, by relationship or 
friendship, or for the sake of a companion. For the person 
against whom you give your sentence will be your enemy, and 
he whom you would serve will hold you neither honest, nor loyal, 
nor straightforward, and will instead always distrust and despise 

The payment of Judges depended as much upon the man as 
upon circumstances. Each was required to be possessed of a 
certain private income as an essential qualification for office. 
This income might accrue from inheritance, or from practice as 
advocate in the Supreme and Foreign Courts. The amounts paid 
by the State to Judges for judicial services were not so much in 
the way of salaries as commissions upon the business transacted. 
For example, in 1290 two "jurisprudents," to assist the Treasurer 
of the Commune, received each only one gold florin a month ! l 

Civil causes of first instance were heard before the Judge of 
the Court of each Sestiere. He was required to have attained 
the degree of Doctor of Law at Bologna, or at some other legal 
University, and to be an enrolled citizen of Florence. His term 
of office was six months, and he might be re-elected, or not, as the 
Council of State decided. The salary was hardly commensurate 
with the dignity of the office a paltry sum of twenty-five lire \ 
In 1291 the Judge of a certain Sestiere received, however, as 
much as twenty-five lire a month, whilst another only obtained 
twenty-four, for four months. 2 

The Judges who sat as assessors or delegates of the Chief 
Magistrate were well remunerated. In 1292 the judicial assis- 

J Prow. ii. 144, Oct. II. 2 Prow. iii. 17, 1291 ; 85, 1292 ; IOO, 1292- 


tants of the Captain of the People were paid forty-five lire each 
for presiding at the drawing of the " Taglia" x 

Judges of Appeal, however, were regarded as superior digni- 
taries, and were paid on a still more liberal scale. In 1286 one 
such personage received five hundred lire for himself and his two 
Notaries. 2 In 1358 a Judge of Appeal received as much as 
fifteen hundred lire per annum. 

Judges were forbidden to exercise their functions privately, 
as well as publicly, on all Festivals and Fasts. Their sportelli, or 
wickets, might indeed be open on the days of obligation, but only 
for the delivery of messages and for brief replies to inquiries. 

The dignity of their position, and the high esteem with which 
they were regarded generally by people of all classes, did not, all 
the same, prevent the miscarriage of justice, nor the degradation 
of their office at times by both Judges and Notaries. The common 
experience of noble ideals failing to enforce themselves at all 
times ; and under all circumstances, was confirmed, alas, often 
enough, in busy, turbulent Florence. 

Boccaccio, Sacchetti, and other popular writers and critics of 
the various periods, adduce numbers of instances where right and 
justice were made to yield to veniality and fraud. Bribes were 
freely offered, and often enough as freely taken. One litigant 
having offered the Judge a fat ox to obtain a favourable verdict, 
his opponent promptly sent in a fine cow in calf: the wily magis- 
trate accepted both, and dismissed the case ! u I would rather see 
my son," said Sacchetti, "a sportsman than a Judge" 3 

Whilst travesties of justice were made the occasion of ridicule, 
they had their effect upon the public opinion. The strictures of 
Boccaccio upon unrighteous Judges are very severe. " They," he 
says, " pretend that they are ministers of justice, and of God, but 
they are indeed the executors of injustice and the friends of the 
devil." 4 

The mention of Knights in connection with a Republic of 

1 Villani, xi. 92. - Prow. pp. I, 14, 1286. 

3 F. Sacchetti, " Novelle," 77, t. ii. pp. 17, 21. 

4 Boccaccio, "Giorni," iii. nov. 7, t. II, p. 89. 


Merchants seems to be an anachronism, nevertheless Knighthood 
was not only generally recognised, but greatly sought after by men 
of position. 

The creation of Knights in Florence depended upon three 
circumstances : The visit of a foreign monarch, the assumption 
of the Podestaship by an alien sovereign, both Charlemagne and 
Charles of Anjou bestowed the accolade, and the will of the 
people, either expressed by the rulers of the State in public 
meeting, or vehemently pronounced in tumultuous assembly. In 
the latter category were Michele Lando and sixty-four citizens, 
who were created Knights by the popular voice in the Ciompi 
Rising in 1378. 

New Knights were invested publicly, and to their care 
were committed in the name of the Republic a standard, a lance, 
a sword, and a shield, the latter bearing the arms of the State. 
Of the symbols of Knighthood Dante sings how : 

" . . . . Galigaio show'd 
The gilded hilt and pommel.' l 

Their ennoblement required also the attestation of the Superior 
Court of Judges, to whom they were required to present their 
credentials after preparation by Notaries. 

The Investiture was held after 1323 at the Ringhiera, a raised 
platform erected along the front of the Palazzo Vecchio, whereon 
the Supreme Magistrates were solemnly admitted, Decrees of 
State publicly promulgated, and Military Commanders received 
their insignia of office. It was the Florentine Agora or Forum. 

No one desired more earnestly the distinction of an Order of 
Chivalry than Judges and Notaries, the former to qualify for the 
highest offices in the State and for ambassadorial appointments to 
foreign States, and the latter to attain, at a bound, the step whereby 
they might exchange their humble writing equipage for the golden- 
sheathed dagger of knighthood. 

1 "Paradise," Canto xvi. 


Turning now to the other section of the Guild, " the body 
of honourable Notaries," as they were called, we must remember 
that, unlike their lordly brethren of the Judicial Bench, they were 
men who had been born, educated, and trained in Florence. 
As boys attending monastery schools, or later, the elementary 
schools of the Studio, or Academy, they obtained the rudiments of 
notarial law at the feet of one or other of the many teachers of 
legal studies who were to be found in every part of north and 
central Italy in the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. 
These preceptors were for the most part graduates in law of 
Bologna, looking out for 
posts as judges in the 
civil and criminal courts. 

All Notaries, before 
pleading in Court, were 
obliged to appear before 
the Proconsul and the 
eight Consuls of the 
"Guild of Judges and 
Notaries," and to produce 
a guarantee of two hun- 
dred lire that they would REGISTERED MARK OR SIGNATURE OF THE 
" exercise their profession NOTARY NICCOLO DA FERENTERINO, 1236. 
faithfully, and lawfully, 

and would never be guilty of the least exaction or extortion." 
Each was required to register his special signature, or mark, on 
admission to plead. 

One of the Statutes of the Guild decreed that no Notary 
should be qualified to plead or to practise within the judicial 
boundaries of the Republic who had not lived for the last ten 
consecutive years in Florence. A Notary was required also to 
be of a respectable family, whose members had duly paid all the 
taxes and rates for at least twenty years. Regularly admitted 
Notaries were styled in documents " Sapientes juris." They 
were attached to every court and to all the principal offices of State. 



One of the most important officers of the Republic was the 
Notaio delta Riformagione. His duties were those of Secretary 
to the Priors, and his business was to keep a register of their 
decisions. He was always a foreigner, generally a Lombard, and 
his salary ranged from one hundred lire in 1358 to four hundred 
and fifty. 1 Three days before quitting office he had to hand to 
the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia a copy of all acts issuing from the 
Supreme Council of State. For serious dereliction of duty he 
was liable, not only to heavy fines, but even to imprisonment. 

A special Notary was appointed annually to assist the State 
Treasurer to keep the public accounts, and to prepare the annual 
Exchequer balance-sheet. By way of auditors of this department 
of the Government, two senior Notaries or advocates, doctors of 
law, were named, whose duty it was to examine, check, and 
pass or refuse, all statements of receipts and disbursements of 
public money. 

Two Notaries were attached to the person of the Gonfaloniere 
di Giustizia. One acted as personal secretary, and retired from 
office with his chief. The other was the permanent secretary of 
the office, and had charge of the law-books, registers of business, 
list of reforms carried out or proposed, and all other documents 
relating to the department. His salary was only one hundred lire 
a year. Another officer of this Department of State was the 
Cancelliere^ who was also a Notary. He held the privy-purse of 
the Gonfaloniere, and conducted his correspondence. 

These three offices, though quite subordinate, were greatly 
sought after by young men endued with literary tastes, or 
ambitious to rise in the employment of the State. Coluccio de' 
Salutati, Leonardo Bruni, Carlo Marsuppini, Poggio Bracciolini, 
Marcello Vergilio and Niccolo Machiavelli were among those 
who in turn held the Chancellorship. 

Four Notaries, " duly matriculated and of good fame and 
intelligence," were appointed annually for service in the Supreme 
Council of State. Whilst holding these appointments they were 

1 M. de C. Stefani, "Delizie," xii. 351. 


forbidden to undertake any other professional duties. They kept 
the State Records, and had at hand all documents and materials 
which would be likely to be asked for in the course of delibera- 
tions. They were paid so much for the copies they wrote, 
ranging from seven lire for complete lists of citizens chargeable 
with the " Catasto " or Income-tax, to seven soldi for drafts of the 
motions before the Council. 1 

Lucrative fees were often paid by the State to Notaries for 
copying Statutes and other documentary matter. In 1291 two 
Notaries received forty-two lire for copying, illuminating and 
binding two new Statutes. To a Notary, who compiled an alpha- 
betical register of the names of exiles, from the time of the 
Podesta Pietro dei Stefaneschi to the year 1291, was granted a 
sum of forty gold florins. Six Notaries were bidden, in 1246, to 
copy out the Register of Citizens for the " Estzmo" Valuation 
of Property, and they were paid thirty lire? 

Each Guild had its own special Notaries, whose nominations 
and appointments were generally made at a joint meeting of the 
Consuls of the Guilds. Under date December 31, I326, 3 the 
following Guilds were thus provided for six months : Bakers, 
Armourers and Swordmakers, Oil, Cheese, and Provision Mer- 
chants, Woollen Merchants, Tanners, Doctors and Apothecaries 
Judges and Notaries, Butchers, Skinners and Furriers, Retail 
Cloth Dealers and Linen Merchants, Wine Merchants, Carpenters, 
Innkeepers, Locksmiths and Metal Workers, Silk Merchants and 

These legal officials were engaged daily, either in the Superior 
Courts, or in the Consular Courts of the several Guilds. In the 
latter Tribunals they acted as confidential advisers to litigants, 
and also as pleaders in Court. They were allowed to take fees 
from the persons seeking their assistance, and they received, in 
addition, fixed biennial payments from the Guilds on whose 
behalf they acted. 

1 L. Cantini, " Legislazione, " Hi. p. 12. 

2 Prow. iii. 8 v-, Sept. 3, 1291. Prow. 20 v-, Sept. 3, 1291. Prow. vi. 146 
v-, Dec. 3, 1246. 3 "Archivio del Stato di Firenze," R.A. fol. 96. 


This twofold avocation led gradually to the creation of a new 
order of legal functionaries an intermediate degree, so to speak, 
in the membership of the Guild. Senior or more ambitious 
Notaries obtained general recognition as Leaders, Advocates of 
Appeal, and so forth, and were entrusted with the higher duties 
of the profession, and at times were admitted as Assessors in 
certain suits to the Judges on the bench. This is an interesting 
development in legal procedure, and was no doubt the parent of 
the British system of barristers and solicitors. 

Much of the time of Notaries was taken up with drafting 
charters commercial and political ; drawing up business agree- 
ments, contracts, and adjudications ; preparing balance-sheets 
and other auditorial matters ; conducting foreign correspondence 
for merchants ; and dealing, generally, with the thousand and one 
clerical details of the immense trade of Florence. 

Every business house and bank had its own special Notary, 
and so had the richer nobles, and the more important private 
citizens. Besides this, Notaries were despatched, for longer or 
shorter periods, to the many foreign cities and districts in which 
Florentine merchants had branch houses and agencies. One, 
Lamberto Velluti, a member of the wealthy silk-manufacturing 
family, was employed as Notary on one of the ships of the 
Peruzzi Company. Of him it is recorded that, after he had gained 
sufficient capital by fees and charges, he set up in business on 
his own account as a shipper of merchandise. 

All embassies to foreign Courts, and all special missions for 
signing treaties and other international engagements, required 
the services of Notaries. They were bound to give notice 
at the Monte Contune, public Pawn Office, of all instru- 
ments drawn up by them for the payment of taxes, and, within 
a month of their execution, to deposit copies at the Offices of 

Notaries, too, were employed in drawing up wills, copies of 
which they were required to file within thirty days after the 
testator's death. They were forbidden to draft instruments 


benefiting themselves, or any member of their families, under a 
penalty of fifty lire the instrument so drawn was also declared 
null and void. 

Notaries were appointed from time to time to inquire into, 
and to report upon, disorders among the hired soldiery of the 
Republic. These mercenaries were originally members of mili- 
tary companies, which were first enrolled under Condottieri, 
Foreign Captains, in 1250, when the faction fights between the 
Grandi and the Popolani were at their height. Their duties, in 
the first instance, were defence of the Contado, but their services 
were retained, later on, for the safeguarding of the city also. 
Four hundred were required each night to patrol the following 
streets : Porta Rossa, Calimala, Baccano, For Santa Maria, 
and the Corso degli Adimari, and other streets and squares, 
where were situated most of the Residences and Offices of 
the Guilds, the principal Banks, and the great Mercantile 
Companies, together with the shops of the more considerable 

If women troubled worthy Judges with their fashions and 
their witchery, out-of-elbows Notaries worried the fair sex, in 
their quest for citations-at-bar, for breaches of the sumptuary 
laws. The protocols concerning dress were written out by 
the gentlemen of the long robe, who, not content with their 
faultless penmanship, busied themselves in the application of the 

The officials of the " Grascia " were quick-witted Notaries. 
It was their amusement and their profit to interrogate all the 
women they met. When they saw one wearing, for example, two 
rings ornamented with fine pearls, or a little cap or wreath em- 
broidered and embellished with gold, they noted down her name. 
A summons was probably issued against her and her husband, 
and the latter, to avoid a public spectacle, paid the fine and the 
Notaries' costs to boot ! 1 

It may be truthfully said that every walk in life in old 

1 Archivio della Grascia. 


Florence was associated with the busy ministrations of these 
universal clerks and pleaders. Indeed, so much had the functions 
of the Notaries entered into the private life of the citizens, that 
whilst on the one hand every one was only too happy to go to 
law with his neighbour ; on the other, the curse of the law became 
a byeword. Those who had experienced the miseries of litigation 
were wont to greet their more fortunate neighbours with the 
trite saying : " May sorrow, evil, and lawyers be far from 
thee ! " 

The position of the Notaries in Court was immediately under 
the seats of the Judges. They were accommodated with raised 
desks, over which they were accustomed to bend for conference 
with their clients. 

Their dress was more sombre than that of the Judges. They 
originally wore black or dark grey cloaks without fur, but, at a 
later date, they obtained the right to add that decoration. 
Attached to the cincture of their long tunics they carried pouches 
or bags, much after the fashion of the merchants' Scarselte, 
containing writing materials, and these were the distinctive marks 
of their profession. They were usually worn quite plain and un- 
adorned, in contrast to the elaborate emblazonments upon the 
money-bags of the nobles and merchants. 

Strict regulations were enforced against Notaries contumacious 
or delinquent. For example, if any were ten days behind in pay- 
ment of taxes, dues, and contributions of all kinds, he was dis- 
barred, and not permitted to practise until he had fully discharged 
his indebtedness. 

Antonio Miscomini in " // Giuoccho delle Scacchi " has a 
woodcut of the Bishop's Pawn, as we call the dignitary on the 
King's right in the game of chess ; and this pawn is thus 
described by William Caxton in his " Playe of Chesse" in 
1481 :- 

" The third pawne, which is sette tofore the Alphyn on the 
right side, ought to be figured as a clerk, and this is reson that he 
should so be. For as moche as among y e common peple of 


whom we speke in this book they plete the differences, contencions, 
and causes while the whiche behoveth the Alphyn to gyve sentence 
and juge as juges. This pawne holdeth in his right hand a pair 
of sheres or forcetis, and with the lifte hand a great knyf, and on 
his gyrdell a penner and an ynkhorn, and on his eere a penne to 
wryte wyth. ... It appertayneth to them to cut the cloth 


signefied by the forcetis, as the coupers, coryers, tanners, 
skynners, bouchers, and cordwanners being signefyed by the 
knyf . . . and certain other crafty men ben named drapers, 
or cloth workers, for so they werke wyth wolle . . . Notayres 
. . . work by skynnys and hydes as parchemyn, velume, pittrye, 
and cordewan and tayllours, cutters of cloth, wevars, fullars, 
dyers ..." 

This extract, from the old French moralist, translated by 
Caxton, is interesting as indicative of the intimate relations which 
existed between the Notaries and the craftsmen of all kinds. 


The integrity of industrial methods was ever under the ken of 
legal personages. Besides this, Notaries were permitted to deal 
wholesale in textile and other commodities. In several docu- 
ments they sign their names with the twofold qualification for 
example, Ser Notaio-Lanaiuolo, Notary Woollen-merchant, or 
Dominus Lanarius-Notarius, Wool-stapler Notary. 

Whilst the senior Notaries assumed all the dignified and 
supercilious airs of their more highly-placed brethren of the 
Guild the Judges the younger were denied the title of Messere, 
until they had absolutely mounted the judicial bench, but were 
classed merely as Notaries whatever their attainments and 
influence might happen to be. In 1495 the Notaries were made 
a class apart, and were disqualified from entering any commercial 
house or accepting any trading agency. They were forbidden 
also to undertake retail business of every kind. 

With respect to the numbers of Judges and Notaries, who 
from time to time exercised their functions within the boundaries 
of the State, it is difficult to deal. The latter were, as might 
have been expected, always in a considerable majority. In the 
year 1358, Villani says, "there were nearly one hundred Judges 
and upwards of five hundred Notaries." This is a high average 
for a population which had been decimated by famine in 1346 
and by pestilence in 1348. Boccaccio records that the latter 
scourge slew, between March and September, as many as 96,000 
out of a total of 1 60,000 inhabitants ! x 

No writer has given posterity a more vivid and unvarnished 
story of the legal profession in old Florence than has Ser Lapo 
Mazzei, the good Notary of Prato, the wise man of " rough soul 
and frozen heart." A man of ascetic spirit, with sound religious 
sympathies, and a well-versed moralist, his letters are full of 

At jousts and during public festivals, if any member of 

1 G. Villani, " Cronica," xi. p. 93. 


the " Guild of Judges and Notaries " did anything whatever 
against ordinary decorum and convention, he at once became 
an object of satire, and no one hesitated to make fun of him. 
Breaches of correct manners often enough led to some funny 
fellow or other placing a thistle under the tail of the legal 
functionary's horse, and, as the poor beast tore back to his 
stable at a wild gallop, the air was rent with the derisive cries 
of the passers-by ! 

The Guild continued to thrive all through the " reigns " of 
the earlier Medici princes, although many of the prerogatives of 
the Judges were greatly curtailed and the peculations of the 
Notaries were covertly connived at. 

Almost the last record, in the Archives, of the " Guild of 
Judges and Notaries" was that of December 28, 1597, on 
which date a decree was signed by the Grand Duke Ferdinand I. 
which abolished the ancient title of the Guild and substituted 
that of " College of Judges and Notaries." Membership was 
made of three degrees: I. Judges, 2. Advocates, 3. Notaries; 
thus recognizing the intermediate order framed in the last 

Eight consuls were elected, two of the degree of Judge, two 
of that of Advocate, and four of that of Notary. The Council 
of the "College" was made to consist of eight members four 
Judges and four Notaries. A Matriculation Board was also 
formed, composed of two Judges, two Advocates, and four 
Notaries. Each year, it was ordered that two Advocates should 
be appointed as Counsel for the poorer citizens in criminal cases, 
who should plead for their clients, without taking any fee or 
emolument, the Guild undertaking to pay them. 

The great reputation of the Judges and Notaries, despite 
many and serious blots and blemishes, has been handed down 
to modern times. To-day, the legal profession is still the most 
important in Italy, and the most popular. The ambition, even 
of small tradesmen, well-to-do farmers, and skilled artizans is to 
see their sons graduates at law and advocates in the Court?. 


Of the ornaments of the Profession, the aphorism of good old 
Francesco Guicciardini is as true now, as it was in his time: " In 
Florence he who is a wise is also a good citizen, since were he 
not good he would not be wise." l 

1 "Opere Inedite," vol. iii. (Counsels of Perfection). 

" Stemma dell' Arte de Giudici e Notai" 
Four Gold Stars on a blue field, 1343 ; originally only one .star. 



I. ORIGIN. Meaning of the name. " Panni Franceschi" The dressing of 
foreign cloth. Merchants of the Calimala, 1190. Cavalcanti. The Chiefs of 
the Muggello. Early predominant influence of the Guild. 

II. CONSTITUTION. Statutes Code, 1201-1209. Pious Uses. Usury. Legal 
Procedure. Trade Restrictions. Matriculation. Associated Trades. Games. 
Hours of Work. Disputes. ^ Le bone usanze di Kalimala? Accounts. Official 
marking of cloth. Sharp dealers summarily dealt with. Tricks of the trade. 
Officers, and method of election. Consular Courts. Couriers. Inspectors. 
Sbirri. Agents. Dyers. Patchers. Cutters. Folders. Finishers. Bernardo 
Alamanno. Scarlatto tfOricello. Pre-eminence of Florentine dyers, 1279. 
Spots and blemishes. Defaulters and fines. 

III. DEVELOPMENT. Superiority of Florentine methods. Mercantile Com- 
panies. Friction between the Guilds. Guido del' Antella and his " Ricordanze." 
The "Calimala" in France. Famous Florentine Commercial Agents. A tor- 
sello packing, freight, and invoice. Credit. Expansion of Trade in 1338. 
Tariffs. Dangers of commercial journeys. Fame of Florentine cloth. Leading 
"Calimala" families. Foreign Competition. The Record of five hundred 

A 7ARIOUS names and styles are given in documents and 
* authorities for the Master Merchant-Guild of Florence : 
" The Guild of Merchants," " The Guild of Merchants in Foreign 
Cloth," "The Guild of Calimala," "The Guild of Calimala Fran- 
cesca," etc., etc. 

The spelling of the distinctive name "Calimala" also varies : 
" Kallismale" " Calimara" etc. etc. Its most probable derivation 
comes from the fact that the Residence and Offices of the Guild 
were situated in the Via di Calimala, a narrow street which led 
into the Mercato Vecchio, the Old Market, where also the 

chief business of the merchants of the Guild was transacted. 



Over the doorway of the Residence was stuck up a shield 
bearing the arms of the Guild : a golden eagle perching upon a 
white bale of wool in a red field ; and the same was blazoned 
upon the Gonfalon. 

Machiavelli, writing about the enterprise of the merchants of 
the " Calimala" says : " The production of tissues of wool was so 
flourishing, that the work-people had only to dye and finish them 
, in order to export them at once. The merchants who were 
S engaged in this industry founded an "important Guild, called 
y ' Calimala,' from the name of the street." 1 

With respect to the term " Francesca" or " Franceschi" as 
applied to the Guild, it is noteworthy that Fernando Arrivabene, 
in speaking of Religious Orders, says : " In 1 182 the celebrated 
St Francis, founder of the great religious Order, was born at 
Assisi, in Umbria, being the son of Pietro Bernadones, a man of 
humble birth. At the sacred font he was given the name of 
Giovanni, but when quite young he was called " Francesco," 
because of the facility with which he spoke French a language 
then necessary to the Italians in commerce, for which he was 
destined by his father." 

This may be taken to prove that before the year 1 182 there 
was active commercial intercourse between Italy and France. 
Doubtless the words " Francesca " and " Franceschi " were used 
originally in Florence as applicable to France and French markets 
alone, but they were quite easily extended to the produce of other 
countries. Thus " Panni Franceschi " signified cloth manufactured 
in England, Flanders, and Spain, as well as in France. 

From a remote period wool was the staple industry of the 

g Florentines, which they manipulated with such admirable assiduity 

Oand skill, that very soon the output of their looms was in excess 

jof the home consumption. Markets were sought beyond the 

^confines of the growing town, and traders, moving about in com- 

1 " Le Istorie di Firenze," 1. iv. 

- F. Arrivabene, " II Secolo di Dante," vol. i. chap. i. See also Dante, "II 
Paradise," xi. 88. 


panics for mutual (protectiori, undertook systematic journeys 
through the neighbouring States. 

With England commercial relations were in existence in the 
reign of Henry II. At all events that monarch established 
a biennial Cloth Fair within the precincts of the Priory of Saint 
Bartholomew in the city of London ; and he also encouraged 
the incorporation of a Guild of Weavers, taking as his pattern 
similar associations in Florence and in Flanders. 

With rare acumen the Florentine traders bartered their stuffs"") Jj 
for rich fleeces and fine woollen yarns, and, as they traded, the / 
eyes of both parties were opened the Florentines, to the superiority \, 
of the native raw material : the people of the countries, to the , 
superior workmanship. 

In addition to skill in weaving, Florentine workers excelled as 
cutters and folders ; whilst as dyers they were unrivalled. The J 
business of the Guild was exclusively the re-dressing and finishing J 
of foreign-woven woollen cloth. Foreign cloth submitted to the 
methods of the Florentine merchants became a material which 
had no peer, and which when put upon the markets of Europe 
obtained the very highest quotations. 

Whilst it is impossible to fix an actual date for the first 
formal incorporation of the " Calimala Francesco, Mercanti" it 
may be safely asserted that the initial steps were taken in that 
direction at the end of the eleventh century. At that period, 
under the fostering rule of the Countess Matilda, the industrial 
progress of Florence was already remarkable. 

Perhaps the earliest documental evidence of the existence of 
the " Calimala " as a body-corporate is in the year 1 190, when the 
" Merchants of the Calimala " are named. Under the same date 
it is recorded that the Florentine family of Cavalcanti bore a 
leading part in the foreign cloth trade ; and that they gave up 
their house in the Via di Calimala to serve as Offices for the 
purposes of the Merchants. 1 It may be interesting also to note 
that the very first names entered in the earliest extant Roll of 

1 Archivio di Firenze, No. xvii. 1422. " Spoglio Strozziano," v. i. p. 25. 


Matriculations of the Guild of " Calimala Francesco, " were those 
of the two sons of the donor of this property. 1 

From 1 1 90, and onwards, notices of the " Calimala " and its 
operations are frequent enough in the Archives of Florence ; for 
example, under date October 21, 1190 a document speaks of 
the Guild as in active operation. 2 It is in the form of a deed of 
gift of land and buildings for the benefit of the Guild, whereby 
Giambone di Ceffuli and Diede, his son, with the consent of 
their wives, make over irrevocably to Giovanni di Buoninsegna 
and Ugone d'Angiolotti, " Consuls of the Old Merchants of the 
Calimala," such and such property. 

The earliest entry in the List of the Consuls is dated 1192, 
when the names of Giano Cavalcanti, Ranerio di Ugone della 
Bella, and Ugo d'Angiolotti are recorded as having served the 

The importance of the " Calimala " Guild was duly recognised in 
the year 1 1 99 in a document, which states that in the Superior 
Council of the Commune the " Consules Mercatorum" Consuls of 
the Merchants' Guild, sat along with the three representative 
Priors of the Guilds and the ten Buonuomini under the presidency 
of the Podesta, Pagano de' Porcari. 3 At that date the number 
of the " Calimala " Consuls was six, their chief being Stoldo da 
Musetto. The business before the Council was the framing of 
a treaty of peace and amity with the robber chieftains of the 
Muggello, and other districts belonging to Lombardy, Venice, and 
Bologna, through which lay very important trade-routes. 

Stoldo da Musetto and Raniero della Bella, two of the 
Consuls of the " Calimala" were appointed to sign the treaty 
in which the Chiefs promise : 

1. To protect Florentine Merchants and their Merchandise 

throughout the feudal territory. 

2. To consider the requirements of Merchants as their own. 

1 Codex Ricciardini "Register, or Roll of dell' Arte dei Mercanti di Calimala, 
1235-1495," Lib. i. R. i. xxvii. 

2 Archivio del Stato Fiorentino " Cartapecora Strozziana Uguccioni." 

3 L. Cantini, i. 150, ii. 65. 



3. To supply trustworthy Guides for convoys, etc. 

4. To compel all their followers to observe these conditions. 
In i 202 Chiarito Pigli, a Consul of the Merchants of the 

" Calimala" was invested with full powers by the State Council 
to reduce Semifonte, a turbulent little republic, which long 


withstood the growing power of Florence, 
incited opposition by his effusion : 

" Florence stand back 
That 1 too may be a city." 

One of her poets 

In the treaties with Siena and Capraia, both in 1204, 
with Prato in 1212, and with Bologna in 1216, the first signa- 
tures are those of the Consuls of the " Calimala" Indeed the 
influence of the Guild had already assumed a potential position in 
the counsels of the Commune. 1 

1 S. Ammirato, "Dell* Istorie Florentine," vol. i. p. 76. 


The official designation of the " Calimala" during the first 
twenty years of the thirteenth century, was : " L'Arte e Universita 
de 1 Mercanti di Calimala'' 

The Statutes of the " Calimala " Guild are found in Latin in 
many manuscripts preserved in the Florentine Libraries. The 
earliest Codex bears the date 1301-1309; it is in the Maglia- 
becchian Library, and is in the handwriting of Matteo Beliotti and 
of Giovanni Ser Lapi, both Notaries of Florence, and of their 
assistants. 1 

It opens with a dedication to the Deity which states that 
the Constitution of " the Craft and University of the Merchants 
of the Kallismale of Florence" is projected in reverence of 
St Mary, St John Baptist, SS. Peter, Paul, Philip, James and 
Miniato, and all the Saints ; in honour of the Holy Roman 
Church and the Sovereign Pontiff; the Lord Podesta, the Lord 
Capitano, and the Commonwealth of Florence ; and, finally, in all 
due respect for all worthy merchants and companies belonging to 
the " Calimala? 2 

The First Part consists of thirty-two Sections, which treat, as 
the quaint heading says, " of all things pertaining to God and to 
the Soul." It speaks of pious observances, good works, integrity of 
conduct, obedience to magistrates, and of all else which goes to 
make a virtuous, industrious, and respectable citizen. 

The^^iQ^^rjofession o faith, with which the First Section 
deals, is noteworthy as indicating the intimate relation which 
existed^ in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, between the 
religion of daily life and its industrial and commercial activities. 
Every morning monks chanted Mass, in the ancient church of 
San Giovanni, on behalf of the members of the Guild and in 
furtherance of their enterprises. 

Guildsmen were constrained to observe the annual church 
festivals7~wHrcH~ numbered forty without reckoning the Sundays. 

1 Archivio del Stato di Firenze, Statuti dell' Arti, 1301-9. 

2 S, L. Peruzzi, " Storia del Commercio e dei Banchieri di Firenze." 

_ a 


- i 

j^.s-'g-xz: JL^:Z .z ^LJJL^. z'xz^xz^ < JL^^:^ 


On the Eve of St John Baptist, the Patron Saint of Florence, 
every member of the Guild was required to visit the church, and 
to deposit a wax candle of the weight of nearly half a pound as 
an offering to the Patron Saint. 

The " Merchants of the Calimala " bound themselves never to 
use blasphemous language. Usury was forbidden " because it is 
a sin specially displeasing to God." 

Among the pious uses of the Guild were numerous annual / nj^ ' 
contributions to the monasteries of money and gifts in kind for / \\ 
the relief of the poor and sick of the city. Several hospitals J 
also were maintained at the cost of the " Calimala" 

In matters of food and drink moderation and abstinence were 
advocated among all persons connected with the Guild. Forty 
pounds per annum was the very modest sum allocated for the 
table of the Consuls, who were boarded during their six months of 
office at the expense of the Guild at the Residence in the Via 
di Calimala. 

The workmen employed by the "Calimala" in the repairs and 
decoration of the churches of San Giovanni and of San Miniato al 
Monte were subject to strict rules of conduct. They, and indeed 
all the members of the Guild, were admonished, under pain of 
heavy penalties, including exclusion, to maintain unblemished 
lives, and to treat women, children, and domestic servants with 
respect and kindness. 

The Second Part of the Statutes contains forty-five Sections, 
which have to do with legal questions, pecuniary matters, disputes 
affecting members of the Guild, rules of membership and 
apprenticeship, and regulations affecting trading companies and 
associations of operatives. 

The First Section deals with the powers of the Consuls, who 
are decreed to be supreme over all persons and causes within the 
Guild. Methods of procedure, employment of legal assistance, 
and obedience to the ruling of the Court of Consuls, are all fully 

The Statutes dealing with the customs and laws of debtor and 


creditor are emphatic, and provision is made for winding up 
estates in bankruptcy. The sale of a bankrupt's effects could 
only be made at the instance of the Consuls in Council. Earnest 
money, ranging from ten to fifty per cent., was due at the 
initial stage of all transactions, and payments are required to 
be made by instalment. All receipts required the seal of a 
cashier, before whom they were signed, and they were attested by 
the Syndic of the Treasurer. Defaulting merchants, or agents, 
were posted at the Guild Office in the Via di Calimala ; but a 
time limit of ten days was allowed before resource to extreme 

All disputes, whether with respect to the interpretation of 
Statutes and Bye-laws of the Guild, or of the associated companies, 
or affecting the interests or customs of the Guild, were submitted 
to the Consuls in Court. A Special Commission of merchants 
was appointed by the Consuls, at their pleasure, to examine into 
all such matters. 

Merchants were not allowed to sell any other kind of cloth 
except that which was named in the Statutes, nor to export fine 
wool and any of the ingredients necessary for the industry. 

\jSales were confined to the interior of shops, and pieces of cloth 

, for sale were not permitted to be exposed outside. The exchange 

of stuffs between the warehouses of merchants was also forbidden. 

Nobody was authorized to deal in foreign cloth, unless furnished 

^with the formal permission of the Consuls. Persons seeking such 

"x. authorization were required to make an affidavit, before the Guild 

Notary, of the respectability of their family connections, the 

u integrity of their own character, and the probity of their pecuni- 
ary relations. 

Membership and participation in the privileges of the Guild 
were only obtainable through Matriculation, as the formal and 
pu^lic_recognition_of the applicant's fitness. Accepted candidates 
made a money deposit by way of caution-money. They were 
required to have exercised, at least for one year previously, one or 
other of the callings in connection with the " Calimala'' and to 



have been in habitual attendance at the Offices of the Guild, and 
at the warehouses of members, jponsors were required for good 
behaviour. The Matriculation-fee averaged four lire. Members 
of the Guild could introduce their sons without guarantees^ and 
without the payment of fees, but they were held responsible for 
their good conduct until they had reached maturity. 

It was competent for the Consuls, upon advice of the Notary, 
and with the consent of the General and Special Councils, to 
withdraw the privileges of membership, but a full statement of 
delinquency was required to be prepared, and to be posted in the 
" Calimala " Offices. The property of absconding merchants was 
confiscated by the Guild, and disposed of as determined by the 

Operative societies, or companies, were affiliated to the 
" Calimala " only with the view of avoiding confusion with similar 
organizations under the Wool Guild. Their privileges, and scope 
of operations, were strictly limited. No workmen, or group of 
workers, were permitted to work for both Guilds. The " Calimala " 
operatives were exclusively engaged in dealing with foreign-made 
woollen cloth. As a rule the " Calimala \ employed sets_ of 
families rather than aggregates of individuals. The Statutes and 
Bye-laws of the " Calimala " are full of records of names and 
occupations where these limitations are obvious. 

On the other hand " Calimala " merchants welcomed the sons 
of merchants of the other Guilds, and especially of the Guilds of 
" Judges and Notaries " and " Doctors and Apothecaries." The 
sole condition of the apprenticeship in such cases was abstention 
from the avocation of the parents. Sometimes premiums were 
paid for introduction into the leading mercantile houses, but gener- 
ally a mutual arrangement was effected, which not unfrequently 
had a matrimonial alliance in view. 

Apprentices were obliged to be the offspring of Florentine 
parents, but the actual place of birth was immaterial. They were 
forbidden to work for other masters than their own. When living 
under their master's roof, as was the rule, they were not 



allowed to be about in the streets after the last stroke of the 
evening bell. 
x-- Admission to the Guild, whether as apprentice or full work- 

X / man, required that the candidate should appear personally before 

Lthe Consuls and a Special Council of twelve merchants, who gave 
their unanimous testimony that he was satisfactory and worthy. 1 

Against apprentices and work-people generally severe penalties 
were enforced for tale-bearing, idle gossip and stirring up quarrels. 
Prohibitive bye-laws were passed which made the use of indecent, 
blasphemous, injurious, and provocative language, within the 
neighbourhood of the Markets, Old and New, punishable by 

All games of chance were forbidden after dark upon any 
premises belongmg~cTTITe Guild, or its affiliated associations of 
work-people. Wagering at any time was strictly forbidden. The 
only amusements tolerated indoors were Scacchi, chess, Merella, 
back-gammon, and Tavole, draughts. 

It was only permissible to work in foreign cloth between the 
matins bell and that of vespers. Operatives were forbidden to 
roam from w^rkshog_to^ workshop seeking work. Those who 
worked at home, or at factories, outside the city proper, were not 
allowed to visit the offices of the Guild, nor the establishment of 
their employers in the " Calimala " district ; but were required to 
receive and deliver their pieces of cloth, and to make all com- 
plaints to the syndics and overseers of the Guild, in their respective 

Certain Sections of the Second Part of the Statutes treat of 
the deaths of members, and the arrangement of their affairs. 
Whenever a full member, an associate, an apprentice, or the son 
of a member not yet matriculated, at least of the age of eighteen, 
died, the Consuls did not sit in Court that day. All workshops 
as well as the Guild Offices were closed until after the funeral, 
only ilsportello, the wicket, being open just as when looms were 
idle on a Festival. 

1 Archivio di Calimala, Codex vi. I, R. 87, Statuti 1309. 


The Third Part of the Statutes has fifty-six Sections dealing 
with " le buone usanze di Kalimala" the customs, practices, and 
regulations of the " Calimala" 

The First Section fixed the value of the denario, the standard 
coin of the Market, and enacts that any deviation in value can 
only be authorized by the Consuls in Council. 

Several Sections treat of the methods of payment of accounts, 
the length of credits, etc. These were, touse our modern phrase, 
" bills " at three months, two months, eight days, or at sight, issued 
upon notice of the forwarding of cloth, whether for finishing 
through the agents of the " Calimala " merchants from foreign 
sources, or handed to foreign buyers after completion of the 
process of improvement in Florence. 

It is distinctly stated that only cloth in whole pieces, imported 
from " beyond the mountains and from England/' may be sold 
retail by merchants of the " Calimala " in Florence, and by a fixed 
tariff"; but they were permitted to sell remnants of any kind of 
cloth to the Retail Dealers. 

All pieces of foreign cloth which had been " finished " in 
Florence by the workmen of the " Calimala" after receiving the 
official stamp of the Guild, were required to be put upon the 
market before the expiry of eight days. The reason of this is 
made clear by the Statute, which warns merchants against holding 
back stocks so as to raise the prices. 

At the time of the drafting of the Statutes, I 301-1 309, the 
price for dressed cloth of good quality was one silver florin per 
canna inferior pieces were cheaper. The canna, a yard measure, 
was the official standard. 

Sales were confined to the interiors of shops, and pieces and 
samples were not allowed to be exposed in doorways or windows. 
Very likely this was enacted in deference to representations of 
the Consuls of the Wool Guild, whose interests might have been 
prejudiced by rival sales of woollen-cloth. Garments made of 
foreign cloth, finished by the " Calimala" were prohibited as 
articles of merchandise in the markets of Florence. 



Upon every piece or length of the finished cloth, of every 
kind and colour, was attached an official ticket or card, easily 
visible, bearing the fixed price, the name of the villa or factory, 
and the name of the maestro or maker. 

An officer was enjoined to traverse all the streets, and to 
visit all the houses, wherein the industry was carried on, to see 
that every detail of the work was fully up to the standards, or 
models, which were deposited in the central hall of the " Calimala " 
Offices. All such matters were done with the utmost exactitude, 
and the smallest deviation, even in the size, or the writing upon, 
the tickets, was visited with fines and removal. 

Sometimes a manufacturer was wayward, but he had to pay 
for his folly by double fines, and, if he continued negligent, he lost 
his " Bollo" the Guild guarantee, and his name was removed 
from the Guild-Roll. 

As early as 1292, the Consuls of the " Calimala " had received 
the ratifications of the Greater and the Special Councils of the 
Craft to their punishment of delinquents by fines and by striking 
off the Matriculation Registers all members, who transgressed the 
rules and customs of the Guild, together with their accomplices 
and the receivers of all illegal material. 1 

Many Statutes in this Third Part are directed against fraud 
and irregularity in dealing. The aim of the " Calimala " was to 
conduct the business of the Guild in a strictly honourable and 
almost religious manner. Every contract begins with an ascription 
to the Trinity, and supplicates the benevolent aid of Saint Mary 
and all the Saints. 

The well-known profanity whereby a dishonest or grasping 
salesman passed his canna along the piece whilst each name of 
the Trinity, or names of the Saints reckoned so many bractia, 
forearm lengths, was constantly practised. Sales too by guess 
work on the part of the buyer, whereby a bid exceeding the actual 
value by Statute was accepted, was another scheme to defraud. 

Dipping cloth in water and, when soaked, stretching it beyond 

1 Prow. i. 3, p. 112. 


its standard length, and then selling it at the excess measurement, 
was a common trick in the baser shops. Sacchetti tells in one 
of his charming " Novelle " what happened to a certain Soccebonelli 
of Friuli, who went to buy some cloth. The merchant measured 
out four yards, but managed to steal some back again ; to cover 
the fraud he said to Soccebonelli : " If you want to do well with 
this cloth, leave it to soak all night in water, and you will see how 
excellent it will become." Soccebonelli did as he was told, and 
then he took the cloth to the cutter, and asked him to measure it. 
" It seems to me," said the latter, " to be five braccia" Socce- 
bonelli told how he had been cheated, but he gained little sym- 
pathy, indeed one man he met told him about a person " who 
bought a braccio of Florentine cloth, kept it in water all night, and 
by next morning it had shrunk so that there was none of it left ! " 1 

It was believed that many pieces of cloth, which came from 
Milan, and other places, and which were sold before the bales were 
opened, were dyed there. Andrea del Castagno, a naturalist- 
painter and cynical diarist, who lived 1390-1457, writes as 
follows : " I heard that a certain agent, Giovanni del Volpe by 
name, seeing that this sort of cloth sold well, thought of saving 
money for his firm by dyeing it in a cheaper and inferior way." 

Against all these and other sorts of fraud the Consuls con- 
stantly issued denunciations and penalties, the first offence 
counting for three gold florins, and the sale being pronounced 
null and void. Repetitions of dishonesty, or questionable dealing, 
were visited with still heavier fines, and even incurred suspension 
and expulsion from the Guild. 

The Fourth Part of the Statutes contains fifty-eight Sections, 
which deal exclusively with the election of the officers of the 
Guild and their functions. 

At the head were four Consuls, and a Treasurer, who were 
elected every six months by the votes of the Master-merchants 
generally, and confirmed by the Masters of the various Companies 
incorporated into, or affiliated to, the " Calimala " Guild : such as 

1 G. Biagi, "Private Life of Renaissance Florentines," p. 23. 


Dyers, Pressers, Cutters, Dressers, etc. Candidates had to be 
" adherents of the Parte Guelfa, lovers of the Holy Roman Church, 
and of untarnished reputation, in the Guild and in the Commune." 

The mode of election was as follows : the names of eligible 
candidates were first inscribed upon paper and placed in an urn, 
whence, under the direction of three merchants chosen as scrutators 
for the purpose, the oldest merchant present drew five slips. The 
five candidates, thus selected, could not be partners in the same 
business house or company, nor associated with any of the retiring 
five officials. 

Electors, who were fully matriculated and active members of 
the Guild, resident within the Contado, had, for each retail shop 
held by one individual, one vote ; whilst the possession of a whole- 
sale factory, gave the company two votes. The voting was by 
casting black and white beans. If any chosen candidate was 
'* white beaned " the three scrutators caused another selection of 
names to be drawn from the urn ; and so on until the election 
was consummated. Failure on the part of merchants to attend, 
and to vote, was punishable by fines ; whilst those who were 
finally elected were obliged to serve their terms of office, or forfeit 
twenty-five lire. Each Consul received a salary of about forty 
lire, and the Treasurer ten lire, for their terms of office. 

The four Consuls were bound by strict rules. They were 
not allowed to go beyond the boundaries of the Contado, except 
for religious purposes, or on behalf of the interests of the Guild- 
er, when so nominated, as ambassadors of the Republic to foreign 

The duties of the Consuls were : (i) to grant matriculation to 
those whom they considered worthy ; (2) to decide civil and 
criminal suits between members of the craft, and their work- 
people ; (3) to protect the factories, shops, and agencies of the 
members of the Guild, whether at home or abroad ; (4) to assist 
merchants in the recovery of credits ; (5) to disburse the charities, 
and superintend the pious works of the Guild ; (6) to represent 
the Guild on all official and ceremonial occasions ; and (7) gener- 




ally to safeguard the interests of the Guild and of its individual 

The Consuls were also called upon to nominate repre- 
sentatives of the Guild in all foreign countries, with which there 
were commercial relations. Lastly they had authority to appoint, 
when necessary, a Court of Arbitration to settle all trade disputes, 
whether within or without the obedience of the " Calimala" This 
court was composed of six influential merchants, to whom was 
entrusted the interpretation of the Statutes and Ordinances of the 

Every month the Consuls of the " Calimala " met the Consuls 
or Heads of the other Guilds of the City, in consultation, upon 
general commercial matters preparatory to the preservation of 
measures and provisions to the Council of State. These meet- 
ings bore a political aspect, and were all powerful in the govern- 
ment of the Republic. 

The Consuls were assisted in the exercise of their functions 
by two Councils. The first, called " General," was composed of 
twelve members, merchants belonging to separate houses or 
companies within the Guild. All matters of general interest 
were submitted, during three successive days, to this Council for 
approval or the reverse. The second Council, styled " Special," 
had eighteen members, chosen from among master-merchants, 
who had knowledge of special departments in the operations of 
the Guild and the affiliated Crafts. To them were submitted by 
the General Council all matters which required expert advice ; 
their session also extended over three days. Their report was 
handed to the General Council, who, after arriving at a final 
decision, placed the matter before the Consuls. To avoid packing 
the Councils no companies, or affiliated trades in connection with 
the " Calimala" were permitted to have more than two repre- 
sentatives. All votes were taken by means of beans. 

The Treasurer, who was required to be at least thirty years 
of age, was called upon to deposit a sum of one hundred lire, by 
way of caution money upon taking office. To his charge were 


committed the cash books and the keys of the Guild. He was 
not allowed, however, to make any payments on behalf of the 
Guild, without the approval of all four Consuls. To prevent 
undue influence, and to protect him from claims and bribes, no 
member of his family, or of his company, was eligible to succeed 
him until two whole years had passed after his term of office had 

In addition to these principal officers there were a number of 
officials who assisted them in the discharge of their duties : 

1. The Notary, a member of the "Guild of Judges and 
Notaries" was attached to the persons of the Consuls. He was 
always non-Florentine by birth and training, and was forbidden 
to be on social terms with the members of the Guild, and on no 
account to eat or drink with them ! He acted as spokesman for 
the Consuls in Court and at meetings a very sensible arrange- 
ment seeing that there was no educational or elocutionary quali- 
fication for the superior office ! It was his duty to instruct the 
Consuls in the execution of their functions, to explain to 
them the bearings of the Statutes, Provisions, and Bye -laws, 
etc., upon all questions of procedure, and to see that every regu- 
lation was duly observed by the Guildsmen at large, and by 
the Consuls in particular. He was directed to render his report 
every month to a special panel of merchants chosen by lot. In 
cases where matters required investigation and correction, the 
report with notes was submitted to a second panel consisting of 
twelve master-merchants. His office was for one year, at the 
termination of which his acts and general conduct were reviewed 
by three experienced examiners. They imposed upon the unfor- 
tunate fellow, fines, in proportion to the heinousness of his dere- 
lictions of duty ; and, so far as we can discover, Notaries never 
escaped scot-free, nor, it goes without saying, were they ever 
recompensed for faithfulness and impeccability ! 

2. The Treasurer, too, had an Assistant, or executive officer, 
whose title was Sindaco, perhaps Cashier. His duty was to 
check the current expenditure, and to keep the daily cash account 


at the Headquarters of the Guild. All payments passed through 
his hands after their delegation by the Treasurer, and he acknow- 
ledged receipts of all kinds. To his charge consequently was 
committed the common seal of the " Calimala" without the impres- 
sion of which no acts were deemed official. At the end of each 
day he submitted his report to the Treasurer, and transferred to 
him all cash in hand. 

3. In the month of January each year, three Sindacatori or 
General Inspectors, were chosen from those who had already 
served the offices of Consul or Treasurer. Their duty was : 
(i) to check the acts of officers of the Guild; (2) to expose 
irregularities and to publish the names of offenders ; (3) to 
institute legal proceedings against such persons ; (4) to endorse 
good government and praiseworthy services ; and (5) generally to 
point out and prevent impositions of all kinds. 

4. Once a year also twelve master- merchants, called Statutari, 
were empanelled for five days, generally in December, and 
housed and fed at the expense of the Guild. Their functions 
were to examine carefully the wording, and the sense of each 
Statute, with a view to any correction, or alteration, required in 
furtherance of new objects and interests connected with the Guild. 
They were called upon to read the charters of incorporation, and 
the regulations of affiliated companies of workpeople, and to 
listen to any complaints or requests made by them. Their labours 
were not ended until they had issued, in the vernacular, all additions 
or alterations, suggested or agreed to, and had posted them for 
public examination at the Offices of the Guild. 

Minor offices were Nunzii Heralds, Corrieri Couriers, and 
Chiavari Registrars. The first, two in number, made public 
proclamation of the acts of the Consuls, and published all matters 
necessary for the members of the Guild and their workpeople to 

There were three Corrieri two travelled between Florence 
and France, and one between Florence and Rome. Their duty 
was to fix, upon the spot, the amount of earnest money in all 


transactions of the merchants, and to hand over the balance, or 
to receive the same, upon the completion of all contracts and 
orders. The Chiavari were Registrars of population, member- 
ship, deaths, wills, etc., as well as auditors of the cash-accounts 
of the affiliated operative companies. They kept the keys of all 
the minor offices, and acted as cashiers for deposits by work- 
people and small dealers made in the Guild Treasury. Their 
number varied according to circumstances. 

Besides these officials there were small Committees of 
merchants appointed from time to time, who scheduled the 
wage-tables of operatives employed by the " Calimala" They 
superintended the numbering and labelling of foreign cloth before 
and after it had been finished in Florence. Once a year, in July, 
two merchants were deputed to fix the price of dyeing, to which 
all dyers were bound to adhere, unless, of course, they chose to 
take lower prices on their own account. 

The testing of weights and measures belonged to the care 
of another sub-committee, together with the examination of cloth 
lengths for the prevention of short measure, deficient weight, and 
inferior quality. 

The watching, cleaning, and lighting of the vicinity of the 
Residence of the Consuls was in the hands of a Watch Com- 
mittee of three or four members, who employed twenty or more 
sbirri or watchmen for the purpose, each armed with a stout staff 
and a lantern. 

Members of the Guild and their workpeople were subject to 
severe disciplinary measures, with respect to their behaviour in 
the streets, particularly in the Via di Calimala and in the 
( Mercato Nuovo. The entertainment of friends and social inter- 
course were subject to restrictions. The Consuls had plenary 
powers for dealing with all unruly citizens. Fines and imprison- 
ment in the Stinche city prison were impartially served out to 
friend and foe alike. 

The Fifth Part of the Statutes treats, in twenty Sections, of the 
Sensali Brokers or agents, the Tintori Dyers, the Racconciatori 


Patchers,the Tagliatori Cutters, the Piegatori Folders,and the 
Compitori Finishers employed by the merchants of the " Calimala" 

The duties of the Sensali were to inspect all imports of foreign 
cloth on arrival, and to distribute it to the various associations of 
workpeople. Within twenty-four hours of delivery in Florence at 
the Offices of the Guild, Periti detf Arte di Calimala, experts, 
made a careful examination of every piece of foreign cloth, with 
respect to quality of wool, manner of manufacture, and length and 
weight. Satisfactory pieces were at once sent on to the work- 
shops, whilst those which failed to satisfy the requirements of the 
trade were set apart for further consideration. 

Any citizen might be admitted to the position of Sensale who 
had a good character for piety in religion and uprightness in his 
business capacity. Such were required before being enrolled upon 
the books of the "Calimala" to give personal security in money, and 
bail in the persons of their friends. 

They had to render, once a month, to the Consuls sitting at 
the Residence, a detailed report of their operations with respect 
to the origin and condition of all cloth received, and to the pro- 
cesses to which it had been subjected. Their report also was the 
medium of complaints made by the work-people, and of delin- 
quencies on the part of those with whom the Sensali had dealings. 

The first operation in the treatment of foreign cloth was not 
the actual dyeing, but the preparation of the pieces for that pro- 
cess. When first unrolled they were generally found to be 
covered with knots and blemishes which coarsened the surface. 
These required the very greatest care to eradicate and smooth 
over, and this process was carried through by women as well as 
men, who used very fine plyers and needles and hot irons. Some- 
times even darning was necessary, but this had to be done with 
extreme delicacy, and with foreign wool of exactly the same 
quality as the piece. 1 

1 Note: Three old " Tiratoli" Fulling-Mills, belonging to members of the Guild 
were still standing in 1898 : in the Via de' Servi, del Castelluccio, and degli Alfani 
each bearing the name of " detf Aquila" the Eagle = the arms, or trade mark, of the 



The Dyers of the " Calimala " were required to weigh and 
measure all pieces of foreign cloth directly they received them 
from the Sensali. 

No piece of cloth was handed over to the dyeing cauldrons 
until it had been inspected in detail by the foreman of that group 
of workers. 

Most foreign cloth, by reason of its finer texture, in which 

it greatly surpassed the 
native manufacture, was 
also far more sympathetic 
in the absorption of colour- 
ing matter, and in the 
production of far more 
beautiful tints. After being 
dipped many times, and 
stirred by the introduction 
of smooth wooden poles, 
in the colour bath, the 
pieces were hung up to 
dry, stretched on frames. 
The opinion of expert 
dyers was asked at this 
stage, and attention was 
paid to fashion and fashion's 
behests. Every faulty 
piece was at once returned 
to the cauldron for a further 
soaking. Upon a successful result in the dyeing process, the 
pieces of cloth were again weighed and measured by the Sensali. 
Losses in weight and dimension were charged to the Dyers, 
who had the power of recovery by a fixed set-off price against 

The introduction of dyes and dyeing materials, and the rules 
concerning their use, were immediately under the administration 
of the merchants of the " Calimala? Vegetable dyes only were 



employed, and they were sought in every accessible land. The 
time and abilities of the most prominent citizens were given 
ungrudgingly to the discovery of new colouring plants and to their 
export to Florence. The acquisition of a new dye was just as 
much a question of State policy as was that of obtaining mordants 
and other adjuncts of the dyeing industry. The war with 
Volterra, for example, was made solely for the possession of the 
famous alum pits of that district, the use of which material was 

The chief plants used for dyeing were Guado or woad for 
blue, Robbia or madder for red, and Oricello or white moss for 

Woad grew in abundance all about Florence, but careful 
cultivation produced a wealth of growth, and ensured a richness 
of product, that made its rearing a lucrative employment along the 

Madder, too, was common enough in Tuscany, but the finest 
kind was found in the neighbourhood of Rome, where it had been 
a speciality ever since the time of Pliny. 1 The country about 
Chiana, and the valley of the Tiber, produced, in the fifteenth 
century, madder to the value of many thousand florins, almost all 
of which was bought up by the " Calimala " merchants. 2 Very much 
madder was imported from the valley of the Rhone. 

The introduction of White Moss was due to a Florentine 
" Calimala " merchant named Bernardo, or Nardo, Alamanno. His 
discovery of its property as a colouring medium was due to mere 
chance. He observed during a commercial exploration in the 
Levant, in 1261, that a little plant, when moistened with uric 
acid, gave out a crimson-violet liquid. Experimenting with this 
colouring matter he soon noted its value for distinction of hue 
and fastness of stain. Bernardo accordingly made up a goodly 
bale of the moss and took it back with him to Florence. 

Once home he called in the assistance of some members of 
the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries," and presently the eyes 

1 Pliny, Lib. xix. c. 3. - Targioni-Tozzetti, " Viaggi in Toscana." 


of the inspectors of the " Calimala " opened wide at the brilliancy 
of the new dye. Nothing so splendid had ever been seen in a 
Florentine dye-shop. The fortune of Bernardo was made, and he 
assumed for his family the cognomen of " Rucellai" which his 
descendants still retain, carrying on to-day in Florence their 
ancestral industry. One of his most famous descendants, Giovanni 
Rucellai, was a perfect type of the noble merchant who valued the 
dignity of his position. He not only knew the secret of making 
money, but he also understood how to spend it well. " I think," 
he wrote in his " Zibaldone" "Stray-thoughts," "that it has 
brought me more honour to have spent well than earned well." 

The method of extracting the superb scarlet-purple dye was 

very simple. Bunches of oricello were cut after flowering, and 

hung up in the sun to dry. The dried moss was then reduced to 

very fine powder, in a mortar, and mixed in a wooden vessel with 

a sprinkling of sour wine. Whilst stirring Uric acid was added 

gradually, and the mixture was well shaken once a day. To this 

liquid soda-ash was added, in the proportion of twelve parts to one 

of the powder, and the whole was filtered through chalk or lime. 

\ The utmost stringency was enforced upon dyers to ensure the 

^ perfection of the colours. Only the purest and most expensive 

\^ qualities were allowed to be used in the treatment of the. finest 

cloths. Woad was guarded with as much care as the white moss. 

No one was allowed to sell it outside the membership of the 

Guild, under penalty of a fine of five hundred pounds (20). Each 

dye had its strict sale price and official quotation in the markets. 

The privilege of selling colouring ingredients of all kinds for 
the purpose of dyeing woollen cloth was possessed exclusively by 
certain members of the Guild, and all other persons were for- 
bidden to offer such for sale. There is a note in the Florentine 
Archives to the effect that in the year 1347 a Company of 
" Calimala" merchants sold, to two merchants of Valencia, forty-four 
thousand pounds weight of woad for a sum of eight hundred 
gold florins (400). 1 

1 S. L. Peruzzi, p. 95. 


The export of robbia, beyond the limits of the State- 
especially what was called " di Romandiola" was strictly pro- 
hibited by a Rubric in the Statutes of 1415, a fine being imposed 
in fractions of one hundred lire. 1 

It was forbidden, moreover, to pass off one colour for another, 
and to imitate recognised tints, by a blending of various shades so 
as to deceive the dyer or the purchaser. Cochineal, Brazil-wood, 
and various other dyeing ingredients were used for other cloths 
than those classed as " the finest." Blending of colours was quite 
allowable, when special names were attached to cloth so dyed ; but 
all such names were required to be written on large white labels, 
and fastened upon each length or roll. Madder might be used 
freely in dyeing cloths other than fine white or grey of foreign 
manufacture, which were classed as Scarlattini. 

The favourite colour, Scarlatto d'oricello as it was called, 
in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, was a rich 
purple red, the product of the oricello dye, with a small admixture 
of madder. This shade was prescribed for all robes of state and 
for ceremonial tapestries and hangings. It was also used for the 
berretta, or cap, worn by all who had the right of entry to the 
Superior Courts. This scarlet colour was most carefully guarded. 
Any dyer who ventured to produce "Scarlatto di Colpo" imitation 
scarlet, was excluded from his trade, and all pieces of cloth so 
dyed were seized and burnt. Tuscan painters have preserved to 
us this rich colour in the backgrounds of their pictures and in 
the garments of their figures. 

As early as 1279 the pre-eminence of the Florentine dyers 
was affirmed by a correspondence which was conducted between 
the Papal Court and the Consuls of the "Calimala" Guild. The 
latter maintained the exclusive right of the Florentine dyers to 
dye and to finish the cloth used for the red robes of the 
Cardinals, and for other ecclesiastical purposes where that descrip- 
tion of cloth and colour was used. 

The dyers of Florence rapidly became famous the world over 

1 Statuta Florentiae, Rub. clxxii., 1415. 


Rosetti says : " The Venetians must confess that they have learnt 
their art from the Florentines." l Their skill and care are evi- 
denced to-day also by the fineness of condition, and freshness of 
colour of the hangings, tapestries, banners, costumes, etc. etc., 
which are preserved to us in many of the public museums and 
private collections. They rival, if indeed they do not surpass, 
the best workmanship of the present day. 

When dry, the cloth which was considered sufficiently and 
satisfactorily dyed was taken in hand by the Cutters, Patchers, 
and Piecers, who prepared the pieces for the final stage of its 
manipulation. These workpeople were often of inferior ability, 
and, as their work was comparatively easy and unimportant, they 
were very indifferently paid. Nevertheless their handiwork was 
rigorously inspected by the foremen of the Folders and Finishers 
lest they should make blunders in cutting the prescribed lengths 
of the pieces, and in joining pieces of cloth of dissimilar quality 
and shade of colour. Scrutiny was also exercised very keenly 
concerning remnants and cuttings, which might serve as market- 
able commodities for the Rigattieri or Retail Cloth-dealers and 
other hucksters of the markets. Patching was only resorted to 
in the second qualities of foreign cloth. The aim of the process 
was to hand on to the Folders and Finishers a perfectly even 

The Folders and Finishers were, along with the Dyers, the 
most important and most highly instructed of the labouring classes 
of Florence. They had first to detect and set right the blunders 
of the intermediate workers and their slipshod ways. Constant 
jealousies raged between the two sets of operatives, the former 
chaffing the latter for their fastidiousness, and the latter chiding 
the former for their carelessness. 

The Folders were required to test once more the weights and 
measures of the pieces of cloth, and to note the various qualities 
with a view to their several destinations. In the case of transit 
the rolls and pieces had to be folded in a peculiar way, which 

1 G. Venturi Rosetti, " L'Arte del Tingere." 



should do nothing to disturb the " nap " of the cloth, or cause 

The Finishers had to smooth the cloth and correct its surface, 
by the employment of heat either applied by weighted rollers, or 
by heated flat-irons. The methods which they used have never 
been exactly stated, but that they were laborious, and not a little 
technical, may be gath- 
ered from the fact that 
every yard of finished 
cloth was submitted to 
rigorous examination. 

A special Committee 
of Experts, entitled, 
Ufficiali delle Macchie e 
Magagne, Inspectors 
of Spots and Blemishes, 
was employed by the 
" Calimala " Guild to go 
the round of the Cloth 
Finishers' workrooms to 
test the cloth in hand 
under every condition. 
Work, whether cutting, 
piecing, patching, finish- 
ing and folding, was 
submitted to the minu- 
test examination. Inferior workmanship, presence of blemishes 
and roughness of surface were all heavily penalised. Fines 
were imposed, and, in case of non-payment, the whole guarantee 
or bail of the delinquent, or a portion of it, could be seized. 
The defaulters' names were posted at the " Calimala " Offices, and 
in serious cases they were deprived of the right to prosecute their 
trade within the boundaries of the city. 

Such then were the Statutes of the "Calimala" Guild, and 
such their interpretation and uses which, promulgated in the 



first decade of the fourteenth century, and many times revised 
and added to in the succeeding centuries, became the substance 
of the Constitutions of all the other Guilds. 

In documents preserved in the Florence Libraries, and among 
the archives of many noble families, very interesting notices are 
to be found, treating of the members, their duties, their charities, 
and of the general progress of the Guild. Among them are many 
directions dating from the middle of the twelfth century concern- 
ing the upkeep, decoration, etc., of the Baptistery of San Giovanni ; 
and records of the purchase and sales of land in 1 192, i 193, and 
1216, on behalf of the Hospital of Sant' Eusebio. In 1228 and 
1237 many Provvisioni, or agreements, were made with respect to 
the ancient Church of San Miniato al Monte, which was placed under 
the protection of the " Calimala" In the latter year the cere- 
mony of taking an oath by all members of the Guild was enjoined. 
This oath, which was registered before the Consuls, bound each 
member to observe for the year all the regulations and bye-laws, 
customs, and privileges, of the Guild. 

The constitution of the first Florentine mercantile company 
was, in connection with, and under the auspices of the " Calimala" 
The Provvisione creating it bears date 1234, and it was enrolled 
for the sale of foreign cloth after it had been redressed and 
finished by the workmen connected with the Guild. One of the 
earliest companies was that of the Scali, which failed in 1326, 
after being in existence for nearly one hundred years. 

In a Codex of the fourteenth century the following list is 
given of mercantile companies, working in correspondence with 
the " Calimala" Guild 1 : de' Canigiani, degli Spini, de' Migliori 
de' Guadagni, di Lapo Bounagrazia, di Buonaccorso Soldini, de' 
Marino Soldani, di Diotifici Filippi, di Lapo Marini, di Lapo 
Soldini, di Simone Giamini, and di Diotisalvi Artimisi. A parch- 
ment of the year 1300 contains twenty-one other names, including 
Cenchi, Bardi, Pazzi, Frescobaldi, Peruzzi, Scali, and Nerli. 

1 Archivio del Stato di Firenze, Statuti dell' Arti, 1301. 



It should be remembered that the " Calitnala " merchants 
dealt with foreign-made cloth only. It was expressly prohibited 
for them to dress, finish, keep, or sell, cloth manufactured in 
Florence. This regulation was due not only to the risk of 
damage to the native industry in wool-weaving under the Guild 
of Woollen Merchants, but it was also a necessary precaution 
against difficulties with the operatives. 

There was, as might have been expected, a constant danger 
of confusion and friction between the agents and the workpeople 
employed by the Guilds. Many Provvisioni, or regulations, were 
passed to minimise and to remove all clashings of interests 
Separate communities of Dyers, Piecers, Patchers, Cutters, 
Folders, and Finishers, were established in connection with the 
*' Calimala " merchants, in order to prevent workpeople engaging 
themselves under the two Guilds. On no account would a 
" Calimala " merchant employ an operative who did not belong 
to a " Calimala " organisation. 

There was also from time to time friction between the merchants 
and workpeople attached to the " For Santa Maria " " the Guild 
of Silk Manufacturers." This Guild had also dyers, carders, and 
other operatives, as well as agents and salesmen. In 1324 
mutual arrangements were made whereby certain associations of 
operatives, and certain workshops and stalls for the sale of the 
merchandise of the two Guilds, were set apart so as to avoid the 
clashing of interests. The same year saw too the first official 
Register of " Calimala " merchants in foreign lands. 

With respect to the foreign relations of the merchants of the 
41 Calimala " there were equally precise and minute regulations as 
there were concerning the details of the home industry. 

By the end of the thirteenth century there was not a country 
in Europe where Florentines were not the chief controllers of 
trade. The " Calimala " Consuls obtained the authorization of 
the Government of the Republic to establish Agencies in 
all the principal wool-producing and cloth - manufacturing 


One of the agents of the " Calimala " Guild, who travelled far 
and wide, was Guido di Filippo di Ghidone dell' Antella. He was 
born in Florence in 1254, and has left the " Ricordanze," * or 
diary, of his journeys and experiences. In 1267 he went, he 
says, to Genoa on business connected with the Company of 
Lamberto dell' Antella, and dwelt there eighteen months. In 
1270 the Company of Rinuccio Cittadini sent him to Venice, and 
there he remained two years. With his father he visited Ravenna 
in 1273 on business connected with a loan. His next employ- 
ment was at home five years in the office of Lamberto delT 
Antella, and twelve years in the counting-house of the Scali 
Company. During the last period he was sent as representative 
of his house at various times to Pisa, to Naples, to St Jean 
d'Acre, into France, and to the Court of the Pope. Leaving the 
Scali, of which company he had been made a partner in 1290, he 
lived in France three years, working with the Franzesi. In 1296 
with two partners, Neri Filippi and Lapo Ciederni, he rented a 
tavola^ banker's table, in the Mercato^Nuovo from the banking 
house of Bacchejrelli. Two years later he threw in his lot with, 
Giovanni de' Cerchi and his Company, but quitted them in 1301 
when the quarrel between the Cerchi (Bianchi) and the Donatt, 
(Neri) began. 

In every part of France, which now became a second 
Fatherland to the Florentines, the " Calimala " merchants had 
agencies : in 1'lle de France Paris, and St Denis ; in Cham- 
pagne Provins, Lagny, and Troyes ; in Berri Bourges ; in 
Provence Marseilles, Toulon, Aries, Saint Gilles, and Avignon ;. 
in Languedoc Nimes, Montpellier, Narbonne, Beziers, Perpignan,, 
Carcassonne, and Toulouse. 

In all these places Florentine agents and traders abounded,, 
receiving and executing orders, and, whilst they rendered obedience 
to the laws of the land wherein they resided, they laboured under 
the same regulations as these which ruled their countrymen at 
home. The agency at Nimes was established in 1296, and that 

1 Archivio Storico Italiano, I. Series, vol. iv. p. 5. 



in Paris in i 325, the same year which saw Montpellier become a 
residential and commercial centre for Florentines. 

The French agencies were placed under the direction of a 
resident Consul, or Consuls, for later on there were two or three 
such magistrates, chosen by the votes of the resident "Calimala" 
merchants and traders. They were received at the Court of the 
King, and treated with 
the honours of an am- 
bassador from a foreign 
power. Their duties and 
powers were exactly simi- 
lar to those of the Consuls 
in Florence. They had 
jurisdiction over posts, 
couriers, and communica- 
tions of every kind. They 
confirmed dates, routes, 
and payments, for all com- 
mercial travellers, and re- 
ceived reports as to the 
transit of merchandise. 
They also controlled all 
transactions between mer- 
chants of the Guild and 
native traders at the 
country wool-sales and 
cloth-fairs, which were very numerous all over France, and 
especially in Champagne. 

In these and other multitudinous duties the Consuls were 
assisted, as in Florence, by Councils and officials of various 
degrees. Appeals were allowed to the Court of the Consuls in 
Florence, and the ruling of these Magistrates was accepted as 

Paris was, of course, the central seat of the "Calimala" Guild in 
France, and there the scions of many influential mercantile houses 



were employed from time to time. Among the more famous were 
Brunetto Latini, Cino da Pistoja, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and 
the Giovanni Villani. 

Pieces of cloth consigned to Florence were carefully measured 
and weighed before despatch. Each bore in two places the 
seal of the agency, making the consignment, and, in addition, a 
label indicating the length, the width, the price in gold florins, the 
name of the manufacturer, and the name of the town of origin. 

From ten to twelve pieces made a torsello or bale, which was 
wrapped in felt, and covered with two thicknesses of canvas 
sacking. The bales were conveyed generally direct to one or 
other of the General Depots at Narbonne, Montpellier or Mar- 
seilles, and thence, after inspection by " Surveyors of cloth-in- 
transit," stationed at each centre, despatched to Florence. 

The twofold trade of the " Calimala " merchants in the 
purchase of native cloth, with its transport to Florence for 
redressing, and the sale of finished pieces received from the 
workshops of the Guild, was of course not confined to France 
alone. Agencies and offices were opened in Italy, in Spain, in 
Portugal, in Flanders, in England and in Germany. 

The following is a copy of an invoice of the contents of a 
torsello forwarded from Avignon by Piero di Borgognone and 
Company to Alberti di Borgognone, their principal in Florence, 
by way of Nice, under date December I4th, I348 1 : 

" Nel Torsello segnato I. si tra 

i Melle (piece of cloth) violetto di Borsella da Gian di Lintotto. 

i Bianco di Borsella de' p : e di macchero. 

i Melle verdetto di Borsella Gilis taccho. 

i Violetto di Borsella Gilis di Veduena. 

i Violetto di Bors : Gian di Businghen. 

i Melle Alcipresso di Bors : Gian fenpo. 

1 1 Scarlattini di Loano Gualteri Vilignalla. 

i Verde fistichino di Loano franco Randolfo. 

1 G. F. Pagnini, vol. ii. p. 99. 


I Melle bruschino Domenico Pietro Vanselfelt. 
i Melle mandorlato d'Ordinaido d'Angela Chiaro. 
I Nera di Bernai rubino nattino. 
I Bigio di Guanto Gran locrano. 

fu questo per invoglia, ebbevi feltro, e tela doppia (packed in 
felt and double corded). 

Segnato II. Soretti e uno Cappucia di Cafaggino di Gherardo." 

This bale consequently contained thirteen pieces of cloth and 
also a garment and hood for a special customer. Francesco 
Balducci says 1 that only ten pieces went to a bale. 

The Guild of " Calimala " forbade its members to give credit 
beyond three months under severe penalties for non-observance. 
Later on the time was extended to six months for consignments 
of foreign cloth to or from Florence, and to eight for bales of wool 
from beyond the seas. 

Under date 1338 Villani 2 records that: "the 'Calimala' 
merchants receive annually more than ten thousand pieces of cloth, 
from over the mountains and from France, to be improved in 
Florence. Their value exceeds three hundred thousand gold 
florins, all sold in Florence, without including such as was sent out 
of the city, and sold in the East, along the Mediterranean and in 
all the principal cities of Europe." 

The demand for the finished cloths of Florence became 
enormous, and there was consequently a tendency to keep up the 
prices not alone of the commodity, but of the freights. This 
condition of things culminated in the middle of the fifteenth 
century, when the means of communication became more ex- 
tended, and the business relations of the " Calimala " merchants 
increased prodigiously. 

To retain their hold upon the markets of Europe, they 
absolutely forbade the emigration of skilled workpeople, and the 
export of materials, and objects pertaining to the Guilds. 3 Heavy 

1 " Manuale del Mercante Florentine," torn. 2, p. 45. 

2 G. Villani, Lib. xi. cap. 94. 3 Villani, xi. 5. 


rates were charged upon cloth manufactured in, and finished for, 
countries which erected tariffs against Florence ; as much as five 
gold florins was the impost for pieces of thirty-four braccia in 
length. 1 " The objects of this policy, as Pagnini rightly says,' 2 
was to create reciprocity, to prevent competition, to check the 
output, and to limit the traffic." 

The " Calimala " Consuls and Council in their corporate 
capacity, and also the individual companies of merchants, were 
accustomed to send Visiting Inspectors from time to time on 
tour to look after the interests of the Guild and of the Trade. 
Matters which concerned private interest and enterprise were 
no more thoroughly investigated than questions of international 

The dangers to which merchants and agents were exposed at 
the hands of hostile and oppressive rulers of foreign states, or con- 
trollers of foreign manufactures, were plainly indicated by the 
seizure, in 1271, by order of King Philippe le Bel, 3 of all Floren- 
tine traders in France. He and his rapacious counsellors extorted 
heavy ransoms, making no discrimination between honest and 
fraudulent merchants. 4 

The Visiting Inspectors had no light work to do, but they 
entered upon their adventurous undertakings bravely. They 
generally started on the journey in companies, and were joined 
by others desiring to visit France and other European states for 
business or for pleasure. 

The sole means of locomotion was by horseback. Gaily 
attired, and accompanied by their wives and other lady friends, 
and many retainers, and much baggage, the cavalcades assumed 
imposing dimensions, and became occasions of much revelry and 
of many adventures. When time hung heavy, or when darkness 
set in, a common occupation was to count their beads and to 
recite Pater-Nosters in fulfilment of vows taken before they started 

1 Statutes 1309-1316, Bk. iv. 3. 2 Pagnini, vol. ii. 88. 

3 Note: Dante calls Philippe le Bel "Mai di Francia" Evil Star of France. 
" Purgatorio," canto vi. 4 G. Villani, vii. c. I and 6. 


at the altars of their Patron Saints. Every voyager had also 
before leaving his casa, or his podere, or his villa, taken the wise 
precaution of making his will, and of committing his soul, and 
all his earthly belongings too, to the protection of St Mary and 
St John the Baptist. 

The fame of the Florentine cloth was vastly enhanced by the 
high reputation of the " Calimala " merchants. Whilst eagerly 
seizing every opportunity for self-enrichment and for the aggran- 
disement of their beloved city, and the honour of their Guild, they 
were, all the while, quite remarkable for self-restraint and nobleness 
of character. 

Between the years 1401 and 1548 we find, in the public 
records, that the following families contributed most members to 
the Guild : Altoviti, 108 ; Strozzi, 107 ; Marbegli, 75 ; Ghiudetti, 
72 ; Acciaiuoli, 71 ; Capponi, 61 ; Nasi, 59 ; and Solderini, 55. 
The names also of the following appear many times : Alberti, 
Albizzi, Adimari, Amidei, Buondelmonti, Cerchi, Frescobaldi, 
Guicciardini, Lamberti, Medici, Pazzi, Peruzzi, Ridolfi, Ricci, 
Spini, Tornabuoni, Vettori, and Villani. Still earlier families were 
Cavalcanti, Donati, Bardi, Corsini, Rinucci, Pucci, Ardinghetti, 
Rinuccini, Chermonisti, Bandinelli, Buonaccorsi, and Dell' Antella. 

All Europe looked on amazed at the enterprise, the wealth, 
and the power of the city on the Arno, and for many a long day 
no merchants and no manufacturers but hers ruled the inter- 
national commerce of the world. 

The methods and the secrets of their craft had the " Calimala " 
merchants safely guarded, but there was springing up in England^ 
and in Flanders a spirit like unto their own. There was no reason ^/ 
why other men should not do what the Florentines had done, and ^X 
many a student, and many a statesman, as well as many a trader, 
set their minds to work to find out the why and wherefore of the ^y 
ascendancy of Florence. 

England stepped first of all into the arena, and, under Henry 
VII., a law was passed by the British Parliament to prohibit the 
export of unshorn cloth. Other countries followed suit. This 


was a blow to Florence from which she never recovered, for, 
together with the prohibition of export, there appeared upon 
the scene native workmen, who had learnt something of the 
methods of the Florentines. 

Before she had got over the effects of adverse legislation and 
treatment on the part of her erstwhile customers the Grand Duke 
Cosimo I., with fine old Florentine protectionist instinct, issued, 
in I 561, a decree of the Government, which forbade the importation 
of serges and light woollen cloths from England and Flanders ! 
This action was by way of " cutting off one's nose to vex one's 
face ! " This was a final and a deadly blow, and the whole stately 
edifice of the " Arte e Universita de Mercanti di Calimala" 
tottered to its fall ! 

In 1359 the State had bestowed upon the " Calimala" Guild 
a site for the erection of a Residence for the Consuls and their 
Courts, in lieu of their narrow quarters in the old Cavalcanti 
Palace. The doors of this Temple of Commerce were opened in 
prosperous times, but they were closed in days of waning power. 
Who closed them, or when they were shut, never to open again, 
no historian has recorded. After the Republic was abolished, in 
the year 1532, the grand old Guild drooped slowly but surely, 
but its death and burial are alike unnoted, and no Scrivano has 
left even one word to tell of its last moments. 

The " Calimala " Guild had held a preponderating position- 
industrial, commercial, social, and political, in the history of 
Florence for five hundred years and more ! 





I. ORIGIN. Wool the oldest textile industry. A quaint old "Tract." An 
ancient Florentine document. The Countess Matilda. A fulling-mill of 1062. 
Early workers in wool. Actual origin of Guild uncertain. Destruction of 
documents by Ciompi in 1378. Home consumption. Foreign markets. Two 
sections of original craftsmen. Separation of " Calimala " merchants. 

II. CONSTITUTION. Similar to that of " Calimala " Guild. Particular legis- 
lation to avoid confusion. Code of 1301-1309. Duties of Stimatori and 
Sensali. Adulterations. Standard weights and measures. Payments in ad- 
vance. Letters of credit. Many revisions of the Statutes. 

III. THE UMILIATI. Their influence, methods of work, and example. 
Borgo d'Ognissanti workshops and workpeople. Great encouragement of wool 
industry. A new bridge. " Pittiglioso ! " The Cascine. An anachronism. 
The " Brethren ;; retire from business. 

IV. DEVELOPMENT OF THE GUILD. Many classes of workpeople. Pro- 
cesses. The Carding-comb. Dyers. Cost of dyeing. The Duke of Athens. 
Favourable regulations. Good wages. Fixity of tenure. Pawning. Noises. 
Games. Emigration. An old loom. Supply of wool. Inferiority of Tuscan 
products. Lana di Garbo. Trade with Great Britain. Prices of raw wool 
Freights. Tariffs. Wool sales. Transport. Leonardo da Vinci's ship-canal. 
Description of woven cloths. Allied mechanical trades. Foreign workpeople 
welcomed. Florence covered with cloth. Prosperity. Cloth sales. Residence 
of the Consuls. Factories in the Contado. Momentous questions. Protection. 
Strikes. Hardening of prices. Foreign competition. Taxable articles. ''''Fare 
il Signore!" Tapestry and Cosimo de' Medici. The Military Order of the 
Knights of St Stephen. A new Constitution. Silent looms. 

THE manufacture of woollen cloth is doubtless one of the 
most ancient industries of the human race. In an old 
volume, entitled " Trattato della Pittura, Scultura, ed Archi- 
tettura," written by Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo, painter of Milan, 
with the sententious legend out of Ecclesiastes : " In the 
hands of the skilful shall the work be approved," there is the 
following quaint reason for the existence of the wool industry 1 : 

Published in English. Oxford, 1598. 



"In so much as our bodies being borne naked by Nature were 
diversly annoyed by the intern perateness of the ay re, it most in- 
geniously invented the Art of Weaving and Tailery ; not so 
much for defence and safegarde of our bodies from iniury of the 
wether, as for ornament and decencie ; and to the selfe same end 
hath it also found out (in a word) all the other Mechanical 

The historical records of every civilized nation give early and 
prominent position to the working of, and the trading in wool. The 
Persians, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, the great 
civilizing and commercial races of the world, used and improved 
the manufacture of woollen cloth. Under the universal dominion 
of the latter power the extension of the woollen industry syn- 
chronised with that of military and civil jurisdiction, the trade, 
then as now, followed the flag. 

The first reliable notices of the woollen industry in Tuscany 
present it to us as already in a flourishing condition, and giving 
employment to the majority of the inhabitants of the towns and 
villages. From a document, 1 dated May 10, 846, it appears that 
the weaving of wool was carried on in Lucca, under terms of 
trade association, and with a code of regulations. 

We may fairly presume that Florence was not far behind her 
neighbour in the matter of date. The capital of an enlightened 
succession of Marquises and Dukes of Tuscany, we may be 
sure that the principal industry of all time was not without 
encouragement and co-operation, within the limits of her 
influence and jurisdiction, during the ninth, tenth, and eleventh 

Under the beneficent rule of the Countess Matilda the 
prosperity of Florence advanced greatly. The workmen at her 
looms and the merchants in her marts spread her fame far and 
wide. The Commune became a Republic of Industry and 
Commerce, and her wool merchants and manufacturers were 
enrolled among the earliest of the Consuls. 

1 Peruzzi, p. 64. 


Among the many trades which were actively prosecuted in 
the eleventh and twelfth centuries the following are noted in the 
portions of the State Archives which are preserved : 

14 1062. Gualchiera a fulling-mill." 

11 1096. Petrus tentore wool dyer." 

" 1136. Scartone pettinario woollen-comb maker." 

" 1148. Petrus fil. Petri pelliparius cloth-presser." 

" 1193. Guerius tonditor sheep-shearer." 

The scenes of these early industries was well within the 
Secondo Cerchio, Second Wall, of 1074 : security of life and pro- 
perty not being assured in the Contado beyond. In the Prato, 
which along with Monte Orlando, was enclosed within the city's 
boundaries, in 1107, were located a great number of workers in 
wool. The dressing of wool was also carried on in Via Alfani, 
Via dei Servi, Via Ginori, Borgo Pinti, Via della Pergola, and in 
the Piazza delle Travi, in the twelfth century. 

In a State paper of the year 1197 is a law concerning the 
cities and lands of Tuscany, wherein the people of Florence are 
described as : " wool-workers from Olivero." 1 

The precise date of the first incorporation of the " Guild of 
Wool," in Florence, is quite uncertain. Much of the knowledge 
we can obtain of its inauguration is from presumption, for 
during the memorable riots of the Ciompi in 1378, most of the 
documents of the Guild were destroyed by fire. This fact, taken 
in connection with the poverty of the remnants of the State 
Records, leaves us very much in the dark with respect to the 
initial organization and early development of the Guild. Perhaps 
the earliest record preserved is a list of the names of the Consuls 
up to the year 1 138. 2 

Almost certainly the " Wool Guild " was the first Corporate 
Society or Trade Corporation in Florence, and was in existence 
before her wool and cloth merchants began to travel through 

1 L. Cantini, *'Saggi," vol. iii. p. 73. 

~ Pagnini, "Delia Decima," vol. ii. p. 83. 


Europe. The output of the Florentine looms was in excess of 
the demand on the spot, consequently enterprising manufacturers 
looked abroad for markets. 

This development led to the division of the wool-workers of 
Florence, and the establishment of a separate Corporation of 
dealers and finishers of foreign-made cloth the " Calimala" In 
a very true sense the " A rte delta Lana " was the mother of the 
"Arte di Calimala" but as time went on, the greater profits 
obtainable by the latter drew into membership the more consider- 
able of the citizens, and hence the " Calimala " merchants took the 
first place in wealth and influence, whilst native manufacturers 
had to be content with the second place. 

Notices of the Guild are frequent during the first thirty 
years of the thirteenth century, and the Consuls signed their 
names to Treaties with other States along with the Consuls of the 
Guilds of " Judges and Notaries," " Calimala;' " Silk Merchants," 
and " Bankers." 

The organisation of the Wool Guild marched with that of the 
" Calimala" merchants. Before the promulgation of the Statutes, 
drafted 1301-1309, the "Guild of Wool" was ruled by Priors, 
later called Consuls, whose number in that year was eight. They 
had power to make regulations and laws for the direction and 
benefit of the Guild, and had full jurisdiction in all civil and 
criminal causes over all enrolled members. They were chosen 
by lot from among the most skilful masters of the craft. 

Matriculation followed the rule observed by the " Calimala " 
Guild, qualifications of birth, education, and parental income, 
were necessary. The relations between the matriculated members 
of the Guild and the operatives, engaged in all the various pro- 
cesses of the wool industry, were quite the same for the two 

About the year I 300 three separate sets of master-merchants 
were empanelled to assist the Consuls in the execution of their 




office. These were called ConsigUeri, Advisers or counsellors, 
Regolatori Officers of byelaws and regulations, and Provveditori 
degli Ordini Superintendents of enactments. 1 

The adoption of the Code of Statutes, enacted for general 
use by all the Guilds in 1301-1309, was agreed to by the 
members of the Wool Guild almost in its entirety. 

At first sight it seems probable that difficulties and confusion 
would arise between the " Calimala " Guild and that of Wool. 
Certainly there were some inconveniences, at an early period, due 
to the similarity of the merchandise in which each was interested. 
However it was soon seen that the business of the former had 
exclusively to do with the finishing of foreign made woollen 
cloth, and had nothing in common with the treatment of raw 
wool and the manufacture of cloth. 

Regulations and rules were passed by the Consuls and 
Councils of each of the two Guilds, which rendered it practically 
impossible for one to injure the other. No member of the Wool 
Guild was allowed to keep or sell foreign-woven cloth. The 
weaving of expensive cloth was restricted perhaps with a view 
to avoid competition with the trade of the " Calimala " Guild in 
redressing fine foreign-made materials. On the other hand cloth 
made up of inferior cardings was condemned to be burnt a 
wise precaution against any temptation to force shoddy pieces 
upon the market. 2 

The right of the " Guild of Wool," and of its Consuls and duly 
elected officers, to control the business and the workpeople of 
the Guild was affirmed by a special rubric. At the same time 
the members were bound not to interfere in any way with 
members of other Guilds. Persons not matriculated in the Wool 
Guild were forbidden to make and sell woollen pieces, and further 
were restrained from mixing dyes or doing other things connected 
with the wool industry. 3 

The Stimatori and Sensali, the official measurers and brokers 

1 L. Cantini, "Saggi," p. 96. 2 Statutes of 1309-1316, Bk. iv. 45. 

3 Statuta (C.) F. 1415, Rubs. xlv. and xlvii. 


of the Guild, acting under the express orders of the Consuls, 
made scrupulous examination of the pieces before they were 
placed upon the market. Each piece had to be of the exact 
standard length and weight the latter varied considerably after 
the processes of fulling and dyeing. 1 

Falsifications, adulterations, and irregularities of all kinds 
were severely visited by fines, destruction of the cloth, and post- 
ing the names of all offending manufacturers and merchants at 
the Offices of the Guild. The mixture of linen thread with woollen 
was condemned, except its quality and description were plainly 
marked upon the woven cloth. This industry however was 
fairly prosperous, especially for exportation : cloth thus manu- 
factured bore the name of Moscolato, mixture, and Tintilano^ 
grained. 2 

A piece of woollen cloth usually measured from thirty to 
thirty-two ulne, the yard-measure of the workshops was a 
little longer than the canna of the " Calimala," the yard-measure 
of commerce. The canna, as used by the " Guild of Wool," 
measured one and a half braccio, or a forearm's length, each 
braccio being 22.97 inches, English. 

The average weights of woollen yarn in the bundle were as 
follows : Garbo serges, one pound, for fine qualities, either white 
or coloured, one pound four ounces ; for San Martina, finest 
qualities only, one pound five ounces ; each weight being that 
shown by the scales of the Battitori, Wool-beaters. 

It was permissible to buy and sell pieces of cloth, boldroni r 
whole fleeces of lambs' wool without the skin, woollen yarn, and 
all-woollen sundries, in packs or bundles ; but, in each transaction, 
absolute honesty was enjoined, in the deduction from the pur- 
chase-money of the weight and value of the tare, whether sacks, 
exuding moisture, pieces of fat or skin, dust or any other 
extraneous matter. 

Sensali of the Guild were warned to pay particular attention 

1 T. Truchi, " Difesa del Commercio dei Fiorentini," p. 17. 

2 Cantini, iv. p. 45. 


to these matters, and to make careful entries in their sale and 
transfer books. Disputed tares were to be at once taken before 
the Consuls for their decision. Any person attempting to pass 
off rubbish of any kind as good sound wool was punished by a 
fine of one hundred lire. The use of unjust weights, and undue 
pressure of the hand upon the scale incurred a penalty of two 
hundred lire. 

The office of Sensale, agent, was quite as important in 
connection with the Wool Guild, as it was with the " Guild of 
Calimala" Many of these " middle men " made huge profits, and 
became influential merchants ; but, in the archives, under the 
year 1326, is a curious entry, which states that a certain 
wool-broker declared he had not earned more than fifty lire that 
year ! 

The Consuls of the Guild required that all payments for yarn, 
cloth, raw-wool, and the adjuncts of the industry should be made 
in advance, for sales effected within a distance of one hundred 
miles from the city ; and further, they forbade discounts of every 
kind. Payments to customers, or agents, beyond that distance 
were managed by " Letters of Credit," under special notes of 
interest, agreed upon with the co-operation of the " Guild of 
Bankers and Money Changers." 

The Statutes of the Guild were revised in 1317, 1331, 1333, 
1338, 1362, 1415 and 1428; additions were made in 1319, 
I 333> J 337> 1361, 1427 and many times in the sixteenth 
century. In all of these proceedings the Wool Guild bears its 
full title of " Arte e Universita della Lana" * 

The arrival and settlement of the Umiliati^ the Humble 
Fathers of Saint Michael of Alexandria, in Florence, in 1238, 
had an instantaneous and beneficent effect upon the woollen 
industry at large. Their fame had preceded them, and they were 
welcomed by manufacturer and by operative alike. The former 
saw the possibilities of greater gains through the application of 

1 G. Gonetta, " Bibliografia Statuaria delle Corporanzie d'Arte e mestieri d'ltalia." 


better technical knowledge ; whilst the latter judged that higher 
wages would rule. 

In 1237 the State granted the church and convent of San 
Donato a Torre, just outside the Prato Gate, for the use of the 
Fathers ; and the benefaction was confirmed by Giovanni de' 
Mangiadori, the Bishop of Florence. After labouring here for 
five years, more roomy quarters were sought, where, under the 
direction of the " Mercato" or Merchant of the Monastery, the 
various processes of manufacture could be more conveniently 
carried on. 1 

At a Council of State held on May 21, 1250, at which it 
is interesting to note that the Consuls of the Wool Guild took 
part along with the Consuls of the other four leading Guilds, 
lands and buildings, in the district of Santa Lucia sul Prato, were 
allocated to the use of the Umiliati for the furtherance of their 
industry. In the same year the Brethren purchased for a sum of 
four hundred and ninety-seven florins (silver) a piece of land and 
two dwelling-houses from the Tornaquinci family for the purpose 
of still more enlarging their establishment. 2 

The responsibilities of the Monastery vastly increased, but 
were greatly lightened by the direct patronage and emulation of 
the "Guild of Wool." In 1256 the Brethren were again on the 
move ; and this time, on their own initiative, they established 
themselves upon the banks of the Arno, just at the foot of the 
Second Wall of 1074. Here they erected a church, which they 
dedicated to Saint Catherine of Alexandria, monastery buildings 
and workshops. Upon them they carved their heraldic arms, 
or trademark, a wool-pack crossed with ropes, and they named 
their establishment in honour of Ognissanti All Saints. 

Quite near these new quarters was already a considerable 
population, labourers at the river quay, whilst not very far 
away were the public fishing-grounds, and a water-mill owned 
by the State. The Umiliati were accompanied by many 
families of workers to whom they had imparted their methods 

1 Cantini, " Saggi," vol. iii. p. 73. 2 Cantini, " Legislazioni," iii. p. 81. 


of woollen manufacture. For them they built dwelling-houses 
and a corn-mill, along with warehouses and factories, where 
now-a-days runs the fashionable Lung' Arno. Pens for dipping 
fleeces and dye works were erected by the river-side. In the 
meadows, and under the old wall, and beneath the projecting 
eaves of the roofs of the monastic buildings, were great wooden 
frames whereon the pieces of woven cloth were stretched to 
dry. The district soon became the centre of an industrious and 
well-conducted community, and Borgo d'Ognissanti, with the 
Via Gora running through it, grew into an important and 
wealth-producing suburb of the city. 

As the trade of the Monastery increased, and by this 
increase the commerce of the Florentine wool merchants also 
grew enormously, the necessity for a bridge across the Arno 
became obvious. In 1218 a wooden structure was thrown over 
the river by permission of the Podesta, Otto da Mandola, to which 
was given the name of "Alia Carraia" on account of the number 
of carts and waggons laden with wool, and pack-mules, which 
constantly crowded it, coming out of the country, or going down 
to Porto Pisano. 

This bridge also served another useful purpose, for it provided 
the inhabitants of the three Borghi or Suburbs, across the river 
collectively known as Oltrarno, with a ready means of access to 
the new woollen factories. One of these Borghi was ignominiously 
called " Pittiglioso" because of the poverty and squalor of its 
denizens. These poor people were thus enabled to obtain work, 
and speedily an entire transformation of their district was effected 
Later on in the history of Florence Oltrarno became known by 
the name of Via de' Bardi, after one of the rich banking families 
who built their palace there. 

Many provisions and laws were passed by the Government 
of the Republic, between 1250 and the end of the century, which 
extended the privileges and powers of the Umiliati. 1 In 1 267, 
for example, the " Porto," so called, or landing stage, the islands 

1 L. Cantini, " Legislazioni," vol. i. p. 297. 


in the Arno, and the whole riverside from the Ponte alia Carraia 
to the junction of the river Mugnone, with all the adjoining 
fields and gardens, in fact the beautiful Cascine of modern 
Florence were allocated to the use of the Order for building 
new factories and workmen's houses. 

The woollen cloth manufactured in the workshops of the 
Order was marked with their arms, a bale of cloth tied with 
cords in the form of a cross, with the letters O. SS. C. in 
the corners " Omnium Sanctorum Conventus" the Monastery 
of All Saints. 1 The Monastery became the heart and soul of 
the trade of Florence, whilst the lives of the " Brethren," as 
they preferred to be called, furnished models of self-control, 
business application, and religious zeal, each of which had an 
immense influence upon the sympathetic nature of the people. 

Towards the end of the thirteenth century, however, a marked 
relaxation of zeal was seen in the conduct of the Umiliati, so far 
as their efforts were concerned in directing and encouraging the 
woollen industry. Whether their religious Rule became more 
exacting, or whether the anachronism of monks competing in the 
world's markets with merchants, or prudence in view of political 
controversies, or lukewarmness in the prosecution of their manu- 
facturing enterprise, suggested the relaxation, no authority has 

Gradually the work of the Monastery dwindled away, and 
the operatives began to ally themselves more closely with the 
" Guild of Wool." At last, in I 330 a resolution was arrived at by 
the Generals of the Order, which shut their factory doors, and 
for ever closed the labours of nearly one hundred years. The 
monks retained possession of the Monastery of Ognissanti till 
1564, at which date Pope Pius V. suppressed their Order. 

Among the trade associations subordinated to the Guild of 
Wool Merchants were 2 : 

1 L'Osservatore Fiorentino, iii. 169. 

2 G. Capponi, '* Storia della Repubb. di Firenze," vol. ii. pp. 3-5. 



Tosatori and Cimatori. 



Cardatori and Scardassieri. 

Filatori and Filatore. 


Vergheggiatori and Battitori. 





Spinners, male and 

Carding-machine oilers. 
Special workers. 
Comb makers. 

The methods, employed by the various sets of operatives in 
the manufacture of cloth, were to a great extent the same which 
obtain to-day in countries where the introduction of modern 
machinery has not been made. 

After the fleeces had been cut off, preferably in one whole 
piece, from the sheep, they were washed, but not with hard 
water, for that was found to make the wool harsh to the touch. 
Ammonia, in one form or other, was usually mixed with the 
water. This had the further recommendation of rendering the 
dressed wool more susceptible of even dyeing. Scouring in 
hot soap-suds in hollow vats required the services of two men 
to a vat, for they kept on tossing, one to the other with strong 
poles, the bundles of wool, separating thus the dirt and dissolving 
the grease. 

The next process was lifting the scoured and cleansed fleeces 
out of their bath and allowing them to drain, meanwhile rinsing 
them with pure Arno water to remove suds. Drying slowly was 


found best in draughty warm air, but the aim was not to let 
the wool become too dry, for fear of cracking and splitting. 

Combing the wool followed. Big brushes or rakes were used 
at first, their teeth being bent into stout leather backs, which 
offered a more yielding medium than wood. Later on, cylin- 
drical combing machines of iron and leather were introduced. 

Oiling was an important point, to avoid harshness and 
undue curling. The oil was applied to the combed-out wool 
by sprinklers with rose mouthpieces. This process was found 
to be useful in promoting adhesiveness when the spinning stage 
was reached. 

Blending the wool was a special science apart, practised by 
the most experienced workpeople, but essential from an economic 
point of view, and also from the point of view of the production 
of novel materials. 

Carding, the initial step to the processes of making yarn, 
was a very important matter, and required the skill of well-trained 
workmen. The carding-comb for weaving rascia, white serge, 
was ordinarily about sixteen inches wide, with wires of such 
a number as would allow one hundred and ten threads to be 
laid upon the loom. For sky-blue serges the comb was seven- 
teen inches wide, with wires for one hundred threads ; for pale 
and faded blue serges the comb was the same, but one hundred 
and five wires were laid upon the loom. There was no restric- 
tion in the size of comb or in the number of thread wires for 
other kinds of coloured cloth. 

Spinning and winding followed closely on the heels of one 
another. They were usually done by women and girls ; but all 
apprentices were expected to know both these processes ex- 
perimentally, and to be skilled in them. 

It was the duty of the Stamaiuolo to give out woollen yarn to 
the Filatrice in knots or bundles, and to register the name of each 
woman, and the number and quality of the knots, and at the 
same time to agree with her about the price for winding each 
particular job. The winders were forbidden to transfer their 




work one to the other, and to make use of any yarn not delivered 
to them by the master spinners. 1 

The actual making of cloth required many processes, of 
course, between the delivery of the wound yarn and the output 
of the pieces of finished woollen cloth. Weavers, Fullers, and Dyers 
each in turn manipulated the lengths of cloth before they reached 
the presses of the Finishers and Folders. 

The Dyers of Florence formed a considerable and numerous 
element in the population. They seem to have been divided into 
three classes : I. Dyers of foreign cloth for the "Calimala Guild " ; 
2. Dyers of native cloth for the " Wool Guild " ; and 3. Dyers of 
silk for the " Silk Guild." All were dependent upon the " Calimala " 
for the supply of dyes, mordants, and all other ingredients of their 
trade. Each Dyer paid the sum of three hundred and ten gold 
florins to the Treasurer of the Guild, by way of guarantee or bail 
that he purposed to execute his calling in good faith, and, in 
return, received an official permission to carry on the industry. 
Each Dye-house and all its contents, together with samples of 
dyed goods, were required to be prepared annually for a thorough 
inspection by the officials of the Guild. 

Whilst the Dyers were not permitted to incorporate them- 
selves into a separate Arte or Guild, they were allowed to associate 
themselves in families and groups, in the pursuit of any special 
operations of their craft. All such companies were subordinated 
to the " Wool Guild," with respect to their political and social 
status, the only exception being made in the case of certain 
foreign dyers employed by the " Silk Guild," who did not come 
under the authority of the " Guild of Wool." 

Dyers were obliged to show diligence in their work, and render 
prompt and faithful service to their employers. They were bound 
to enter in a book, within twenty-four hours, all the cloth which 
they received for dyeing. They were not allowed to go about the 
city, or Contado, seeking work, but were to remain in their work- 
shops, until they obtained pieces from the Sensali. 

1 L. Cantini, " Legislazione," i. p. 366. 


The cost of dyeing woollen cloth per one hundred pieces in 
Florence in the fifteenth century may be estimated by the 
following List 1 : Sbiadato sky-blue, Smeraldino emerald, and 
Azzuro light blue, three florins ; Pelo di Leone tan colour, and 
Verde chiaro bright green, four florins ; Bigio di mezzo middle 
grey, and Cupo di bianco shaded white, five florins ; Rosa secca 
dead red, Sanguigno di sbiadato pale carmine, and Gherofanato 
pink, six florins ; Celestino sky-blue, Violetto pale purple, and 
Bruschino coffee-colour, eight florins ; Verde-Bruno dark green, 
Berrettino di guado Monk's-hood red, and Morello di grana 
ivy black, ten florins ; Monachino monkish grey, twelve florins ; 
Rosato deep rose, twenty-five florins ; Lucchesino Lucca 
scarlet, twenty-eight florins, and Scarlatto vermilion, thirty-five 

These prices were fixed by the Consuls and Council of the 
" Wool Guild," with the expert advice of the officers appointed to 
examine into the subject. It was imperative that the colours used 
in dyeing should be fixed, not fugitive. Any cloth badly dyed 
was either remanipulated, cut up and sold to the hucksters, or 
burnt. Dyers could, if they wished, use inferior colours, but they 
were obliged to declare the fact, and to place tickets stating it, 
upon the dyed pieces. 

Alum, indispensable as a mordant for fixing the colours, was 
brought from mines in the Maremma, where the debris of early 
excavations had been pulverised by the action of the air. 

The Duke of Athens, on assuming the government of Florence, 
extended his favour to the Dyers who by the way did much to 
support his authority, by granting the petition they offered to him 
in i 342. 2 In this document, after paying the Duke some flattering 
compliments, the petitioners go on to say : " Grant us Consuls of 
our own, chosen out of our Corporation of Dyers and Washers 
and free us from the yoke of the ' Wool Guild,' that we may carry 
on our industry without let or hindrance in your Highness's 

1 Pagnini, vol. iv. 170. 

- Archivio Giornale Toscana, vi. 210, Doc. 83. 


service." Three Consuls were appointed, but they were not 
recognised by the " Guild of Wool." 

No workman could be employed by any merchant who had 
not first proved his ability, and obtained a formal written 
testimony thereof. Employers were required to provide their 
workpeople with all the instruments of their trade. For mutual 
convenience workers engaged in the same process were employed 
in groups, and worked in the same rooms. The manufacture of 
woollen-cloth was forbidden in private dwellings. 1 

Each manufacturer was required to pay his work-people suffi- 
cient daily or weekly wages the amount of which had to be 
submitted to the Consuls of the Guild for their approval. The 
normal prices paid to Filatori and Lanini were, for each bundle of 
serge yarn, one soldo, ten denari or piccioli. Filatrice received 
generally one soldo, five piccioli, for the same quantity. The average 
daily wage of an adult worker was one soldo, six denari, about one 
shilling and sixpence. In times of trade depression prices naturally 
declined, and a day's wage amounted to no more than thirty 
piccioli perhaps about eightpence. 

Every workman had security of tenancy in his home. A Prov- 
visione prevented manufacturers expelling their hands, either 
from their employment or their houses, save for grave reasons, 
which had to be stated in the Council of the Consuls, and 
approved by vote. House-owners also were forbidden to raise 
the rents of dwellings except by express permission of the 

All citizens were strongly cautioned not to take in pledge, 
from woollen operatives, any instrument or implement used in 
their trade. Sales of wool, woollen-yarn, or woollen-cloth by 
workpeople were strictly prohibited. No money-changer, or lender 
of the market, was allowed to lend money upon whole pieces 
of woollen-cloth, remnants of cloth, woollen-yarn, or raw wool. 
Every such transaction, in spite of the prohibition, was visited with 
a fine of fifty lire. 

1 V. Follini, " Firenze Antica e Moderna Illustra," vol. vi. cxxi. p. 207. 


Wool-sorting and beating were forbidden within the walls of 
the city, as was also the scutching of cotton and all other noisy 
employments, from the tolling of the three o'clock bell to the 
striking of the bell at Matins. Overtime, as we call it, was 
forbidden, no worker being permitted to carry on his trade even 
secretly after Compline^ 

The care which the State extended to the well-being of the 
woollen operatives is evidenced in a number of Provvisioni 
regulating the hours of work and rest. It was strictly prohibited 
for any noise to be made in the streets during the night. 

In all the workshops of the Guild games of chance were 
strictly forbidden, indeed the only indoor game allowed was 
chess, which as a quaint old chronicler has it, " hath in it the 
element of patience and quietness." 

Certain Provvisioni dealt with the questions of the emigration 
of operatives and of the location of foreign agencies. No 
merchant, agent, workman, or apprentice, was permitted to leave 
Florence, and establish himself in any foreign land except by 
express permission of the Consuls of the Guild. Later on in 
the fifteenth century the emigration of workpeople was wholly 
forbidden. These measures were doubtless necessary for the 
safeguarding of the secrets of the trade, and for the protection of 
the Florentine monopoly of foreign markets. In the same way 
the export of raw native wool and woollen yarn, as well as of 
madder, woad and other dying materials was forbidden. 

It is a thousand pities that all the old looms, implements, and 
accessories of the industry have disappeared. As late as 1 8 5 8 an 
ancient telaio woollen-cloth loom was still in working order in 
an old house, of the time of Arnolfo di Cambio, in the thirteenth 
century, in the Piazza delle Travi on the Lung' Arno degli 

Neither Tuscany, nor the whole of Italy, could supply any- 
thing like the quantity, much less the quality, of wool needed to 
meet the requirements of the Florentine looms. The rearing 

1 Statuta, 1415, Rub. xlix. a Statuta Populi Florentiae, Book iii. 191. 


[See page l6f\ 


of sheep was not, in early times, a paying occupation in 
Tuscany. The breed was certainly hardy, but the scant eatage 
of the barren hill-sides, where the flocks were pastured because 
the better land was under cultivation, was not productive of 
the opulent fleeces of more generously nourished flocks. In the 
fifteenth century the number of sheep in Tuscany exceeded one 
million ; but whereas some, in good condition, only gave three 
or four pounds' weight of coarse wool, a Spanish, English, or 
Flemish sheep rendered up a fleece which averaged eight and 
nine pounds of excellent wool. 1 

The determination and the thoroughness which the shepherds 
and their masters, most of them wealthy members of the Wool 
Guild, threw into the rearing of sheep produced good results. 
Tuscan raw wool, which eventually took the place of the famed 
produce of Puglia, Taranto and Modena, obtained profitable 
quotations in all markets for the manufacture of strong and 
serviceable cloth. 

The woollen industry of Florence had active and enterprising 
rivals at Pisa, Genoa, Venice, Bologna, Ferrara, and in Lombardy 
and France. At the same time, in each of these manufac- 
turing centres, there existed Statutes and Provisions, which 
absolutely forbade the importation of foreign wool, and the 
manipulation of foreign-made cloth. Florence, on the other hand, 
followed an entirely different policy, with results, as remarkable 
for their benefit to the home industry, as they were for their pre- 
eminence in all foreign markets. 

The wealth, which poured into the coffers of her merchants, 
enabled them to purchase the pick of the wool offered at all 
foreign fairs. England, France, Spain, and Portugal, readily sold 
their rich fleeces to the agents of the " Guild of Wool." Prices 
ranged from sixteen soldi per hundred pounds' weight of raw 
Tuscan wool, to sixteen hundred soldi for the same weight of 
the best French, Narbonne, and Portuguese raw wool. 

From the Algarves came the best of all wool Tuscanized into 

1 L. Pignotti, "Storia della Toscana," p. 27. 





" Garbo" Hence " Panne di Garbo " was the finest cloth woven 
in Florence, and the street in which it was chiefly manufactured 
was called Via di Garbo. Spanish wool was also of very excel- 
lent quality. The merino sheep introduced into the country by 
the Romans centuries before, and crossed with the native breed, had 
established a high reputation for purity of colour and silkiness of 
texture. No wool was so useful as this pure white variety for fine 
manufactures : it also went under the name of " Lana di Garbo'' 

Henry II. was the first English king who granted facilities 
to Florentine traders for the purchase of British-grown wool. 
As early as 1284 the quantity of raw wool bought by 
Florentine merchants from English monasteries was considerable. 
Several wool-trading companies were established in London, and 
elsewhere, among them being that of Messer Tommaso Spigliati 
e di Lapo Ugho Spini. 1 Letters are in existence, written by one 
of their travellers, Simone Gherardi, who, in rendering an 
account of his commercial journey in 1285, speaks of the excel- 
lence of the wool offered for sale by the British monasteries. 
Other companies were Messeri di Bindo Isquarta, di Jacopo, Ric- 
comanno, de' Mozzi, Peruzzi, and Pulchi, with representatives of 
the Bardi family. 

By the year 1315 more than two hundred monasteries in 
England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Flanders, were supplying 
the Florentine Guild of Wool. The names of these look very 
funny in their Italian dress, for example : 

Vichamo-in-costa-Rivalsi for Wykeham near Rivaux. 
Boccheselle in Chenti Bexley in Kent. 
Stalleo in Guarvicche 
Guizzopo presso Abliada 

Stoneleigh in Warwick. 
Worksop near Nottingham. 

GuesameinChondisgualdo Eversham in Worcestershire. 

Miense in Picardia 
Provino in Campagna 
Bosella in Brabante 
Inghiemino in Arnaldo 

1 Pagnini, vol. : 

Amiens in Picardy. 



Engheim in Hainault. 

Appendix xvi. p. 324. 


Melrose they called Merusotte, Galloway Gonellasso, and 
Kelso Chilosola, and so on. 1 

The best British wool came from the Cotswolds and from 
Chichester, Tuscanised into Codignaldo and Scrisestri. 

" The wool of Britain," wrote an old historian, " is often spun 
so fine that it is, in one sense, comparable to the spider's web." 
This excellence was the result of carefully following the plans of 
the old Roman settlers, who established immense sheep farms in 
various parts of the country and set up woollen manufactories at 
the old capital Winchester. Doubtless they were duly apprecia- 
tive of the splendid breed of sheep which they found in the island 
and their rich yield of long silky fleeces. 

The raw wool imported from England was of three qualities, 

"Buona" fine, " Moiana" soft, and "Locchi" still-born lamb's 

wool. The prices, per sack, of Scotch wool were, for fine 

qualities, twenty marks, English, for coarse, twelve marks, and 

for still-born, nine marks (English coinage). 2 

One hundred pounds weight English were equal to about one 
hundred and forty Florentine, and each English sack contained 
about fifty-two pounds. For ease of transport by mule-back the 
sacks were packed in two equal bales, each weighing about two 
hundred and fifty pounds Florentine. 

The exports of raw wool from England assumed vast propor- 
tions, and excited the jealousy and opposition of native producers 
and manufacturers. The annual consignments from Great Britain 
to Florence, in the fourteenth century, and indeed earlier, filled 
2,800 sacks or bags, and were of the average value of 25,000 
to 30,000. 

Vexatious Acts of Parliament were passed to limit the facilities 
of the Florentine traders. Edward III. invited dyers, fullers, and 
weavers from Flanders to settle in his dominions, and teach his 
people their methods ; and, at the same time, he directed that 

1 The whole list is given by Balducci Pegolotti for the year 1315, from the MS. 
Riccardiana, "La Pratica della Mercatura," vol. ii. 

2 Peruzzi, p. 324. 



exorbitant duties should be placed upon the exports of wool to 

In 1455, under Henry VI., a law was made forbidding Italian 


merchants to buy wool and woollen yarn and cloth except in 
London, Southampton, and Sandwich. A few years later this 
was made more stringent by the absolute refusal of Parliament to 
allow sales to Italian wool merchants. 

Legislation under Edward IV. forbade aliens to export wool, 


and restricted natives from consigning bales or bags, to all 
foreign ports except Calais. All these repressive measures led 
to the commissioning by Italian merchants of blocade-running 
ships, by which risk}* means valuable consignments were got 
through to Italy and elsewhere. 

Such embargoes could not be tolerated, and so the Florentine 
shippers appointed Bindo da Staggio, a resident in London and 
a persona grata at Court, their ambassador, to plead for a relaxa- 
tion of the prohibitive regulations. The outcome was favourable 
to the foreign traders, and by way of securing their advantage, 
two wool merchants Francesco de' Strozzi and Gierozo de' 
Pigli, both residents in London,- -were appointed Consuls of the 
Florentine colony in England. 1 

In 1483 a Royal decree was issued regulating sales to 
Florentine merchants, and again restricting their trade. Under 
Henry VII. more enlightened counsels prevailed, and in 1486 
a commercial treaty, between England and the Florentine Republic, 
was signed, by which English merchants undertook to carry every 
year sufficient wool to supply all the States of Italy ; and Floren- 
tine traders promised to buy no wool unless carried in English 
ships. The Florentines obtained on their side corresponding 
privileges with respect to the import into England of redressed 
foreign cloth and dyed Florentine weavings. 2 In 1493 modifica- 
tions of the treaty were made. Greater freedom was allowed in 
the purchase of raw wool for sole consumption in Florence, but 
her merchants were forbidden to re-sell their imports, except six 
hundred bales annually to the Venetians. 

The reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth were full of enact- 
ments for and against the Florentine woollen-cloth merchants. 
The former sovereign encouraged their enterprise, and had per- 
sonal dealings with the Frescobaldi, Bardi, Corsi, Cavalcanti, and 
other leading houses. The policy of Elizabeth was however 
repressive, and under her the export of raw wool was once more 

1 Archivio di Firenze, Filza Strozziana. 294, etc., 135-136. 
- L. Cantini, " Legislazione." i. p. 301. 


absolutely and entirely forbidden. This prohibition cut both ways 
but the greater sufferers were the English sheep farmers, whose 
loss was estimated at ten million pounds sterling ! 

At the same time no such restrictions or prohibition affected 
the export of Spanish and Portuguese wool. From a document 
of the year 1326 we learn that prices ranged as follows : l 
A whole fleece of " Garbo" less the skin, one hundred gold 

Undressed wool of " S. Matteo," and Majorca, one lira, eleven 

soldi per pound. 

Undressed wool of Minorca one lira, eighteen soldi per pound. 
Washed wool of Majorca two lire, five soldi per pound. 
Woollen yarn of " Garbo " two lire, eight soldi per pound. 

With England as the greatest wool-producing country in 
Europe, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, the com- 
mercial intercourse of the Florentines developed rapidly. At first 
the trade with the English grower was only through the medium 
of the French and Flemish markets, and was carried overland 
from which circumstance English wool was called " lana 
francigena" After Florence had obtained possession of the ports 
of Livorno and Porto Pisano, the bales were shipped direct from 
London, or Southampton, which was the chief wool-shipping 
depot. One of the favourite trade routes was from London to 
the coast of France by sea, then up the rivers Gironde and 
Dordogne, as far as Libourne, thence overland, by Montpellier to 
Aigues Mortes in Provence, whence by canal and sea to Porto 
Pisano, and by river boat up the Arno to Segna, and finally by 
road to Florence ! Another was by Bruges in Flanders, through 
Germany to Basel, and over the passes of the Alps. 

The expenses of the land transport were enormous, and added 
immensely to the value of the wool when it reached the hands of 
the craftsmen in Florence. The freight from London to Leghorn 
or Porto Pisano was two soldi per mule load, and the charge for 
porterage, trans-shipment, repacking, etc., on the way, added 

1 Archivio di Firenze, " Tassa delle Gabelle." 


considerably to the cost. Warehouse dues also were paid upon 
consignments of wool stored in transit, even for brief periods : 
the charge at Porto Pisano, for example, was six denari per 
mule load. 

In the fifteenth century a ship-canal to connect Florence with 
the sea was projected by merchants of the " Calimala " and 
" Wool " Guilds. Leonardo da Vinci actually made elaborate 
surveys and drafted plans for the enterprise. The scheme how- 
ever fell through because the Republic had other costly projects in 

During the course of the thirteenth century Florentine manu- 
facturers were engaged almost exclusively in weaving cloth of 
coarse quality made out of native wool. These went by various 
names : bigello coarse camlet or frieze, frustagno fustian, 
arabasio canvas-cloth, pignolato rough hard cloth, schiavina 
blanketing or slave-cloth, villaneschi peasants' serge, baracane 
coarse camlet, moscolato moss-like mixture, and other rough 
and inferior descriptions. 

" Xhese stuffs," writes Villani, " were coarse, and of only low 
value, the which indeed they had not learned to dress with the 
skill afterwards acquired." x 

One description of the native manufacture was certainly of 
finer texture. It was called " Tintilanor fine grained cloth, 
made from the silky fleeces of young lambs, and was further 
distinguished as locchi, still-born, and moiana soft and light. 
This woven material was greatly esteemed for the tight-fitting 
body hose and drawers worn by men, and is referred to by 
Boccaccio as thoroughly Florentine.' 2 

Not only did the wool industry thrive under the auspices of the 
L 'miliati, but also through the energy of the Consuls of the " Wool 
Guild," who welcomed artizans from Greece, and elsewhere, skilled 
in the making of carding-frames and weaving-looms, and the 
other machines and appliances required by the Craft. 

The enterprise and the liberal wages, which marked the 

1 Villani, vol. xi. c. 94. 2 Boccaccio, "Novelle" ill, Giomo 7. 



business policy of the Florentine manufacturers, attracted a great 
number of foreign workmen. The Government of the Republic 
accorded to all these the same exemptions and privileges which 
had been bestowed upon the Umiliatt. 1 

This immigration made it absolutely necessary, for the sake 
of the public health, and to avoid inconvenience and overcrowding 
in the quarters already inhabited by the craftsmen, to allocate to 
the new-comers new areas. Hence we find that settlements of 
mechanics and makers of carding-combs were established in 

By the end of the thirteenth century Via Maggio, Via San 
Felice in Piazza, Fondaco San Spirito in Borgo San Jacopo, and 
about San Martino and San Procolo in the Vigna, and near 
Porta Rossa, had received a new population, which, added to the 
original wool workers in that quarter, became, later on, a very 
powerful factor in the destinies, not merely of the Craft, but of 
the Republic at large. Many of the more skilful foreign artificers 
were located also in the botteghe small shops of the Via de' 
Pellicciai and around the Residence of the Consuls of the " Guild 
of Doctors and Apothecaries." 2 

Thus, early in the fourteenth century, nearly the whole of 
Florence was given up to the woollen industry. Streets were 
named after the various avocations in subordination to the 
41 Guild of Wool," for instance : Via dei Cimatori, Street of the 
Shearers, Via delle Caldai, Street of the Cauldrons, and the 
Corso dei Tintori, Road of the Dyers. 

All round Or San Michele, and in every street and lane in the 
neighbourhood of the Residence, and away down the more impor- 
tant thoroughfares, right along to Borgo d'Ognissanti, and the 
monastery and manufactory of the Umiliati, almost every house 
and building had iron upright rods fitted to all the windows, sup- 
porting wooden cross-bars, upon which were hung out, to stretch 
and to dry, great hanks of spun-wool and long pieces of woven- 
cloth. Some of these rods and bars may still be seen in the 

1 Stat. Fio. Lib. iv. Rub. 38. 2 Benedetto Dei, "Cronica," p. 22. 



TO DRV AFTER DYEING. ~ See Chapter .\~l'f\ 


-window- frames of the Palazzo d'Alessandri in the Borgo degli 
Albizzi. Indeed, when the woollen industry was at the height of its 
prosperity, Florence appeared to be one vast drying and stretching 
ground. Cloth of all kinds and colours waved in great lengths in 
every quarter, and imparted an extraordinary aspect to the streets ! 

More than thirty thousand hands were engaged in the manu- 
facture of woollen-cloth, all, or nearly all, of whom, were working 
in connection with the " Guild of Wool." Villani, speaking of the 
year 1308, says there were in Florence and its immediate Contado, 
two hundred workshops belonging to the Guild, wherein were 
manufactured from seventy to eighty thousand pieces of woollen 
cloth. The value of this output amounted to two hundred 
thousand gold florins. Thirty years later there were three 
hundred woollen-cloth manufactories, which produced upwards of 
one hundred thousand pieces of cloth. 

At the levying of the Catasto, income-tax, in 1427 it was 
found that there were one hundred and eight large manufactories 
to be taxed ; and in that of 1 460 the number had risen to two 
hundred and twenty-three wholesale houses doing an enormous 
business. These figures do not include the small manufactories, 
the number of which was variable, but which were always quite 
as numerous if not more so than the leading houses. 

In the latter year Benedetto Dei relates that Florentine woven 
cloth was sold largely in Rome, Naples, Sicily, Constantinople, 
Pera, Adrianople, and all over the East. At the same time 
woollen-yarn spun in Florence was not allowed to be sold to 
foreign customers. 

Trade was flourishing in the declining years of Lorenzo de' 
Medici, inasmuch as fourteen thousand pieces of cloth, made out 
of Spanish wool called " Garbo" were woven in one year, and sold 
abroad for twenty-one gold florins the piece. In the same year five 
thousand pieces of cloth, made out of fine English wool called " San 
Martino" were woven, and realized sixty gold florins the piece. 1 

The Piazza della Signoria was the original site of the biennial 

1 Marco Foscari, " Discorsi Del. Ev. Tus." torn, xxiii. 


cloth sales, but, in the fifteenth century, the fair had attained such 
large proportions, that it was removed to the Piazza di San Spirito, 
in Oltrarno, and the Via Maggio and the neighbouring streets. The 
Venetians were great purchasers of Florentine-made cloths, which 
they exported in considerable quantities to Syria, Candia, and Istria. 

In the very centre of the city resided the Consuls, within the 
precincts of Or San Michele ; and their Residence, the ancient 
Palazzo de' Comprobbisi, communicated by an arched-covered 
stairway, built in the sixteenth century, with the Shrine and 
Granary across the street. From the massive and battlemented 
tower they could survey the operations of their workpeople in the 
immediate neighbourhood, and the waggons and strings of mules 
bearing in and out the materials of their craft across the bridges. 
It bore the name of " Archivio de' Contratti" "the Registry of 
Contracts," because within it were preserved the Registers of 
Commissions made on behalf of the Guild. 

This tower still exists and bears the sculptured arms of the 
Guild, which were emblazoned also upon the Gonfalon, and 
cunningly united the devotional instincts of the Florentine people 
with the emblems of their city and of their craft. They were : 
Upon a red field, a white ''Agnus Dei" bearing a red-crossed white 
banneret, under four blue lilies, and a wool-comber's iron-rake. 

The interior of the Residence was richly decorated. The 
Hall of Audience, which occupied the whole of the first floor,, 
had a finely painted ceiling with plaster mouldings supported 
upon massive marble pillars, and the walls were covered with 
frescoes. A wide staircase communicated with an upper storey, 
which was lighted by large stained glass windows. Upon a 
slab of pietra serena were the sculptured arms of the Guild, 
with an inscription: 






This date synchronises with the restoration of the Residence 
in the year 1 308. 

The Guild possessed not only palaces, houses, shops and 
farms, but also six great cloth stretching grounds at Orbetello, 
between the Via degli Alfani and the Via della Pergola, on the 
Lung' Arno dell' Aquila, along the Via de' Servi, the Via San 
Piero Gatolino, and the Via dell' Uccello ; and many Fulling-mills. 1 

The " Guild of Wool " owned and rented many factories in 
the Contado, among them the Fabbrica Castagnolo on the Pisa 
road, which was sold to the Delia Stuffa family in 1220, a date 
remarkably early, and indicative of the pristine expansion of the 
woollen industry. Very many convents and family dwellings, 
within easy reach of the Residence of the Consuls, were the 
quarters of busy workers under the Guild auspices. The 
monastery of Santa Maria della Disciplina was, in 1340, in the 
occupation of the famous Capponi family, and sheltered quite a 
number of woollen spinners and weavers.' 2 

Two questions constantly gave rise to fresh legislation 
wages and foreign competition. The workpeople knew per- 
fectly well what enormous profits the wool merchants and 
manufacturers made in their relations with outside markets. 
They understood without the least difficulty that on the one 
hand, their employers had command of the best supplies of the 
raw material, whilst on the other, the prices for Florentine cloth 
everywhere ruled the highest. This pre-eminent position, they 
also judged quite rightly, was due very largely to their own 
individual and collective skill in workmanship. 

Joining forces, the operatives of the two Guilds " Calimala " 
and "Wool" placed the question of wages in the forefront of 
the reckonings of the merchants. 

1 Note : The following old Tiratoli, Fulling-mills, belonging to members of the 
" Guild of Wool," were still in existence at the end of the nineteenth century : "dell* 
AgHolo" and "del Cavallo ;! both near Porta Romana, "della Pergolla"\]& di Sant' 
Egidio, " delle Convcrtite" Via Chiara, and " degli Agricoli " Via degli Alfani, with 
dell' Uccello, and della Porticciuola d'Arno both on the river bank. 

- L. Cantini, " Legislazione," i. p. 303. 


Another element also contributed to the urgency of the 
matter the constant hardening of prices in the commodities 
of daily life. This response of the shopkeepers and dealers in 
breadstuff's to the constantly heightening quotations for wool 
and cloth made the pinch upon the working classes a double 
one. The only relief to be found was in asking for better pay, 
and, when masters were obdurate, coming out on strike. 

Strikes were a constant phase of Florentine life, and often 
enough they developed into political feuds and revolutionary 
outbreaks. The culmination of the unrest was the Ciompi 
Rising in 1378. The Ciompi were, for the most part, work- 
people in the employment of the " Guild of Wool," and they 
generally obtained all they asked for. 

Together with the granting of workers' demands, employers 
of labour found themselves faced by the constant tendency of 
prices to fall, through the competition of foreign woven cloth. 
The convergence of these two opposite forces led directly to 
decadence of the woollen industry of Florence, which had, all 
along, been supported upon a more or less insecure foundation. 

Avidity of gain had led to the establishment of factories by 
Florentine adventurers in many parts of Europe, where, in addition 
to the piling up of huge stocks of raw wool, large quantities of 
woollen-cloth were manufactured. These establishments became 
actually technical schools, wherein the native workmen employed 
were instructed in the methods followed in Florence. 

Not only so, but the natural mechanical instinct of British and 
Flemish operatives led to improvements in the making of looms 
and in the various implements required by the industry. Thus 
a class of artizans sprang up equal in ingenuity and adaptive- 
ness to their Florentine prototypes. Whilst timber was, perhaps, 
less an important natural product than it was in Tuscany, iron 
and coal were greater assets in England and Flanders than in the 
Vale of Arno. 

Florence, thus, in the sixteenth century, found herself matched 
by enterprising rivals, and her wool merchants and manufacturers 


had to contend with superiority of foreign wool combined with 
equality of manipulative processes. 

A remedy was sought in a Policy of Protection which, 
whilst for the moment offering a solution of the difficulties that 
confronted the members of the Wool Guild, really led to disastrous 

There is a long list in Cantini of articles and materials used 
in the woollen industry, which in the sixteenth century, were 
forbidden exit at the gates of the city except by special permission 
of the Consuls of the Guild. Among them are the following : 
Wool-pickings and doffings, woollen-thread white and coloured, 
cuttings of woollen-cloth, pressed wool in the form of feltings, 
woollen rags, iron nets for beating wool, carding-combs and 
teazels both old and new, iron-looms, stays, shuttles, glossing- 
cards for serges, wine-lees white and red in casks, madder in 
bags, white moss or lichen, woad fresh or dried, all crimson and 
red dyes liquid or powder, brazil-wood, gall-nuts, indigo, rock- 
alum and alum-scum, vitriol, cloth-soap, presses or boards for 
bales, leaden marks and labels, etc. etc. 

A marked decline in the prosperity of the woollen industry 
continued all through the sixteenth century. This was due in 
great measure to hostile legislation on the part of the Rulers and 
Governments of foreign countries. A law, for example, of Edward 
IV. was passed which ran as follows : " No person, under the 
estate of Baron shall wear any manner of woollen-cloth manu- 
factured out of the King's dominions, nor any furs of sable under 
a forfeit of 10." In the reign of Cosimo the first Grand 
Duke the number of business houses, in Florence, connected 
with the " Guild of Wool " was reduced to one hundred and 
sixty-six ; and before the end of the century only eighty-eight 
remained to tell the tale of former prosperity. 

The decadence of the woollen industry, no less than of the 
general commerce of Florence, was marked by idle habits which 
were induced by lengthened and unchequered prosperity. "Fare 
il Signore " meant, that if one wished to be considered somebody, 


all that was necessary was to cease from active participation in 
trade, and to put on the airs of persons in a superior station ! 
This was undoubtedly, all through the Renaissance period of 
history, a marked characteristic of the people of Florence ; and it 
was the natural, though destructive, outcome of the conditions of 
life in a community wholly commercial, where everybody belonged 
to the middle class. No branch of trade felt this more than that 
of wool with its preponderance of operatives, and the withering 
pinch of decay fastened tightly upon the members of the " Guild 
of Woollen Merchants." 

The Via degli Arazzieri named after Arras in Flanders 
recalls almost the last despairing effort to revive the prosperity of 
the "Guild of Wool." In 1543 the Grand Duke Cosimo I. 
wished to embellish his new palace with woven tapestries. He 
applied to the woollen manufacturers of the city to carry out his 
commission, but, alas, manipulative skill and commercial enterprise 
were dying, if not dead ; and no one would undertake it. Cosimo 
then induced a number of tapestry workers from Flanders to 
settle in Florence. He established a weaving manufactory for 
the public benefit, in a house, later on, called " Uffizio deW 
Ipotece" Under the direction of Johannes Rotter, better known 
by his Italian name of Giovanni Rosto, the industry developed 
quickly. The Florentine painters Bronzino and Salviati designed 
cartoons for the weavers. The pieces, which were woven, bore 
Rotter's, or Rosto's, mark a piece of meat roasting on a spit. 
Fifty years later Cosimo II. brought master weavers from Paris, and 
in a short time Florentine tapestries excelled all like productions. 
A splendid collection may be seen in Palazzo della Crocetta. 

The final ruin of the woollen industry was due to the institu- 
tion by Cosimo II. in 1561 of the " Military Order of the Knights 
of St Stephen." Many wealthy merchants and manufacturers, 
wishing to secure, in perpetuity for their families, the honour and 
distinction of the military cross with its accompanying privileges, 
founded commanderies, and, fearing to demean themselves, 
disdained to continue the exercise of their trade. 


\See page 164} 


The same Prince accomplished in the same year a complete 
revolution in the Statutes and in the standing of the Guild. The 
old order of magistrates was abolished and four new Consuls were 
appointed, who held office for four months only. Their powers 
were limited to the cognisance of civil causes between members of 
the Guild, and with respect to sums in dispute exceeding thirty 

A Council was created entitled, Congregazione dei Conservatori 
deir Arte delta Lana ; composed of a Senator not a member of the 
Guild, a merchant, and two manufacturers, under the presidency of 
the Proweditore del? Arte Superintendent of the Guild with the 
assistance of a legal dignitary styled Giudice delF Arte Judge of 
the Guild as assessor. The functions of this Council dealt with 
Criminal Causes between members of the Guild. 

It was all in vain that periodic efforts were made to rouse the 
moribund body. The spirit of enterprise had departed from the 
dying industry. The stones, which, one time, mischievous 
apprentices and quarrelsome artizans had hurled one at another, 
and they two at everybody else, were suffered to lie in the streets 
and corners of the Piazzas, until blades of green grass and verdant 
moss spread the mantle of idleness and sleep over them. 

Busy fulling-mill and humming loom were left to rust and rot 
as they might. The beautiful blue lilies of the garden of the 
" Agnus Dei" were faded, and the sharp teeth of the woolcomber's 
rake had lost their brightness and their bite ! 

The exact date of the suppression of the " A rte e Universita 
delta Lana " is not known, but in the reign of Ferdinand I. the 
Residence of the Consuls was closed and handed over to the 
Canons of Or San Michele. 



I. ORIGIN. " Peter's Pence." Campsores Papa;. Rivalry of Tuscan cities. 
" Mercatores Tusae" First mission of Florentine Bankers to England. The 
Gold Florin of 1252. Agencies throughout Europe. Affluence of " Calimala " 
and Wool Guilds called into existence the Guild of Bankers, 1201 (circa}. 

II. CONSTITUTION. Earliest Statutes of Guild, 1289-1299. Special officials. 
Esecutore. The use of the Rack ! Strict rules for admission. Sureties. 
" Company of the Table." " Cum vela, vel tapeto, vel sine." Books and book- 
keeping. " s. d." Financial terms. Dowries. " The Kynges Pawne." 

III. BANKS AND BANKERS. Professional piety. Banking families 
Bardi, Peruzzi, Frescobaldi, etc. The Papal Schism. Francesco Balducci, 
an enterprising Ministro. Couriers. Salaries. Peep into a Florentine bank, 
" On change ! " Jobbing. Vastness of financial business. " Letters of Credit." 
Brokerage. Loans. // Monte Comune. Public taxes : Prestanza, Arbitrio. 
Detima, Catasto. Rates of interest. Dante's strictures. Money-lending 
tricks. Boccaccio and Sacchetti's satires. Usury. Sermons of Bernardino da 
Feltre and Savonarola in 1336. Climax of Florentine prosperity. Foreign 
relations. Edward III. of England. King of Sicily. Colossal disasters. 
The Medici. " Counsels of Perfection." 

ROME in the Middle Ages was the actual ruler of all material 
interests, as she was the teacher of all moral conduct. It was 
an axiom of the Papacy that : " Wherever Christianity prevails 
everything, by right divine, belongs to the successor of Saint 
Peter." Her faithful sons never thought of disputing her claims, 
and consequently wealth flowed into her coffers in an ever 
increasing stream. 

The offerings of pilgrims, the revenues of vacant benefices, the 
contributions of Peter's Pence, the fortunes of the Cardinals, the 
tributes of dependent States, the plunder of Jews and heretics, 
and what not, called for skilful and experienced administration. 

Throughout the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, 
Florentine merchants competed with those of Siena, Lucca, and 


other cities for the control of the Papal treasure. The term 
" Campsores Papa " was first appropriated by the Sienese, although 
they belonged to the Ghibelline party. 

The victory of Montaperti, which made the Ghibellines 
masters of Tuscany, with the exception of Lucca, led however 
to their humiliation in another direction. In 1260 Pope 
Alexander IV. excommunicated the Sienese, and decreed that 
no debts should be paid them until they had made peace with 
the Church. This excommunication became effective after the 
Sienese had ravaged Radicofani a fief of the Papal See. 1 

The ingrained dislike of the Curia, however, to changes of 
any kind prevailed to secure to the Sienese bankers their privi- 
leges with respect to the Holy See. As late as 1263 Sienese 
were still acting as Papal agents in England Flanders, and 
elsewhere. 2 

Florence stoutly resisted the continuance of the Pope's favours 
to her rival, and advanced her superior claims as the upholder of 
the Guelphs or Pope's party. Besides this the handling of the 
vast Papal treasures was exactly suited to the keen commercial 
instincts of her citizens ; and Florence too stood like a toll-house 
upon the high-road to Rome. 

Commercial relations had existed between Florence and the 
States of Europe from very early times. Agents of the " Merca- 
tores Tuscte" as they were called in King John's reign, visited 
the great fairs held in Champagne and other French centres of 
trade at the end of the eleventh century, bartering their woollen 
stuffs against raw wool, and carrying on financial negotiations. 3 

The first record of a mission of Florentine bankers to England 
was in 1199, when Otto degli Gherardini settled and acquired 
property and place. When the Pope laid the kingdom under an 
interdict as many as sixty-nine different Italian Banking-houses 
were represented collecting Peter's Pence and otherwise exploiting 
the wealth of the country. 

1 F. Patetta, " Bollettino Senese di Storia Patria," vol. iv. p. 331. 

- Calendar of Papal Registers relating to Great Britain, etc.,W. H. Bloss. 

2 Einstein, "Italian Renaissance in England," p. 230. 


The issue in 1252 of the gold florin by the Commune of 
Florence proved to be a decisive step in the race for financial 
pre-eminence among the cities. Up to that date every State, and 
every banker, had dealt largely, if not exclusively, in debased 
silver money, not only in Italy but throughout Europe. The 
Florentines discovered that honesty was the best policy, and the 
world accepted them and their convenient new coin as the standards 
of commerce. 1 

Everywhere Florentine merchants pursued an enterprising line 
of conduct, whilst the Sienese and others haggled on still upon 
the old lines. Then too the constant struggles between the cities 
of the Tuscan league produced a revulsion of feeling until as 
the star of Florence rose higher and higher the party of peace- 
at-any-price gained the ascendancy, and the Sienese and Lucchese 
gradually retired from the contest. The Bankers of Florence 
thus made good their exclusive claim to the style and place of 
Campsores Papce. 

In this capacity, and also in their relations with foreign courts, 
it is not too much to say that Florence inaugurated the modern 
system of Banking, and her merchant Bankers are regarded as the 
fathers of the financial methods of to-day. 

Many names were given at different times to the Banker-mer- 
chants : Cambiatori Bankers, Banchieri Changers, Tavolieri 
Petty-cash dealers, Prestatori Lenders, Feneratori Spot-dis- 
counters, Usurai Usurers, and, in an evil sense, Cant 
Lombardi Lombard bloodhounds ! 2 

The origin of the " Guild of Bankers and Money-Changers " 
may be sought in the affluence of the three great manufacturing 
Guilds " Calimala," "Wool " and "Silk." These wealthy merchants 
had need of some safe depository for their capital, and, in accord- 
ance with that unfailing characteristic of the Florentines, which 
ever sought unbiassed assistance outside their own particular 

1 Langton Douglas, " History of Siena," p. 34, etc. 

2 Pagnini, vol. ii. p. 132. 


interests, they discovered what they wanted in the incorporation 
of the fourth Great Guild. Dante sums this up : 

" Commerce and Exchange combined made Florence great." 1 

Her citizens early discovered, however, that farming money 
was a far more remunerative pursuit than manufacturing articles 
of commerce ; and, quite early in the thirteenth century, Florence 
became the banking centre of Europe. The surplus capital, which 
her Bankers were able to hold unemployed in their hands, was the 
guarantee and the security of her merchants. 

One of the earliest records of the Banking business of 
Florence is of the year 1194, when the Marchese Aldobrandino 
d'Este was obliged to have recourse to Florentine capitalists for 
money to support the party and policy of Pope Innocent III. In 
return for the advance which he then received he pledged all his 
available property. 

Perhaps the first mention of the Bankers, as forming an Arte 
or Guild, is in a document of 1201, which describes a concession 
of land, made by the Commune of Florence, to a certain Gonnella 
di Guidaccio, wherein the Consuls of the " Guild of Bankers " are 

The signatures of the Consuls of the Guild of Bankers, 
together with those of the other Guilds of Florence, in 1204 to 
the treaty with Siena, also indicate that the corporation was in 
existence and in full working order before the end of the twelfth 

Between 1220 and 1230 agencies of Florentine Bankers were 
established in many parts of Europe, and were forwarding remit- 
tances to Rome direct, or through the parent houses in Florence. 
In this business they were joined by Sienese merchant-bankers, 
and they were especially associated together in 1233, when 
Pope Gregory IX. issued a "Rule" authorising them to collect 
the Papal revenues in France, England, Spain, and Flanders. 2 

In founding exchange offices in connection with their agencies 
in foreign lands for the purchase of raw materials and the sale of 

1 "Paradise," Canto xvi. 6. - Muratori, "Antichite Italiane," torn. i. p. 118. 


manufactured articles, the Florentine Merchant-Bankers, by the 
middle of the thirteenth century, had possessed themselves of the 
key of the wealth of all nations. 

The general commercial activities of the Florentine bankers, 
no doubt, led to some confusion from the fact that they were 
carried on in friendly rivalry with the enterprises of the merchants 
of the " Calimala " and of the Guilds of " Wool " and " Silk." Pro- 
bably there was a system of Freemasonry at work between them, 
whereby each and all of them were at once dealers in wool and 
cloth, and operators in money and financial securities. 

The earliest Statutes of the Guild preserved in the Archives 
of Florence are of the year 1299. They are in thirty-four para- 
graphs. An earlier code, which was compiled in 1280, but no 
longer exists, appears to have been the foundation for all sub- 
sequent Statutes. 1 

The commission of Merchants and Judges which was em- 
panelled at the end of the thirteenth century for the purpose of 
reviewing the Statutes and Bye-laws of all the Guilds and Crafts, 
and which compiled the Code already described, as adopted in 
1301-1309 by the " Calimala" Guild, drafted, in 13 07, special rubrics 
and regulations for the " Guild of Bankers and Money-Changers." 

This Code was amended and enlarged to seventy-three rubrics 
in 1334. Two copies of the latter have been preserved, written 
in a peculiarly beautiful hand ; one is in perfect condition, but 
the other has suffered greatly by the handling of thousands of 
inquirers, who in early days had occasion to consult its rulings. 

The officers of the Guild were the same in number and name 
as those of the other Guilds, except that a special official was 
appointed whose title was Esecutore Executor, perhaps Prose- 
cutor. It was his duty to proceed against debtors, as well as to 
administer properties in the names of heirs during their minority, 
and to order generally the affairs of deceased merchants. As 
regards the first part of his duties the Esecutore had authority to 

1 Pagnini, vol. ii. p. 132, etc. 




summon the wife and the brothers, if any such exercised a similar 
profession or trade, and ultimately to detain them in custody until 
the debts were completely paid. 

Rubric 56 is a very curious one, and proves the jealousy 
which existed at the period between the Ghibelline nobles and 
the merchants of the Guelphs. It enacts that, " should any noble 
of the city or Contado of Florence presume to enter unasked the 
Residences or the Offices of the Guild he would thereby incur a 
fine of ten lire, and would not be set free until he had paid in full." 

Another Rubric No. 70 is also quaintly punitive. The 
Consuls were permitted to have a rack and other corrective instru- 
ments at the Residence, to which recourse was had by the Judges 
attached to the Guild, in their examination, by word of mouth, of 
delinquents charged with concealing the truth about monetary 
negotiations. This process was grimly stated as " enabling the 
Judge to give a just judgment ! " 

The Judge, or Syndic, himself comes in for sharp treatment 
under Rubric No. 71. He was fined one hundred pounds for 
every malversation of justice which might be brought home to 
him after an inquiry by a panel of disinterested Judges ! 

Strict rules were laid down in the Statutes concerning admis- 
sion to the Guild. Candidates were required, before engaging in 
the profession of Banking, to enter their names upon the Matricu- 
lation Roll. They had to undergo a rigorous examination before 
the Consuls, which passed in purview each of the necessary per- 
sonal qualifications. Approval by this Board led to the payment 
of the Admission Fee, which ranged rather high in amount in 
proportion to the capital at stake. 

The father, grandfather, and even the great-grandfather incurred 
the same liability for a descendant, who engaged in trade, as 
though they actually stood surety for him. To escape responsi- 
bility they were obliged to make a formal disclaimer of liability. 
Individual freedom was obtained after a public process before the 
Council of the Consuls of all the Guilds. 1 

1 Statuta Populi Florentiae, torn. ii. 10. 


Bankers and Money-changers belonging to the Guild alone 
were recognised by the State, and they were assigned positions in 
one or other of the markets, generally in the Mercato Nuovo and 
along the Via de' Tavolini. This privilege gave the right to a 
table and a chair, which were placed conveniently for the trans- 
action of business. The table bore a cover of green cloth, and 
upon it were placed the Day Book and a layer of clean parchment, 
for entries of the day's business. On one side was the " Bank," 
which consisted of a pouch or bag of gold, and a wooden, or 
metal, bowl, full of small coins for change. The pouch was 
usually a very decorative ornament, of cunningly stamped or 
painted leather, embroidered in silk, perchance bysome innamorata^ 
and generally bearing the banker's arms or monogram. This 
custom of the money-changer's table gave a special designation 
to the registered Bankers of the Markets : " The Company of the 

There were, of course, many uncovenanted money-dealers 
for every Florentine who had a spare gold florin was ever ready 
to lend it to his neighbour at a rate of interest agreed between 
the two. The operations of these men were more or less shady, 
but were in a sort of way useful if not indispensable, in view of 
the speculative proclivities of the citizens, and in regard to the 
constantly congested state of business. They were allowed to 
place tables in the Markets, but without cloths and no chairs. 
Old documents discriminate the two classes as : Cum vela, vel 
tapeto, vel sine " with and without table-cloths ! " 

In the " Giuoccho delle Scacchi" published in 1493, by Antonio- 
Miscomini, with the moralisation of Jacopo de' Cessolis, and several 
woodcuts, the Florentine Banker-Money-changer is represented as 
the King's Pawn. 

" The fourth pawne is sette before the Kynge and is formed 
in the forme of a man holding in his right hand a balance, and 
the weyght in the lifte hand and to fore hym a table. And at 
his gurdell a purse full of monoye redy for to gyve the marchans 
of cloth, lynen, and wollen, and of all other marchandises. And 


by the table that is to fore hym is signefied ye changeurs and they 
that lene monoy and they that bye and selle by the weyght 
being signefied by the balance and weyght and the customers, 
totters, and resseyvours of rentes and money being signefied by 
the purse." 

The books of all the Money-lenders were required to be open 
to the inspection of the agents of the Guild, who paid periodical 


and surprise visits to every lender's table. Want of neatness in 
entry and illegibility were quite as severely censured as were 
inaccuracies and falsifications. 

Money-changers were not allowed to transact business pro- 
miscuously, but only at their tables, or within their own dwellings 
the latter privilege was a later concession, and led to the con- 
stitution of Banks as we now understand the term. 1 

No strangers and no ecclesiastics were permitted to become 

1 Pagnini, vol. ii. p. 135. 


members of the Guild, and such persons were forbidden to 
conduct public money transactions in the Markets. 

The Statutes of the Guild ordered, moreover, that the daily 
entries in the " Table " Ledgers should, invariably, be made in clear 
cursive characters, the figures Roman, not Arabic, and no capital 
letters, paragraphs, or points of punctuation. 

Up to the time of the Medicean ascendancy Florentine 
accounts were kept by single entry, although the double system 
of the Venetians was recognised as superior. To safeguard, and 
to check the simpler plan, duplicate books were endorsed, and 
deposited in strong boxes ; these were called Libri deW Asse, 
check-board books, or Libri rossi, bianchi^ neri, etc., according to the 
colour of the cover. Each volume contained, on the first page, 
an invocation of the Deity, and a dedication of the owner and 
scribe to the protection of Heaven. Of these books, which were 
made of ordinary Florentine-made cotton paper, and bound in 
leather, nearly all traces have disappeared. The Alberti certainly 
still possess many of the ancient banking books of their ancestors, 
and there are besides, in the Biblioteca Riccardiana^ several volumes 
and sheets belonging to the Peruzzi Company of the years 1292- 
1343, in which latter year that Bank suspended payment. 

From these Day-books copies were made at stated times into 
the Libri Maestri, Master Journals which were formidable 
volumes with parchment leaves and heavy wooden or leathern cases, 
clamped and locked with metal fittings. These volumes were 
preserved at the offices of the Guild for consultation and correction, 
and many of them are still in existence. 

The Florentine bankers and merchants made their cash- 
reckonings in lire, soldi, and denari the origin of our . s. d. 
Twenty soldi went to the pound and twelve denari to the soldi. 
The spot values of these coins were constantly varying, hence the 
standard coin for all important transactions was the florin in gold, 
first struck in 1252. 

It may be noted in passing, that many terms still currently 
used in monetary transactions originated with the " Guild of 


Bankers and Money-Changers " of Florence : cassa cash, 
banco bank, bancarotta bankruptcy, giornale journal, debito and 
debitore debt, debtor, and " Dr," credito and creditore credit, 
creditor, and " Cr.," whilst detto is our " ditto " and " do." 

Every year the Consuls called into conference the financial 
officials of all the Guilds and the Priors of the Monastic Orders 
to strike a balance in accounts in dispute, and to lay down regula- 
tions to rule money values and loan interest for the current year. 
Each year also the Consuls held a consultation with a number of 
their predecessors in office for the purpose of passing in review 
the names, characters, and methods of all the Money-changers 
and Money-lenders carrying on business in the city. Any dealer 
in money who had become in any way notorious, or unjust, in his 
terms, was crossed off the Register, and his name was posted as a 
delinquent at the Offices of the Guild. 

The Residence of the Consuls, and the headquarters of the 
*' Guild of Bankers and Money-Changers " were established, at an 
early date, in the Mercato Nuovo, near the Porta Santa Maria. 
This building was destroyed by fire in 1304, but in its place was 
erected an edifice which quite outdid all the other Consular 
Residences in dignity and splendour as indeed was befitting the 
wealth and influence of the members of the Guild. The interior 
was adorned with polychromatic ceilings, and the walls overhung 
with rich hangings in embossed and gilt leather. Many fine oil 
paintings, and noble statues in marble, found places, along with 
splendid cabinets, the work of excellent carvers and inlayers, 
and beautiful coloured windows. 

Over this edifice was a bell, placed there by the benevolent 
solicitude of a wealthy Money-changer, by name Giovanni della 
Gheradesca. Rung twice a day, it heralded the opening of 
financial business, and proclaimed the closing of the money 
market. In jjji6,when Cosimo I. put up the clock in the 
market, the " Bankers-bell " was moved to the top of the Casa del 
Saggio the Public Assay Office for gold and silver and still 
went on ringing in and ringing out the cashiers of the Guild. 


The arms of the Guild were set up on the facade of the 
Residence, and were of course emblazoned on the Gonfalon 
intrusted to the Guild Standard-bearer in 1266. They were quite 
significant of the purposes of the Guild a red field strewn with 
gold florins. 

An excellent system of dowries for young citizens of both 
sexes was established in 1343. Parents and friends loaned sums 
during a period of fifteen years, more or less, to the State ; and 
received guarantees of repayment within certain time limits. The 
interest at first was at the rate of 1 8 per cent, and it naturally 
attracted many depositors. The administration of this fund was 
committed to the Consuls and Council of the " Guild of Bankers 
and Money-changers." Special officers were elected by the Guild, 
who also had the superintendence of matters of bail and security, 
and a base neglect of duty, or unfaithfulness of stewardship, were 
rigorously punished by fine and imprisonment. 

Bankers professionally were remarkable for their piety ! Not 
only did each head of a house open the day's duties with prayers 
in his family circle, but the avocations of the bank were inaugurated 
by a reunion of all the staff for religious exercises. No class 
of citizens was more regular in attendance at Mass and other 
Church duties, than the Bankers and Money-changers. Their 
calling too made demands upon their charity, and, in proportion 
as they throve, they bestowed alms. The old-world sentiment, 
that those who deal in the most mundane matters must put away 
most deposits of heavenly treasure, was an ever-present con- 

The dates at which the great banking families of Florence 
first made their marks were pretty much as follows : Acciaiuoli 
1252, Alberti 1244, Bardi 1215, Buonaparte 1260, Fresco- 
baldi 1252, Pegolotti 1317, Peruzzi 1260, Sassetti 1260, 
Scali 1235, Villani 1298. Unhappily the diaries, business 
books and parchments of nearly all the families have perished, 
and almost all we know is gathered out of the private records of 




the Cavalcanti, dell' Antella, dei Salimbeni, della Sega, and Valori 

As early as 1228 there were Banks in Florence bearing the 
names of Benevieni, Lamberti, Alamanni, and Ugolini, who 
were already doing business with France, England and Flanders. 
In 1264 the houses of Simonetti, Bacarelli, Ardinghi, and Spinelli 
had agents in London, whose chief business was the collection of 
Peter's Pence. Branch banks were opened by Giovanni Vanno 
and his company at Dover and Canterbury in 1302, as well as in 

The Peruzzi had sixteen such agencies : Pisa and Genoa 
1302, Paris 1303, Avignon and Chiarenza, in the Morea 1305, 
Tunis and Venice 1306, Naples and Rhodes 1310, London 
and Bruges 1312, Castel di Castro (Caligari) 1332, Barletta 
on the Adriatic, and Palermo 1335, and Majorca 1336. The 
number of their agents, in the middle of the fourteenth century, 
was one hundred and thirty. 

The Papal Schism 1305-1377 gave the Florentine Bankers 
rare opportunities for reaping golden harvests. The contributions 
of the faithful were unavoidably diverted into two rival channels. 
Much money was either entirely lost or misapplied, and the con- 
fusion added immensely to the business and the commission of 
the Campsores Papce. The houses of Mozzi, Bardi, Acciaiuoli, 
Scali, Spini, and Alberti rose to eminence during this period. 

Two books are extant which show that in 1348 the company 
of Jacopo and Caroccio degli Alberti was employed in collecting 
Peter's Pence and other ecclesiastical dues, in the name of the 
Avignon Pope, and had agencies at Paris, Bruges, Venice, Siena, 
Perugia, Brussels, Naples, and Rome. 

Other Florentine Bankers, whose names were well known in 
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were Strozzi, Medici, Cap- 
poni, Salviati, da Uzzano, Albizzi, Badesi, Bartolini, Corsini, Dini, 
Ricci, and Covoni. 

Perhaps the most famous of them all were the Bardi, who 
made their mark as enterprising merchants along with the Caval- 


canti, Rossi, and Mozzi as early as 1215. They were concerned 
in the feud between Cosimo de' Medici and Luca Pitti in 1434, 
and, along with the Castellani, Ardinghelli, Rondinelli, Brancacci, 
Guardagni, Baldovinetti and others, were exiled for a long term 
of years. This severe treatment however obtained the substitution 
of the title " Priori di Liberta " for that of " Priori delle Arti " for 
the Heads of the Guilds, so that the people " might," as Machia- 
velli says, "at least preserve the name of the thing they had 
lost." 1 ' 

On May 29, 1311, the Bardi Company, which numbered nine 
partners, appointed legal representatives in France, England, and 
Ireland, Tuscany, Lombardy, and Germany. In August of the same 
year another such official was appointed for Cyprus and Rhodes. 2 
The power of the Bardi Company grew enormously, as did their 
generosity. They certainly held tight to their monopolies, which 
were many in number and various in character ; but, at the same 
time, they opened branch offices everywhere, and gave employ- 
ment to very many small houses and to individuals. Builders, 
dealers, merchants, tradespeople, and others, shared with them in 
the success of their business relations. To be connected with such 
a house as that of the Bardi meant, not only the enjoyment of 
much social and personal comfort and emolument, but the respect 
and confidence of everybody with whom contact was shared. 3 

Villani calls the Bardi, the Peruzzi, the Acciaiuoli, the Buon- 
accorsi, and the Scali : " The Pillars of Commerce and of Chris- 

An enterprising Minis tro^ or agent, of the Bardi Company, in 
1 3 1 5, in Flanders, Francesco Balducci, procured from the Duke 
of Brabant certain privileges for Florentine merchants: (i) a 
reduction of the duty on silk per ship load, and (2) a maximum 
tax of two denari per one hundred and twenty pounds weight of 
wool. In 1324 he went for his Company to Cyprus, where an 
oppressive tariff was laid upon all Florentine merchandise. He 

1 Machiavelli, " Le Istorie di Firenze," p. 272. 

2 Archivio del Stato di Firenze. 

3 F. Truchi, " Difesa del Commercio dei Fiorentini." 


gained terms as favourable as those in Flanders, for in 1326 a 
concession was granted to his house for five years, whilst in 1327 
Florentine goods were granted free import for ever. 

Such agents were not men of inferior position or attainment. 
The heads of the large Banking-houses were too keenly alive to 
the possibilities of business to appoint any representatives but 
those who possessed the very highest qualifications. Among them 
we come across scions of the great houses of Donati, Guicciardini, 
Villani, Strozzi, Soderini, Machiavelli, Pazzi, and Portinari and 
many others. In after years seven of these agents served in their 
time the office of Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, and as many as 
twenty-seven the high dignity of Prior. 

All of the agents or couriers not only were matriculated 
members of the Guild, but their names were registered upon the 
Foreign Agents' Roll. In addition to fixed liberal salaries they 
received ample funds for the expenses of their journeys, and letters 
of recommendation and of credit. Each one had a medal, or token, 
bearing the heraldic cognisance of his house, as a further pledge of 
official responsibility. 1 

Some idea of the salaries annually paid to agents, couriers, 
and clerks of the great Banking-houses may be gathered by con- 
sulting the books of the Peruzzi Company for the years 1335- 
I338. 2 The amounts range from ten lire, three soldi paid to a 
discipulo, or apprentice, Giusto di Beno Battelli by name, to 
three hundred and twenty-two lire paid to Bartolo Uguccioni an 

No more interesting and exciting scene could be witnessed in 
old Florence than the daily transactions of the Bankers and 

Let the reader transport himself in imagination to one of the 
numerous Banks of Florence during the epoch of her prosperity. 
In the hall he will see great parchment ledgers, wide open upon 
solid wood desks, awaiting the entries of the day's business as it 

1 Pagnini, Vol. ii. 135 ; Cantini, Vol. iii. 165; Peruzzi, pp. 261-266. 

2 Peruzzi, p. 260. 


ebbs and flows. All about are the agents and travellers of the 
house, either just returned from, or starting off to, Armenia, China, 
and the East, and London, Paris, Antwerp and other Western 

The home-comers are seated busily revising their cash-state- 
ments of business done, and consulting their order books, pre- 
paratory to their inspection by the cashiers at the counter. Some 
are walking up and down and exchanging greetings and informa- 
tion with the couriers about to start upon outward journeys. All 
is bustle and excitement, men are bragging about their travels, 
and showing off the cranks and foibles they have picked up by 
the way, whilst others are boasting of what they are about to 
achieve and are swaggering up and down ! 

The heads of the house are either closeted in their private 
office, discussing high finance, or maybe are haughtily wending 
their way in full official attire to participate in some important 
affair of state in the Council at the Palazzo Vecchio. 

If the Bank has attached to it a Loggia or Borsa, a vestibule 
or clearing-office, the scene is still more animated. In addition 
to the ordinary staff, customers of all sorts and kinds are popping 
in and out, and voices are discussing in shrill tones the state 
of the money-market, and the rise and fall of stock, etc. etc. 

Under the Loggia, portico, of the Mercato Nuovo, especially, 
bankers and merchants and their clients foregather. Speculators, 
and plungers " Bulls and Bears " are there as they are in our 
day in the purlieus of the Stock Exchange. 

" The shares of the Monte (Pawn Office) are at thirty. Can 
we do business ? " cries one. " Say, this time next year, I'll sell 
or I'll buy as you like." 

" What's your price ? " is the reply. " What premium do you 
propose ? " l 

Stock changed hands constantly, and accordingly a tax was 
imposed, of two silver florins, upon every transfer, which vindicated 
the love of levying money for State purposes in every imaginable 

1 Marchionne di Coppo Stefani, '* Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani," Lib. viii. p. 97. 

\Sce Chapter XV _ 


direction, and also established the regularity of the contract. 
" Jobbing," as we call it, was in full swing in the Mercato Nuovo 
all through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the year 
1371 a tax of two per cent, was established and imposed upon 
every completed bargain. 1 

The Palaces of the great banker families made quite a 
distinctive feature in the street architecture of old Florence. 
Sometimes the whole of a street was occupied by members of 
a single family, for example : Via de' Peruzzi, Via de' Tornabuoni, 
Borgo degli Albizzi, Borgo de' Greci, Via de' Bardi and Via de' 

The Peruzzi Bank, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, 
consisted of three brothers, who lived with their wives and children 
in the Via de' Peruzzi. The combined families numbered thirty- 
one persons, who were served by upwards of twenty domestics of 
all grades. The annual expenditure of these united establishments 
reached the considerable figure of three thousand gold florins, 
equivalent to 1500. 

Very much of the expansion of the banking business of 
Florence was directly due to the wanderings about of Guelphic 
exiles, who became, for the moment, agents of their houses in 
foreign lands. 

Charles of Anjou, before he set out from France on his way 
to Italy, not only received many loans from Florentine bankers 
and merchants, but surrounded himself with Florentine judges, 
notaries, doctors, apothecaries, armourers, saddlers, and the rest. 
Four hundred exiled Guelphs formed his Body-Guard, chiefly 
Florentine Bankers. Through his influence the greater part of 
the trade of Naples passed into the hands of Florentine merchants. 
Exclusive shipments of wine, corn, and oil, from Manfredonia and 
Ravenna, were made by the same enterprising traders under 
Charles's patronage. 

In 1338 the number of Banking Houses in Florence was 
eighty. Thirty years later, owing to the privileges and encourage- 

1 Marchionne di Coppo Stefani, Lib. ix. Rub. 727, 


ments conferred by the peace with Pisa, the business of Banking 
increased greatly, and by the end of the century, there were fully 
one hundred and twenty Companies in active operation. 1 

Towards the end of the fourteenth century Florentine 
Commerce had made such an immense advance that a whole 
body of Statutes and Regulations, dealing with the financial 
matters, came into existence. Among them was a series of 
enactments enabling all mercantile affairs to be conducted with 
greater speed by the avoidance of legal details, and releasing 
merchants' credits from mortgage and sequestration. At the 
same time attempts were made to effect a codification of the 
laws of perjury, fraud, and bankruptcy. 

The vastness of the Banking business, which Florentines were 
doing in the fifteenth century, drew a remarkable admission from 
the unwilling lips of the ruler of a rival Republic Venice. Doge 
Tommaso Mocenigo declared that : " Florence is drawing out of 
Venice 392,000 gold ducats a year!" 

Troubles came in their turn, and by 1422 there only 
remained seventy-two firms engaged in Banking and Money- 
changing, and these were for the most part small houses. Further 
shrinkage was experienced, until, in 1474, not more than thirty- 
two Banks were able to keep open their doors. This low-water 
mark was the commencement of the decadence of Florentine 
commercial prosperity. 

The extreme complication and variety of monetary values, 
which existed in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, in 
every city and town of Europe, made the existence of an 
association of exchange agents an absolute necessity. 

The foreign coinage which found its way to Florence was 
remarkable for variety and fluctuation in value. The standard 
piece of Naples was the Carlin, of Venice the Mark or Ducat, 
of London the Pound sterling, of Paris the Livre Tournois, 
and of Rhodes and Tunis the Besan. All these were current 
in Florence. 

1 Villani, xi. 94. 


If Jews, and Greeks on the one part, and Venetians and 
Genoese on the other, were the great original factors in the 
monetary expansion of the Middle Ages, Florence was undoubtedly 
the centre of all banking interests in the Renaissance. 

To Florentine initiative is wholly due the admirable facility 
of exchanging cash values against paper. This system revolu- 
tionised and vitalised the entire conduct of commerce, not only 
in Florence herself, but throughout the known world. 

" Leltere di Cambio" Letters of change, or of credit, became 
an indispensable means of transacting the international business 
of bankers and moneylenders. The transmission of bullion became 
more and more risky, and its bulk increased the difficulty of 
transit. The depreciation of coinage in habitual use was also 
a serious objection to dealing in cash directly. These admir- 
able and convenient money drafts provided a ready and secure 
means of dealing in credits. They were first used in Florence 
in 1260, but possibly, they had their origin in Venice, during 
the middle of the twelfth century, where they were confined to 
certain business houses dealing together. 

The system of " Letters of Credit " made the transmission 
of money, even to such distant places as Jaffa, and Tana on 
the Sea of Azof, a matter of comparative ease. For example, 
when a Florentine citizen wished to transmit, say, a couple of 
hundred pounds to Antwerp, he had but to saunter into the 
office of some " CalimcUa? "Wool" or "Silk" Merchant, who, 
in a few words addressed by courier to his agent there, caused 
the payment to be made. 

The use of " Letters of Credit " made it possible for vast 
operations to be carried through, like those of the Bardi and 
Peruzzi, up to the year 1340, for well-nigh a million and a half 
gold florins, equal to 750,000, to be placed at the disposal of 
King Edward III. 

A table of time-limits between Florence and the principal 
cities of Europe and the East, copies of which were displayed 
at all the Banks, shows the days required for consignments 


of specie and goods to reach their destinations, as follows : 
Bologna 3, Pisa 5, Genoa and Rome 15, Venice and Naples 
20, Milan 30, Sicily, Provence, and Tunis 45, Flanders 70, 
England and Constantinople 75, and Cyprus 90. 

The days occupied by the couriers of the Florentine Mer- 
cantile and Banking houses, in travelling were as follows : Rome 
and Genoa, each five to six days ; Milan, Venice and Naples, ten 
to twelve ; Paris, Bruges and Barcelona, twenty to twenty-five ; 
London, Sicily and Constantinople twenty-five to thirty. 

The brokerage sanctioned by the Guild varied according to 
the standard value of the money employed, whether gold or 
silver ; the average amount was from ten to fifteen per cent. 
Probably one of the principal causes which contributed to make 
Florence so prosperous was the system of loans at interest. 1 

In Florence it was rather a sound system of finance than a 
sordid love of money that influenced her commercial policy. 
Very early her merchants discovered that capital, borrowed at 
a high rate of interest, was not the readiest way to advance 
their operations. Speculators doubtless there were, and even 
4< plungers," to use a modern term, who craved money for its 
own sake, but these men were regarded with little esteem, and 
their methods were not generally attractive. 

At first the ecclesiastical powers opposed the lending of 
money at interest, and the making of profit upon a temporary 
loan was deemed usurious. Even to the end of the fourteenth 
century, " it was considered usurious for any one to make a loan, 
which was not drawn upon an official form, and where, in the 
instrument itself, it was not stated that the loan was made 
gratuitously." 2 

Public loans were raised in the following way : The 
State named certain citizens, members of the chief Banking 
Companies, with full power to find the money required, 
assigning to them, by way of security, taxes placed upon certain 
commodities entering the gates of the city such as salt and 

1 Peruzzi, p. 81. 2 Lapo Mazzei, "Lettere," vol. i. 246. 




wine ; or commissions upon the rents of the shops on the Ponte 
Vecchio. The Companies accepted the contract, and furnished 
the necessary sum wholly or in part, raising the remainder among 
the citizens, upon certain conditions, and at a reasonable interest. 
Another method was adopted when it was desired to force the 
citizens to take up the loan, the amount of the sum required 
was publicly proclaimed, and part assigned to every street in 
accordance with the wealth and number of the inhabitants. 
After the portion to be paid by each had been fixed, it was then 
delivered to the State Treasurer, who repaid it to the creditors 
when the loan expired, from the proceeds of the customs. To 
facilitate this the contributors were also granted a quantity of 
salt at 6 lire the bushel, and were allowed to sell it at the 
ordinary fixed rate, which was higher. 

The loaning of money to the State for a fixed time at a 
certain rate of interest, led to the creation, in 1222, of a new 
Government Office, which came to be known popularly under the 
name of " // Monte " " The Money-pile ! " Instead of calling on 
the Banks for a loan, as had been usual before, the Government 
divided the money required for the public exchequer into portions 
according to the assessment of each citizen, and each was expected 
to contribute his full share. The rate of interest placed to the 
credit of each contributor in the " Monte " Books varied from 
three to twenty-five per cent. This Book was known as " // Libro 
de* Settamilioni" " The Book of Seven Millions," from the 
amount of the original loan. 

In 1 307 the credit of the Republic was staked to the Bankers, 
the " Calimala," and the Parte Guelfa to the amount of seven 
million gold florins. In the war with Arezzo, the " Guild of 
Bankers and Money-changers " gave the State credit for eight 
million gold florins, which amount was repaid by a Provvisione, 
or Order in Council, of the year I3O7. 1 

The Republic was a community of Merchant- Bankers whose 
aim was the scientific exploiting of money. Their ingenuity and 

1 Prow. xiii. 132 v- 


resourcefulness were the consequences of their systematic training 
in the adaptability of capital. When one expedient appeared to 
have gained the end in view, these wideawake capitalists were 
never at a loss for another. 

Up to the middle of the fourteenth century the State Revenues 
had been raised without difficulty by customs and duties on con- 
tracts called " Gabelle" Among Provvisioni of the year 1 290 is one 
which shows how the " Gabella " was raised, and how the different 
Guilds not only contributed, in their corporate capacity, but how 
individual members were appointed to undertake the collection. 
Millers and Bakers, Masters of Stone and Wood, Tailors, and 
Barbers, of the Contado were specially taxed ; each man paying 
forty soldi a month, and the tax ranging over two months. 1 
In 1336, however, the expenses incurred in the many warlike 
expeditions were far and away too heavy to be met by ordinary 
taxation. A national debt, as we should say, was created 
by forced loans, and was called " Prestanza " from prcestigium 

The allocation of the amount required was quite arbitrary, but 
contingent upon seven separate assessments of the property of 
which each individual was possessed. An average was struck, 
which was the sum accorded to each citizen of sufficient means. 
Failure to pay this impost within seven days led to the delinquent's 
name being entered in a book which was called " il Specchio" 
" the Looking-glass," and he was subjected to fines and dis- 

Several registers for the " Prestanza " are preserved in the 
Archives of Florence. One, a paper book, in good condition, 
has the following entry : 

" In the name of God, Amen. Hereinafter is inscribed all 
the money which I, Tano di Lapo della Bruna, have received for 
Gherardo Lanfredini, Camarlingo of the Commune of Florence, 
towards the impost of Fifty thousand gold florins, levied by the 
Commune, which has been collected by the four companies 

1 Prow. ii. 117 v- 


Peruzzi, Bardi, Scali, and Acciaiuoli. The said money is to be 
paid as a loan to the said Commune, to pay to our Lord the 
Duke of Calabria 33,000 gold florins, a third of which was 
assigned to the Bardi on the feast of S. Piero Scheraggio, the 
25th of March 1325." 

The " Gabella" of the year 1339 produced a great sum of 
money, from very many sources. Some of the items were : 

The Porte, or Gate, dues . . about Flo. 90,200 

The tax on Wine .... 50,300 

The rate levied on the people of the Contado at 1 
10 soldi per lira . . . . J 

The tax on Salt at 49 soldi a bushel for a citizen, 1 

> 1 4)4 5 o 
and 20 soldi for a peasant . . . J 

Tax for cattle killed in the Market . . 15,000 

Rate levied on the goods of Rebels and Exiles . 7,000 

Tax on Corn ground into flour . . . 4,250 

A poll-tax upon members of the Guilds . . 3 ,000 

House-tax in Florence and Hut-tax in the Contado 1,000 

and many other items, amounting to a total sum of 343,300 gold 

The public debt in 1344 amounted to thirty thousand gold 
florins, which the State could not pay. To clear the amount a 
" Monte" or Public Bank, was opened that persons, who were 
patriotically disposed, might contribute their quota. Each 
depositor received in exchange, credit or a promise to pay, which 
became a negotiable asset capable of being transferred from one 
to another, very much after the manner of our present cheque 

The " Prestanza " having done its work, there was not the 
least difficulty about the further manipulation of the revenues of 
the State with respect to the absorption of private resources. 
In 1345 a "Monte Comune" was raised to meet the rapacity 
of the Duke of Athens and his party. By it all loans made to 
the Republic were merged into one consolidated fund or debt, 


which was made to bear interest at five per cent., and secured 
upon the State revenues. This was actually the creation of 
Government Stock for each person interested in the loans was 
entitled to buy, sell, pledge, or exchange his share as he willed. 
The market prices in the Mercato Nuovo fluctuated with the rise 
or fall of the credit of the State. The Florentine "Monte 
Comune" was the first National Debt, as such, ever called into 

The " Arbitrio" an individual valuation, and the "Decima" 
a general percentage of property, were other means employed 
by the State, acting upon the advice of the Consuls of the 
" Guild of Bankers and Money-changers," for raising loans easily 
and quickly. The former was a tax upon the conjectured earn- 
ings of the citizens. It was very unpopular, and failed to realise 
the purpose of its inception. Cosimo I. finally abolished it after 
an existence of sixty years. The latter, the " Decima" was an 
impost of ten florins upon every hundred gold florins of the 
net income of each individual. Hence it was the rate of a tenth 
part of the income, and thus gained its name. The assessments 
were subject to a triennial revision. Fraudulent returns led to 
confiscation of unscheduled properties. 

The " Catasto" Income Tax, called so from the book in 
which the names of all taxpayers with descriptions and values of 
properties, were entered, was devised by Filippo Ghiacceteo, but 
actually introduced by Giovanni de' Medici in 1427. The name 
was derived from accatastare, to accumulate. It was the most 
elaborate and exhaustive register of persons, and properties, which 
had ever been undertaken by any civilised State, and is a monu- 
ment to the financial capacities of the people of Florence. Each 
person's exact monetary position was stated from every point of 
view, and the sum total arrived at was charged half a florin to 
every hundred gold florins. The " Catasto " worked very smoothly, 
and did much to increase the popularity of the Medici. Between 
1427 and 1453 the loans raised amounted to the enormous 
sum of 6,374,000 gold florins, contributed by seventy-six Banks; 


whilst four successive wars, which the Republic had waged, cost 
more than 1 1,500,000 gold florins ! l 

The system of raising money by " Gabella " for ordinary 
expenditure and by " Catasto " for extraordinary outlays re- 
mained in force until 1494. 

Banking for the Republic, whilst attended with risks and 


dependent upon the will of fickle Fortune in the shape of 
frequent and erratic changes of Government, was the aim and 
ambition of all the financial houses of Florence. Competition 
to secure loans and other business was as keen as keen could be. 
Many a wealthy and noble house became eminent upon the suc- 
cessful negotiation of a State loan. The Medici owed their rise 
and their prosperity to the skilful way in which members of the 

1 C. Landino, 

Dante Alighieri Florentine," Lib. xi. c. 91 ; and Lib. ix. c. 264. 


family, in successive generations, manipulated public accounts. 
Whilst posing as the friends of the people, they were enabled, 
without compunction, to help themselves pretty liberally to the 
contents of the public purse ! 

Lorenzo "il Magnifico" was the first Medici to give up entirely 
all connection with commercial and banking interests, whilst his 
tenure of office marks the termination of the financial liberty of 
Florence apparently a paradox, but nevertheless a fact ! 

The wealth amassed by the merchant banking families may 
be judged from the example of the Medici whose pre-eminence 
in the political and social life of the State was an important 
factor. Giovanni de' Medici left 179,221 gold florins, Cosimo I. 
2 35 I 37 J an< 3 Piero 237,982; whilst each leading member of 
the family bestowed enormous benefactions upon the city and 
its inhabitants Cosimo alone, it is said, gave away more than 
500,000 gold florins! 1 

The rates of interest paid upon borrowed capital varied con- 
siderably not only in general use but in relation to particular 
classes of the population. Going back to the days of Justinian, 
when fixed rules and rates were first codified, it is not a little 
interesting to learn that persons of rank and influence paid 
usually four per cent on loans, whilst merchants were charged 
eight, and unfortunate dealers in grain and other breadstufifs 
were mulcted in eleven per cent. ! 2 

It was sought to strike a balance, and an attempt was made 
to charge generally from six to seven per cent. For a time this 
succeeded until the Duke of Athens, in revenge for the lukewarm- 
ness to his cause on the part of merchants and bankers, declared, 
in 1345, that the original figures of Justinian should be restored. 

The irregular quotations in the value of the gold florin caused 
a similar sliding scale in the rates of interest. With respect to 
State Loans the interest varied considerably with times and 
circumstances. In 1345 the creditors of the "Monte Comune" 

1 J. Burckhardt, " Die Cultur des Renaissance in Italien," vol. i. 141. 

2 Peruzzi, p. 205. 


received five per cent., whilst between I 349 and I 380, the rate paid 
was between twelve and twenty per cent. ! l 

On the other hand the rate for extraordinary business trans- 
actions was moderate. The Bardi Company charged the King 
of Sicily only two per cent., and in Seville their price was but 
five per cent. The Peruzzi Company made similar charges. 

The wide extent and importance of the Banking-trading in- 
terests of the Bardi and Peruzzi Companies is evidenced by the 
interesting fact that, the King of Armenia excused merchandise 
cleared to or from Florence, in the names of either of the houses, 
at one half the usual dues. The King's official permit had his gold 
seal attached by a broad green silk ribbon. 

Money-changers and Money-lenders appear to have been fre- 
quently at variance in their operations. To the former were due 
almost all the Statutes passed after 1394, affecting the status and 
privileges of the latter. These became so oppressive that all 
interest was looked upon as theoretically usurious, though 
practically as much as fifteen per cent, was permissible. 2 

Dante is very severe, in his " Inferno" upon the crime of unjust 
usury, as prostituting the fair role of Nature and Nature's laws : 

. . . "Your Art is, 

As it were, grandchild of God, and it behoves 
Mankind to gain an honest livelihood ; 
But, since the usurer takes another part, 
Disdaining Nature and her just behests, 
Placing elsewhere his fickle hope. . . . " 3 

He speaks too of 

..." that seventh circle, where the mournful tribe were seated." . . . 4 

and he finds his examples, not in the persons of persecuted Jews, 
but in those of well-known Merchant-bankers, the Gianfigliazzi, 
the Ubbriacchi, and, worst of all, Giovanni Bujamonti. 

In his eighth circle he places sellers of justice, evil councillors, 
corrupt barterers, and public deceivers of all kinds, and says : 

1 M. Villani, lib. Hi. c., cvi. 3 " Inferno," Canto xi. 105. 

2 Statuti, 1415, lib. ii. 19. 4 " Inferno," Canto xviii. 


. . . " All men are there, 

Except Bontaro, barterers of 'no' rights as ply, 
For filthy lucre's sake, an ' aye ' becomes." 

Money lending became a precise science, a fine art, a fraud, 
and a burlesque in turn. Men's wits were sharpened to gain 
money, honestly if it might be, by the practice of every con- 
ceivable artifice. The dignitaries of the Church were as keen as 
the laity to borrow, and to lend, with the sole view of their own 
ultimate benefit. If a Money-lender died, who had been known 
as a sharp fellow, sepulture was denied his remains, until a 
recompense had been paid to the bishop ! Men were adjured to- 
make honourable terms with heaven, before they came to their 
deaths, by handing over considerable sums, or property, to the 
safeguarding of those who held the Celestial keys ! 

An appearance of respectability, and even sanctity, in Money- 
dealing was not unattainable. The nomenclature of the period 
presented reprehensible and doubtful transactions under pleasing 
euphemisms, such as : dono di tempo quick returns, merito 
slight recompense, interesso smart gain, cambio tit-for-tat v 
civanza unexpected profit, baroccolo sly advantage, ritrangola 
trifling advance on quotation, and so on. 1 

Sacchetti tells the story of one Sandro Tornabello, who had 
an extortionate love of money. Meeting an old creditor, who 
threatened to arrest him for the non-payment of an account, 
which had actually been settled by his father and of which no 
record had been kept, he paid a visit to his Notary, who advised 
him to let the man proceed against him in the ordinary course. 
When the legal official appeared to take him into custody, he 
proposed that he should pay him one-half the claim of three 
hundred gold florins, and obtain in exchange the quashing of the 
suit in the Podestds Court ! 2 

Boccaccio levelled many a cutting shaft of sarcasm at the 
monetary insincerities of his day : Que e poca civanza e men 
guadagna, " He who steals a trifling benefit, thereby acquires an 

1 Sacchetti, "Novelle," xxxii. vol. i. p. 136. 
a Sacchttti, "Novelle," Hi. 


ample gain ! " l And he sums up his indignation in the expres- 
sion " Grossa usura ! " 

" That man," wrote Machiavelli, " will never be regarded as 
good who for the purpose of always making a profit from an 
occupation which he carries on proves himself rapacious, fraudu- 
lent and violent." 3 

Constant efforts were made to restrain usurious interest. 
Unhappily they were usually rendered nugatory by the action of 
the Government, which aimed at extorting the highest possible 
rates from citizens who dealt directly with its officials. In 1420 
usury, or, as we should now call it, interest upon money, was so 
high and so arbitrary, that the State took steps to issue fixed 
rates and prices. One decree ordained that no more than five 
denari might be charged per lire per month. 

A banker's ledger of the year 1427 is still preserved. It 
belonged to the company of Guiliano di Nannino dei Bardi and 
Piero di Francesco Piccioli, and reveals the fact that the interest 
upon a capital of 2928 lire amounted to 878 lire a year a rate 
of nearly thirty per cent. ! A goldsmith, Oderigo da Credi by 
name, borrowed twenty lire for six months, and paid four lire 
interest thereupon, and in addition deposited his rich green 
doublet, lined with velvet, as a guarantee for the repayment of 
the amount ! 

The exactions of Money-lenders, whether licensed by the 
Guild, or uncovenanted operators in the Market, became at the 
end of the fifteenth century so excessive that not only was the 
State forced to issue repressive Provvisioni^ but the forces of the 
pulpit were arrayed in violent opposition. 

Between 1430 and 1436, when the city gates were once more 
opened to the Jews, the " Guild of Bankers and Money-changers " 
forbade all Money-lenders under its authority to ask more than 
four denari for a lira per month a rate of twenty per cent. 

The extravagant way of managing the finances of the 

1 Boccaccio, " Decamerone " Giorno i. Novella i. vol. iv., p. 42. 
- Giorno viii. Nov. x. vol. iii. p. 308. 
3 Machiavelli, "II Principe," chap. xi. 


Republic gave the preaching friars, the Augustinians and 
Dominicans in particular, much matter for vehement invective. 
They attacked the " Monte Comune" where the subscribers paid 
ten per cent, upon the valuation of their annual incomes. The 
mode in which this tax was levied pressed hardly upon the 
labouring and poorer classes. They, in their difficulty, turned for 
assistance to the Jews, who had become numerous in the city, 
and whose operations had escaped the notice of the authorities. 

The hardships which their exactions brought upon families in 
humble circumstances inflamed the zeal of a famous preacher at 
the end of the fifteenth century. Preaching in the church of 
Santa Croce, in the year 1488, Bernardino da Feltre raised his 
voice on behalf of the unfortunate citizens, and violently 
denounced the rapacity of the Jew money-lenders. He proposed 
the institution of a Pawn-shop, where the distressed and im- 
poverished might receive just dealing. This proposition was 
carried out, but not until 1495, after Matteo Strozzi had led a 
raid against the Jews who were banished the city. 

Savonarola entered heart and soul into the contest between 
might and right. He espoused the people's cause and advocated 
the overthrow of the selfish and opulent oligarchism which 
threatened the liberties of Florence. His preaching had an 
immense effect, and led to the creation of two parties in the 
city " Arrabbiati" the party of reaction, and " Piagnoni? the 
friends of reform. Through the influence of the Frate, the 
" Tribunate della Mercanzia" which had become inoperative, was 
revived. He attained a position of unparalleled power, and 
ultimately inflicted great disasters upon the richer citizens, which 
entirely changed the conditions of Florentine business and 

The fame of the Florentine Bankers for brilliancy in financial 
operations, backed up by their reputation for honourable conduct, 
and equitable administrative ability, spread far and wide. Many 
States and Cities all over Europe called in members of the Guild 
to regulate public business and direct the issue of coinage. From 

f. u 

L, - 


the end of the twelfth century the management of the revenues 
and mints of London, Naples, Halle, Aquiela, and many other 
places, was in the hands of Florentines. 

Among the earliest recorded loans to foreign States made by 
the " Guild of Bankers and Money-changers " were, Faenza 
1257, Arezzo 1278, and Citta di Castello 1290. 

Before the end of the reign of Henry III. Florentine bankers 
had obtained a firm footing in England. They issued " Letters 
of Credit " to ambassadors, and bills of exchange were monopolies 
in their hands. Money was scarce, and it was raised only with 
difficulty, consequently not only Henry III. but the three first 
Edwards had recourse to Florence. 1 

Edward I. incurred heavy expenses in Palestine, but he got 
help from Florence. Interest in such negotiations was rarely 
promised, for it spelt usury, and usurers were treated as heretics ; 
and so the king paid 10,000 to the Frescobaldi, by way of 
compensation. He also appointed their London agent to correct 
the mistakes made by London banks, and named him " Director of 
the Currency " of the Kingdom. The same house and many others 
furnished the Queen also, and several of the nobles of the Court, 
with advances of money, receiving, by way of security for pay- 
ment, imposts upon wool, hides, and other native produce. 

The Salimbeni and Peruzzi Companies had similar dealings 
with Edward II:, and also with the Dukes of Burgundy. 

The climax of Florentine prosperity was reached in 1336, 
when her population amounted to 1 80,000 inhabitants, and fifteen 
hundred nobles were inscribed upon the Rolls of the Greater 
Guilds ! The value of the currency was 400,000 gold florins 
200,000, and the State revenue amounted annually, to 300,000 
gold florins 150,000, whilst the ordinary expenditure was only 
40,000 gold florins 20,000. 

At this epoch in her history Edward III. was at war with 
France. Having need of supplies he applied to the " Guild of 
Bankers and Money-changers " of Florence through the banking- 

1 " Archivio Florentine," xxviii. 214, etc. 


agents resident in London. The Bardi, Peruzzi, Frescobaldi, and 
Scali took the lead in supplying the monarch's needs, and in 
exchange received the farming of the customs of the kingdom, 
the superintendence of all royal revenues, and the monopoly of 
exporting wool. 

The expansion of the financial business of Florence produced, 
as might be expected, anomalies and vicissitudes. The specu- 
lative operations of the Scali company for example, led in 1326 
to stoppage of payment. Their failure was to the amount of 
400,000 gold florins, and, although the most considerable, was by 
no means the only disaster on the Florentine money-market 
Moreover it involved misery and litigation far and wide. Among 
the creditors were the Holy See itself, and the two Queens of 
Naples Sancia and Joan. The Spanish Cardinal Pietro di 
Santa Sabina appealed to the Avignon Pope Clement, and they 
together importuned the Government of Florence to compel the 
Company to pay the claim ; but their debt to the Papal chair was 
upwards of seven thousand gold florins, and the only result was the 
issue of an Interdict, not only against the Bankers in particular, 
but against the entire City, which was not removed until 1347. 

In !339> like "a bolt shot out of the blue," an English 
Royal decree was promulged, suspending the payment of monies 
due to creditors of the Crown. This involved the companies of 
Bardi and Peruzzi alone in a loss of 1,355,000 gold florins 
nearly 700,000 a colossal sum, which Villani quaintly says 
was " worth as much as the kingdom itself." 1 

This was a disaster of the first order, and the whole banking 
interest of Florence reeled under the blow. " All Christendom," 
says the old chronicler, " came to suspect and distrust every 
merchant and every Bank." The catastrophe led to the undoing 
of other Banks. The failures, between 1340 and 1345, of the 
Acciaiuoli, Buonaccorsi, Corsini, Cocchi, Antellesi, da Uzzano, and 
other influential Companies, provided a succession of crises which 
had far-reaching results. 

1 Villani, "Cronica," xii. chap. 55. 


The smitten houses liquidated in full. Their credits, their lands, 
their houses, and all their available possessions, were sold, but at 
an enormous sacrifice quite thirty per cent, of loss. The Bardi 
succeeded in paying their creditors seventy per cent., but the 
Peruzzi did not do so well only totalling fifteen to twenty per 

Giovanni Villani, whose writings are so frequently quoted 
in this volume, was a Banker by profession. He served the 
office of Director of the Mint whilst a member of the Signoria. 
He failed along with the Acciaiuoli, Buonaccorsi, Corsini and 
Cocchi, and was involved with many other bankers and banking 
companies, in the great smash of the Bardi and Peruzzi. Being 
completely ruined he was, according to the law, imprisoned for 
life. He was one of the victims of the terrible plague which 
ravaged Florence in the year 1350! 

From another source the members of the " Guild of Bankers 
and Money-changers " were also heavily hit. The King of 
Sicily, imitating his brother of England, refused to honour his 
engagements, which included debts to the unfortunate Bardi and 
Peruzzi of over 200,000 gold florins 100,000. 

Troubles came in legions, and one more blow was struck at 
the stability of Florentine finance when the King of France, con- 
tinuing the traditions of his house, persecuted and deprived all the 
Florentine merchants and Bankers in his realm ! 

These financial crashes and political defeats were followed by 
a calamitous plague, "The Black Death" which slew one-third of 
the population of the city and its suburbs. The Rising of the 
" Ciompi" too, in 1378, led to the destruction by fire and pillage 
of the palaces and offices of many of the leading bankers. In fact 
the fourteenth century closed over a broken and bereaved Florence, 
and men wondered whether recovery were possible, and whether, 
Phoenix like, she would ever rise again. 

The Archives of Florence contain a contract drawn up on 
May 13, 1446, between Cosimo de' Medici and Giovanni Benci on 
the one side, and Gierozo de Pegli on the other, for the purpose of 


carrying on a banking business, with purchases of wool and cloth in 
London. It shows how that new men and new methods had come 
to the front. The senior partners are to find the capital 2500 
and Gierozo is to go to London to establish and manage the 
branch-house. His salary is a paltry pittance 33 a year, 
and he is only to receive one-fifth of the net profits ! 

Strict directions were given for Gierozo's guidance, with limi- 
tations of his buying powers, whilst rules for the consignment 
of bullion were carefully laid down. He had to promise not to 
gamble or play dice. Winnings of any kind over ten gold florins 
in value, were to be placed to the credit of the Company, and the 
same figure limited his acceptance of gifts ! Balance-sheets were 
to be regularly submitted to the parent house. Rulings of the 
Corte delta Mercanzia were to be observed by all parties concerned 
in any trade dispute. 1 

Another Medici branch house was established in London in 
1465, the partners being Piero de' Medici and Tommaso 
Portinari, and their agents Gherardo Canigiani and Giovanni de' 
Bardi, with a capital of ^2000. One-tenth part of all profits were 
dedicated to charity and church building in Florence. 

Henry VIII., Cardinal Wolsey, and Thomas Cromwell, greatly 
encouraged Italian enterprise, and protected the Florentine Bankers 
and merchants whenever the populace assaulted them, which, by 
the way, was no very uncommon occurrence. " Very great 
vengeance was taken on them, and his Majesty showed great 
good-will to the strangers." 2 

We cannot do better than close this chapter with some wise 
remarks of a noted Florentine. 

Francesco Guicciardini in his " Counsels of Perfection " gives 
excellent warning and advice with respect to money transactions. 
He says : " Draw not where you have no assets, nor discount 
prospective gains, for often enough they cannot be realised. We 
see the common cause of the bankruptcy of great merchants to be 

1 Archivio di Firenze, Carteggio Mediceo avanti il Principato, Filza 94. 

2 " Calendar of State Papers, Venetian," vol. ii. 385. 


this, that anticipating large future returns, they draw bills of 
exchange bearing high interest, which have to be met at a fixed 
date." Again he says : " Spend not on the strength of future 
gains, for often these either fail altogether, or else fall short of 
expectations." 1 

1 " Opere Inedite/' vol. iii. p. 79. 

Stemma del? Arte del Cambo 
Gold Florins upon a red field 



I. ORIGIN. Early History of Silk industry. Introduced into Tuscany, 1200 
circa. The Father of the Silk industry of Florence. The Pavement of the 
Baptistery. Guild incorporated end of twelfth century. A costly material. Early 
" Libro di Matricola" Alternative title. A splendid Residence. 

II. CONSTITUTION. Customs lead to Regulations. Codification. "// 
Statute Vecchio" Congregazione d Deputati. Officers. " Memorie antiche 
c moderne? Guild Registers. Matriculation. " Setaiuoli grossi " and " Setaiuoli 
minuti" Agents. Relations with other Guilds. An entirely new Code, 1557. 

I 1 1. D EVELOPMENT. Trade Associations. Affiliated industries. " Rottura 
delta Seta" Silk-workers from Lucca. Lombard dyers. Importance of the 
Mulberry. Sir Richard Dallington's testimony. Processes. Balducci Pego- 
lotti's instructions. Silk velvet and the Velluti family. Lapo Mazzei and the 
" Treatise upon the Craft of Silk." Directions about dyeing. Prices of raw 
silk. Weights. Sizes. Sale-prices for Silk-pieces. Workers in Gold and Silver. 
"LArte degli Orefict" Goldsmiths' apprentices. Rich attire of Floren- 
tines. Beautiful lace. " Opera de" Monache? Embroideries. Gold-filagree. 
Veil-makers. Painted silk. Immense trade and wealth. Royal Patronage. 
" Field of the Cloth of Gold." The Guicciardini family. Song of the Silk Girls. 

THE Silk industry was brought from India to Europe in the 
reign of Justinian. It is said that two monks, just home 
from the East, presented to the Emperor, at Constantinople, in 
the year 550, some silk-worm eggs and cocoons, which they had 
brought, concealed in a bamboo ; and, at the same time, exhibited 
the methods of hatching and unwinding used in China. 1 These 
worms were the forebears of all those varieties, which for wellnigh 
one thousand years kept Europe supplied with raw silk. 2 

The Emperor immediately recognised the importance of these 
natural curiosities, and their potentialities in the arena of commerce, 
and took the monks under his special protection. Turkey thus 

1 Muratori, "Antichite Italiane," Dissert. 25, vol. i. p. 379. 

2 Francesco Mengotti, " II Colbertismo." 


became the mother of silk-worm cultivation and of silk-manu- 
facture in Europe. 

The first extension of the area of the silk industry was to 
Greece, in the eighth century, almost at the time of its introduction 
into Spain by the Moors. Greek emigrants, colonising the shores 
and islands of the Mediterranean, still further increased the 
commerce in silk. 

The date of the introduction into Italy of silk-worms and 
cocoons, if somewhat late in time, was effective in result. In 
1148 King Roger of Sicily led an expedition against Thebes, 
Athens, and Corinth ; and, having subdued them, and the sur- 
rounding country, he took back to Palermo, among the spoils of 
the conqueror, a number of Greek artizans skilled in the manu- 
facture of silk-brocade and gold-work. These people settled 
down wherever the King placed them, and immediately set about 
their various callings. 

Within fifty years of the establishment of the Silk industry in 
Palermo a number of silk-workers had emigrated to the mainland 
of Italy ; and, of these, a considerable party found their way by 
sea to Leghorn and Pisa, and thence to Lucca, Milan, and Venice, 
in each of which cities silk-manufacture was actively going on 
late in the twelfth century. 

How exactly silk-worms, and the making of silken goods, first 
reached Florence are matters of uncertainty. Probably the suit- 
ability of the Vale of Arno for the cultivation of the mulberry 
was known to the inhabitants of Lucca, and by them imparted to 
the new settlers. 

The earliest silk-worker, however, in Florence, whose name 
has been recorded, was a Neapolitan, called after the name of 
his birthplace Napoleone, who, in the Archives dealing with the 
year 1200, is described as "a merchant in silk-cloth." Anyhow 
before the end of the twelfth century, not only the precious verme 
silk-worm, but the indispensable erba di vermini, silk- worm 
food, the mulberry-leaf, were introduced into the Contado of 


Of course the manufacturing of silken textures was chiefly 
dependent, for many a long day, upon the import of raw silk. 
However this may have been there are ample records of the 
flourishing state of the new industry in the first decade of the 
thirteenth century. 1 

The brocades first woven by the immigrant silk-workers, 
from Lucca and Naples, were after classical patterns, learnt in 
Greece, and handed down, but varied by the influences of Sicilian 

Almost, if not quite, the earliest specimens of silk-brocade 
made in Florence are especially interesting in that they reproduce 
the designs of the magnificent tessellated pavement of San 
Giovanni Battista, which was completed in 1204. 

The silk trade, it may be frankly admitted, did not thrive, in 
early days, as prosperously as did that of wool. There were 
differences between the two. First of all the cultivation of the 
silk-worm was attended with greater risks than the rearing of 
sheep, and the value of raw silk in foreign markets was far in 
excess of that of wool. 

The manufacture of tissues of silk, and of gold and silver, 
represented a far higher value of material, and required more 
costly manipulation, than did woollen cloth. The capital involved, 
even on a small scale, was also greater. On the other hand the 
sale price of silken goods did not bear so high a ratio to the cost 
of production as was the case in woollen manufactures. 

The profit upon spun silk was considerably less than that on 
spun wool. For example : a pound weight of raw Spanish wool, 
which cost about two and a half lire, could be manufactured 
into fine cloth worth forty lire ; whilst a pound of raw silk, before 
dressing, fetched not less than thirty lire, and the simple 
silken tissue, woven therefrom, realised no more than one hundred 
and twenty lire. 2 The admixture of gold and silver thread, or 
cord, of course, increased greatly the cost of production, whilst the 
prices realised did not bear a proportionate value. 

1 " L'Osservatore Florentine," vol. iv. p. 103. - Pagnini, vols. ii. and iii. 


The silk industry therefore grew slowly but surely, and by the 
beginning of the thirteenth century a goodly number of looms 
were at work, and manufacturers began to organise themselves 
into Companies and Corporations. 1 

The Origin of the " Guild of Silk " is coeval with that of the 
" Guild of Wool " and of the " Calimala Guild." The Consuls 
of the three Guilds signed the treaty of Peace with Siena in 1204. 
Again in 1224, and 1229, the signatures of the Consuls of the 
" Silk Guild " are appended to the Treaties with Volterra and 
Orvieto, along with those of the other Consuls. The Guild was 
so far incorporated in 1224 that a moral Code was issued for the 
government of its members. 2 

A Codex is preserved among the Archives of the City, for the 
year 1225, belonging to the " Por Santa Maria"* It is entitled 
" Libro di Matriculo" and is the earliest Matriculation-Roll 
existing. It records that Claro, son of Guido Arlotti, d' Oltrarno ; 
Simbaldo, son of Bartolo Caccialupi, son of Caccia, della Porta 
Santa Maria ; Cardinale, son of Marcoaldo, di Santa Cecilia ; 
Dono Spinelli ; Arrigo di Renucciai of the " Pressa di Calimala'' 
were matriculated in that year. The Roll goes on to 1233, and 
contains three hundred and sixty other names ; it is further 
referred to, under date 1308, when the Statutes for all the Guilds 
were subjected to thorough revision. 4 

The full title of the Guild was originally: " Ars et Uni- 
versitas della Seta Civitatis Florentines" and this appears, along 
with the arms of the Guild, still on the tower of the Residence, 
which abuts upon the Via Capaccio. These heraldic bearings 
consist of two closed and barred doors borrowed doubtless from 
the Porta Santa Maria, one of the Gates of the City in the first 
wall of old Florence. Amorini and wreaths were late decorative 

The alternative style of the Guild : " L'Arte della PortaSanta 
Maria " " the Guild of Saint Mary's Gate," which has crept 

1 Ammirato, Lib. i. p. 67. 2 Cantini, " Legislazioni," i. 176. 

3 " Archivio dell' Arte della Seta," Letter G. 4 Pagnini, vol. ii. 108. 


into all the manuscripts and documents, was due to the fact that 
the Residence of the Consuls was next door to the church of Santa 
Maria sopra la Porta. This building was known as the Palazzo 
de' Lamberti, and it was assigned to the use of the Silk Guild by the 
State. Within it also were the headquarters of the Parte Guelfa, 
which powerful political association extended special patronage to 
the " Guild of Silk." This Residence was, perhaps, the most 
splendid of all the Guild Palaces of Florence. Established in the 
old church of San Biagio, formerly Santa Maria della Porta, the 
artists employed by the Guild covered the exterior of the building 
with fine stucco, which they then lavishly decorated in fresco and, 
as they then called it, sgraffiti finely scratched designs. The 
Audience Hall contained superb oriental alabaster columns, 
gorgeous mosaics, beautifully tooled gilt bronze work, rich silken 
hangings and embroideries, and brilliantly stained-glass windows. 
Goro Dati speaks of the brave show the Consuls of the Guild 
made at the annual Feast of San Giovanni : " All along the Via 
Porta Santa Maria were displayed, over the shops and offices of the 
silk merchants, magnificent brocades of silk and gold, bearing the 
emblazoned arms of ten kingdoms, whose sovereigns and courtiers 
were decked with the produce of the Florentine silk-looms." 

As was the case with the other Guilds very many bye-laws 
and regulations had, from time to time, been adopted by silk- 
manufacturers and merchants. These were of a somewhat contra- 
dictory character, for, whilst the development of the silk industry 
had been comparatively slow, many new ideas and methods had 
been introduced into Florence. At the general revision of the 
laws of the Guilds in i 301-1 309, when the General Code for all 
of them was drafted, the technicalities of the commerce in silk 
were examined, and a council of experts was empanelled to adopt 
a full Constitution for the " For Santa Maria" 

Their work had so far progressed by 13 28, that a serious step 
was taken towards the codification of the Statutes of the Guild. 
The original number of four Consuls was restored, and was more- 



over retained until the ancient merchant oligarchy made way for 
the princely rule of the Medici family. 1 At the same date three 
Consiglieri^ Councillors, were added to the Court, or Tribunal, 
of the Consuls, whose powers were little inferior to those reposed 
in the Chief Magistrates. One of the Councillors was a notary, 
and the two others were chosen from among leading manufac- 
turers not hitherto officially connected with the Guild. 

In 1335 a complete Code of Statutes was put out. These were 
written in Latin, upon parchment, in the form of a book, which was 
afterwards referred to as " // Statute Vecchio " " The Old Code." 

The rules of procedure for the election of officers were the 
same as in the case of officials of the " Calimala " Guild ; whilst 
their duties and functions were also similar. All superior offices 
were required to be filled exclusively by persons of Florentine 
parentage and birth, who were generally recognised as chief 
among silk-manufacturers and merchants. 

The Tribunal of the Guild was composed of the four Consuls, 
together with two Conservatori "Guardians " who superintended 
severally the civil and criminal affairs of the Guild. The business 
of this Court was twofold : i. The direction of all that apper- 
tained to the commerce in silk ; and, 2. The administration of 
justice to every person connected with the Guild. 

Among higher officials was the Congregazione de y Deputati, 
Council of Deputies, which undertook all questions and matters 
relating to the practical development of the silk industry, and the 
interests of the various groups of workpeople employed. The 
Deputies, the number of whom varied from time to time, were 
representatives of the subordinate trade associations in connection 
with the Guild. 

The Proweditori, two in number, were the Administrators 
of the goods and chattels of the Guild ; the Cancelliere, the 
Chancellor, or Keeper, had care of the registers, documents, and 
charters of the Guild ; the Cassiere or Camerlingo, Treasurer of 
the petty-cash, whose duty it was to receive and book the sub- 

1 Cantini, " Legislazicne," i. 176. 


scriptions and donations of members of the Guild ; and the 
Computistiy Accountants, who directed the official correspond- 
ence of the Guild, were important officers of the Tribunal. 

Two Inspectors were annually appointed by the Consular 
Tribunal to visit regularly and rigorously the manufactories, 
workshops, and dwelling-houses, of persons connected with the 
Guild. They took note of the time, weight, and value, of all 
deliveries of raw silk, and of the manufactured article in its various 
stages as they passed from masters to workpeople. Not only so, 
but they were instructed to have an eye to the moral conduct, 
manipulative ability, and arduous application, of each operative, 
and to report such to the Consuls. 1 

The annual report of the Inspectors also included returns of 
description and condition of machinery employed, and notes upon 
all new inventions and novel methods. Under them were two 
Assistant Inspectors, whose attention was mainly directed to tests 
of quality, and to the correctness of weights and measures. They 
were instructed to examine carefully every bale of unspun silk, 
every reel of silk-thread, and every piece of silk texture, with 
respect to length, breadth, weight, colour, etc. 

The Tribunal possessed many valuable Archives. One of these 
contains a "Meinorie antiche e moderne" Ancient and Modern 
Review, which fills several books. 2 Two Registers of Matricula- 
tion of the years i 247 and 1 289, written upon parchment, Similar 
registers of 1368, and of 1397-1480, on paper, Voters' lists, 
1374-1418, a Register of payments to the Palazzo di San 
Michele in Orto for the years 1345 an d r 346, Books of Matri- 
culation of the years 1328-1520, a List of Consuls, 1435-1500, 
and many volumes and tracts dealing with wills, codicils, donations, 
etc. etc., appertaining to members of the Guild, legal processes, 
and endless details, concerning the work and the workers of the 
Guild, with inventories of goods, etc. etc. Most of these are 
preserved in one or other of the great Libraries of Florence. 

Matriculation into the " For Santa Maria " followed, generally, 

1 Statuti dell' Arte della Seta, Rub. 34. 2 p agn i n i j vo i ^ l ^ 2 


the lines of admission to the " Calimala " and Wool Guilds, so far, at 
all events, as personal qualifications, and entrance fees, were con- 
cerned. Nevertheless the act of Matriculation did not necessarily 
give admission to the general benefits of the Guild. Candidates 
were usually enrolled members of some special branch in the 
operations of, and under the control of, the Guild. Hence a man 
was asked to state the exact trade he wished to follow, and also to 
give an exhibition, before the Consuls, of his skill in that calling 
before he was granted the freedom of Membership. 1 

The members of the Guild were divided into two classes 
Setaiuoli Grossi master silk merchants and Setaiuoli Minuti silk- 
makers. The first were required to be possessed of a capital of 
at least twelve thousand gold florins. They were privileged to 
manufacture silk-tissues at their pleasure, and to sell wholesale, 
both in Florence and abroad. All merchandise disposed of, by 
them, required the official stamp of the Guild. They were for- 
bidden to sell retail, and in any way to undersell the retail silk 
dealers. The Setaiuoli Grossi formed the aristocratic section of the 
Guild, and many of them were among the wealthiest and most 
influential of the citizens. 

The Setaiuoli Minuti, who were also called " master silk 
workers," were those who sold in retail quantities everything 
.appertaining to the silk industry, and most of them were also 
practical silk spinners and weavers. They required also the 
qualification of capital, but the amount was unfixed, although 
considerably less than in the case of the Setaiuoli Grossi. Many 
indeed were permitted to enter the Guild with no money 
qualification at all, skill in manufacturing ability and smartness 
fn business aptitude being regarded as equivalents. The Setaiuoli 
Minuti were not permitted to spin or weave silk without the 
license of the Consuls, although they were allowed to own 
machinery and implements of their craft without taxation. Their 
shops and warehouses also required license, and their manu- 
factures the official stamp of the Guild. 

1 Pagnini, vol. ii. p. 114. 


The other Guilds largely employed the services of Sensali 
or agents, but the " For Santa Maria " was far too wide awake 
to the interests of masters and workpeople to tolerate unneces- 
sary interposition of middlemen. Consequently, in 1376, a 
Provvisione was passed, prohibiting anybody to act as a broker 
or dealer, who had not taken an oath before the Consuls, or the 
Notary of the Guild, that he would do nothing contrary to 
the spirit and the letter of the Statutes. Moreover such an 
one was bound over by the payment of certain money, and by 
the production of two good sureties. The matter was further 
dealt with in Rubric 1 8 of the Statutes, which expressly states 
that it was not permitted for any person connected with the 
Guild to have dealings with Sensali, whose names were posted as 
defaulters upon the notice-board of the Tribunal of the 

With respect to the system of payments of accounts, the 
Silk Guild only allowed eight months' credit, except among 
members; but in 1429 the limit was advanced to one year for 
amounts exceeding twenty-five pounds. 1 

Merchants of the " Calimala " and " For Santa Maria " were 
forbidden to exchange shops or offices, and to share such. No 
silk merchant was permitted to deal in foreign cloth within the 
boundaries of the State, nor beyond the seas, unless by special 
leave of the Consuls of the " Calimala'' 

The Statutes of the "Guild of Silk" were revised in 1386, 
and again in 1415, when many alterations and additions were 
made in accordance with the progress and prosperity of the 
Guild. In 1557 an entirely new Code was promulgated under 
the rule of the Medici. 

A very large number of crafts were subordinated or 
affiliated to the "Guild of Silk." Pagnini gives the following 
list 2 : 

1 Statuti del Popolo e Comune Florentine, 1415, Rub. xxxvii. and xxxix. 

2 Pagnini, vol. ii. p. 63. 


I. Setaiuoli Grossi 

Orefici e Banchieri Gold and Silver-workers and Store- 


Ritagliatori e FondaM Retail-dealers and Drapers. 

Battilori e Tiratori Gold-beaters and Wire-pullers. 

Velettai e Linaiuoli Silk-gauze makers and Linen- 

II. Setaiuoli Minuti 

A ccavigliatori Bobbin- winders. 

Banderai Makers of Church Vestments. 

Giubbonai e Farsettai Vest and Doublet-makers. 

Maestri di trarre Seta Overseers of Export Goods. 

Materassai Mattress-makers. 

Merciai Dealers in Raw-silk. 

Orditori Weavers. 

Pettindgnoli Silk Comb-makers. 

Pettinatori di Staccio Carders of coarse Silk. 

Ricamatori e Stampatori Embroiderers and Printers. 

Tintori di Seta e di Raso Dyers of Silk and Satin. 

Tessitori di Drappi d* Oro Weavers of Cloth of Gold. 

In addition to these were Calzaiuoli Hosiers, and Sarti 
Tailors, working specially in silk, and in gold and silver thread 
and cord, under strict trade regulations, and with the license of 
the Consuls of the Guild. 

The fees on admission to any of the above subordinate trades 
were nominally only three lire x a head, but they were increased 
for certain associations as follows : The Master Silk Merchants, 
Retail Dealers and Drapers, Gold and silver workers, and 
Store-Bankers, holders of valuable metal used in the manu- 
facture of gold and silver tissue, etc., paid fourteen gold florins ; 
whilst the allied trades of Hosiers, Armourers, Scales-makers, 
Banner- workers and Embroiderers, and Gold and Silver Vest- 
makers, belonging to the " For Santa Maria" Silk-dyers, and 

1 Cantini, "Legislazioni, :> vol. vii. p. 217. 



the " Setaiuoli Minuti" generally paid eight gold florins. This 
privilege of recognition was accompanied by actual emolument as 
working members or associates of the Guild. 

The following classes of workpeople were also attached to 
the Guild : 


A rmaiuoli 




Conduttori de' Bozzoli 





Filatori e Filatore 



Lavatori dell' Opere 






Tiratori Minuti 



Sprayers of Cocoons. 




Steamers of Cocoons. 

Sorters of Cocoons. 

Painters on Silk. 


Stretchers of cloth of gold and silver. 


Spinners male and female. 

Gold and Silver thread-cutters. 


Cleaners of gold and silver work. 


Folders and platters. 



Dyers of special textures. 


Throwsters or twisters. 


Many of these groups of operatives worked together under 
self-imposed regulations, but care was taken that no person 
laboured in more than one category. Over each set of similarly 
employed workpeople were officials styled "Maestri di far 
Macchie " Inspectors of Flaws and Blemishes. These men 
were master-craftsmen in their special branch of the industry, and 
acted as overlookers in the finishing of work. 




Most of these workpeople lived and worked in the vicinity of 
the little street, the Vicolo della Seta, which ran along the 
side of the Church of Santa Maria next the Palazzo Lamberti, 
and wherein, in later years, the rich family of the Acciaiuoli 
erected a splendid palace. In this crowded quarter of the city 
was the meeting-place of all persons interested in the silk 
industry, and outsiders were wont at times to be treated with 
scant courtesy if they ventured to traverse its limits. 

The Via della Colonna had a massive stone column upholding 
the roof over a great drying terrace, where silk stuff was dyed 
and stretched. Around this building were many warehouses 
belonging to the Guild, and dwellings inhabited by workpeople. 

It was not within the power of any of the Setaiuoli Minuti to 
fix the scale of wages, but they were obliged to apply to the 
Setaiuoli Grossi for the terms sanctioned by the Consuls. Once 
every year, in June, the Consuls issued a " Rottura della Seta" a 
Current Price-list, which ruled buyers and sellers alike, and by this 
means inflated wages and speculative quotations were prevented. 1 

By Rubric 84 of the Statutes no one was allowed to prose- 
cute any industry in connection with the manufacture of silk, with- 
out the written and endorsed license of the Consuls of the Guild. 

Among protective regulations, which dealt with the liberty of 
the subject, Rubric 62 enacted that no silk-worker, or worker in 
gold and silver, should be ejected from his house, or his shop, 
until after a special sentence of the Consuls in Council. 

Pawnbrokers, under Rubric 2 I , were forbidden to accept raw 
silk and silken textures, and implements and objects required 
and used in the trade. 

No Guild worker, male or female, was permitted to leave 
the city, or go beyond the Contado, unless armed with a written 
permit, which was only granted upon certain strict conditions of 
purpose and period : Rubric 84 indicates what penalties were 
incurred by disobedience. 

Many Rubrics deal with the treatment of silk worms, eggs, and 

1 L. Cantini, i. 178. 


cocoons. For example, cocoons were not to be touched between 
the sounding of the evening bell and that of matins. 

In 1315 an important accession to the strength and efficiency 
of the Guild workers was effected by the arrival in Florence of a 
number of silk and gold craftsmen from Lucca, after its sack by 
Uguccione della Fagiola. The emigration was due to the severe 
repressive laws which were imposed by the victorious Florentines. 
There was doubtless a reason for this policy the shattering of 
the local industry, and the aggrandisement of the Florentine 
Guild ! The emigrants were treated, at first, with suspicion by 
their rivals, and were not allowed to settle in the silk quarter of 
the city. 

The Setaiuoli Grossi^ however, knew what they were about ; 
and, whilst Rubric 84 of the Statutes contained a rider, which 
forbade Florentine workers holding communications, and carrying 
on transactions, with the new-comers, the Consuls gave instructions 
for them to be quartered in the Prato district, and provided 
dwelling-houses and workshops for them. 

This set of immigrants was not the only one that helped to 
swell the population, and to develop the silk industry of Florence. 
Quite early in the thirteenth century a number of Dyers found 
their way out of Lombardy, and took up their residence just 
beyond the Porta San Gallo in a tenement belonging to the 
monastery of the Augustinian monks. 1 

Naturally a rivalry was set up between this party and the 
Dyers already working under the Guilds of " Calimala " and 
" Wool," and the workpeople attached to the manufacturers of 
the Umiliati, in the Borgo d'Ognissanti. They received however 
overtures from the " Guild of Silk " ; and attached themselves to 
that corporation, on the understanding that they manipulated 
solely silk and silken goods. 

This Lombardian Company became very prosperous under 
their new auspices, and were known, far and wide, for their 
hospitality and benevolence. They established shelters for Dyers, 

1 F. L. Migliore, " Firenze citta nobilissima, " p. 364. 


who had passed fifty years of age, to which they gave the name 
of Gerolocomio perhaps " Home for the distressed and aged." 
Here pensioners dwelt with their families, upon whose earnings 
they were dependent. 

Later on again another Company of Dyers found their way to 
Florence. They were also from Lucca, and were tempted doubt- 
less by the high wages of the workpeople employed by the 
" Guild of Silk." Under their banner, Christ upon the Cross, 
clothed from head to foot in a long silken vestment, they settled 
in houses belonging to Ser Girolamo Baldesi, near the Hospital of 
Santa Maria Nuova. 

The policy of admitting skilled workmen from outside was as 
excellent as it was far sighted. Every trade is bound to profit 
immensely by the infusion of new blood, and this proved conspicu- 
ously to be the case of the " Guild of Silk " and its workpeople. 

The importance of the mulberry in connection with the 
manufacture of silk cannot, of course, be overestimated. For 
nearly two centuries, however, the Florentine silk merchants made 
little or no attempt to cultivate the tree in the neighbourhood of 
Florence. They were content to collect the eggs and cocoons of 
the silkworm, by means of their agents in the East, and elsewhere, 
who transported them, together with immense consignments of 
mulberry leaves. 

The success, or failure, of the silk trade depended absolutely 
upon the supply of the raw material, and consequently, as the 
industry became more and more prosperous, it behoved manu- 
facturers to find increased sources of production. Hence, at the 
end of the fourteenth century, and early in the fifteenth, many 
Provvisioni were passed by the Consuls and Council of the " Guild 
of Silk," which were approved by the State Council, for increasing 
the cultivation of the Mulberry. These are apparently the first 
intimations of its introduction into Tuscany. In 1440 it was 
enacted that on every podere, or farm, there should be planted, 
at least, five mulberry trees annually, until the number in vigorous 
growth reached fifty. 


The trees throve wonderfully, and manufacturers reflected 
upon their want of prescience in the past. Two classes of 
agriculturists were especially interested in the propagation of the 
silk-worm food, and they were enrolled under two designations, by 
the Consuls of Guild, namely : Padroni de* Terreni, owners of 
suitable land for the growth of mulberry-trees, and Maestri di 
Mori e di Foglie, " Mulberry growers and Purveyors of mulberry- 
leaves." The Guild acquired the land of the former, by direct 
purchase, or by lease, and employed the latter to carry on the 
cultivation, under rules and bye-laws specially drawn up. 

The success of the new enterprise was manifest immediately. 
The climate admirably suited the tree, and, in richness and 
luxuriance, the yield equalled that of other lands ; whilst the 
silk worms benefited immeasurably by their fresh and luscious 
pasturage. Probably the scientific methods of these sapient 
cultivators had much to do with this favourable result. Moreover 
other silk manufacturing cities in Italy began to send their 
merchants and dealers to Florence for the purpose of buying silk 
worms, cocoons, and mulberry leaves. The " Guild of Silk " met 
this commerce in a spirit of protection, and in 1442 a Provvisione 
was passed forbidding the export of everything connected with the 
manufacture, worms, cocoons, raw-silk, and mulberry-leaves being 
distinctly named. 

Sir Richard Dallington, an intelligent English traveller in 
Italy in the middle of the sixteenth century, writes thus about 
the cultivation of silk worms and mulberry trees, and the prospects 
of the Silk industry generally l : " I will speak of the Mulberry, 
for that the mention thereof draweth consequently therewith all 
the discourse of the Silke-worme, which being another of the 
greatest commodities of Tuscany. In the months of May and 
June this worme laboureth . . . when they are laid in the Sunne, 
and so hatched, but for want of heate, and to have of them 
betimes, the wormes will hatch them in their bosoms. So soon 
as they be wormes they have of mulberie leaues given them, 
1 "Survey of the Great Duke's Estate of Tuscany," 1596. 


whereof they only feed, to which purpose are daily great store of 
trees planted : the leaues is sold at foure quattrini the pound. . . . 
The rest of the year they be only kept in some warme and 
close places, where they may be neither endangered by cold 
nor thunder, for either destroyeth them. When she hath 
wrought herselfe into a bottome, they put it into warme water to 
finde the end thereof, but if they would preserve the worme for 
seed, then they finde the end without putting the bottome into 
water (for this killeth the worme). . . . And whereas heretofore 
the Silke workers of Florence, besides their owne, were usually 
wont to buy from Naples, Lombardie, and Greece, so much silk 
as yearly amounted to three hundred thousand duckets, it is now 
thought that shortly they shall have enough of their owne. . . . 
It is thought there are yearly made of Florence Rashes to the 
worth of two million of duckets, and of Silkes and Cloathes of 
gold and silver, to the value of three millions. . . ." 

In spite of the increase of mulberry plantations and of silk- 
worms in Tuscany it was necessary for the Florentine manu- 
facturers to import both leaves and worms largely from abroad, 
and especially from the Valley of the Rhone. 

At various times, especially during epidemics, much suspicion 
was directed to the possibility of the introduction of fever, and 
other ailments, by means of the raw silk and cocoons imported 
from the East. It was commonly said too, in later days, that the 
cultivation of the mulberry was pernicious : " for in the most 
places where it hath been planted plague and sickness hath 
broken out ! " 

Perhaps of all the processes the most important were those 
which dealt with the earliest stages of the manufacture the 
treatment of the cocoon. No cocoons containing dead worms, or 
double cocoons, or any which had suffered injury, or dis- 
colouration in transit, were allowed to pass the tables of the 
Conduttori, who were the first to deal with cocoons in the 

Steaming in hot water by the Calderai, was the next step. 



This process was needful to kill the worm swiftly, so that no 
discharge of foul matter might exude, and injure the " gum," or 
lining of the cocoon. The cocoons were placed in hot water for 
a few minutes, and a little alkali was added. The temperature 
was kept quite equable, about 80 Fahrenheit, until the silk- 
case softened of itself, and the stray strands of silk floated. To 
assist this natural unwinding, girls were employed, who kept 


the cocoons in gentle movement in their bath, by means of small 
brushes made of tree twigs. 

Reeling, from the steamed and softened cocoons, was the 
gathering into one thread, so to speak, of strands from many 
submerged cocoons. This formed the raw silk of commerce. 
Great care had to be exercised by the Filatori and Filatore 
male and female spinners or reelers, to avoid thick pieces or 
lumps being drawn through the eyelet of the reeling machine. 

The Torcitori, silk-throwers or twisters, wound together 


several strands of raw silk in hanks. The raw silk singly treated 
was far too delicate for manipulation. The weft-thread was 
composed of two or three strands of raw silk not " thrown," and 
this gave the material its silky appearance and feel. 

No doubt the introduction of raw silk to Florence was due, in 
the first instance, to the agents of the Merchants and Bankers, 
who, traversing lands and seas, failed not to pick up novelties of 
all kinds, and especially such objects as appeared likely to be 
profitable commercial assets. Thus samples of unwound cocoons, 
and thrown-silk, found their way into their consignments of 
foreign produce. 

The finest quality of raw silk was imported from Spain, 
which, in the fourteenth century, was valued at from two lire, 
teri soldi, to eleven soldi per pound : that of Catanzano being 
the least highly esteemed, out of nineteen or twenty other 

Balducci Pegolotti, in his " Manuale del Mercante Fiorentino 
o Divisamenti" gives precepts for preserving the silk in transit. 
He speaks of " raw silk which comes in bales, and is of many 
kinds and qualities, but of whatever kind it is, it must be smooth 
to the touch, and according to the quality, the thread must be 
fine, round, and free from fluff, dross, and knots. . . ." 

" It is also necessary to see that it is not rubbed, which 
means that on the road, when it is brought by beasts of burden, 
or in waggons, the bales do not come into contact with the 
hedges, the waggon, or the ground, so that the canvas or outer 
covering is torn, and the silk is exposed. . . ." 

" To preserve silk well it must be packed tighter than any 
other merchandise, and kept in a place neither too damp nor 
too dry, covered with good matting. If it is so kept it will 
never be spoilt." 

The travellers' bales also contained consignments of silken 
stuffs and velvets and gold and silver brocades produced by the 
silk looms of India, Persia and China. 1 Hence Florence became 

1 Pagnini, vol. ii. 115. 


the emporium of the precious tissues of Bagdad, Damascus, 
Teheran, and other manufactures of the Far East. 

One other element contributed to the fame of Florence as 
a Silk-mart. Many a courier and agent brought home with him 
natives of the countries through which he travelled. These 
people carried with them, to the service of their new masters, 
secrets and methods known only in the East, and, by the terms 
of their purchase, they were held in a state of quasi-slavery, 
and gave their time and abilities to the prosecution of their craft 
for the benefit of their masters. 

Thus, in a comparatively short time, beauty of design, 
richness of colouring, and fineness of workmanship raised the 
value of Florentine silk immeasurably. Just as in the case 
of foreign cloth, redressed by Florentine workpeople, the output 
of the silk looms of Florence commanded far and away better 
prices, in the European markets, than did the like produce 
of any other city or country. 1 Her craftsmen excelled those 
of Lucca, Milan, Naples, Pisa, Genoa, Bologna, and Ferrara, 
as well as those of Bergamo, Bassano, Vicenza, Verona, Padua, 
and other centres of the silk industry in Lombardy. 2 

The two most important branches of the silk manufacture, 
pure and simple, were plain silk and silk-velvet or plush. The 
invention of velvet was due to the enterprise of the Velluti 
family, hence the name, who were already doing a thriving 
business in the thirteenth century. Inconvenienced by want 
of room, in their original workshops, off the Vicolo della Seta, 
they removed, along with other families and workmen engaged 
in the same kind of silk manufacture ; and, somewhere about 
1285, crossed the river, and established themselves in more 
spacious quarters in Oltrarno. The Velluti erected large ware- 
houses and factories, in a new street, to which they gave the 
name of Via de' Velluti. This street soon became an important 
thoroughfare, and, because many other rising families built fine 

1 Statuti dell' Arte della Seta, Rub. xviii. , xxv., xxxiv., xliii., Ixii. 

2 Pagnini, vol. ii. 115. 


edifices along it, it was re-named Via Maggiore the Via Maggio 
of to-day. 

There exists a Chronicle, the original manuscript of which 
is in the possession of the present Duca di San Clemente, Simone 
Velluti Zate, which deals with the history of his house and 
its success in trade ; it was begun in 1300 by Donato di Lam- 
berto dei Velluti. A good many leaves are wanting in the first 
part, and there is the following suggestive note by Paolo Velluti, 
who continued the Chronicle : " Whatever is obliterated in these 
pages, I have done it to wipe out the memory of the enmities 
and vendettas of the men of our house." * 

A light kind of silk-tissue was much made called Drappi 
delle Ermisini, Sarcenet, which admitted of the admixture of 
inferior and watered down materials, a sort of " shoddy silk." 
This manufacture was discouraged, and under certain conditions, 
forbidden, as detracting from the reputation of the Florentine 
silk manufacturers. Silk-tissue, which was sold everywhere by 
weight, was woven in pieces measuring ordinarily twenty ulne 
fore-arm's lengths. 2 

Lapo Mazzei, the Notary, makes some sententious remarks 
in his " Letters " upon the morals and aims of the Florentine 
methods. He rather optimistically avers that they had in their 
minds more noble things than mere money gains, and he cites a 
" Treatise upon the Arte della Seta," written by an anonymous 
member of the Guild. The manuscript is preserved in the 
Laurentian Library at Florence ; the author inculcates not only 
admirable rules and recommendations for the successful carrying 
on of the industry, but also the more excellent way of transacting 
worldly business, by way of making accommodations with 
heaven ! 

The work is entitled : " A Manual of Theoretical and 
Practical Instruction for the use of Silk-manufacturers." 3 Its 
value is enhanced by many miniatures, exquisitely drawn and 

1 Donate Velluti, "Cronica," 130x3-1370. 2 Cantini, vol. vii. 176. 

3 Girolamo Gargiolli, " Trattato del Secolo XV." 


coloured, of workpeople of both sexes, wearing the work-a-day 
dress of the period, and engaged in their several occupations. 

This " Manual " is based upon manuscripts and codices in 
the Biblioteca Ricciardiana, bearing dates in and about 1453, 
the Biblioteca Magliabecchiana, and in the Biblioteca Laurenziana 
of the approximate date of 1517. The anonymous author makes 
use of the public records of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, 
and quotes freely from Goro Dati and Dino Compagni. He 
enters fully into all the details concerning raw-silk, its import, 
and its manipulation, together with descriptions of the machinery 
used, and the method of dyeing, with current values and sale- 
prices, etc. etc. 

At the beginning, after the customary invocation and dedica- 
tion, L are instructions for the treatment of pelo raw-silk and 
cuttings, orsoio sewing-silk, and Irama silk-thread for weaving 
the woof. The preparatory stages before dyeing were : sorting, 
steaming, boiling, and reeling. Recipes are given for dyeing 
green, brown-green, blue, vermilion, tawny, fustic-yellow, grey, 
and black. The methods of dyeing crimson and black, for 
example, are as follows : Crimson : " In dyeing crimson the 
silk must be left for a day, or better for a day and a night, 
in a solution of alum. In the morning wash out the alum in a 
trough of clear water, and fold the stuff in clean linen cloths. 
Have a cauldron of hot water ready, with a moderate amount of 
lye in it, add half the crimson dye, which has been well ground 
and sieved, and bring the mixture to a boil. It is very important 
that there be not too much lye, for the inexperienced dyer is 
often too liberal in its use, fearing that the solution in the 
cauldron is not thick enough, or the result will be a yellowish 
colour, and the process will have been useless." 

" Dip the alumed silk warily in the cauldron, then take it 
out, and place it in the alum bath again, for an hour or two. 
Again remove it, and dip in the cauldron again, then take it out, 
wash it well, and rinse it several times. This part of the process 
should be done in Arno water, or better still in water of the 


Mugnone, which is harder ; and the harder the water the greater 
its cleansing power." 

" The remaining part of the crimson dye is added from time 
to time, during the progress of the various dippings. So far as 
the dyeing process has gone, it has merely fixed the first strain of 
colour. The dyer must now consider whether he has used coarse 
or fine crimson, and also the quantity of each. If he has had 
the fine crimson he must dip the substance in tepid alum-solution, 
then shake it five or six times in clean linen cloths, and dip, and 
leave it in the cauldron until the liquid is quite cold." 

" The next part of the process consists in shaking out a piece 
to see if it is to the dyer's liking ; if it is, nothing further need 
be done : if it is not red enough, make the alum a little hotter 
again, and put it in as before, and continue repeating this until it 
is quite satisfactory." 

" Remember that the more leisurely the process, and the colder, 
the better, clearer, more unblemished the stuff will be. Fine 
crimson stands wringing better than the coarse, and has more 
colour, pound for pound, for one pound of fine is equal to two 
pounds of the coarse, besides the fine is redder, and takes the 
alum better. The coarse crimson dyes very slightly, so that if 
the alum-solution is too hot all will be spoiled." 

" Remember that it is never a waste of time to stand and 
watch patiently the steeping in the cauldron, for loss may 
otherwise be incurred in the selling value of the material. If 
very deep red is required add a little Roman vitriol to the alum ; 
but this forced colouring is bad, and does not last, but fades 

Black : " The stuff must be steeped in gall a whole day, or 
a day and a night. The gall must boil for one hour in the 
cauldron, taking care that the latter is well filled, and boiling 
when the silk is put in. When it has boiled for an hour or 
more, take it out, wring it, and put it to cool repeat this 
three times. If it is pelo or orsoio do not boil it in the 
cauldron, for it has to endure hard wear, and boiling it in the 



black dye weakens it, but pour the boiling solution over it. 
Take it out and put it to cool as many times as necessary, until 
the sample shows that it is finished. When this has^een done 
three times, put the material in the cauldron, so that it is com- 
pletely covered, and let it stand all night then take it out and 
wash it. Place a pan ready with washing-soap dissolved in it, 
put the stuff in, and soap it well, for this soaping makes it 
lustrous, bright, and soft, as otherwise it would be dark and 
harsh, and would split" 

" Many kinds of silk require great care in dyeing them black, 
such as the silk of Bruges, and others of weak fibre, which, if 
boiled in black dye, become so fragile that nothing can be done with 
them this is not the case with Spanish and other stout qualities." 

The author goes on to give several tables of figures which are 
interesting, as illustrations of the actual conditions under which the 
silk industry throve so greatly in Florence. 1 The first table is : 
" Of Descriptions and Prices of Raw Silks " : there are twenty 
varieties, including Seta Spagnola quoted at Fl. 2, 10 picdoli 
per pound weight, Seta Strana foreign Fl. 2, 4 piccioli, Seta 
a 7 ' Almeria Fl. 2, 5 piccioli, Seta da Messina Fl. I, 10 piccioli, 
Seta da Modigliana Fl. 2, 13 piccioli, Seta d* Abruzzi Fl. 2, 
5 piccioli and Seta Crespolina 1 1 piccioli. 

The second table deals with the "Winding of Silk." All 
masters who employ silk-winders are required to pay the following 
prices per pound : For all double skeins, five piccioli per pound, 
for raw silk, six piccioli, for the woof used in weaving, seven 
piccioli, for single white skeins, eight piccioli, for white sewing 
silk, six piccioli, for the woof for Taffetta, nine piccioli, for raw 
knotty silk, seven piccioli, for fine Raso, lustrous silk or satin, 
ten piccioli. The prices, in ready money, for twisting and spinning 
silk were, for white sewing-thread six piccioli, for single skeins- 
four piccioli, for spinning-silk-thread eight piccioli per pound. 
When booked and paid for after the work was completed, these 
prices were increased fifty per cent. 

1 Pagnini, vol. iii. p. 117. 


Another table gives the scale of payment for weaving per 
braccio Broccato d'Oro, gold brocade, from eighteen to six 
silver florins, according to the weight per ounce of gold ; Velluto 
and Damaschino silk woven with floral and other patterns, like silk 
from Damascus one florin each ; Raso sixteen piccioli ; Taffetta 
five piccioli ; Ciambellotto, silk-camlet, roughish surface like 
modern Como rugs, twelve piccioli ; Saia silk-serge, mixed 
with wool a favourite and strong material for the body-hose 
and doublets worn by men one florin eighteen piccioli. 

The weight of silk warp, per braccio, varied considerably : 
Tebano Raso, thin satin, and Ciambellotto weighed each twelve 
danari ; Velluto fourteen danari ; and Damaschino twenty-four 
danari. The woof also varied in weight per braccio : Velluto, 
Damaschino and Taffetta each one ounce, six danari; Zetano-Raso, 
raised satin, one ounce, eighteen danari ; Ciambellotto two 
ounces ; and Seta di Capitone stout silk serge, three ounces. 

Woven tissues of silk were of different weights, per braccio : 
Damaschino and Raso Colorato Scempio single-coloured satin, 
each two ounces six danario ; detto doppi ditto double, two ounces 
sixteen danari ; Taffetta colorata coloured taffettas, one ounce 
sixteen danari ; Velluto colorato coloured velvet, three ounces ; 
detto nero ditto black, three ounces twelve danari ; Ciambellotto 
three ounces ; and Saia four ounces. 

The sizes too of the silk pieces were dissimilar in breadth : 
Velluto piano plain velvet, and Raso satin each measured one 
braccio ; Damaschino one and a quarter braccio ; Brocatella a 
light brocade, Taffetta, and Saia, each one braccio seven-eighths. 

Another table deals with the " Prices paid for dyeing silk per 
pound weight " : Cremisi, crimson, two dips Verde Bruno, 
olive-green, Alessandrino, pale blue, each two silver florins ; Pago- 
nazzo-Cermisi, di Grana, and di Verzino violet crimson, violet ivy- 
red, and violet Brazil-red one florin fifteen piccioli ; Zafferano 
saffron, Vermiglio, vermilion, and Azzuro light-blue, each one 
florin five piccioli ; Verde green, and Cermisi crimson a single 
dip, each one florin ; Bigio grey, Tane tan-colour, Giallo di 


Scotano fustic-yellow, each twelve piccioli ; Nero black, cost 
fifteen piccioli. 

The sale-prices of silk materials, per braccio, in the Retail shops 
of the For Santa Maria ranged as follows : 

Brocades: Deep crimson Flo. 2, 6, 8 ; Violet-crimson 
Flo. 2, 5, o ; Parti-coloured Flo. i, 13, 4 ; Black Flo. i, 18, o. 

Satins: Deep crimson Flo. 2, 3, o; Violet-crimson- 
Flo. 2 ; Parti-coloured Flo. I, 6, 8 ; Black Flo. i, 5, o. 

Damasks: Deep crimson Flo. 2 ; Violet-Crimson, Flo. i, 
17,6; Parti-coloured Flo. I, 2, o; Black Flo. i. 

By weight per pound the prices were as follows : 

Satins: Deep crimson Flo. 6 ; Violet-Crimson Flo. 5, 5 ; 
Parti-coloured Flo. 4, i 5 ; Black Flo. 3, 17, 6. 

Taffettas : Deep - crimson Flo. 7, i o ; Violet - Crimson- 
Flo. 6, 10 ; Parti-Coloured Flo. 3, 17; Black Flo. 3, 15; 
and Dull red Flo. 4, 10. 

Other qualities and descriptions of silk-tissue are also quoted 
in the " Manual," but the foregoing will suffice to show the values 
which obtained generally in the sixteenth century. 

During the fourteenth century the full style of the Guild was : 
" V Arte delta Seta e di Drappi d'Oro, e degli Orafi " " The Guild, 
of Silk and Cloth of Gold Manufacturers and Goldsmiths." 

The addition of " Goldsmiths " to the title of the Guild points 
to the importance of that group of artists and artificers. The 
working in precious metals established a new profession for 
artistically disposed Florentines : a profession which ranked on 
an equality if it did not indeed surpass them with the 
Company of Painters attached to the " Guild of Doctors and 
Apothecaries," and the Society of Sculptors and Architects affiliated 
with the lesser " Guild of Masters in Stone and Wood." 

So much the vogue did gold and silver work become that 
a special Guild sprang into existence, early in the fourteenth 
century, which bore the title of " L Arte degli Orefici" "Guild 
of Workers in Gold and Silver." Every boy who displayed art 
talent was apprenticed to a goldsmith, and thus almost every 




one of the famous painters, sculptors, potters, and decorative 
workers of all kinds, were enrolled members of "The Guild of 
Goldsmiths." In the middle of the century there were actually as 
many as forty-four goldsmiths' shops upon the Ponte Vecchio, a 
position assigned to them by the Council of State, the united 
rentals of which amounted annually to upwards of eight hundred 
gold florins. 1 

In 1322 three Examiners were appointed by the " Por Santa 
Maria" to look into the Statutes and Regulations of the sub- 
ordinate " Guild of Goldsmiths." The result of their inquiries was 
seen in the admission of the Master-craftsmen to full membership 
in the Greater Guild on the same terms as the existent members. 
All disputes between Masters and Apprentices were to be 
decided by the Consuls of the Silk Guild. 2 

Goldsmiths were authorised to work in all metals, but every 
article made had to be submitted for approval to appointed 
Inspectors, and each thing passed required the stamp of the 
maker's name and his trade mark. For gold work the metal 
employed had to be of equal value to that used for the gold 
florin, but gold, worked into wreaths and personal ornaments, 
required the admixture of sulphur. No goldsmith was allowed 
to exercise his craft outside his own dwelling-house or workshop. 

The Consuls of the Silk Guild had the right to visit and 
inspect workers, work done, and materials in preparation, when- 
ever they were so minded. 

Severe measures were, from time to time, taken to prevent 
the use of imitation, or base, gold and silver thread. For church 
vestments, especially, care was taken that the gold and silver were 
of the best quality, from Cyprus, Olivio, and Colonia. Ecclesiastics 
and the Generals of the Monasteries were forbidden to make use 
of any but the best metal for the decoration of altars, sacred 
Images, etc. etc. ; and they were also forbidden to dispose of 
such objects to Second-hand Dealers and Pawnshops. 

1 Vasari, vol. ii. 14. 

2 Archivio del Stato Florentine, Strozzi Uguccioni, quoted by Davidssohn, vol. iii. 
1273, p. 212. 


Early in the fifteenth century the weaving of spun " cloth 
of gold " as it was called was introduced by members of the 
Guild who had travelled in the East, and had learned something 
of the manufacture of this magnificent texture. 1 

According to Gino Capponi, the introduction of gold and 
silver-tissue spinning and weaving took place in 1422. He 
also asserts that the best gold-thread came from Sicily and 
Cyprus. 2 

Along with its manufacture by the Florentine silk-looms 
came a marked enrichment of the attire of private citizens and 
of the State-robes of public dignitaries. 

As early as the year 1296 two rich pieces of cloth of gold 
were manufactured in honour of Cardinal Pietro di Piperno, which 
were valued at thirty- nine gold florins. The robe of Filippa di 
Giotti Peruzzi, on her marriage to Carlo degli Adimari, of fine 
silk velvet embroidered in gold, cost two hundred and sixty-nine 
gold florins, whilst her going away dress cost twenty gold florins 
more, but it comprised a rick silk gonnella a petticoat or shirt, 
and a guarnacca a full embroidered morning-gown. 

Notwithstanding this great prosperity of the trade, the " Guild of 
Workers in Gold and Silver " had but a very ephemeral existence. 
At the revision of the Statutes of the Silk Guild in 1335 it was 
suppressed, and its members were drafted, with ^/ull and equal 
rights and privileges, into the greater corporation. 3 

"The Guild of Goldsmiths," " Arte degli Orafi" in contra- 
distinction to the "Guild of Workers in Gold and Silver," " Arte 
degli Orefici" continued its operations, and became, in the six- 
teenth century, one of the most important and wealthy corporations 
in Florence. 

Among famous goldsmiths were, Andrea Arditi, Bernardo 
Cenni, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Tommaso degli Ghirlandaji, L. Nero, 
Antonio di Sandro, Antonio Salvi, Paolo Uccello, Benvenuto 
Cellini, and Filippo Brunelleschi. The latter was enrolled in the 

1 Burckhardt, " Der Cultur des Renaissance in Italian," i. 77. 

2 Ammirato, Lib. xviii. p. 998. 3 G. Gonetta, " Bibliografia Statutaria." 



"Arte degli Orafi" under the great "Silk Guild" in 1398, and 
he was made a freeman of the latter in 1414. 

These dates point to the fact that the " Silk Guild " extended 
its patronage and protection over goldsmiths in general, and not 
merely over workers in gold and silver-tissue. The creations 
however of the former hardly belong to the history of the " For 


Santa Maria'' but form a subject apart from the industry of silk 
and precious-metal weaving. 

There is no doubt that in Florence the goldsmith's art stood 
very high in the times with which we are dealing. The gold- 
smiths were artists, and therefore most of the workers in chiselled 
gold and silver, and engravers of gold and precious stones attained 
a high reputation, and it may be truly said, the work of the Florentine 
goldsmiths far surpassed, in exquisiteness and originality of design, 
that of any other city. 

The combination of silk with gold and silver led to the 


introduction of a new and beautiful art the making of laces. 
This specially found votaries in the Convents, where the nuns 
instructed their lay sisters in the elegant manipulations of bobbin 
and stiletto. Savonarola rebuked the Religious for " devoting their 
time to the vain fabrication of gold laces with which to adorn 
persons and houses." This exquisite work, of which every 
important collection of vestures possesses an example, is still 
called " opera de' monacke " " nun's work." 

Henry VIII. of England and his queens were very partial to 
Florentine lace. He granted to two Florentine merchants the 
privilege of importing for three years " all manner of frynges and 
parsements, wrought in gold and silver and otherwise." 

The embroiderers and embroideries of Florence were more famous 
than any others. Philip, Duke of Burgundy, was a great patron and 
collector of cloths of gold sewn over with pearls, corals, and other 
valuable materials. Antonio Pollaiuolo, and many other painters 
and goldsmiths, designed small cartoons to be worked in silk- 
tissue and ornaments. One, Paolo, a Venetian artist settled in 
Florence, occupied quite twenty-six years in embroidering altar 
hangings representing the life of Saint John the Baptist for the 
Baptistery, which had all the appearance of brush work. 

Women specially excelled in this artistic craft, and their 
energies were turned towards making ecclesiastical vestments in 
which the richest textures were covered with gold filagree-work 
and gems. Pope Paul III. gave many commissions to the Floren- 
tine embroiderers. 

Another very beautiful art was the painting and gemming of 
fine muslins and laces. The Florentine Velettai veil-makers 
were celebrated, not only for their taste, but also for their skill in 
weaving mixtures of silk, wool, and cotton with the finest 
strands of metal. 

Doubtless ideas were gathered, and patterns drawn, from 
Eastern fabrics imported from the Orient. For a lengthened 
period such influences were apparent in the work turned out, but 
in the fifteenth century if not earlier a marked emancipation 


from restraint and convention is noticeable in the output of the 
Florentine workshops and studios. 

Painting on silk and satin was greatly admired in old 
Florence. This form of decorative art developed in two direc- 
tions : first, blending of colours, purely in the style of a pig- 
ment-master, and, secondly, mosaic painting, in which the colours 
were not mixed together but laid side by side in patches. This 
added much to richness of effect, because strips and borders of 
the material were left showing. In all the Sacristies of Florence, 
and many more in Europe, there are preserved exquisite examples 
of this method. No doubt the development of this art was due 
to the fashion of painting the gonfalons of the Guilds and Com- 
panies, and the shields and bucklers of cavaliers. The baldachinos 
of churches, and the frontals of altars were generally treated in this 
manner with adornments of gold and silver lace. 

Codices written in 1487 by Balducci Pegolotti, and by 
Giovanni da Uzzano, descriptive of the Catasto of 1427, preserve 
many very interesting details concerning the silk trade. Several 
minute instructions are given concerning the methods of manu- 
facture, and lists are added with respect to quality, weight, and 
value of different sorts of raw silk. 1 

The " For Santa Maria " contributed greatly to the wealth 
and magnificence of Florence during the fourteenth, fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries. "In 1472," says Benedetto Dei, 2 " the 
number of workshops belonging to the Guild was eighty-four, 
wherein the industry of weaving cloth of gold, silver brocade, 
and silk tissue of every colour and texture, was carried on." 
Upwards of sixteen thousand operatives and superior workmen 
were employed in the manufacture of silk, and its adjuncts, within 
the city and Contado. 

Silk stuffs were despatched to Lyons, Geneva, Antwerp, 
Naples, Rome, Sicily, Provence, Roumania, Spain, Levant, 
Morocco, Barbary, and elsewhere. No consignments of such goods 
were made, strange to say, to England and Germany for general 

1 No. xvii., 1427, Biblioteca-Laurenziana. 2 "Cronica," pp. 22-44. 


sale. Royal patronage however was not wanting, for Henry VII. 
of England, ever a patron of foreigners of ability and research, 
appointed, in 1516, Leonardo Frescobaldo and Antonio Cavallari, 
Purveyors of gold and silver cloth to the Court, with salaries of 
20 each. The last-named Florentine was also employed to gild 
the tomb of Henry VIII. at Windsor. 

There is extant a letter of Henry VII. addressed to the 
Signoria^ recommending Antonio Corsi, a Florentine agent, high 
in the favour of the king, whom he was sending to Florence, 
" to purchase gold cloth and silks, sufficient to load three 

The household book of Henry VIII. contains records of pay- 
ments to the Florentine banker-merchants Frescobaldi, Bardi, 
Corsi, Cavalcanti, and others for pieces of cloth of gold. 1 
These were required, doubtless, to furnish the magnificent 
uniforms and decorations of the famous " Field of the Cloth of 
Gold," as well as for use by the King and the Court in England. 

Ser Antonio Guidotti, the negotiator of loans for the 
King, who was knighted for his successful financial measures, 
was a great promoter of the silk industry. In a letter to Thomas 
Cromwell, written in 1536, he offered to bring over to England a 
party of silk-weavers from Messina. He was a Florentine, and 
employed many craftsmen from his native place. 

During the fifteenth century Duke Filippo Maria Visconti of 
Milan was a patron of the Florentine silk industry. He invited 
silk workers to settle in that city, for the purpose of instructing 
the native Milanese in the details of manufacture, and in spite of 
prohibitions, some accepted the Duke's liberal terms : " a generous 
monthly stipend, full political rights, and ten years' exemption 
from taxes, both for themselves, and for any agents who might co- 
operate with them." 

The founders of the celebrated French manufactories of silk 
and velvet at Lyons, Montpellier, Avignon and other centres, were 
undoubtedly Florentines. Traditions and traces of their works 

1 Archivio Fiorentino, " Atti Pubblichi," 1498. 2 Brit. Museum MSS., 2481. 


and methods still linger among the operatives there. The same 
may be said of England. 

A notable family held a prominent place in the Silk Guild, 
that of the Guicciardini. The historian, man of affairs and 
courtier, Francesco Guicciardini, who flourished in the middle of 
the sixteenth century, from whose literary works many quotations 
are made in this volume, had a share in a silk manufactory, along 
with Jacopo and Lorenzo di Bernardo Segni and their Company. 
His " Ricordi Politici e Civili de Firenze " was written during the 
siege of Florence by the Emperor and the Pope in I 529-30. 

Sir Richard Dallington, in his " Survey of the Great Duke's 
Estate," makes lengthy references to the Silk Industry, and to the 
cultivation of worms and mulberries. The late date, 1596, 
of this characteristic record, suggests, too, the fact that the same 
Grand Duke, and his two immediate predecessors, by their un- 
called for and unwise interference in the Silk-industry, as well 
as in the other trades of Florence, practically led to the ruin 
of the commercial life of the splendid old city and her princely 

Signs of decadence in the trade made their appearance in the 
middle of the sixteenth century. Foreign competition, with a 
more general spread of the industry, and the improvement of 
communications, may be set down as reasons ; but, doubtless, 
the principal contributory causes were the amazing prosperity of 
the City, and the self-indulgence of her citizens. 

Workgirls and their companions began to sing : 

"Lunedi, lunediai ; " Monday, Mondayish. 
Martedi, non lavorai ; Tuesday, nobody works. 

Mercoledi, persi la rocca ; Wednesday, take up the distaff. 
Giovedi, la retrovai ; Thursday, lay it down again. 

Venerdi, la 'uconocchiai ; Friday, willy-nilly. 
Sabato, mi lavai la testa ; Saturday, let us wash our 

E Domenica, Uerafesta ! " Sunday, well, that's the festa!" 1 

1 Girolamo Gargiolli, " L'Arte della Seta in Firenze e Dialoghv' p. 229. 



I. ORIGIN. Elemental knowledge of Medicine and Surgery in the Middle 
Ages. Salerno. Occult sciences. Earliest Florentine Physician, 934. Guild 
in existence, 1197. College of Doctors, 1218. Taddeo d 3 Alderotti " PIppo- 

II. CONSTITUTION. Strict examination of candidates for membership. 
Matteo Palmieri. Two divisions of the Guild. Code of 1313. Apprentices. 

III. DOCTORS. Their assumptions of superiority. Dress. Manners. 
Etiquette. Petrarch's squib. Strange remedies. " The sea (or river) washes 
away all human ills ! " Cabbages. " Pratica di Niccolo da Ftrenze" Recipes. 
Guglielmo di Saliceto. Anatomy. Professional fees. Quacks. Mercato 

IV. APOTHECARIES. Social inferiority. Caution-money. Licenses. Sales 
of drugs safeguarded. Famous Pharmacies. Greek scholars welcomed by 
Cosimo de' Medici. Albarelli. Funerals. Records of Prioriste and Zibaldoni. 
Perfumes. Buccheri. Haberdashery. " DArte d<? Merciai, Velettai, Pro- 
fumieri e Cartolai" Many affiliated trades. Agents and salesmen. Pro- 
fessional Banks. 

V. PATRONAGE OF THE GUILD. Literature. Famous men of letters. 
Dante. Printing. Woodcuts. Scrivani. Librai. Painting. Celebrated 
painters. Cimabue. " UArte di Pittori." Florentine Lodge of Guild of St 
Luke. Trattato delta Pittura. Stained-glass windows. Geographical re- 
search. Toscanelli and Vespucci. " A Great Guild ! " 

IN the Middle Ages the science of Medicine was in a deplor- 
able condition, and the knowledge of Chemistry was quite 
elementary. Surgery was hardly practised at all, and, as it 
was deemed impious to dissect the dead human body, anatomy 
was practically unknown. 1 

Herbalists and dealers in simples were held in higher esteem 
than medicine-makers, apothecaries, and distillers. As a science 
the cult of medicine did not go beyond the use of the horoscope, 

1 Targioni-Tozzetti, " Prodromio," p. 83. 


the examination of urine, and a few carefully guarded secrets, 
of which the Jews were the chief depositories. 1 

The use of the knife had practically died out. Cautery and 
the setting of bones represented the whole of experimental 
surgery. The extraction of teeth, phlebotomy, and all such 
minor operations, were complacently submitted to the skill of 
the ubiquitous barber, or dubiously committed to the tender 
mercies of the casual empiric. 

The influence of the occult sciences upon human destiny and 
human suffering ever excited the imagination of the curious. 
The alchemist's robe, the astrologer's wand, and the doctor's 
spectacles, betokened the possession of mystic powers, which were 
the admiration of the credulous. Wealth seemed to be linked 
to fame in the exploitation of medicine and its sister sciences, 
and that was quite a sufficient recommendation in the eyes of 
shrewd business men. 

The lamp of science had doubtless been kept alight in the 
Monasteries, but its glow did not illuminate the outside darkness. 
Consequently, when the founding of Universities became a feature 
of the times, much that was known only in secret chambers and 
cells, began to be revealed to the growing intelligence of mankind 
in general. 

Bologna, Ravenna, Padua, and Salerno, and other centres of 
light and leading, opened their doors to an expectant world. 
Among the earliest faculties sought there were the sciences of 
Practical Medicine and Experimental Surgery. Thither went many 
a Florentine lad, the bearer of his parents' hopes. In due time 
these pioneer-adventurers returned home again to preach and to 
practise what they had heard and seen in school and hospital. 

The earliest mention of physicians, in the Florentine Archives, 2 
bears the date of 934 ; when it is noted that one " Amalpertius," 
a deacon of the Church, was also a medico, and was styled 
Domino Messere" In 1070 " Britulus " is named, "who was a 

1 "L' Osservatore Florentine," vol. vi. p. 147. 

2 Archivio del Archevescovo Fiorentino. 


well-known doctor." Piero, Abbot of the Badia, speaks, in 1090, 
of " Giovanni, our most estimable doctor and friend." 

The names of many doctors and physicians are recorded in 
subsequent years. Their incorporation in a Guild was accomplished 
early in the twelfth century. This was probably due to the 
same considerations which led to the incorporation of the 
Merchant Guilds the benefit of mutual and united action. 

That a Guild of Doctors was already an active body in 1 197 
is proved by the fact that in that year the signatures of the 
Consuls are appended, along with those of the Consuls of other 
Guilds, to the anti-imperial League of Tuscan cities, at the head 
of which was Florence, and they signed as representing " The 
Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries." This fact also proves the 
association in one community of two classes of men, quite distinct 
in social importance, but each depending upon the other for 
existence and opportunity. 

Somewhere about the year 1218 we first come across the 
existence of a College of Doctors and Apothecaries, established 
very much upon the lines of the old Roman and Imperial 
Collegia. Its members included not only doctors, apothecaries, 
physicians, and chemists, but also surgeons and midwives 
the two latter classes were, however, quite insignificant and 

The founder of the Florentine School of Medicine was Taddeo 
d'Alderotti. He was born in Florence in 1223, and was sent by 
his father, a Corn-chandler, to study at Bologna. He first of all 
gave his attention to Greek literature and philosophy, of which 
faculty he became in due time the professor. His translations of 
Aristotle's "Ethics" and his commentaries of Galen and others, 
gained him much fame. Dante speaks of " Taddeo's lore." * 
Hippocrates, and his history of human disease, greatly attracted 
him, and he gained the name of " /' Ippocratisto " " The Hippo- 
cratean," as recorded in Dante's " Convito." 

The date of Taddeo's establishment as a professor of medicine 

1 ' Paradise," Canto xii. 


in Florence is uncertain ; but two circumstances seem to point to 
the year 1278, for there are records, which give the name of one 
of his earliest Florentine pupils, Dino del Garbo, who after- 
wards became a preacher of the Order of Cistercians, and also 
state that he united the teaching of medicine with the calling of a 
Corn-chandler, in the public granary at Or San Michele, in that 

Dino del Garbo's son, Tommaso, was also a pupil of Taddeo, 
and both are referred to at length by Villani. 1 

Taddeo's fame was great. Among his patients was Pope 
Honorius IV., a sufferer from gout, which quite incapacitated him 
from saying Mass. His Holiness having been restored to health, 
thankfully bestowed six thousand ducats ( = .3,000) upon the 
great doctor. Taddeo's reputation, and his fees also, rose im- 
mensely. From a wealthy merchant he demanded as much as 
fifty to one hundred gold florins for a brief consultation ! 2 

Other famous professors of the medical and surgical faculties 
in Florence were Giambattista Torregiano and Michele Vieri 
both pupils of Taddeo d' Alderotti. 

What the exact relations of the Guild with the College or 
School were, no records appear to state ; but that the latter was 
subordinate to the former is certain. 

A Statute of the Guild lays down that : " no doctor may be 
admitted a member of the College, nor be allowed to practise, 
unless he has first been publicly examined by the Consuls of the 
Guild." 3 This was doubtless, more or less, a perfunctory exercise, 
for the candidate had already obtained his degree and qualification 
at his university. It had reference, probably, to social standing, 
and, not a little, to the good conceit the applicant had of 
himself ! 

Another Statute names the Apothecary members of the 
Guild, but imposes no examination, as in the case of the Doctors. 

1 F. Villani, " Vita di Taddeo d'AIderotti." 

2 L' Osservatore Fiorentino, vol. i. 134, p. 301. 
* Statuti, Lib. iv. Act ii. Stat. 53. 



The activities and importance of the Guild grew proportion- 
ately. In 1282, at the second election of Priors, one of the 
number chosen was a member of the " Guild of Doctors and 


Apothecaries." A few years later, in 1296, the Matriculation 
Roll of the Guild was adorned with its most celebrated name in 
the annals of Florence, the immortal writer of the " Divina 
Commedia" Dante Alighieri. 


A very distinguished member of the Guild, who matriculated 
in 1333, was Matteo Palmieri. He was also a writer of poetry, 
his " Citta di Vita " is very reminiscent of the work of Dante. 
He realised the highest ambition of all Florentines by being 
appointed ambassador ; his mission was to the Court of the 
King of Naples. " The ambassador," says a quaint old historian 
Giovanni Battista Gello, who was a tailor by trade but a free 
student in the university also, " behaved himself very wisely, and 
the king did aske what manner of man he was in his own 
countrey, and it was told him that he was an Apothecary. ' If 
the apothecaries/ quoth the king, ' be so wise and learned in 
Florence, what be their physicians ? ' " l 

A Code of Statutes was issued by authority in 1313. Its 
provisions corresponded in general terms with those of the 
" Calimala" Statutes of 1301-9, and additions were made in 1316, 
and again in 1349. Complete revisions of Statutes, Regulations, 
Bye-laws, and of the whole Constitution of the Guild, were 
effected in 1415 and 1468, and further additions were made in 
1558 and 1571. 

In the recension of 1415, it was enacted that no one 
under the age of fifteen years should be apprenticed to a doctor 
of medicine, surgeon, barber, midwife, or any one else who had 
care of the sick. All such persons were required to establish 
their reputation for honesty, morality, and mental and physical 
fitness before being matriculated. 2 

Doctors were permitted to enter into partnership with apothe- 
caries, on mutual terms : the former sending patients to the latter 
with their prescriptions, and the latter recommending patients to 
the former. 3 

Under all these laws the number of Consuls was always four. 
They had unlimited jurisdiction over all physicians and apothe- 
caries, as well as over all surgeons, midwives, herbalists, distillers, 

1 " Pensoso d'Altrui," 1537. 

2 " Statuta Populi et Communis Florentiae," 1415, collecata 1775, Freiburg, Rub. Hi. 

3 Rub. liv. 


and all persons connected, directly or indirectly, with the faculties 
of medicine and surgery. 

In Jacopo di Cessolis' moralisation upon the " Playe of 
Chesse," published by Antonio Miscomini, and already referred 
to, the personality of a Doctor-apothecary is exhibited by the 
Queen's Pawn as follows : l " The pawne that is sette to fore the 
Quene signefyeth the Physicyen Spiceo and Apotyquaire and is 
formed in the figure of a man and he is sette in a chayer on a 
maystre and holdeth in his right hand a book and an ample or a 
boxe wyth oynementis in his left hand and at his gurdelle his 
instruments of yron and of sylver for to make incysions and to 
serche woundes and hurtes and to culte apostumes, and by these 
thinges ben knowen the cyrugyens. By the book ben under- 
standen the phisicyens and all gramaryens, logicyens, maistres of 
lawe, of geometrye arismetuyque musique and of astronomye and 
by the ampole being signefied the makers of pigmentaries spicers 
and apothequayres and they that make confections and confytes 
and medecynes made wyth precyous spyces and by the ferrement 
and instrumentis that hangeing on the gurdell ben signefied the 
cyrurgens and the maistres." 

The Residence of the Consuls of the Guild was one of the 
finest in the city. It was formerly the Palazzo de' Lamberti, at 
the corner of the Via di Sant' Andrea, massive and imposing in 
appearance. The Hall of Audience was specially handsome, it was 
adorned with fine marble sculptures, and a finely painted ceiling. 
Each of the allied or subordinated Guilds, or divisions, contributed 
some characteristic adornment : painters, miniaturists, porcelain- 
makers, haberdashers and silk agents, perfumers, etc. etc. The 
ceiling is now preserved among the treasures of the Museo di San 
Marco. On the facade of the Residence was displayed the 
escutcheon of the Guild the Madonna and Child supported by 
two pots of growing Annunciation lilies. The same device was 
repeated in white upon a red field in the Guild gonfalon. 

1 " Guioccho delle Scacchi," 1493. 



Doctors, physicians, and surgeons, numbered no more than 
sixty during the first half of the thirteenth century, out of a 
total population of nearly one hundred thousand ; but their im- 



portance, not to say arrogance, increased in an inverse ratio. 
Their functions were very much more theoretical than practical, 
and, for the most part, they were content to wear the habiliments 
peculiar to their profession, and to pose as men of science, rather 
than actually to practise the faculty to which they belonged. 


Doctors, who had graduated at a university, never appeared in 
public except with full and long robes, ornamented with scarlet 
and vair-skin, after the fashion of knights, and a fur hood 
depended from their shoulders, after the manner of Capuchin 
monks. A velvet cap or hat, and gloves completed their pro- 
fessional costume. Generally they were accompanied by a groom 
leading a horse, which they usually made a show of mounting in 
the Mercato Vecchio. 

In common with doctors of laws, and men of upwards of 
seventy years of age, doctors of medicine were exempt from 
serving with the military companies of their sestieri. 

It was a custom, common enough in the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries, for doctors of medicine to fix their pro- 
fessional residence and consulting-room at an apothecary's : a 
mutual agreement was come to, whereby the doctor prescribed 
only drugs sold by his own apothecary. In later times, when the 
dignity of the profession had suffered somewhat at the hands of 
commercial agents, doctors set up as independent retailers of 
drugs ; but such " double dealing " does not appear to have been 
very profitable either to them, or to their patients. 

The diagnosis of physical ailments, no less than the casting of 
psychical horoscopes, had little to do with the actual treatment of 
sickness. The Doctor seated upon his horse, or ensconced in his 
easy-chair, spectacles on nose, pompously prescribed the remedy, 
writing it out in almost illegible characters, which became a fruitful 
source of maladministration of drugs. 

Professional etiquette required, first of all, the feeling of the 
pulse, and the exhibition of the tongue, and these amenities were 
enjoyed as readily in the open market as in the consultation-room. 
The next stage was the elaborate swathing of an afflicted member 
in linen cloths, dipped in water, and the commission of the patient 
to the tender mercies of the Apothecary. 

That profane babbler, Nello the barber, so amusingly described 
in " Romola " running his rigs at the Doctors and Apothecaries, 
asks : " What sort of inspiration do you expect to get from the 


scent of nauseous vegetable decoctions ? to say nothing of the 
fact that you no sooner pass the threshold, than you see a doctor 
of physic, like a gigantic spider, disguised in fur and scarlet, 
waiting for his prey, or even see him blocking up the doorway, 
seated on a bony hack inspecting saliva." 1 

Petrarch had a jovial appreciation of the doctors of his day : 
" When I see a doctor coming I know all that he is going to 
say to me," he laughingly exclaimed, " Eat a pair of young 
pullets, drink much warm water, and use the remedy that the 
storks teach us ! " 2 

A very favourite process for any malady of the head, 
whether simple headache, or more serious ailments, was to shave 
off all the hair, and then to hold the bare pate to the scorching 
heat of a blazing fire ! An excellent embrocation, for any part of 
the body, was considered to be soap made of myrrh, boiled in 
water impregnated with crushed ivy flowers, and mixed with the 
yoke of egg. 

For stiff neck, or stiffness of the bones and limbs, a wash was 
used compounded of wine and tincture of assafcetida, which was 
rubbed in with force until the skin began to bleed, or the bone of 
the skull was laid bare ! 

The favourite poultice was made of honey and assafcetida with 
betony powder, and other ingredients, and applied hot. Warm 
drinks, sweet and nauseous, were commonly imbibed, and men 
in armour were plied with steaming potions to keep off the cold 
shock of the steel they wore. 

Persons suffering from fever were advised to plunge into cold 
water ! Profuse bleeding was stopped by cautery binding the 
source round with stout cord, and setting it on fire with a 
candle ! 3 

Obstructions in the ear were treated with hot poultices for 
thirty days, if relief was not obtained, smart raps were adminis- 
tered to the unoffending ear ! " This practice," as it was quaintly 

1 George Eliot, "Romola," chapters iii.-xvi., etc. 

2 J. F. A. de Sade, " Memoires pour la Vie de Petrarque/' vol. iii. 768. 
* G. Boccaccio, " Decamerone," Giorn. iv., Nov. 10, vol. ii. p. 260. 


said, 1 " is founded upon the fact that when a dagger gets jammed 
in its sheath, the final resource for its release is a sharp blow." 2 

Water-treatment, accompanied by applications of syrups and 
purgatives, was a favourite remedy for all stomachic ailments, and 
for skin diseases. For the richer citizens, a course of baths at 
Siena was prescribed. This was a fine satire ; for nothing did 
the ordinary Florentine love more than to score off his worsted foe 
of old, by pacing with lordly step up and down those crooked 
streets, and such advice was acted upon with alacrity ! 

For the poorer classes, who could not afford the Sienese 
villegiatura, there was the bath in the loggia of the Ponte Vecchio, 
fed by the water of the Arno, the medicinal virtues of which were 
always loudly extolled by the medical and pharmaceutical faculties. 
It was specific, they averred, in all poor men's ailments, and of 
it was said, in old Florence, as of the ocean deep : " The sea 
washes away all human ills." 3 

The humble cabbage was greatly extolled, as were, in turn, 
all the vegetable treasures of the garden and the field, as a 
panacea for all the aches and pains of poor humanity. It was 
eaten raw, or cooked, and even the water in which it was prepared, 
was deemed a health-giving beverage. 4 

The following is a satirical rhyme, which an old chronicler puts 
into the mouth of many a despairing patient of the old Florentine 
medicos : 

" There's never a herb nor a root, 
Nor any remedy to boot 
Which can stave death off by a foot ! " 5 

One of the most celebrated doctor-surgeons of the fourteenth 

and fifteenth centuries was Messer Niccolo di Francesco Falucci, 

who was styled " Medicus doctissimus" He wrote many tractates 

the most highly esteemed being, " Pratica di Niccolo da 

Firenze" for such was his common name. Among medicines 

1 F. Sacchetti, " Nov." 37, vol. i. p. 159. 

2 Sacchetti, "Nov." 168, t. iii. p. 41. 

3 L'Osservatore Fiorentino, Lib. vi. p. 35. 

4 C. Sprengel, " Hist, of Medicine," vol. i. 138. 

5 G. A. L. Cibrario, vol. i. p. 371. 


which he introduced was that of " Giuleppo di Niccolo" a famous 
medicament in those days. Niccolo died in 1412. 

What has become of all the countless scrips and scraps 
whereon the famous doctors of old time scored their recipes who 
can say ? No more than five books of prescriptions remain to us, 
and the oldest of them bears the date 1498. These were doubt- 
less printed from the original manuscripts, and of them a copy is 
preserved in the Sacristy of the Cathedral of Florence. 1 

It is stated that during his last illness Messer Piero Guicciar- 
dini made use of certain pills to be taken at dinner and supper 
time, which were made for him by Meo da Siena. The following 
is the prescription : 2 


Magnetised storax \ 

Colocynth . . . . 4^ 

Rhubarb ..... 4^ 

Powder of fine wax . . . . I \ 

Tree-mallow I 

Fine turpeth i 

Rectified scammony . . . .4 

Clove and lavender \ 

Hepatic aloes .... 6 

All steeped in white wine and made into pills. 
The multiplicity of compounds very likely did little to 
preserve the old man's life possibly it was shortened ! Lorenzo 
de' Medici's end, in 1492, was certainly hastened by his medical 
treatment. The famous Milanese specialist, Messere Lazaro da 
Ficino, was called into consultation by the " Magnifico's " resi- 
dent physician, Messere Piero Leoni da Spoleto, but the case 
was hopeless. As though to mark the high human value of the 
patient's life they lavishly prescribed a potion of crushed pearls 
and rubies ! 

One of the earliest Florentine surgeons who made a name, 
was Guglielmo di Saliceto da Piacenza. He was the author of 

1 Haller, " Biblioteca Medica," vol. i. p. 481. 2 MS. Diario di Monaldi, p. 98. 



a Treatise on Surgery, which appeared in the second half of the 
thirteenth century. 

Some progress was made in the science of surgery by the 
foundation in Naples, in 1249, by Frederic II. of a Chair of 


Anatomy, but the Emperor's laudable example was not followed 
anywhere else. Not until well on in the fifteenth century was 
any serious attempt made to take up the study of surgery, and 
then traces are discernible of an attempt to tackle the science at 
Ferrara. 1 

1 Cibrario, vol. i. p. 444. 


No very celebrated Florentine surgeon made his mark before 
the sixteenth century. The greatest master was probably 
Antonio Benevieni a member of an erudite family. 

The disesteem with which practitioners were regarded in the 
fifteenth century, at all events, is quaintly told by the author of 
" Romola " : " Is it the Florentine fashion," asks Maestro Tacco 
of Nello the barber, " to put the masters of the science of medicine 
on a level with men who do carpentry on broken limbs, and sew 
up wounds like tailors, and carve away excrescences as a butcher 
trims meat ? A manual art such as any artificer might learn, 
and which has been practised by simple barbers like you on a 
level with the noble science of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avi- 
cenna. . . ! " 1 

Villani, in his record of the Population of Florence in 1300, 
says the Doctors and Surgeons numbered sixty whose names were 
entered upon the Matriculation Roll of the Guild. 

The fees paid to doctors and surgeons were undetermined by 
the College Rules and by the Guild Statutes. They varied con- 
siderably in amount, and were, perhaps, in direct ratio with 
individual purses and reputations. 

The State paid its medical assistants, for professional work 
in connection with its officials, and with criminals, at a niggard 
rate. For example, in 1292, Ser Guido di Jacopo and Ser 
Orlando di Giovanni were called in to treat the feet of five men 
injured in the pillory. Their recompense was a beggarly sum of 
fifty soldi each ! On the other hand, established practitioners 
received from two to five gold florins for each ordinary consulta- 
tion, whilst they, and less well known physicians, were content 
also to take payment in kind, merchandise, wine, and market 

The high fees paid to Taddeo d'Alderotti were not excep- 
tional, for, in 1336, Bonifacio Peruzzi summoned the celebrated 
doctor Messere Alberto da Bologna, to cure him of a bad throat, 
and paid him sixty gold florins. 2 

1 George Eliot, " Romola," chap. xvi. 2 Peruzzi MSS., iii. 33. 


Notwithstanding the laws and limitations circumscribing the 
avocations of Doctors and Apothecaries alike, very many travelling 
charlatans wended their way daily through the streets of Florence. 
They came in mostly from Padua and the surrounding cities, bent 
on picking up some of the superabundant wealth of the rich 
Republic. Well-mounted on hardy ponies, with capacious saddle- 
bags, they rode into the Markets as though ordinary merchants. 
Well concealed too were their stores of secret medicines, against 
the vigilance of the guardians of the gates. Wide berth they 
gave to the shops of the Apothecaries, and sidled off when 
Florentine medical dignitaries approached. But here and there 
fat capons and plump pigeons found their way into hands, which 
as readily reaped a harvest of small coins from the unwary, for 
worthless salves, and pills, and powders. 

Of one such George Eliot wrote : " Let any Signore," says the 
Medico, " apply his nostrils to this box, and he will find an honest 
odour of medicaments not indeed of pounded gems or rare vege- 
tables from the East, or stones found in the bodies of birds . . . 
and here is a paste, which is ever of savoury odour, and is infallible 
against melancholia, being concocted under the conjunction of 
Jupiter and Venus, and I have seen it allay spasms." 1 Never- 
theless, under certain conditions of man and nostrum, quacks were 
recognised as members of the affiliated and subordinate " Arte de' 
Ciurmadori" "Association of Registered Empirical Practitioners 
of Medicine." 

The Mercato Vecchio was the favourite meeting-place of 
quack doctors. Their raucous voices in advocacy of one or other 
of their nostrums mingled a daily note of discordance to the 
terrible clatter of that busy mart ; but none gathered together so 
many open-mouthed hearers and cash-in-hand customers. 

A real Florentine doctor, on the other hand, held his head 
high ; he was accorded the style of " Messere" and sometimes that 
of "Algebrista" algebraist, because one of his prerogatives was 
the solution of abstruse problems connected with the ancient science 

1 George Eliot, " Romola," chap. xvi. 


3 i " y 


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*-r t* 

Z a 

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Z = 



of astrology. He was always a superior sort of person, and never 
condescended to social intimacy with his inferior fellow-guildsmen 
the Apothecaries. 

The reason of the union, in one Corporation, of a professional 
class and a commercial, in the person of Apothecaries, may be 
seen in the dependence of the one upon the other. It was ever 
so in old Florence, the aristocratic temperament of her people 
ever gave hostages to their democratic proclivities. 

If Apothecaries were regarded by their more magnificent 
fellow-Guildsmen much in the light of poor relations or inferiors, 
their importance in the commercial and social economy of 
Florence was undoubted. They were not looked upon as men of 
science, and in early times, at all events, they were not obliged 
to undergo any educational test, beyond that of being able to 
decipher the infamous handwriting of the Messeri Medici " Gen- 
tlemen Doctors." They were regarded in the light of assistants to 
the medical faculty, and convenient agents for the sale of various 
small commodities. 

In the early days of the Commune, Apothecaries merely 
bought and sold medicinal herbs, which grew within easy reach 
of Florence, and which were daily brought to market by the 
country people. Later on apothecaries were obliged to take out a 
license before opening houses or stores for custom, and each 
applicant undertook " to keep his shop open daily, except on feast 
days, and to sell only genuine articles." 1 Each was required to 
lodge with the Treasurer of the Guild a sum of money, which 
varied in amount according to circumstances, by way of guar- 
antee and which was recoverable at death by the relatives. 

The brilliant commercial enterprise of the " Calimala " and 
Wool Guilds opened out vast new fields for research, and for the 
acquirement of precious pharmaceutical treasures. The " Guild of 
Doctors and Apothecaries " became a living power in the Republic, 
and its members entered enthusiastically into the race for com- 

1 Statutes, Lib. iv. chap. ii. Rub. 55. 


mercial supremacy. In all the travelling companies of the period 
Apothecaries were found who carried home in triumph their spoils. 
Fine cloth finished by skilful Florentine operatives, and other 
European commodities, were accepted, in the East, in exchange 
for drugs and spices. 

The sale of medicines and their ingredients was strictly 
limited by the authority of the Guild to the shops of duly qualified 
Apothecaries ; and no citizen was permitted to sell, or expose any 
foreign drugs or spices, who was not at the same time a member 
of the Guild. 

The sale of drugs and spices was safely guarded so as to 
protect the public from danger to life and from fraud. Annually 
the Consuls of the Guild appointed a Sindaco, or Inspector, to 
visit all the shops of the Apothecaries, and the stores of such 
Doctors as were accustomed to keep medicines and other articles 
for the use of their patients. l They had the power to confiscate 
and destroy all properties, which did not bear the official stamp 
of the Guild, or which, even bearing that seal, in any way 
contravened the bye-laws. At the same time the names of those 
who were guilty in such matters were posted at the Offices of the 
Guild, and were forbidden, for a time determined by the Consuls, 
to practise their faculty, or to traffic in their commodities. 

One of the best known Apothecaries' shops was the Far- 
macia del Moro " The Moor's-Head Pharmacy." It stood at the 
corner of the Borgo di San Lorenzo, and was founded early in 
the sixteenth century. Here Antonio Francesco Grazziani, 
whose nickname was " il Lasco" " Idle-dog " ! carried on the 
business of a chemist. He was nevertheless a poet and a novelist. 
His family came from Staggia to Florence in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, and he was registered upon the Matriculation Rolls of the 
Apothecaries. He is famous as the founder of the " Accademia 
della Crusca" the polite speech of Tuscany. 

Cosimo de' Medici " Father of his Country " greatly 
encouraged medical research and surgical manipulation. On 

1 Statuta Populi et Communis Florentiae, 1415, Rub. Iv. 


the fall of Constantinople, in 145 3, he welcomed a numerous band 
of Greek scholars. One of the earliest evidences of their influence 
was the translation into Italian of an ancient manuscript, dealing 
with the science of Surgery. This was followed by excerpts from 
other manuscripts of ancient naturalist writers. 1 

Cosimo employed the new teachers also to prepare a new 
Florentine Pharmacopoeia, comprising the formulas in local use, 
and others, gathered from various Schools of Medicine in Europe, 
or extracted from the stores of ancient lore. To assist his medical 
staff, he founded a Laboratory of botanical science, in which he 
applied himself energetically to the study of herbs. 2 

This was the first Florentine Laboratory, or School of Critical 
Research, in which Apothecaries were able to learn to amend the 
simple and unscientific methods which they had hitherto followed 
in the compounding of medicines. 

Another famous Laboratory, or Pharmacy, was established 
under the sign of " The Lily," late in the fifteenth century. 3 
There the Rosselli family, Romolo, Stefano, and Francesco, 
carried on the business of Apothecaries, and also wrote several 
learned treatises upon medical and surgical subjects ; and, in the 
person of Cosimo, gave proof of artistic proclivities as well. A 
Dominican Father, Agostino del Riccio, who wrote a " Treatise 
on Agriculture," names the Apothecary Stefano Rosselli with 
particular honour, and says : " the city of Florence owes a debt 
of gratitude to this noble man, because he has cured many citizens 
by the secret remedies which he compounded in his shop." 

In the cloister of the monastic church of Santa Maria Novella 
a Spezieria, or Drug Store, was opened for the manufacture of 
medicines, the rendering of medicinal oils, unguents and perfumes, 
under the direction of a council of incorporated Apothecaries. 
The Farmacia delta Pecora, in the Mercato Nuovo, was another 
important establishment for the dispensing of medicines under the 
control of " The Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries." 

1 In the Laurentian Library. Collated by Dr Cerchi. 

2 L'Osservatore Florentine, vol. vi. p. 147. 

3 MS. of Giovanni Battista Teobaldi, Magliabechian Library, Codex 192. 


The " Pinadoro " was a well-known Apothecary's shop, and 
was the training school for many a famous Florentine Perino 
del Naga among the number. Each of the Monasteries had its 
Spezieria, or Dispensary as we say, where medicaments, condiments 
and many necessary comforts were distributed gratis, or at a very 
low figure, to sick and needy applicants. The members of the 
religious orders were past-masters in the subtle arts of pharmacy, 
and undoubtedly made use of their powers to advance the cause 
of Religion. 

With respect to the number of Apothecaries, whose names 
were enrolled upon the Matriculation Registers of the Guild, G. 
Villani records that, in 1300, they were wellnigh one hundred. 
Benedetto Dei gives the number of registered Apothecaries in 
1479 as sixty-six the shrinkage being due, doubtless, to trade 
competition, whereby the smaller and less enterprising men suffered 

The botteghe of the Apothecaries were not the least ornamental 
and attractive of the many shops of Old Florence. Their internal 
arrangement followed on strictly conventional lines. Two rooms 
at least were required, the one giving upon the street or market 
was the shop in particular, whilst the room behind served for the 
mixing and preparation of the multitudinous variety of objects 
offered for sale, and for the accommodation of apprentices and 

Across the centre of the shop ran a counter with drawers and 
cupboards, and upon it, together with tetttpots of ointment, 
tazzine tasting cups, and fiole cruets, were displayed .small and 
interesting articles, such as scents, gloves, satchets, buckles, and 
nicknacks of all kinds from beyond the seas. Upon a firm 
pedestal stood the big mortar made of metal or earthenware, with 
strong outside ribs like buttresses of masonry to bear the heavy 
pounding of condiments. On a side-table were sets of Vast di 
puerperali accouchement services, and canestralle dessert dishes. 

Behind, along the walls, were ranged shelves of wood, hold- 
ing in due order earthenware albarelli and boccali dry drug jars 



and jugs for liquids. These albarelli held artists' pigments, 
sweetmeats, candied apples, quince, and plum jams, with dates, 
manna, and spices' from Syria and Africa, perfumes, soap, and 
endless luxuries and foibles of the day. They and the boccali 


were always beautifully shaped and decorated, and bore the 
names of their contents. A lower shelf contained round and 
oval boxes of wood or metal, generally decorated with painting 
and adorned with work in gesso, and boiled leather, for bandages, 
sponges, brushes, etc. etc. The lower shelf was reserved for 


glass flasks bound in plaited rush and wicker-work, for infusions 
and decoctions, and closed with cotton wool or straw stoppers. 

All these articles bore the owner's initials, arms, or name, 
with the name of the drug, etc., painted upon a ribbon decoration. 
In handy little heaps were small flasks, bottles for medicines, and 
little boxes for pills, etc., all bearing evidence of artistic taste. 
The walls of the shops were adorned with painted tiles of 
majolica, carved and painted wood, with tapestry or leather 
hangings. Convenient benches for customers were placed by the 
counter upon the clean plaited straw matting. Generally little 
metal flags were hung outside the door, like Inn signs, bearing 
the proprietors' names and special notices, whilst albarelli further 
proclaimed their calling. 

A branch of the Apothecaries' business, and by no means an 
insignificant one, in view of the large population of Florence and 
its Contado^ and in relation to the many visitations of fire, flood, 
famine, and pestilence, was that of undertaker. The funerals, 
at all events of the wealthier citizens, whether noble or merchant, 

were conducted by the Apothecaries. They supplied every 
requisite, coffins, biers, bearers, palls, torches for use in the street, 
candles for the ecclesiastical functions, trappings, ornaments of all 
kinds, baked meats, burial drinks, and all accessories. Oddly 
enough the most popular refreshments at funerals were just those 
which still are offered at country burials in Great Britain, confetti 

sugared sponge-cakes, and alchermes a spiced liquor flavoured 
with cinnamon and cloves. 

In each bottega was exhibited a tariff or price-list with quota- 
tions of mortuary expenses. These were arranged in classes to 
suit every pocket, and the friends of the deceased were, as now, 
" waited upon at their residences " for the registration of arrange- 

Undertaker-apothecaries did not bear the best of names for 
honesty and moderation of charges, and when one of the fraternity 
hung up a " Melon," by way of a shop sign, it was hailed with 
derisive laughter as an apt token of the unblushing tricks of the trade ! 


Public records and the Prioristi and Zibaldoni private note- 
books for jotting down at the moment interesting items of news, 
and carried and used by Florentines of every class, age, and sex, 
contain numberless paragraphs relating to burial ceremonies. 
None of the latter were more scrupulously written up than those 
of the Alberti, Cavalcanti, Peruzzi, Rucellai, and Valori families. 

For example, among other items in the account x of the burial 
of Monna Piera de' Valori Curonni, in 1365, are biscuits and sweet- 
meats, a cloth baldaccino, poles for bearing the coffin, wax-candles 
for the night watch, sweet herbs for perfuming the chamber, torches 
for the street procession, etc. etc. The amount paid to Giovanni 
di Bertoldo, the Apothecary, for all these reached fifty-three gold 
florins. An additional account for tapers, candles, and torches, 
used at the interment, also supplied by the same undertaker, 
came to eleven gold florins. The fees paid to the good lady's 
two doctors, Messeri Niccolo da Mantova, and Piero de' Pulchi ? 
for " medical attendance and for testifying the death," amounted 
to seventy gold florins. 

The expense of the funeral of Niccolaio di Jacopo degli 
Alberti, who died on August 1377, was enormous. "He was 
buried," says the old chronicler, " at Santa Croce, with the greatest 
honours in tallow and wax." The sum total came out at three 
thousand gold florins nearly .1500 ! 

In fact the serious expenses attaching to funeral ceremonies 
led to repressive legislation by the State, and the " Guild of 
Doctors and Apothecaries " was called upon to investigate the 
matter. Many regulations were adopted throughout the fifteenth 
century, and at length some new Statutes were enacted in 1536, 
which dealt with torches, candles, and various other objects 
modelled in wax. These confirmed to the Guild the exclusive 
right to make, keep, and sell all such things, and further limited 
the trade in illuminations and fireworks, which at the period had 
become indispensable adjuncts at all funerals, to members of the 

1 Valori MS., p. 23. 


Quite the most fashionable and lucrative department in the 
Apothecaries' shops was that of Perfumery and Haberdashery. 
Indeed the Perfumer's sanctum, with its delicious odours and rich 
stores of attractive trifles, was a dangerous rival to the gossipy 
saloon of the versatile barber. 

When a man required a pick-me-up it was, in the ordinary 
course of events, for him to drop into his chemist's. There, in 
addition to the usual town's topics, he was able to discuss interesting 
items from foreign parts, handle samples of scents and silks from 
the East, taste curious sherbets and essences, and chat to his 
heart's content with the gay frequenters of the emporium. High- 
born gentlemen and well-to-do contadine thronged these busy marts,, 
and lent their graces and their foibles to the animation of the 
scene. Flirtations and assignations were the order of the day r 
behind shady jalousies and amid cushioned divans ; whilst the 
discreet and spectacled master busied himself, not with their tittle- 
tattle, but with their petty cash. 

The general use of perfumes was a characteristic of the 
prosperity of Florence, and of the luxury of her citizens. Almost 
every one became a connoisseur of delicate and pungent odours. 
The fashion was introduced from Spain, whence came the recipes, 
which bore the names of the " Infanta Isabella " and the " Donna 
Fiorenza del Ullhoa" and which became the rage. 

Count Lorenzo Magalotti tells us that a pair of small silk 
sachets, filled with these delights, sold easily in Florence for four 
hundred gold florins. The Count also wrote a sonnet entitled : 
" To the orange flower," 1 wherein he recites with rapture the 
fascinating ingredients of his own best-loved perfume orange 
blossom, honeysuckles, roses, jessamines, lilies of the valley, elder- 
flowers, sweet mint, thyme and geranium blossoms. He gives 
a recipe for the manufacture of a delicious fragrance : " Take," 
he says, " the empty skin of an orange, with a little powdered 
benzoin, two pounded cloves, and a small stick of cinnamon ; 
cover them with finest rose water, and set to boil upon a brazier."" 

1 " Diterambo sul Fiore d' Arancio." 



Then he gossips with a genial friend, perhaps a worthy 
Apothecary, showing that in the matter of perfumes one must 
be sparing, or generous, according to circumstances, and in pro- 
portion to the appreciation of the company. Liberality at all 
times was to be required in polite society. Ornaments, dress, 
kerchiefs, utensils, beds, hangings, rooms, and even food and 
beverages, all came under the category of objects worthy of being 


perfumed with musk, amber, and the extracts of sweet-smelling 
flowers, herbs, and earths. 

No forms of scent or perfume were anything like so popular 
with the smart folks of old Florence as the Buccheri, and none found 
Apothecaries more keen in their supply. By the term was meant 
odoriferous earths or paste, and also small ornamental unglazed 
vessels made of sweet-smelling clay. The finest Buccheri were 
distinguished by a brilliant black colour, and came from Portugal. 
When baked into pottery the colour was rich brown and red, and 



the little vessels were polished by the hand and ornamented with 
rich gilding. The odour of the Bucchero, when dipped in water, 
was delightfully refreshing, and resembled the aroma which rises 
from the parched ground, on a hot summer day, after a copious 

Fashionable belles of the period were accustomed to wear on 
their uncovered breasts miniature Buccheri as lockets. They were 


pierced with tiny holes, whence issued the most delicate of 
flowery fragrances. Ever and anon they would press these little 
vases to their lips to gather the delightful tingling sensation which 
the impact produced. In every Apothecary's shop these attractive 
toys were sold, as well as the Cunziere perfume jars filled with 
fragments of bucchero earth and other odoriferants, which were 
to be found in the luxurious apartments of wealthy citizens. 

The rage for this delectable compound became enormous. 
It was made into pastilles for eating, and was added, as an 


acceptable flavour, to the most delicate viands : saporetti subtle 
sauces, pani levati dessert-wafers, cappone di galera, egg-flip and 
whipped cream, the forebears of our meringues. 

Magalotti also descants 1 upon the charms of Buccheri, and 
says sententiously : " What a delight it would be to put to boil 
in a Bucchero delta Maga, with Cordova water, four or five pieces 
of Bucchero di Guadalaxara ! Such a confection would keep its 
perfume for a year, if wrapped in amber-scented leather, with a 
denaro worth of lacrima di Quinquina, and would be meat and 
drink combined ! " 

Under the general term Merciai, Haberdashers, which by 
the way was added to the title of the Guild in the year 1282, 
and which, henceforth, was known as " LArte de' Medici e degli 
Speziali e de' Merciai" " The Guild of Doctors, Apothecaries, and 
Haberdashers," were included many small fancy dealers. 

Merciai strictly meant traders who purchased raw silk in the 
Levant and Persia and shipped it to Florence. They were also 
keen in picking up endless articles which promised remunerative 
sales at home. They ministered greatly to the splendour of 
marriage feasts, which in the fifteenth century were celebrated 
without fear of sumptuary prohibition. The weddings of Baccio 
Adimari and Lisa Ricasoli in 1420, of Bernardo Rucellai and 
Nannina de' Medici in 1 460, and of Lorenzo de' Medici and Clarice 
Orsini in 1 469 were remarkable for the richness and variety of the 
beautiful presents of Eastern origin embroidered cushions, belts, 
purses, veils and fringes of fine silk, inlaid thimbles and needle- 
cases, ivory combs, feathered fans, and whatnots. The wedding 
trousseau of Giovanna de' Medici, in 1466, excelled all others 
in the cunning beauties of its unnamed trifles of rare and 
goodly workmanship, sought out of the endless stores of the 

Certain Provisions were passed during the first half of the 
sixteenth century in connection with the " Guild of Doctors and 
Apothecaries," which prescribed rules and regulations for the 

1 Magalotti, " Lettere Scientifiche/' No. 18, 19. 


conduct and procedure of all and sundry traders connected with 
the Guild. 

"L'Arte de* Merciai, Velettai, Profumieri e Cartai" "The 
Guild of Mercers, Veil-makers, Perfumers, and Stationers," was 
duly enrolled and placed under the direction of the Greater 
Guild. 1 All such merchandise had to be packed in boxes, cases, 
barrels, casks, or bales, bearing the mark of the exporting house, 
with the name of the agent attached, who was also directed to 
stamp each consignment with the official seal of the " Guild of 
Doctors and Apothecaries." 

The following is a list of some of the Crafts which were sub- 
ordinated to the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries " : 

Barbieri Hairdressers and Barbers. 

Battilori Gold-beaters. 

Berrettai Beret or cap- makers. 

Bicchierai e Fiasci Glass-blowers and Bottle-makers. 

Boccalieri e Scudalieri Jug and dish-makers. 

Borsai Purse-makers. 

Brachierai Truss and Suspender-makers. 

Cappellai di paglia e feltro Straw and Felt Hat-makers. 

Cartolai Paper-makers. 

Cartai Stationers. 

Ceraiuoli e Fabbricanti dell* \ Wax chandlers and makers of 

Imagine di Cera j waxen figures. 

Ciurmadori Quack-doctors. 

Coltellinai Cutlers. 

Guainai Sheath and case-makers. 

Imbiancatori Makers of Bleaching media. 

Lanciai e Funaiuoli Well-rope and gearing-makers. 

Lanternai Lantern-makers. 

Lintai Makers of .small linen articles. 

Librai Booksellers. 

Mascherai Mask-makers. 

1 Cantini, iii. p. 343. 


Merciai Dealers in raw-silk and sundries. 

( Makers of catgut for musical 

\ instruments. 

Orpellai Makers of gilded leather articles. 

Pallai Tennis-bat and ball makers. 

Pettinagnoli Comb-makers. 

Pettini stracci Makers of silk carding-combs. 

Profumieri Perfumers. 

Sellai Saddlers' fancy articles dealers. 

Spadai Ornamental sword- makers. 

Stagnai e Acconciastagni Pewterers and platers. 

Stovigliai Potters. 

Stacciai e Vagliai Sieve-makers. 

Velettai Veil-makers. 

Vendi di Spago, Canapo^ e \ c . , ~ j 1 

\ String, Rope and Cord-makers. 
Fune ) 

etc. etc. etc. 

All through the fifteenth century as the fame of Florence was 
wafted further and further afield, her Merchants and her Apothe- 
caries entered more and more into friendly rivalry in exploiting 
the treasures of distant lands. The " Guild of Doctors and 
Apothecaries " despatched travellers and agents into every known 
land, who quickly sent back valuable consignments of goods. 
Everything of an aromatic nature, or pleasing to the eye, no less 
than every ingredient useful in the Pharmacopoeia, became articles 
of barter and of traffic. 

Each vessel, from the East, which entered the harbour of 
Leghorn, or which sailed up to the quays of Pisa, brought 
immense stores of precious oriental merchandise. These were 
unladen and promptly packed on mule backs or placed in 
shallow river-boats, and despatched direct to the shops of the 

The number of Sensali agents and Mezzani Middlemen 
was very large. They were either engaged in foreign travel, or 


at depots in Italy and abroad, or in Florence itself. As early 
as the middle of the thirteenth century such assistants of the 
Guild were fully recognised and generally employed. Regula- 
tions were put into force, from time to time, which not only 
limited both the numbers and the activities of persons acting 
as agents and salesmen, but also required that all who should 
engage themselves in such occupations should obtain the sanction 
of the Consuls of the Guild. 

The co-operative feature, which marked all trade undertakings 
in Florence, did not fail to assert itself with respect to agents and 
salesmen. Consequently it is not a matter of surprise to find that, 
by the middle of the fourteenth century, a subordinate corporation 
had come into existence: "L'Arte de Sensali e di Mezzani" 
" The Guild of Agents and Middlemen." This association 
was without separate political attributes, and was entirely under 
the auspices of the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries." 
Each member received, upon Matriculation or admission, a 
metal token, which he was obliged to wear during the exercise of 
his calling. The same badge he was also permitted to exhibit 
over the door of his house or office. 

Agents and Salesmen were not allowed to effect sales of any 
kind except by the authority of the Greater Guild ; transgression 
of this rule led to fines, for each offence, of one soldo, and re- 
peated infractions to expulsion. 

So greatly did the commerce of Florence increase during the 
fifteenth century that the principal Apothecaries, in addition to their 
staffs of travellers, established Banking Agencies in all the prin^ 
cipal centres of population, and especially in those countries which 
were most productive of the manifold commodities of their trade. 

These " Professional Banks " if we may call them such for 
want of a better name became important business-houses, and 
were largely concerned in granting loans of money to members of 
the Guild in furtherance of exploring expeditions. They also 
assumed the character of general money-lending offices, and, 
being well managed, were very prosperous undertakings. 




With something of the catholicity of a beneficent Alma Mater 
the '* Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries " extended its sheltering 
patronage to numbers of objects and interests not, at first sight, 
necessarily associated with medicine, surgery, and drugs. 

Literature, Painting and Geographical Discovery alike bene- 
fited from the fostering care of the Guild. If a man had a 
book, a pigment, or an adventure, he had nothing to do but to 
drop in at one of the considerable pharmacies of old Florence. 
There he could rub shoulders with others of his kind, and chat 
affably with the dignified and bespectacled medicos ; and, after 
cajoling the patient but wide awake apothecary, he rarely departed 
without having got what he asked. 

Dante, Cimabue, and Toscanelli may be rightly called the 
fathers of these glorious families of writers, artists and explorers, 
which have shed such undying lustre upon their Alma Mater ; and 
have illuminated all lands and all periods by the effulgence of 
their genius. 

The Men of Letters of the Renaissance, whose sun rose and 
shone in Florence, form a paradise of celebrities which have 
placed the Fair City upon the premier throne of the Valhalla of 

" Boccaccio's Garden and its faierie 
The love of joyaunce and the galantrie," 

Her sons wielded the pen with the same splendid spirit of 
enterprise and success as did their brethren of the loom. Her 
writers, her merchants, and her bankers, together built up her 
fortune and her glory. 

Dante Alighieri, (1265-1321), was the son of a notary 
belonging to the sestiere of For San Piero. He was sent to 
study law at Bologna, and philosophy at Padua ; but having no 
taste for either faculty he matriculated in 1296 in the "Guild of 
Doctors and Apothecaries." His choice may have been dictated 
by his fondness for literature, because books were among the 
wares sold exclusively in the pharmacies. 


He entered public life soon after his marriage in 1295, and 
took an active part in the debates of the magistrates. In 1300 
he was elected Prior, and was instrumental in causing the exile 
of the Neri and Bianchi. This led to his own exile upon a 
trumped up charge of " barratry," the pecuniary misuse of office, 
extortion, and illicit gains. 

If Petrarch, (1304-1374), and Boccaccio, (1313-1375), 
were never matriculated into the Guild, their sympathies were 
with its beneficent characteristics. Their writings were nowhere 
more accessible, and their clever sayings more constantly repeated, 
than in the Apothecaries' shops of their beloved Florence. 

Matteo Palmieri, (1364-1427), Apothecary and Poet; Leo 
Battista Alberti, (1404-1475), Physician, Astronomer, Architect, 
and Writer; Marsilio Ficino, (1433-1499), Surgeon, Philosopher, 
Writer; Antonio Benevieni, (1453-1 542), Physician and Man of 
Letters ; were among those who were matriculated in the u Guild of 
Doctors and Apothecaries." But who shall write out the names 
of all that mighty Florentine Phalanx of literary men, who have 
brilliantly adorned, not alone their Guild, and their city, and 
their time, but the great world at large for eternity ! 

No effort appears to have been made to establish a corpora- 
tion for the enrolment exclusively of men of letters in the case 
of painters. 

Printing, and making, and selling of books and other literary 
matter, no less than wood and copper block-engraving were 
recognised as appertaining to the professional " Guild of Doctors 
and Apothecaries." 

Bernardo Cennini, Ghiberti's partner in designing and cast- 
ing the famous Baptistery Gates, was the first Florentine printer 
from type. His earliest book, " A Commentary of Virgil," was 
published in 1471. 

To Aldus Manutius, (1450-1516), is due the type called 
"Italic" It was modelled upon the handwriting of Petrarch. 
The cutting of it was done by Francesco da Bologna, Francesco 
Raibolini, the painter-goldsmith, who signed himself, indiffer- 


ently, " aurifex" and " pictor" He was a member of the Florentine 
" Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries." 

In 1472 Piero da Moguntia another German issued at 
Florence the " Filocopo " of Giovanni Boccaccio. Five years later 
Nicholaus of Breslau printed the "Monte Sancto di Dio" of 
Bettini ; and in 1481, under his assumed name of Niccolo di 
Lorenzo di Firenze, an edition of Dante's works. This was 
quite the finest example of Florentine printing which had yet 
appeared. The first notice of wood-engraving in Florence appears 
in an entry for the Catasto, Income-tax, of 1430, which relates 
that an artificer, unnamed, returns as rateable property, " many 
wood-blocks for the printing of playing-cards and images of saints 
useful to him in his profession." However no print is extant of 
an earlier date than 1490, which date appears upon a bird's-eye 
view of Florence now in Berlin. 

Jacopone da Todi's " Laudi" printed by Francesco Buon- 
accorso, and similar Books of Devotion, appeared in 1490 with 
wood-block illustrations. In the same year Buonaccorso, who 
was related to Savonarola through his mother, published the 
eloquent Frate's tract, " Libro delta Vita viduata" Savonarola 
himself flooded Florence with illustrated tracts and sermons. These 
were done in two or three special workshops, where they were 
designed and executed, and publishers applied to the Masters 
when they required cuts for their publications. Luigi Pulci's 
" Morgante Maggiore" which contains more than two hundred 
woodcuts, was published in 1500. Many old Florentine wood- 
cuts between 1516 and 1546 are signed Giovanni Benvenuto, a 
leading publisher and member of the " Guild of Doctors and 

The earliest Florentine copper-plate engraving was probably 
a "Paschal Table for finding Easter from the year 1461," of 
which there is a copy in the British Museum. The first illus- 
trated books published in Florence and containing copper-plate 
engravings were the Monte Sacro di Dio and Dante's Works. 
For the latter, which goes under the name of Landino, Botticelli 


was responsible, and expressions of his skill, as an engraver, may 
be seen at the Berlin Museum. Filippo Lippi, who filled the 
office of Consul of the Painters' Guild more than once, did fifteen 
plates of the "Life of the Madonna," published in 1482. 

Apparently the mechanical difficulties of printing letterpress 
and plates, on one and the same page, were too great even for 
ingenious Florentine workmen-artists, for, between 1472 and 
1490, fewer than two hundred illustrated books were published 
in Florence. Another reason for this moderate output may pro- 
bably be noted in the general preference for illuminated manu- 
scripts, in the execution of which no Scrivani excelled those of 
Florence for exquisite and correct penmanship. The art of writing 
and illuminating manuscripts required two classes of artists : I. 
Miniatori-caligrafi Writers and Capital-letter designers, and 
2. Miniatori-pittori Illuminators. At the early date of 1150 
Florentine scrivani had made their names famous for fine clear 
and correct pen work. The beginning of the fourteenth century 
saw the pen laid aside for the brush. 

The last of the Master-Copyists was Vespasiano da Bisticci 
(1421-1498). He was matriculated into the "Guild of Doctors 
and Apothecaries," and published a book entitled " The Lives 
of Illustrious Men." He is known to posterity as the first of 
modern booksellers, and his shop near the Mercato Nuovo was 
the earliest emporium for the exclusive supply of printed books. 

A vast number of craftsmen were engaged in the Book- 
industry : Typefounders, press-makers, paper and parchment 
dressers, compositors, printers, illustrators, engravers, binders, 
cloth-shearers, vellum-stretchers, boss-carvers, etc. All these 
artificers were under strict rules of workmanship, and their work 
was further subject to severe censorship before publication by 
officials connected with the Great Guild. There does not appear 
to have been separate organisations for these workers, but pro- 
bably they were matriculated in the subordinate Association of 
Librai Book-makers and Book-sellers. 

In the Early Renaissance the great Comacine Guild em- 


braced workers in all the decorative arts architects, builders, 
mosaic-workers, workers in gold and bronze, carvers in wood and 
stone, painters, etc. etc. The Magistri pittori Master-painters 
formed the fourth branch of that famous Guild, until the begin- 
ning of the fourteenth century, when painter communities were 
founded outside the parent organisation. 

Every state and every town, where the Comacine Masters 
worked, had its Lodge of Painters. One spirit moved the 
brethren in friendly rivalry, and produced individual styles to 
each of which the name of " School " was given. Thus Cimabue, 
Giotto, Lorenzetti, Memmi, Gaddi, Aretino and others worked 
together, and apart, quite characteristically. 

Every wall space, not allocated to the sculptor or the mosaic- 
master, was smoothed and stuccoed to receive the pigments of 
the painter. Scratch where you will at Fiesole, in San Miniato 
or in Santa Croce plaster peels off and reveals a Comacine Master 
of painting. The Cappella degli Spagnuoli, at Santa Maria Novella, 
is an undefaced treasure-house of Comacine frescoes. 

Somewhere about 1297 the Florentine painters, "being be- 
holden for their supplies of pigments to the Apothecaries and their 
agents in foreign lands," placed themselves under the banner 
of the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries," but with no distinct 

The first incorporation of the Painters appears to date from 
1303, and was the natural reflexive acti6n of the commercial 
economies of the period. Certain rules and regulations were 
compiled, but the first serious enactment of Statutes was 
accomplished in November 1339, when L'Arte de* Pittori the 
" Guild of Painters," became a duly constituted corporation. 
At the same time it was ruled that the new confraternity 
should be dependent upon the Greater " Guild of Doctors and 
Apothecaries," and should possess no peculiar political or social 
pre-eminence. 1 

1 D. Giovanni Gaye, " Carteggio inedite d'Artisti," (xiv., xv., xvi., Secoli), vol. ii. 
P- 39- 


In 1349 a further development of the Guild of Painters took 
place and its members enrolled themselves as the " Compagnia e 
Fraternita di San Luca " under the special protection of the 
Virgin Mary, Saint John Baptist, Saint Zenobbio and Saint 
Reparata. The rallying-point of the members was transferred 
to the disused church of San Matteo, and they added their 
alternative title, " La Confraternita de' Pittori" and acknow- 
ledged their dependence upon the great Guild of Doctors and 
Apothecaries. The Confraternity reckoned its members not 
only from makers of pictures, frescoes, and designs, but enrolled 
also decorators of stone, wood, metal, glass, stucco, leather, etc. 

The Statutes of the Guild, 1 which were duly registered before 
a Notary on August i8th, 1354, named as the Governing Body- 
four Consuls, four Councillors, two Treasurers, and two Secretaries. 
These officers were generally men of the highest artistic attain- 
ments, for example, Luca Delia Robbia, although not a pigment 
master in the ordinary sense of the term, served the office of 
Consul several times ; he was moreover elected thirty times a 
member of Council, three times Sindic and twice Treasurer. 

The marticulation-fee was only five lire, and other payments 
of members were upon the same modest scale. One Statute 
provided : " that those who inscribed themselves on the Roll of 
membership, whether men or women, should be contrite, and 
should confess their sins ; and that, whilst members of the Guild, they 
should go to confession and to the Communion at least once a year." 

All members were required to recite daily five Paternosters and 
five Aves ; but should memory fail, the omission had to be made 
up the following day. Complaints were rife in 1 406 that members 
of the Guild were remiss in their religious duties and in obedi- 
ence to officers. Penalties were inflicted of temporary durance 
in the Guild House, with money fines ranging from twelve 
denari for each dereliction of duty. 

Cennino Cennini, in his quaint " Trattato della Pittura" put 

1 Archivio di Stato Fiorentino. 


forth in 1437, when its author was in his eightieth year, 
makes the following pathetic appeal to all art students : " O ye 
of the gentle spirit who are lovers of the Art, and devoted to its 
pursuit, adorn yourselves with the garments of love, of modesty, 
of obedience, and of penance." 

St Luke's Day was a famous festival in Florence, when all the 
finest pictures not actually in situ were gathered together from the 
studios and exhibited in the cloisters of La Nunziata. In this 
observance we note the origin of the Accademia di San Luca, re- 
named, in i 562, by Cosimo I.," Accademia delle Belle Arti," wherein 
he united the three Fine Arts Sculpture, Painting and Archi- 
tecture, under the splendid motto : " Levare di terra al cielo nostro 
intelleto" " Heaven and earth are united by our genius ! " 

Genius indeed ! What pen could name all the great lights of 
that firmament, much less do justice to the magnificent pageant of 
the Painters of Florence ! If Benvenuto Cellini wrote : " Leonardo 
da Vinci, Raphael Santi and Michel Angelo Buonarroti are the 
Book of the World," who shall add laurels to their crowns, or 
who shall tell the glories of their brethren ? 

Under the patronage of the " Guild of Doctors and Apothe- 
caries," many eminent artists turned their attention to stained - 
glass. Ghiberti, Ghirlandajo, Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi, Pierino 
del Vaga, Vivarini were only a few of those who designed subjects 
and also undertook the process of staining. 

They ground their pigments very fine, mixed them with water 
containing gum or some other adhesive medium, sketched in 
lightly dark touches and shadows, and then burnt the glass. 
When cool, colours were dabbled and stippled over the surface, and 
left to dry : a soft brush was passed over the picture, high lights 
were scratched out, and the sheet was re-burnt. 1 

The vitreous glories of the Duomo, Santa Croce, Santa Maria 
Novella, San Spirito,La Nunziata, Or San Michele, and many another 
shrine of Religion and of Art, owe their creation to these renowned 
masters. Working with them were Moise in 1350, Domenico di 

1 N. H. J. Westlake, " History of Design in Painted Glass." 


Gambassi in 1431, Guaspare di Giovanni, a priest of Vol terra, 
in 1440, and Alessandro Fiorentino in 1491. Guaspare's 
contract directed that his work at Siena " must be as good as 
that at Florence in Santa Maria del Fiore." x 

Other Master window-painters were Fra Giovanni d' Ulma and 
Giovanni da Udine, who did the stained glass at the Certosa di 
Val d'Ema. 

Turning lastly to Discoverers and Explorers of lands and 
seas, who were all under the ^Egis of the Guild, we encounter two 
great Florentines Paolo Toscanelli and Amerigo Vespucci 
among a host of worthy compatriots in adventure. 

Paolo Toscanelli, the son of a physician, was born in 1397. 
After reading the classics in the " Studio Fiorentino," where 
Boccaccio used to expound Dante, he graduated at the 
University of Padua. On his return to Florence, in 1425, he 
became a member, without fees, beneficio patris, in the " Guild 
of Doctors and Apothecaries." He took up the study of Natural 
Science, especially devoting himself to Astrology " the crazy 
daughter of a wise mother, Astronomy." Under his philosophy 
was revived the Miletan theory as to the spherical form of the 
earth. His opinions, together with the ever increasing needs of 
Florentine Commerce in the direction of new dyes, new drugs and 
new spices, prompted the idea of reaching Prete Janni the fabled 
herbarium of the West. 

The route traced on his map by Toscanelli enabled Christopher 
Columbus to place his foot upon the New World. The many 
letters which passed between Toscanelli, the King of Portugal, 
Columbus, and many other worthies have a romantic, as well as 
a scientific, interest. Alas, he never lived to see the crowning of 
his life's work, but died in 1482, just ten years before the dis- 
covery of Columbus. He was buried in the Church of San 
Spirito. The disc, on a marble slab, placed by Toscanelli, in 
1450, in the North Transept of the Duomo, and a "Treatise upon 
the Movements of the Comets," are all the relics we have of 

1 C. F. L. F. Rumohr, " Italienische Forsclningen," V. ii. p. 381. 



the great Florentine fisico, who inspired the intrepid Genoese 

The mantle of Toscanelli fell upon the shoulders of Amerigo 
Vespucci, who was born in Florence in 1451. He was the son 
of a Notary, but embraced mercantile life in one of the Medici 
Companies of Adventurers, and became the Cadiz agent of that 
house in 1492. He was thrown into the company of Christopher 
Columbus, and contracted for the provisioning of two of his 
expeditions. He was spoken of by the famous explorer as : 
" into hombre muy de bien? " a very tidy sort of fellow ! " 

In 1497 King Ferdinand of Portugal entrusted him with the 
command of an exploring expedition, and he went to Florence for 
information and assistance. Whilst in his native city he was 
enrolled a full member of the " Guild of Doctors and Apothe- 
caries." He afterwards sailed away to the New World, taking with 
him Hojeda, Pinzon, and Cabral, all famous Portuguese explorers ; 
and had the satisfaction of discovering the coast of the Northern 
Continent to which he gave his own name, Amerigo " America." 
The news of his success excited immense excitement and enthu- 
siasm in Florence. For three days and three nights the whole 
city was decorated with wreaths and banners, and illuminated with 
torches and lamps. Vespucci died at Seville in 1512. His 
portrait, painted by Ghirlandajo, has been discovered in a fresco 
at the Church of Ognissanti in Florence. 

From the very nature of their enterprises explorers and 
navigators were so situated that they could not form a co- 
operative Society of their own. Membership in the Great Guild, 
which patronised and subsidised their efforts, was sufficient for 
their purpose. 

And Great Guild it truly was, for though the " Guild of 
Doctors and Apothecaries " held no higher place in the Guild 
Hierarchy of Florence than that of sixth, it yielded to none in the 
loftiness of its aims, and in the splendour of its achieve- 



I. ORIGIN. The wearing of skins and furs. Carlovingian kings. Early 
craftsmen. Guild added to Seven Greater Guilds, 1197. Few early notices. 
A. Pucci's " Centiloquio." 

II. CONSTITUTION. Avoidance of confusion with Tanners and other leather 
workers. First Consuls, 1270. Guild Books. Various divisions of Guild- 
members. Officers. Low fees for matriculation. The " Tasso di Torcetti" 
" Squeezers " or " Pepperboxers ! " Street regulations with respect to trade pro- 
cesses. Sumptuary laws affecting furs. 

III. DEVELOPMENT. Kinds of skins and furs. Meaning of double title 
of Guild. Values. Processes. Treaties. Exports. An early restrictive law. 
Wearing vair and other furs marked the prosperity of Florence. The " fool 
in vair ! " Curative properties of fur. Cinderella. 

IV. A Dissertation upon the Dress of the Florentines during the Era of the 

THE wearing of skins and fur was doubtless the earliest 
sartorial fashion indulged in by the unclothed races of 
mankind. Quite without contradiction we associate such cover- 
ings with savage and semi-civilised life. What more natural, or 
what more easy, when winter storms beat cold, or old age and 
sickness thinned the blood, than to up and slay a beast, and with 
his pelt to protect the human frame ? 

Textile garments are the garb of civilisation and of peace. 
So when, in the early Middle Ages, wild war-lords from the north 
overran the fair plains of Italy, no man wondered to behold their 
brawny limbs arrayed in the furs of the animals they had slain 
upon their way. Of Ausprando, King of the Lombards, in 772, 
it is recorded that he came clothed in fine skins and rare furs. 1 

1 Paolo Diacono, Lib. vi. cap. 35. 



The Carlovingian kings followed the same mode, and 
Charlemagne was wont to wear thick otter-skins in winter, and, 
when in summer time he went a-hunting, he sported serviceable 
sheep skins. During his progresses through Italy he wore, 
generally, a large robe lined with vair and fox-skin. His officers 
and courtiers were arrayed in like fashion, and doubtless their 
appearance struck the quick-witted Florentines, and gave them 
ideas which they were not slow in carrying out. 1 

The early inhabitants of Tuscany their erstwhile industries 
dispersed were fain to clothe themselves, for peace and war alike, 
in what came handiest, and offered least temptation to their 
robber enemies. Consequently at the period of the inception of 
the Guilds many sartorial relics of a troubled past remained and 
skins and furs were all the vogue. 

The first notices of Furriers and Skinners in the Archives of 
Florence are the following : 

"7050 Sethimus pellicarius" 

"1075 Vivulo^filius Stefani, pellicarii" 2 

Under date 1054 there is the following entry: Crosna (?), cum 
Capello de Vulpe, and in 1077, "Vesta una de Vulpe" perhaps 
mantles or cloaks of fox-skin, and in the former year the value 
of the fur garments is set down at five hundred lire. In 1197 
there is the record of a worthy Rector of Santa Maria Novella 
who wished to pawn, " pelles suas lupi cerverii" his robes of red- 
deer skin ! 

The earliest distinct mention of the " Guild of Furriers and 
Skinners" was in 1197, when, together with the Guilds of 
41 Judges and Notaries " and " Doctors and Apothecaries," its first 
incorporation took place. Already the four principal Guilds : 
" Calimala" " Wool," " Bankers " and " Silk " were in existence, 
and were exercising potential influence in the Commune. 

Why the " A rte de' Vaiai e Pellicdai " was chosen over 
and above the " Guild of Linen " or that of " Masters of Stone 

1 San Gallo, Monochus, " Carolus Magnus," Lib. ii. cap. 27. 

2 Davidssohn, "Geschichte von Florenz," p. 785. 


and Wood," or that of "the Butchers," for example, to fill the 
seventh place in the Guild Hierarchy it is quite impossible to say. 
Probably its craftsmen were of a more ancient lineage, or 
represented a higher social grade in public estimation, or again 
they may have formed the most considerable industrial class 
outside the charmed circle of the three leading commercial 

Anyhow, in 1266, the full style of the Guild was bestowed, 
together with the banner of armorial bearings, the Agnus Dei, 
holding a white red-crossed flag, in the corner of a blue 
field, and to its Consuls and other Officers like precedence was 
accorded as to the officials of the other Greater Guilds. After this 
date, of course, notices of the Guild are abundant both with respect 
to its standing and its activities in the industrial life of the city 
and Contado. 

At a conference of Consuls of the Guilds, held in April 1280, 
there were present Salvi Aldobrandini Feo Bonci, Baldo Cald- 
erusci, and Cambio Rusticucci, Consuls of the " Guild of Skinners." 1 
Among those who attended and spoke at a similar conference, 
in December 1293, was Caruccio della Verra, of the "Guild of 
Furriers." He was one of the most distinguished citizens, but 
about him very little is known, though he travelled far and wide. 
In May 1296 the Consuls of the Guild took an active part in the 
discussions affecting the Hospital of San Gallo, and, with the 
Consuls of the Guilds of " Bankers and Exchangers " and 
" Doctors and Apothecaries," were appointed guardians and 

Antonio Pucci sings thus of the Guild in his " Songs of 
the Mercato Vecchio " : 

" Florence of commerce wide the home 
Counts one and twenty trades in all 
Of equal rank, and the seventh 

We ' Furriers and Skinners' call." 2 

The Residence of the Consuls was in the Via de' Lambert- 

1 " Le Consulte," i. 27. A. Pucci, "Centiloquio." 




eschi Gherardini, at the corner of the Chiasso de' Baronelli, and, 
as was the custom with all the Guilds, the escutcheon of the 
Guild was carved up over the entrance. 

Originally only two Consuls were elected to preside over the 
affairs of the Guild, but, between 1270 and 1280, the number 
was increased to three, and later on, after the revision of 
Statutes, 1301-1309, to four. They held office for four 
months, their names having been drawn, as was the general 
practice, from an urn containing slips of paper. 

As in the constitution of the other Guilds, the Consuls took 
cognisance of all civil and criminal causes between members of 
the Guild, they granted Matriculation to candidates, and superin- 
tended the subscriptions of members and other corporate 

The Consigliere, Chancellor, was entitled to certain fees : 
for each person matriculated ten soldi, for written agreements 
between master and apprentice ten soldi, for each license to 
keep untanned skins or hides ten soldi, for each dissolution 
of matriculation and renunciation of membership ten soldi, for 
the valuation of stock in any retail shop ten soldi, for each 
written agreement between slaughterer -skinners and leather- 
tanners ten soldi, and various other smaller fees. The Chan- 
cellor's office was a yearly one, and an occupant was ineligible 
for re-election. 1 

The Provveditore, Director, was required to keep fully 
entered up the following Guild Books : A Journal of debtors 
and creditors, together with the Salaries and expenses of the 
Consuls and other officials ; a Matriculation Register, with the 
payments and obligations of the persons matriculated in the 
city ; a similar Register for the Contado ; a Note-book containing 
the registered trademarks of all tanners and dealers in leather, 
etc. etc. He also received fees, smaller in amount, for the same 
purposes as the Chancellor. 2 

1 L. Cantini, xi. p. 24. - L. Cantini, xi. 28. 


The Cameriere, Chamberlain, had to do with the finances 
of the Guild. He kept accounts with respect to the rents of 
slaughter and skinning-houses, tanyards and pits, leather-dressers' 
workshops, and the shops and stalls of all persons connected 
with the trade. To him it also appertained to administer the 
charitable contributions of the Guild, and to relieve distressed 
craftsmen and their families. The last two officers were elected 
for a year, but were eligible for re-election. 

The Stimatori, Inspectors, and the Tassatori^ Taxing 
masters, of whom there were two respectively, elected bi- 
annually, were enjoined to keep the two divisions of the Guild 
members as distinct and separate as possible so far at least 
as concerned all the details of the various occupations. 

In one group were the Vaiai Miniver-dressers, the Pelliciai 
Furriers in general, the Conciatori di pelli col pelo Cutters of 
skins with the hair on, and the Incettiatori di bossette Dressers 
of Lamb-skins. 

In the other group were the Cuoiai Leather-dressers in 
general, the Conciatori di cuoio grosso Cutters of heavy leathers, 
the Conciatori di sottili Cutters of fine leathers, and the 
Orpellai Leather-embossers and gilders. 

A third division was added in later times, made up of the 

Calzolai Shoemakers, the Pianellai Slipper-makers, the Collettai 

Collar and Belt-makers, Coloristi di pelli Leather-stainers, and 

various minor but artistic crafts, among them, perhaps, the Pelacani 

Dog-clippers ! 

There was also a fourth class containing the Sellai Saddlers, 
Brigliai Bridle and reins-makers, and the Cintiai Makers of 
sword-belts and bandoliers. 

Some of these workmen however appear to have been at- 
tached also to the Lesser Guild of Galigai Tanners and 
probably the crossing of the interests of the two Guilds led to 
some confusion. The trade of tanning, however, was a distinct 
industry, and no member of the " Guild of Furriers and Skinners " 
was permitted to engage therein. In the same way the 


Shoemakers, employed by the Guild, were workers in fancy 
goods only, which required the addition of fur to complete 

The Matriculation fee was very low namely four soldi to 
each Consul, and two to the Chancellor ; but the guarantee 
required, as to a candidate's qualification for enrolment, was fixed 
at ten to twenty gold florins. An Annual Poll-tax was levied 
by the State upon every matriculated member of the Guild, and 
this by the way gained very suggestive nicknames : " Tassa del 
Pepe" " Pepper-boxes," or " Tassa de Torcetti" " Squeezers " ! 

It was not allowed to mix native products with skins and 
furs from " beyond the mountains," or the boundaries of the 
State ; nor to treat with sulphur, dye, or oil, any skin or fur. 
Skins snipped, or those stretched out by means of size or 
lime, or by any other media, were not to be bought or sold. 

All breaches of these and similar regulations were visited with 
fines and forfeiture, and the wrongdoers were liable to dismissal 
from the Guild. 1 

Furriers and Skinners were forbidden to buy or sell wholesale 
from or to the Popolo Minuto, or to any unemployed person, 
knives and implements of all kinds used in the craft ; but such 
persons might purchase small quantities of cat and rabbit skins 
and stoat's fur for the linings of garments. 

The premier designation of the Guild " Vaiai" comes from 
the word Vaio speckled as applied to the darkest grey fur 
or coat of the stoat and squirrel. 2 Vaiaio was a furrier who 
dressed such skins. These small animals abounded in the forests, 
which surrounded old Florence, and afforded sportsmen and 
craftsmen alike, attractive and lucrative occupation. The colour 
of the back was darker much than that of the belly, which was, 
in young creatures, of dazzling whiteness and valued much on 
that account. This variety of colour gave rise to the use of 

1 Statuta Populi et Communis Florentiae, 1415, vol. ii. Rub. Ivi. 
Domenico M. Manni, " Osservazione e Guinte Istoriche," vol. xxv. 


three words for the fur the back-fur, and the whole coat of older 
animals, was called " Miniver," the rarer white or belly piece was 
named " Ermine," as being like the real Ermine, and " Rosetello " 
was the name given to the brown and yellow fur of spring 

The second part of the title of the Guild " Pellicciai" indicates 
the union of the two industries the dressing of furs and the 
treatment of skins ; although, for the matter of that, Pellicciaio 
meant " Furrier " also. The Latin name, as written by the 
Notaries of old, was Pelliparius, which indicated a dresser of skin 
after the process of tanning had been completed. 

The skins offered for sale in Florence, with the view of the 
purchase and treatment by the operatives employed by the " Guild 
of Furriers and Skinners," were usually those of wolves, lambs, 
polecats, foxes, deer, lynxes and rabbits, together with the furs 
of miniver, marten, sable and ermine. 

Ermine and sable were rare commodities, it is true, and 
commanded high prices indeed they were almost unknown till 
late in the fifteenth century. They were used, as was marten 
fur, for borders, trimmings, and decorations, and were never em- 
ployed as whole garments. Very wealthy men and ostentatious, 
indeed, had their state robes lined with these costly furs, and 
later in the history of the furrier industry, the same dignified 
personages added skins and furs and tails of rare Eastern animals 
to the splendour of their habiliments. 1 

Only indirectly, and quite in a subsidiary sort of way, did 
the Guild deal with heavy skins such as those of horses, cattle, 
mules, asses, goats, and sheep. These formed the staple of the 
industry of tanning, and provided materials for manipulation by 
members of the minor Guilds of " Saddlers," " Shoemakers," and 
" Buckle-makers," etc. 

Pagnini has preserved records of the varieties and values of 
skins and furs which ruled in the middle of the fourteenth 
century : 2 

1 Pagnini, ii. 141. 2 Pagnini, iv. p. 132. 


i Stoat Bellies, dressed per hundred 3 florins. 

Do. Backs do. do. 5 do. 

Scheruoli Squirrel, undressed do. 2 do. 

Do. dressed do. 2j do. 

Lattizi Sucklings, undressed do. 4 to 6 do. 

Do. dressed do. 5 to 7 do. 

Faine Polecats, undressed do. 22 do. 

Do. dressed do. 30 do. 

Martore Martens, undressed do. 36 do. 

Do. dressed do. 40 do. 
etc. etc. etc. etc. 

In thus reckoning by hundreds, a curious, and perhaps char- 
acteristic, custom prevailed, namely that of counting upon a start 
of from four to ten probably each word of the established divine 
or saintly invocation reckoning at the outset of the enumeration 
for one skin or fur ! 

In the Gabella of 1402 the following rates were charged 
upon skins and furs offered for sale in the city per hundred, 
dressed : Vaio and Faina two pounds, Lattizi, Ermellino, and 
Martora three pounds. Vair being so largely used was naturally 
a prominent object for taxation, not only in the annual special 
Gabelle, raised for extraordinary State purposes, but also at the 
gates of the city in the ordinary way of customs on imports. 

In a MS., entitled : " A Summary of Commerical Dues of 
the City of Florence," 1 written with the pen subsequent to the 
year 1411 under the heading " Guild of Furriers and Skinners," 
there are following entries : 

Vair Skins belly and back dressed per I oo, 2 pounds 4 denari. 
Vair Skins belly and back undressed per 100, I pound 

1 6 soldi 4 denari. 
Vair Skins bellies only dressed per 100, I pound 2 denari. 

Do. backs only do. I do. 4 do. 

Linings of cut Vair bellies per 1 60, 1 8 soldi. 

Do. with the hair worn off, per 160, 8 soldi. 

1 D. M. Manni, " Sigilli," etc. 


Raw fur was made ready for use by softening the pelts, 
skins, or hides, with sweet olive oil, and then trampling upon 
them in tubs filled with fine hardwood sawdust at bloodheat. 
The pelt was removed and drawn over sharp knives to remove 
portions of flesh or other adhesive substances. The thickest hide 
was in this way rendered as soft and pliable as the thinnest kid 
used for gloves. 

The Furrier then sorted the skins treated, with respect to 
colour and texture of hair, and cut them to the model required. 
The pelt was next nailed down to a board damp and stretched 
by pins. The last process was trimming and softening the 

The greater number of the workshops and sale emporiums 
of the Guild were situated along the fine Via de' Pellicciai. No 
more attractive thoroughfare could be found in old Florence, 
and in none other did so many men and women of fashion 
congregate daily to admire and covet the splendid furs exhibited by 
the merchants of the Guild. Here the Lamberti, the Toschi, the 
Cipriani, the Pilli and others vied with one another in the variety 
of their stocks and in the perfection of their methods and styles 
of dressing. 

The commerce in skins became greatly extended and very 
important. Treaties were entered into with Ferrara and Mantua 
with respect to export and import. In 1307 a convention was 
signed between the Commune of Florence and the Counts of 
Mugnone concerning the making and keeping of a certain 
trade route between Florence and Bologna. The expenses of 
the enterprise were laid upon the values and weights of goods 
transported there along. Among the taxes was that of one 
pound upon each load of fox or cat skins. 

The value of the mixed furs exported by the " Guild of 
Furriers and Skinners " was very great, and the transport convoys 
were constantly in danger of attack and robbery. Among re- 
prisals addressed by the Priors of Florence in this behalf was one 
delivered to the Council of State of Siena in 1329, seeking 


restitution for two bales of coverlets of miniver, consigned by 
Florentine merchants from Grosseto to Siena, or compensation in 
money upon the finding of the joint Court of Arbitration. 

Cibrario has many entries of the exports and values of furs 
dressed by the "Guild of Furriers and Skinners" in Florence. 
For example, under the date 1367, eighty-seven marten skins, 
for the lining of a cloak for Amadeo VI. of Savoy, to be delivered 
in Rome twenty-seven gold florins. 

Everybody wore furs, more or less valuable, and even the 
austere rules of clothing observed in the religious houses were 
relaxed, until luxury and ostentation in clerical dress became a 
scandal. A council held in London in 1127 passed a decree 
forbidding Abbesses and other holy nuns from wearing skins of 
any kind except those of lambs, cats, and rabbits. 1 

Again in 1225 Cardinal Sant' Angelo regulated the habits 
of monks, so that none were allowed new fur garments oftener 
than every third year, and these were not to be lined with the 
skins of fox, or leopard, or firstlings of sheep. Two sorts of capes 
were allowed one, of white fur, for the summer, and one of 
darker shades of grey, in winter : the latter only were of a large 
size to reach to the ground. 

In the thirteenth century every one wore a pellucid, short 
cloak, lined with vair, ermine, or other fur. Many better-to-do 
citizens also possessed long cloaks lined with vair, and bordered 
with finer furs. Caps of latizzi, young vair-skin, and of vair 
mixed with other furs, were in general use. 

The fur-lined tunics of soldiers, especially cavalry, gave 
fashions to civilians, who, of both sexes, understood well enough 
the comfort and grace of tight-fitting but yielding clothing. The 
vogue for the wearing of fur increased along with that of silken 
ornaments, and marked the prosperity of Florence, and the 
sumptuousness of her merchants and people. 

The great use made of vair or miniver by the superior clergy 
is evidenced in a register of the expenses of the Papal Court at 

1 Balducci Pegolotti, vol. iii. p. 263. 



Avignon in January 1327. Therein is an entry, which states that 
Francesco, merchant of Florence, and Giovanni Anastasio, furrier, 
of Spoleto, supplied sixty-nine heavy cloaks and hoods, made of 
miniver, for winter wear by persons attached to the Court of the 
Pope. The sum paid by Ugone de' Cardaltiacci, the Papal Trea- 
surer, was 763 gold florins. Another entry records the supply, 


(Note the Capes of Vair) 

on June I2th, 1327, by the same Francesco, "merchant and 
furrier," of one hundred and seventy-eight summer vestures, 
edged with miniver for summer use at the Papal Court, at a 
total cost of 1 1 o gold florins. 1 

Vair or miniver was the fur most commonly in use, but 
certain restrictions confined it to the State robes of dignitaries, 
and to the official dress of Judges, Doctors and Knights. The 

1 Archivio del Vaticano, folio 45. 


former were called " abiti di riguardo" and were also adopted by 
ecclesiastics, a use which has remained to our own day in the 
capes of canons and other dignified clergy. 

Boccaccio, ever observant of customs and fashions, says : 
" Esteemed are the garments lined with vair whereon falls oft- 
times the sword of knighthood." 1 By way of contrast, and to 
show the fondness of Florentines for ridicule, and their hatred of 
assumption of dignity by citizens, that inimitable critic, Antonio 
Pucci, tells how in his day : " they clothed the fool in vair." 2 
This has reference to Villani's story of Giudetto della Torre, 
who sent a buffoon to yell at the cowardly Matteo Vincenti of 
Milan. The fool brought back an answer which so pleased 
Giudetto that he bestowed upon his witty messenger the furred 
robe of a baron, and gave him a good palfrey to boot ! 3 

In a very quaint brochure written by one Charrier, and pub- 
lished in Paris in 1634, many curious customs and superstitions 
connected with the wearing of fur in the sixteenth century are 
recorded. He says : " Bachelors (Knights ?), Doctors of Law, 
Emperors and Doctors of Medicine are vested in the furs which 
represent the mysteries of Theology, the maxims of politics, and 
the secrets of medical science ! " " For the use of furs cures 
headache and stomach-ache ; rheumatism, which defeats the most 
powerful remedies, is removed by the skins of cats, of lambs, and 
of hares." 

Charrier goes on to assert with pride that : " of all the orna- 
ments which luxury has invented there are none so glorious, so 
august, and so precious as fur." " The privileges and honours 
of Furriers and Skinners," he adds, " surpass quite rightly those 
of all other Crafts!" 

The story of " Cinderella and the Glass Slipper," by the way, 
has a connection with the use of this fur. It is of French origin, 
but quite early the equivalent for "glass" was translated and 

1 Boccaccio, " Labirinto del Amore." 2 A. Pucci, Canto XL., iii. 40. 

3 Villani, vol. viii. cap. 61. 


copied erroneously the original pantoufle de vair became pan- 
toufle de verre. The princess cast her miniver shoe not a 
glass slipper ! 


The question of dress was always more or less important in 
the ethics of Florence, and, inasmuch as the chief industries, and 
the bulk of the commerce of the city and Contado, were intimately 
concerned with such things as clothes are made of, it is a sub- 
ject which cannot be overlooked in any true appreciation of the 
life and work of the Guilds. 

Florentines in the twelfth century preserved many of the 
customs of their Roman forebears. 1 They continued to wear the 
woollen shirt, or vest, with the big round cloak, or toga, made of 
their native wool. These garments were plain and undyed for 
the use of the lower classes, and coloured and ornamented for 
better-to-do folks. 

In his " Paradiso " Dante speaks of primitive Florence thus : 

" Florence, within her ancient limit-mark, 
Which calls her still to matin-prayers and noon, 
Was chaste and sober, and abode in peace. 

The sons I saw 

Of Nerli and of Vecchio, well content 
With unrobed jerkins, and their good dames handling 
The spindle and the flax ; O happy they ! " 2 

Ricordano Malespini records that, up to the year 1260, 
Florentines did not disdain coarse stuffs, and many were satisfied 
to clothe themselves in skins, and to wear fur caps and low 
leather shoes. The men had a close tight-fitting garment of 
woven goats' hair dyed scarlet. All wore girdles, generally of 
fine leather, to which the better dressed added buckles. The 

1 Livy, xiii. 52 ; Virgil, yftneid, I. v. 286. 2 " Paradiso," Canto xv. 


women were wont to cover their heads with cloth, or linen, 
mantles and veils. 

The habits of the Religious Orders were adapted from the dress 
of the peasantry, which consisted of a tunic or shirt of rough 
frieze, reaching well below the knees, with a woollen girdle. The 
legs were bare, but in winter and wet weather leather buskins were 
worn by all classes and orders. 1 

The manners, and life generally, of the people of Florence, 
towards the end of the thirteenth century, 2 were marked by 
gravity, sobriety, and frugality. Their homely fare cost them 
little, they cared not for rich eating. Each household lived very 
much by itself, and few and far between were public entertain- 
ments. Nevertheless they were a cheerful race, and, whilst above 
all things seriously in earnest about business affairs, they were 
fond of mirth, and song, and the dance, in their proper seasons. 
Certainly some of their ways were somewhat rough and rude, but 
in their intercourse with strangers they were given to marked 
consideration and courtesy. In speech they were not fluent, but 
chatting gave them more pleasure than a polished oration or a 
witty dialogue. 

Both men and women were coarsely clad, mostly in leather 
jerkins and skirts, with dressed skins for extra covering. The 
better to do affected valuable furs, but these were worn without 
ostentation. Small tight-fitting leather caps, or woven woollen 
berrette, were sported by both sexes upon their heads. All wore 
plain hose, and when not bare of foot, they had heavy boots and 
shoes of leather. The richer married women donned tight petti- 
coats, of coarse red " Ipro " or " Camo" Camoiardo cloth, gathered 
at the waist with a leathern belt and metal buckle. Some also put 
on, in winter time, fur-lined mantles, with hoods attached, called 
tasselli, to cover the head. The poorer women wore gowns of 
rough green Cambiagio stuff made in the same way as the 
garments of their more wealthy sisters. 

1 Ricordano Malespini, " L'Istoria Antica di Firenze," cap. xi. 

2 Villani, Lib. vi. 


The younger women exercised great continence, and rarely 
accepted marriage until they were well over twenty years of age. 
A hundred lire was considered an ample dowry for a bride, whilst 
two or three hundred were regarded as a splendid fortune by the 
fortunate bridegroom. 

Among prohibitions, sumptuary and otherwise, enacted from 
time to time for observance by members of the Guilds, was an 
Order of the Priors in 1 296 with respect to the emblazonment of 
arms. It runs thus : " Let no one venture to establish a private 
club, society, or company with unauthorised arms. Let no one 
bear painted arms, except according to the Statutes of his Guild, 
or the Order of the Commune. Every Master of a Trade with his 
sons, brothers, and nephews, are permitted to wear, and to use, the 
painted arms and signs of his Craft. Let no one presume to bear 
painted arms not in use by his house. On payment of the pre- 
scribed fee of two hundred lire any man may assume the arms 
of King Charles, in addition to those of his house. Nopopolano, 
tradesman, may use the arms of a magnifico, merchant or 
magistrate, or have such in his house unless he is a famulus, or 
a member of his household. Nevertheless painters may colour 
arms, and tailors may sew them on garments, as also may 
armourers and shield-workers engrave them in metal and leather. 
All such badges are permitted to be exposed for sale by the 
Rigattieri, Retail dealers, in their shops." 

With the advance of artistic craftsmanship there appeared a 
more correct taste in the matter of personal attire and adornment. 
Excellence of material, and its adaptability to the human figure, 
introduced not only simplicity in arrangement but correctness of 
cut and shape. Exuberance of colour gave way to artistic contrast, 
unity of effect, and sobriety in enrichment. 

Woollen fabrics were considered correct wear for ordinary 
days, whilst silken stuffs became the garments of joy and festivity. 
Everyday costumes were usually unadorned, but not inartistic, 
for the quality of the cloth, and even the make up of the raiment, 
were matters of moment. 


Older people wore the stately neck to ankle lucco of scarlet 
silk, on occasions of ceremony ; but in ordinary times, of 
black silk, or finest black serge. Round the neck was wrapped 
the white silk, or woollen, becchetto, whilst the hoary head was 
covered with the large berretta and its hanging curtain of 

Young men of eighteen years or so wore surcoats of black 
serge, or rascia^ rough cloth, sometimes lined with taffetta, which 
reached to their heels. In winter the lining of the surcoats of such 
as were scions of rich families, were of fur, or wadded rich silk bro- 
cade. Ermisino, a light Eastern silk, was worn by rising Doctors 
of Law. The pantaloons of wool or silk, according to season, 
and the wearer's circumstances, were tight fitting, and slashed 
at the knee and hip. The colours were matters of taste. " La 
berretta alia civico" was worn upon the head, made of black 
serge, or rascia, and lined with silk the curtain was often 
green. Another form of headdress was the cappuccio, a hood 
used by older people, and also universally in winter time, 
made of cloth also, but trimmed with fur. Men upon a journey 
wore a gabbano a felt cloak. Clothes were changed most 
scrupulously every Sunday : clean things being worn first to 

The dress of the peasantry was scanty but suitable. Luca 
Delia Robbia, in his twelve " Rondels " of the Seasons, has shown 
us the Tuscan countryman at work in the different duties of his 
calling. 1 A plain shirt of wool or linen, or of a mixture, tied 
at the waist, covered the body, leaving the head and legs bare. 
Stockings of wool were added in winter, and shoes of leather were 
put on for digging and felling timber. When going to town, or 
to Mass, they wore long buttoned-up gowns, or tunics, without 
sleeves, the shirt sleeves coming through, and a belt of leather was 
added, or not, as it pleased the wearer. Peasant women, in the 
fields, were clad in dingy clothing made of rough woollen cloth, or 
coarse linen canvas ; but, when going into market or to Mass, they 

1 At V. and A. Museum, South Kensington. 


superimposed a skirt of black or green, and covered their heads 
with white linen kerchiefs, or woollen shawls. 

Operatives of the city were attired in the garments best suited 
to their various industries. These were never rags, but were made 
specially for their purpose, and sometimes donned over the home 
dress. Men and women alike were proud to be seen in the garb 
of the Guild to which they belonged. Wool, linen, canvas, and 
leather, were the materials used. The superior workmen were 
careful also to sport the crest or arms of their Guild upon their 
tunics : the wearing of such decorations however upon the head 
covering was forbidden, as offering a party or a trade badge, and 
inciting to disorder. 

Merchants, Judges, Notaries, Doctors, and Apothecaries, all wore 
garments of distinctive and appropriate shape, colour, and rich- 
ness, and such costumes were compulsory, both in their public 
occupations and in their private life. 

Magistrates, in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, 
were known by their long grey or yellow surtouts, and scarlet 
berrette with red curtains. Adornments of gold and silver, silk and 
velvet, fur and leather, came later. The Podesta, Gonfalonieri di 
Giustizia, Captains of the People, Priors or Consuls, and other 
Dignitaries were habited in scarlet and gold, with fur linings and 
trimmings to their cloaks. They usually wore red cappucci or 
berrette vf\\h deep curtains, all turned up with miniver and laced 
with gold. Their stockings were scarlet, and their boots light tan 
or black leather embroidered in gold. The Consuls' headgear 
resembled cardinals' hats, and they wore uncut diamonds and 
sapphires. Pearls were reserved for the use of the Podesta and 
Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, whose State robes were spangled with 
golden stars. 

An excessive taste for wearing finery sprang up during the 
fourteenth century, somewhere about the year 1330, and the 
attention of sober-minded men was directed to its vagaries. 
Eight citizens were appointed to make the round of the city, and 
report upon the interior economy of private houses. The wearing 


of certain kinds of dress, regarded as superfluous, was forbidden. 
The only persons who appear to have escaped condemnation 
were the wives of Knights and Doctors both of law and of 

A check was put upon the extravagance of State ceremonial, 
and upon the expenses of marriage feasts. It was ordered that 
bridesmaids and other guests should be simply clad, and that the 
outfit of the bride should be upon a modest scale. 

Sumptuary laws, which were passed from time to time, dealt 
largely with all forms of sartorial extravagance. The Catasto of 
1427 was especially severe against pride and ostentation of 
vesture. One rubric was as follows : " No female woman or girl 
of whatever rank or condition, married or unmarried, shall dare 
or presume, in the city of Florence or in the Contado, to wear any 
sleeve, bodice, mantle, robe, or other garment, lined with the 
fur of any animal, whether domestic or wild, coarse or fine, by 
whatever name it may be known. ..." 

Another rubric enacted that no person of whatever rank or 
condition, nor any tailor, dressmaker, vair merchant or furrier, shall 
dare, or presume, to cut out, make, line, or cause to be cut out, 
made, or lined, any of the following garments : cioppe long tunics, 
and cottadite villani blouses (?) whereof fur is a principal 

The wearing of gold embroidery and jewellery was strictly 
regulated, the women were, nevertheless, " allowed to wear, upon the 
collars of their garments, to a depth of the third of a braccio, 
gold, silver, and gilt embroidery." 1 

Damasks, figured silks, and brocades were forbidden for 
ordinary wear, and the colours and decorations of such robes as 
were permissible, were regulated by simplicity. The following 
were some of these enactments : " No one shall presume to 
wear more than one pound of silver in garlands, or buttons, 
or anything else, upon the head or person . . . over and 
above this they may wear a silver belt, weighing, with the 
1 L'Osservatore Fiorentino, vol. vi. p. 86. 


clasp, fifteen ounces, and no more . . , the said silver may be 

No woman is permitted to have more than two silk dresses at 
the same time. Sleeves and linings are not to be of silk or fur, 
but of wool, linen, or cotton. 

" They shall not dare to wear any intaglio, open lace-work, 
of more than a braccio in width . . . nor any fringe of gold, 
silver, or silk, on the dress, except upon the bodice. . . . The hem 
of the garments may be enriched, but no skirt may be more than 
ten braccia round." Very many other details follow, prescribing, 
with singular precision, every portion of the clothing male and 

In the matter of jewellery ostentation was to be avoided. 
" Women shall not presume to wear . . . more than two rings, 
and the rings shall not have more than one pearl and one other 
precious stone." 

With respect to the wedding Cassoni, or coffers, strict in- 
junctions were given, for example : " No one shall dare to send 
in the caskets of women or girls, when promised or betrothed, 
jewelled necklaces, nor to give them garlands or brooches of pearl, 
precious stone, gold, and silver." 

Some of the sumptuary measures passed and put into execu- 
tion, have already been referred to in earlier chapters, and also the 
manner in which they were met and avoided by the people. The 
pressure became so excessive and irritating that a recoil was the 
only possible outcome. 

Gradually the prosecution of these sartorial reforms was 
slackened, and, in the fifteenth century, they ceased to have any 
force, not only on account of the difficulty of maintaining them, 
but because of the vastly increased import and manufacture of 
costly objects and fabrics. 

In the frescoes at Santa Maria Novella we see the new 
fashions just come in, and the mural pictures in other city 
churches, and in the palaces, carry on the sartorial story. 
Strangely enough men set the fashion in those days, but 


the vagaries, or the reverse, of male attire were quickly adopted 
by the fair sex. Cavaliers wore close-fitting tunics, with the 
points of their wristbands lined with vair, reaching to the ground. 
Smart women took the cue, and reformed their modes in 

The fashion came in of wearing parti-coloured hose, crossed 
in three or four colours. Shoes had very long points, and the 
wearers' legs were so enwrapped with ribbons and laces, that 
they could hardly sit down. Young men went about in silken 
or woollen tights, and wore silk or velvet mantles, depending 
from their shoulders. Their hair hung down their backs, and 
long feathers were stuck into their jaunty red caps. The fair 
sex improved upon these styles, and their skirts were skin-tight 
cumbering their feet. 

Sacchetti says " some women had their dresses cut so low that 
the armpits could be seen ; they then gave a jump, and made the 
collars come up to their ears ! " 

The trousseau and the marriage feast of Giovanna de' Medici 
were remarkable for the splendour of the robes and decorations. 1 
Four chief merchant princes of the city, Messeri, Manno Temper- 
ani, Carlo Pandolfini, Giovannazzo Pitti, and Tommaso Soderini 
were the bride's supporters, each clad in festal attire of crimson, 
silk and scarlet cloth, lined with miniver. The bride herself was 
gowned in cloth of gold with an ermine mantle, whilst her dinner 
dress was of white zetana, very thick satin, powdered with 
pearls, and trimmed with sable and ermine. 

Rich furs were worn by all the guests. The fifty gentle- 
women and fifty gentle-youths, who formed the bodyguard of 
the fair Giovanna, vied with one another in the decoration of 
their tight-fitting jackets edged with sable, and their capacious 
sleeves, with pointed wristbands lined with miniver and ermine, 
reached to the floor ; and their shoes were embroidered with gold, 
and bordered with sable. 

Giovanna de' Medici's marriage Cassone contained a necklace 

1 Guido Biagi, * Private Life of the Renaissance Florentines." 


of diamonds, rubies, and pearls, valued at 100,000 gold 
florins, a hood embroidered with pearls, a fringed Milanese 
hat, eight pairs of silk stockings, four pairs of gloves, a 
cape of silver and pearls, a fine lawn shift, many robes with 
trains of brocade, and velvet edged with fur, and many more 
fine things. 

In the latter years of the Republic personal adornment and 
extravagance in dress reached a phenomenal height. Doctor 
Biagi says: "In 1467 Benedetto Salutati, for the State 
Tournament, put upon the harness, headgear, and the trappings 
of two horses, one hundred and seventy pounds of pure 
silver, which he caused to be worked by the hands of Antonio 
Pollaiuolo ; and, around the robes of the heralds, he strung thirty 
pounds of pearls, the greater part of which were of great 
value ! " 

Many amusing stories are told by the topical writers of the 
Renaissance concerning the fashions, and their constant changes. 
" Poor Messere Valore di Buondelmonte, an old man cut on the 
ancient pattern, was forced by his relations to change his cloak 
and hood. Everybody marvelled, and stopped him in the 
streets, asking : Oh what is this, Messer Valore, I do not 
know you ? What is the matter with you ? Have you the 
mumps ? " When ruffs came in, " Salvestro Brunelleschi, while 
eating some peas with a spoon, instead of putting them 
into his mouth, slipped them inside his ruff and scalded 
himself!" 1 

Under the Medici no limits were set to the liberty of the 
person, so far as clothing and ornaments were concerned. Only 
one law was passed, and that under the Grand Duke Ferdi- 
nand II., prohibiting in detail dress, furniture, and other house- 
hold and private matters, but it was rescinded after a nine months' 

We must always remember, in reviewing the dress and 
fashions of the Renaissance, that the physical culture of the 

1 " Private Life of the Renaissance Florentines.'' 

, V * *- 


Z r < 


- i 

^ <| 



: \ 

w < i 


Florentines, acting upon their naturally fine forms, produced 
grace of deportment and elegance of bearing in every 
class of life. " Fine feathers make fine birds " elsewhere, but 
in Florence it was rather the fine figures that set off the fine 
clothes ! 

11 Stemma del? Arte & Vaiai e Pellicciai" 
White Agnus Dei on blue field on first quarter of field of Vair 




I. BUTCHERS. War-lords, graziers and slaughterers. Scant pasturage 
of Tuscany. Custom dues and evasions. Clever salesmen. Mercato Vecchio. 
Ponte Vecchio. Heads must be attached to carcases. Florentine delicate 
palettes. Fishmongers and fish. Fines and litigation. " Cheats ! " and 
" Wooden-shoes ! " 

II. SMITHS. Tuscany rich in minerals. St Eloy. Scions of nobility. 
Primitive forges and smelting yards. " Old iron and brass to sell ! " Re- 
naissance wrought iron-work. A money-grabber. Renowned workers in 
metals. The Acciaiuoli family. 

III. SHOEMAKERS. " Nothing like leather!" Many associated trades. 
Dependent upon the Guild of Tanners. Shoemakers warned not to harbour 
wandering fellows. Lining of armour. Buskins worn by all classes. 


IN every list of the Florentine Guilds the "Arte de' Beccai" heads 
the Second Division, or Lesser Guilds, and occupies the first 
place among the Five Intermediate Guilds. 

The term Beccai was originally applied to the highest families 
in Italy. The war-lords, who set out from Germany in the 
Middle Ages, possessed themselves of the fat of the lands they 
traversed seizing cattle and stock of all kinds, and robbing castles 
and villages with impunity. The use of the word in this sense by 
Dante, it is said, greatly offended Francis I. 

Something of the same feeling seems to have been shared by 
the Renaissance Florentines, who strove to differentiate between 
Beccai graziers and Macellai slaughterers. Anyhow the Guild 

was, at its first inception in the thirteenth century, composed of 


wholesale dealers : the corporation of retail butchers being a later 

The earliest mention of a "butcher" in the Archives of 
Florence is of one " Martinus beccadore "in 1 1 1 o, but whether 
he was a member of such a Guild as that in Paris, to which King 
Philip, in 1 162, granted a charter, nobody can say. 1 

It is true that in every country in Europe in the Middle Ages 
" butchers " played a leading role, not alone in the arena of com- 
mercial enterprise but in that too of political activity. This pre- 
eminence was in part due to hereditary antecedents and traits, 
and in part to effective physical culture. Bodily strength and 
force of character were ever potential attributes of success in 
life generally, and these were marks of the Beccai of Florence in 

There can be no doubt that two motives largely influenced 
the incorporation of the Beccai. First, the breeders and graziers 
of cattle and sheep needed to protect themselves, their lands, and 
their stock, from the attacks of robber captains and cattle raiders : 
and secondly, they wished to control the supply of meat, and to 
keep the retail-butchers and slaughterers out of the wholesale 

The latter precaution was soon seen to be unwise, for, with 
the rapid growth of the population, retail-butchers became a 
necessity, and amicable terms between the two sections of meat- 
merchants proved to be the best policy. 

The first distinct mention of the "Arte de' Beccai" was in 1 236, 
when the Buonuomini, who took in hand the reformation and 
classification of the trades of Florence, placed it eighth in the 
order of the Guilds, and named it first among the Fourteen Lesser 
Guilds. This priority of position was due to the influential 
character of the first members of the Corporation. They were not 
only simple country breeders and peasant traders, but many 
among them were prosperous city manufacturers and merchants. 
These rich men found, in the possession of poderi, farm lands 

1 Davidssohn, " Geschichte von Florenz." 


and stock, safe and profitable investments for their capital. This 
economical condition affords an interesting parallel to the much 
earlier absorption of the landed Grandi by the city Popolani a 
reflexive movement of high political importance. 

The " Guild of Butchers " retained its premier rank at the 
revision and enlargement of the Guilds in 1266, by which date 
probably, the two sections, Beccai and Macellai, had discovered 
the advantages of co-operation and mutual respect. 

In the list of Guilds, revised in 1280 and 1282, a further 
distinction was awarded the " Guild of Butchers." It was placed 
first of the " Five Intermediate Guilds," which were for many 
years classed among the " Twelve Greater Guilds." 

This arrangement proved the importance and influence of the 
butchering confraternity in the Commonwealth, and it also led 
to the addition of a powerful company to the trained bands of the 
city. No Guild company carried its gonfalon with a higher hand, 
or was capable of giving a better account of itself in times of 
stress, than the slaughterers who were born fighting men. 

By the end of the thirteenth century the position and 
character of the Guild were fully recognised. No Confraternity 
possessed a finer or more sumptuously furnished Residence than 
that which housed its Consuls by the side of Or San Michele, and 
no banner flaunted more proudly than that of the black goat 
upon its yellow field the armorial bearings of the Guild. 

The Beccai were, from the first, faced by a great natural 
difficulty which needed brains and means to overcome. The Vale 
of Arno was a fruitful garden and land could hardly be spared 
for grass. The uplands and the Tuscan hills afforded only poor 
pasture, quite sufficient perhaps for the growth of wool, but un- 
suitable for fattening purposes. Consequently flocks and herds 
had to be driven to distant localities where richer eatage could 
be found. 

Journeys to and fro, in and out of Tuscany, called for 
heavy outlay in shepherding, and involved duties at the frontiers 
of foreign States. The risks of travel and the losses by the way 



were great, and everything conspired to harden the selling price 
of live stock and dead meat. At the same time an embargo was 
placed upon, and maintained against, the export of live stock 
beyond the Contado. The first restriction of this character of 
which there is a record was in I285. 1 

With such a considerable importation of live stock and of 
dead meat it is conceivable that many tales were rife, in the 
Markets, of clever ruses adopted to escape payment of the Gate dues. 
It was not an uncommon practice to place two carcases upon the 
back of a mule or donkey, and to cover them well with green stuff, 
so that only one was exposed and paid for ! The risk however of 
discovery was serious, for on detection, by an over conscientious 
official, the beast of burden, as well as his load, was confiscated : 
whilst, it was within common knowledge that, the distrained car- 
cases were shared by the staff" of the Dogana \ A Provvisione was 
passed in the thirteenth century which directed the arrest of the 
dishonest dealer, but he usually squared the authorities by paying 
a fine ! 

The Gate customs against commodities of all kinds affected 
largely the interest of the stock-dealers and of the retail-butchers. 
Towards the end of the thirteenth century, whilst the selling price 
of a fat ox ranged from twelve to sixteen lire, the tax upon the 
animal amounted to ten per cent. In 1319 the Gabella, or tax 
on live-stock at the gates, levied upon the breeders and butchers, 
realised the high total of 1.185 gld florins, nearly 6oo. z 

Indeed it was, as a rule, more remunerative to kill the beasts 
outside the city, and to carry through, separately, the carcases and 
the hides or fleeces. 

This question of customs was, ever and again, cropping up ; 
and the need of organised efforts to counteract illiberal legislation 
rendered the services of the Consuls of the Guild of the utmost 
importance, not only to the members of the Guild, but to the 
whole community of the city. 

1 "Le Consulte," i. 118, July 20, 1285. 

2 Cibrario (1253 1278), 16. 5 ; 16. 9, 10. Prow. xvi. 116 V 


Florence early became a profitable centre of the meat trade 
of Tuscany, which assumed very considerable proportions in the 
early years of the fourteenth century. The annual average of fat 
stock which entered the city was as follows : Four thousand 
bulls and cows, sixty thousand sheep and lambs, twenty thousand 
goats and bucks. 1 

A decree of Duke Charles of Calabria, issued on May i6th, 
1327, ordered the " merchants of the Guild of Butchers " to drive 
more oxen and cows out of Apulia for the provisioning of the city. 

Raisers of stock were obliged to go themselves to market and 
to drive only their own beasts. Agents or brokers were not 
allowed to come between them and the retail butchers. This 
injunction held for a good hundred years or more I346-I477. 2 

The driving of cattle, whether to the shambles or not, was 
subject to strict regulations, and each animal was taxed, the 
bigger cattle at eight to twelve, and small animals at four 
denari per head. Each beast had a label or ticket attached to 
his horn or throat with the owner's name written upon it. 3 Foreign 
cattle driven by strangers, and sold in the Market, or at the Gates, 
had to be killed and the meat exposed the same evening. On no 
condition were wholesale butchers allowed to sell to hawkers until 
the amount of fresh meat usually required, day by day, by the 
citizens had been provided and disposed of to the ordinary retail 

Clever salesmen were in the habit of underselling, by four 
denari in the pound, the daily market official prices ; and this 
evasion of the regulations was not only condoned but encouraged 
by the authorities. What the intention of this irregularity was it 
is difficult to understand, only it might have been due to a 
paternal wish that all citizens, even the very poorest, might 
enjoy, at least during public festivals, a better diet than was 
possible in ordinary days. 4 

The Mercato Vecchio was for a long period the principal centre 

1 Villani, xi. 93. ' 2 Statuti de' Beccai, Cod. i., Rub. 10. 

3 Statuta, 1415, Rub. cclxxiii. 4 Prow. 1465 ; Reg. 157, 216. 


of the Butchers. Around its four sides open stalls were placed, 
whereon meat for retail sale was exposed. It was strongly for- 
bidden to keep meat for sale inside a house or store within the 
city, and not until well on in the fourteenth century were covered 
shops allowed. 1 

The new Ponte Vecchio, built by the State in 1345, at a cost 
of sixty thousand gold florins, had a double row of shops. Forty- 
four of these were claimed by, and granted to, the " Guild of 
Butchers," and remained in the occupation of members until 1 490, 
when the Goldsmiths obtained them from Cosimo I. 

Retail-butchers of the Market were not suffered to enter into 
partnership with cattle-dealers. They could not keep more than 
one assistant. They were required to live within five hundred 
yards of the Piazza Santa Croce, in the vicinity of which were the 
shambles. 2 Every butcher before he was licensed, either to kill, 
or expose meat, was compelled to be enrolled or matriculated in 
the " Guild of Butchers." 

During the Patronal Festival of San Giovanni in June there 
was always a great increase in the supply of butcher's meat, and 
this called into work many extra hands. At all such festivals the 
prices to be charged by the Macellai were fixed by the Consuls of 
the Guild, and a tariff was ordered to be exposed at every stall. 
The licence also of the Guild was required by all temporary assis- 
tants, and the amount of their wages was arranged by the Consuls. 8 

The Macellai could only buy fat cattle at the weekly public 
sales, and they were, by a Provvisione of 1415, obliged to 
slaughter the animals within eight days of purchase. The 
slaughtering and dressing of meat were subject to strict regula- 
tions, and only in certain localities, outside the city, and at fixed 
hours, was it permissible to carry out these processes. The tax 
demanded by the State for the slaughtering of beasts was the 
same as that fixed for killing bears and wild boars, but it varied 
in amount considerably from time to time. 

1 Sacchetti, "Nov:" 160, p. 372. 2 Prow. 1504, Reg. 20. 

3 Prow. 1413, Reg. 164, 202. 


The sale of pigs was wholly prohibited in the Old and New 
Markets, and in front of the Podesta's Palace. Fat pigs were not 
allowed to be kept in any dwelling-house in Borgo d'Ognissanti, 
or any locality bordering upon the river. 1 

Butchers were forbidden to carry beef bellies, bullock and 
rams' heads, and the skins of recently killed animals through the 
Mercato Vecchio. 2 

Butchers, Slaughterers, and Innkeepers, selling recently killed 
meat and cooked joints, were required to appear before the 
authorities of the Market in the month of January each year. They 
had to deposit a security of fifty lire> and to swear that they 
would exercise their calling honestly and loyally. 

Tripe-sellers, whether men or women, sausage-makers, and 
cooks of "snacks " at the smaller inns, were also ordered to appear in 
the month of January each year before the Notary of the Captains 
of Or San Michele to swear obedience to the Statutes. 3 

In some way, as showing an early refinement in the gustatory 
tastes of the people, their fondness for delicate meat became more 
and more marked as the era of the Renaissance advanced. Beef 
and mutton for example, although excellent in quality and cheaper, 
were held in less estimation than were veal and lamb. This 
preference has been remarked by many writers both serious 
and hypercritical. It held out a temptation to the butcher con- 
fraternity to substitute coarser joints for the finer " tit-bits," to which 
very many of them yielded ; but such tradesmen gave a bad name 
to the trade, and added force to the popular opinion concerning 
unfair dealing. 

To prevent fraud and substitutions it was required by the 
Consuls of the Guild that the carcases of lambs and calves should 
always be exposed for sale at the butchers' stalls with the heads 
attached. 4 

Associated with the butchers were the Pescivendoli Fish- 
mongers who were regularly organised and under strict byelaws. 

1 Rub. cclix., 1415. a Rub. cclx., 1415. 

3 Rub. ccxvii., 1415. 4 L'Osservatore Florentine, iv. 9-11. 


Fresh fish could only be sold in the loggia by the Ponte 
Vecchio, and at certain butchers' shops, which were specially 
licensed by the Market authorities. These were furnished with 
tanks wherein the fish had to be deposited, because wholesale 
display upon the stalls was absolutely forbidden. To poison fish 
in the river, or marshes, was a criminal offence, and was dealt with 
severely. 1 

Tinche tench from the lake in the Val Chiana, was sold as 
follows : Big fish, weighing one pound or more, two soldi per 
pound ; small fish, under a pound, one soldo eight denari. Tench 
from Pado, and out of Lombardy, followed the same quotations. 
Tench from Brentina, Gusciana, and other places, not being so 
highly esteemed, was charged lower rates. Eels from Val 
Chiana, and other localities, varied in price from three soldi to one 
soldO) four denari. Lampreys, sardines, and other small fry, were 
sold in the gross. Upon all fish, dues were levied, at the Gates 
and Quays, at so much per cent, upon the wholesale market price. 

Innkeepers, Butchers, and Fishmongers, were not allowed to 
enter into partnership with people living in the country for the 
supply of fish, but they had to go to the Markets, or shops, like 
other people. 2 Cooks were restrained from purchasing fresh fish 
and then selling it again uncooked. The,y were also forbidden, as 
were all citizens, to keep fish in aquaria, water-baskets, or other 
enclosures, for indefinite periods. 3 

By injunction of the Captains of Or San Michele and other 
Market Magistrates, fresh meat, fresh and salt fish, and all 
comestibles which were perishable, were not allowed to be 
exposed for sale more than for one day. 4 

The Councils of the Podesta and of the Captain of" the People, 
and later on the State Council of the Signoria, were almost daily 
besieged by persons who had complaints to make of the bad 
quality of the meat and fish offered for sale in the Market, and of 
the fraudulent practices of the butchers. Under date May 10, 

1 Rub. cxxii., 1415. 2 Rub. cxxvii.,1415. 

3 Rub. cxxviii., cxxxi., 1415. 4 Rub. ccxx., ccxxi., 1415. 


1281, a case was dealt with wherein Brunette Latini Dante's 
Master proposed that the " Quattordici "- The Fourteen should 
appoint expert Inspectors, who should, without being known, 
make purchases of meat and fish indiscriminately, and thus 
detect any possible fraud or irregularity on the part of the retail- 
dealers. 1 

Heavy fines were imposed upon all unskilful and untidy 
workmen, and especially for carelessness in the disposal of offal, 
fish-bones, etc. The bundling of hides and fleeces, and their 
prompt removal from the shambles were insisted upon. No class 
of tradesmen revelled so thoroughly and constantly in legal 
processes as did the Beccai, the Macellai and the Pescivendoli : 
and somehow or other they generally gained the day ! 

At the enactment of the General Code of Statutes for all 
the Guilds in 1301-1309, and again in 1346, and 1415, the 
" Guild of Butchers " retained its position in the hierarchy of the 
Guilds. Under the Medici the importance of the Guild was 
constantly affirmed and duly acknowledged : for example, in the 
Parliament held on August i8th, 1343, in the Church of Santa 
Maria del Fiore, Francesco di Giovanni, a member of the " Guild 
of Butchers," was nominated, as representing the Popolo Minuto ; 
together with Filippo de' Bardi, and Tegghia de' Bonacotti, re- 
presentatives respectively of the Grandi and the Popolo Grasso, 
to consult for the public security. At this conference, by the way, 
the final step was taken by the Signoria to expel the Duke of 

Under the Medici the Guild throve amazingly. The prosperity 
of all the citizens led to the increased enjoyment of all pleasures 
those of the table always being foremost. During the cele- 
bration of Giostre, and other festivals, hospitality was general and 
profuse : everybody feasted himself and his neighbour, greatly to 
the profit pecuniarily of the Beccai. 

On the enrolment of the Fourteen Lesser Guilds in four 
Universities in 1534, the Arte de' Beccai was placed first in 

1 " Le Consulte," t. i. 9 and 13, pp. 15, 16. 


order in the premier University, along with the Oliandoli^ and 
Fornai the other two food-supplying Guilds of the city. The 
style " Universita di For San Piero, " " The University of Saint 
Peter's Gate," was given to this Union, a title derived from 
the proximity of the activities of the Guilds to the Gate of that 

By the members of the Greater Guilds at large the Arte de y 
Beccai was looked upon with disdain. No citizens were considered 
of less estimation than the indispensable breeders and slaughterers 
of cattle. In fact the proud manufacturers of the " Guild of 
Wool " ridiculed the Butchers on the score of dishonesty and 
dubbed them ladroncelli Cheats ! 

On their part, the Butchers were wont to return the compli- 
ment : " You, Ciompi care only for the wool of which you fleece 
your customers, whilst we, honest men, sell good sound meat 
to feed you, and fit you for your work ! " * 

Anyhow the Butchers of Florence did not bear a good reputa- 
tion for straight dealing, but in this opinion they had for comrades 
the Vinattieri wine-merchants and the Albergatori Innkeepers ! 

The Florentines of old time were for the most part abstemious 
in their consumption of animal food. Sir Richard Dallington, 
writing at the close of the sixteenth century, says : " The working 
people average not more than a stone weight of fresh meat per 
man per annum." 2 This is probably under the actual mark con- 
siderably, for other travellers noted with astonishment and admira- 
tion the good eating and drinking of all classes of the community. 

Indeed it is not untrue to say that much of the thew and 
sinew of the citizens, whether rich or poor, was, in a great 
measure, due to generous and nourishing diet. This opinion is 
confirmed when it is remembered that flesh-eating peoples have 
ever been the rulers of cities and of empires Romans, Floren- 
tines, and Britons to wit ! 

1 Sacchetti, "Novelle," 160, t. ii. p. 377. 2 " Survey," p. 35. 



The fact that Tuscany is particularly rich in minerals, and 
especially so in lead, tin, copper, lignite, and iron-oxides, must 
be borne in mind when attention is directed to her workers 
in metals. The Etruscans were among the forbears of the 
Florentines, and their skill in the manipulation of iron and gold, 
in particular, has placed them in the foremost ranks of smithery. 
Doubtless they learned their art from Greek colonists, and in turn 
they became teachers of the Romans. 

The island of Elba was an important source of mineral wealth 
away back in ancient days, and the prosperity of the city of 
Popolonia was in a great measure due to the mechanical arts of 
her citizens. At Monte Amiata was mercury, and other deposits 
included boracic crystals, siena earths, and salt. 

Whilst marble in endless variety and richness abounded 
all over the country, epecially at Carrara and Massa, there 
do not appear to have been any coal deposits in Tuscany. 

The earliest form of an iron forge was merely an excavation 
in the windward side of a hill or crest. The date of cast iron is 
uncertain , but it was produced in the fourteenth century. The 
discovery of the process was due to the adoption of larger furnaces 
and higher pressure bellows. 

Steel was evolved in the middle of the sixteenth century. 
It was noted by Biringuccio in 1540, and described by Agricola 
in " De Re Metallica" 1561 that a bar of wrought iron, kept 
immersed long in molten cast iron, became acierated by taking 
up the carbon of the cast iron. 

St Eligius was regarded as the Patron of Blacksmiths. He 
worked as a journeyman in a smithy, but, coming under the notice 
of King Dagobert, was made Court-treasurer and Mint-master. 
In 640 he was advanced to the Bishopric of Noyon. Among his 
good works was the founding at Soligniac, near Limoges, of a 
monastery of smiths, in connection with which he further estab- 
lished a school for artificers in metal. 


Many extraordinary stories are told of the saintly Blacksmith 
and his spiritual powers. On one occasion, at all events, he is 
reported to have worked an astonishing miracle. A horse brought 
to his smithy to be shod became possessed of the devil, who 
caused him to plunge and kick so violently that no one could 
shoe him. St Eligius determined to accomplish the job, and at 
once chopped off one of the horse's legs, and having without 
difficulty nailed a shoe to the hoof, he immediately restored the 
separated member, and thus defeated the Evil One ! 

After the death of the Countess Matilda the industries of 
Florence and of all Tuscany prospered exceedingly. Her 
artizans no less than her merchants displayed admirable enter- 
prise and resourcefulness. Many of the scions of ancient noble 
houses, who had happened on evil days under the competition of 
the Popolani and the Popolo Minuto, threw in their lot with the 
citizens. The crafts which most attracted them were such as 
appealed to their warlike instincts, and they enrolled themselves 
as apprentices in the trade associations which dealt in metal, and 
stone, and wood. 

Quite the most popular handicraft was that of smithing, as 
one may easily understand by noting the great number of 
noble names which figured early on the Matriculation Rolls of 
the " Blacksmiths," the " Locksmiths," " the Armourers," and the 
" Masters of Stone and Wood." These young fellows brought to 
their adopted work the thew and sinew begotten of an active 
life in the open air. 

The Archives of Florence contain the following records in the 
eleventh and twelfth centuries : 

" 1038, Olivus.faber Blacksmith." 

" 1141, Bernerius.fil. Barlittario Bellfounder." 

" I 1 46, Uguccione, Calderarius Coppersmith." 

In the year 1038 as many as six Blacksmiths are named, in 
1065 two more, and in 1080 six others, all exercising their craft 
within the bounds of the Contado. In 1 1 74 a piece of land in 


Oltrarno, near the Ponte Vecchio, was sold for the purpose of a 

The Arte de' Fabbri came tenth in the List of the Guilds in 
1236, and it retained that position in the Revisions of 1266, 
1280-2, and 1301-9. In 1415, however, the "Guild of 
Blacksmiths " ranked ninth, displacing the " Guild of Shoe- 


Little or no trace remains of the early Statutes of the Guild. 
What has been preserved, as was the case with the other Lesser 
Guilds, is written in a mixed jargon of low Latin and 
abbreviated vernacular very difficult to decipher. A document 
of the year 1274 states that the Smiths had then twelve Rectors, 
who, according to the regulations of the Guild received salaries 
ranging from eighteen to six denari for their terms of office. 1 
This number being found too large, only six Rectors were 
elected in the following year. The number of Consuls varied 
from three to five in later times. The larger number indicated 
prosperous times and vice versa. 

At a council of Consuls and Capitudini of Guilds, held in 
1286, a petition was presented to the Priors of the Guilds, on 
behalf of the Rectors of the " Guilds of Blacksmiths " and 
" Locksmiths," praying first that no one should be permitted, 
within the confines of the city and Contado, to set up a Smith's- 
forge, a Smelting-furnace, or a Puddling-yard, for the manu- 
facture of metal wire, thin plates, and objects in metal, except 
members of the two Guilds, under pain of a fine of one thousand 

The Second Article in the Petition prayed that no one, ex- 
cept members of the said Guilds, should be allowed to run metal 
wire in sheets, or do metal-work of any kind, within the same 
limits, save under a fine of one hundred lire. The Third Article 
required that all such manufactures should be confiscated and 
destroyed, whether found in the smithies and shops, or loaded 

1 Archivio del Stato Fiorentino, Sept. 14, 1274. 



upon draught animals for sale beyond the boundaries of the 

The style " Fabbri " covered a number of workers in metals, 



for example, the following all came under the category of 
Blacksmiths: Calderai Copper-smiths, Ferraiuoli Edged-tool 
makers, Ferravecchi Scrap-iron dealers, Fornadai Furnace- 
men, Manescalchi Farriers, Ottonai Workers in brass and 
Stagnaiuoli Pewter-smiths. 


Fornaciai and Calderai were subject to strict rules with 
respect to the situation, build, and contents, of their fires and 
cauldrons. Inspectors, from time to time, visited all foundries 
and iron workshops to see that the quality of the metals, and the 
values of the mixtures, were exactly maintained. Fines were 
imposed for inferior materials and bad workmanship, and the 
confiscation of the blend, whether in fire or bath, was effected. 1 

Manescalchi were forbidden to charge ordinary citizens more 
than three to four soldi for a shoe for a horse, a mule, or a pony. 
The price of a shoe for a young mule, or an ass, was two soldi 
six denari. Very big shoes were charged as much as six soldi. 
The removal of a shoe or the part, cost a third of each of these 
amounts. Smithies for shoeing purposes were required to be 
open from dawn to dusk every day, except Sundays and Festivals, 
when it was forbidden to do any farriers' work. 2 

Ferravecchi were restrained in the prosecution of their calling. 
On no account were they suffered to go through the streets 
crying out : " Ferro vecchio, vel rame vecchio a vendere ! " " Old 
iron and brass to sell ! " Offenders were visited with fines of fifty 
lire, and they were required to furnish a surety for good behaviour 
to the tune of fifty silver florins. Smiths worked only for 
ready money, and allowed no credit. 3 

An idea of the financial position of the Guild may be 
obtained from the fact that in the general taxation of the 
Guilds, which took place in 1321, the Arte de* Fabbri was 
mulcted in a sum of four hundred lire, a comparatively insignifi- 
cant amount, whilst the Fornaciai were charged a separate assess- 
ment of ninety-two lire. 

The Statutes of the Guild were revised and enlarged in 1 3 44, 
1415, 14/2, 1525, and 1541. The last date records a proposal 
of union between the Fabbri of Florence and Pisa. 

When Cosimo, the first Grand Duke, established four 
Universities to include the Fourteen Lesser Guilds, the third was 
styled " Universita de Fabbricanti" " The University of Iron- 

1 Cantini, vi. p. 357. 2 Rub. xcviii., 1415. 3 Rub. xcvii., 1415. 


workers." It included i. Fabbri Smiths, 2. Chiavaiuoli Lock- 
smiths, 3. Maestri di Pietra e di Legname Masters of Stone and 
Wood, 4. Corazzai e Spadai Cuirass and Sword-makers, or 
Armourers, and 5. Legnaiuoli Carpenters. 

The Residence of the Consuls of the Guild was behind the 
Zecca Mint, just out of the Via de' Lamberteschi. On its 
front were some finely moulded and hammered iron torch-sconces 
and banner-holders. In the latter were placed the Gonfalon of 
the Guild, charged with the armorial bearings, assigned to the 
Blacksmiths by Count Guido Novelli in I 266, a pair of furnace 
tongs upon a white field. 

The wrought-iron work of the Italian Renaissance was 
essentially sui generis. Gothic models were not known, and the 
influence of Byzantine artificers, and of the masters of antiquity, 
was of the faintest. Apparently the ordinary manner of working 
was to beat out a thin flat surface of metal, and punch holes 
through it, or stamp designs upon it. No finer example of this 
flat-work exists than the Screen at Santa Maria Novella which 
is dated I366. 1 

At the beginning of the fourteenth century the casting of 
metals had become a staple industry in Florence. Among early 
workers, artists and artificers combined, were Cione, Ugolino, 
Giglio, Piero, Leonardo, and Nofai. The Duke of Athens, fearing 
personal violence, introduced, in 1343, a novel window protection 
iron gratings or bars, and caused the " Guild of Blacksmiths " 
to erect such defences at his Palace. The fashion grew, and 
window-gratings were among the finest examples of the Black- 
smith's skill. This vogue was further developed in 1506 and the 
following years, by Michael Angelo, who introduced what was 
called "kneeling-gratings," that is to say bowed protections to 

The " Masters of Stone and Wood " impressed their style of 
workmanship upon their " iron " brethren, and many wrought 

1 Meyer, " Handbook of the Art of Smithery," 1876, p. 63. 


iron lanterns, and numberless other objects, are manipulated 
as though the material were stone or wood. This manner was 
exhibited in its ultimate perfection by a famous member of the 
Guild, Niccolo Grosso 1455-1 509. Vasari calls him "// Caparra" 
" Money Grabber " from his habit of demanding payment for 
his work in advance ! His speciality wasfanati, flare-baskets or 
lanterns, such as still exist on the walls of the Strozzi, Guardagni, 
Pazzi, Borgherino, Riccardi and Quaratesi Palaces. 

The Grille-work of Florence has no superior outside Tuscany. 
Fineness of the iron wire and bars, perfection of hammering, 
beauty of scrolls and curves, naturalness of floral ornament, high 
finish of bosses and masks, neatness of joints and knobs, and 
grace of moulded volutes with their curling tendrils are the 
chief features of Florentine workmanship. 

The exquisite grilles, in the Campo Santo, at Santa Croce, 
which were put up in 1371, are of punched iron-work, with 
chiselled caps, bases, and mouldings, and are finished by patient file 
and pincer-work. It is interesting to notice again the influence 
of the " Masters of Stone and Wood " in iron joinery and iron 
carving, which are like fine wood-work rather than smithery. 

In contradistinction to the florid work of Flemish and 
German craftsmen, Florentine smiths preserved all the while 
a reticence, and a dignity, quite in accord with their natural 

The fifteenth century saw the art of working in metals 
brought to its highest pitch. The great sculptors were wont to 
employ the services of smiths in forging and casting their splendid 
works in bronze. Quite an army of intelligent artificers were busy 
at metal doors and gates for the Baptistery and the Duomo 
the precious creations for all time of the Pisani, L. Ghiberti, and 
Luca Delia Robbia. 

Other skilled members of the Guild assisted Donatello, 
Verrocchio, Giovanni da Bologna, and Benvenuto Cellini, to 
produce the chefs d'oeuvre which bear their names. Men of the 
forge and of the bellows, men of the anvil and the hammer, men 


of the soldering-iron and smoothing-file, all worked as Florentines 
always worked, diligently and with intelligence. 

Combinations of wrought-iron work, with brass and bronze, 
were Tuscan in origin. Endless objects come under this category : 
Sockets, Shields of Guild Arms, Tavern-signs, Font-covers, Read- 
ing-desks, Candelabra, Knockers for doors, Gargoyles, Weather- 
vanes, Architectural ornaments, and articles for domestic use, 
together with workmen's tools which were never wholly free 
from decorative attributes. 

The iron fixtures brackets and rings attached to the walls 
of Palaces and elsewhere, were designed to hold torches. They 
were provided with iron rings for athletic torch-bearers to cling to 
as they fixed their flaming trophies in the sockets. They were 
also used to support banner-poles at festivals. They evidence art 
adaptability to common objects. 

Fan-lights, balcony rails, fire-backs and dogs, frame -work of all 
kinds, and many other objects, which required strength, as well as 
elegance, formed another category. Once more the smiths went 
to the " Masters of Stone and Wood," and sought their models and 
patterns in floors, wall panels, and ceiling groinings, in intarsia- 
tura or mosaic. 

Among curiosities of the Blacksmith's Craft were the iron tongs 
used for stamping the Festival cakes of the Guilds, consumed upon 
St John Baptist's Day and upon the anniversaries of the Guilds. 
The impressions produced were effigies of Saints or Guild emblems : 
for example, the Blacksmith's cakes showed a hammer embossed 
in the centre, the Butchers had a cow, or a ram, and so on. 

In their work Smiths wore thick and heavy leather aprons, which 

/ they could tie tightly round their legs, by strands of leather cut 

from the same piece. The whole outfit of a blacksmith, in the 

way of tools, cost about a gold florin, or about twelve shillings of 

our money. 

The sixteenth century presents the Smiths of Florence revelling 
in the excellences and refinements of their Craft. Each workman 
was an artist, able to work from any design submitted to him, or to 


create original and beautiful objects on the spur of the moment. 
Two especial lines of superior manipulation in metal were portrait 
medallions, and historical plaques and bronzes. Those whose 
fame among workers in metal is most widely diffused were : 
Niccolo Fiorentino, Giamgallo Poggini, Bertoldo, Petrellino, 
Niccolo Domenico, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Andrea Guazzoloti of 
Prato, Domenico Poggini, Antonio Averlino, Michelozzo Michel- 
ozzi, and, last but not least, Donatello, whose dates range from 
1460 to 1557. 

Nothing can exceed, in any school or nation, the delicacy, 
naturalness, brilliancy of composition, and high finish of the works 
of these " Masters of metal." Examples of their skill may be seen 
in every Archaeological and Art Museum, but none is so rich as 
the Bargello in Florence. 

Many names of scions of famous noble families were enrolled 
upon the annals of the " Guild of Blacksmiths." To mention one 
among the many, the Acciaiuoli, manufacturers of steel, as their 
name implies, who came from Brescia in the year 1 1 60, and 
rose to high estate. After the banking disasters in the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries Niccolo raised once more the honour of 
his house, whilst he ruled the kingdom of Naples. He married 
the widowed Empress of Constantinople, built the Certosa near 
the Porta Romana, and founded a School of Liberal Arts for 
studious apprentices. 


In every land foot-wear, both useful and ornamental, plays an 
important role. Protection during working hours, and decoration 
in times of leisure, are alike necessary and attractive. 

As to who first wore coverings on the feet nobody knows, and 
probably nobody cares ; but no age, and no nation, has ever been 
without them. Every conceivable material, natural and manu- 
factured, has been laid under contribution, and man's skill has 
been called forth throughout all time in adaptive measures. 



Leather has always been the ideal material for boots and shoes 
of all kinds : strong, impervious, yielding to pressure, and cleanly, 
it has outrun all other competitors. The making of foot-wear has 
also enriched countless artists of the last, whilst the vagaries of 
Dame Fashion have called forth artistic workmanship, and added to 
the joys and sorrows of human life. 

Early in the Middle Ages Tuscan leather was famous, and before 
the Renaissance, Florentine shoemakers had made themselves a 
name, and had acquired riches. A document exists in the 
Archives of the City, which records that, in the year 1139, one 
"Johannes filius Petri qui vocatur Calzolarius, bestowed a bene- 
faction upon the Spedale de' Calzolai, in the Val di Pesa, near 

Very little can be gathered from the Archives of the City of 
the inception and progress of the Shoemakers' Guild. The earlier 
codes of Statutes have perished and the later records are either 
very fragmentary, or written in an abbreviated and illegible 
manner, and in a tongue not understood of ordinary readers and 
students, partly Latin, partly vernacular. 

At first sight the " Guild of Tanners " should have occupied the 
place in the Hierarchy of the Guilds which is filled by the Shoe- 
makers, both on account of the more general character of its 
interests, and of the social importance of its members. 

The earliest notices in the Archives of persons working in the 
trade of shoemaking are as follows : 

" io8j. Rusticus Calzolarius Shoemaker." 

" 1113. Johannes Zocolarius Wooden-clog maker." 

In the first List of the Guilds that of 1236, the " Arte de 
Calzolai" is placed ninth in order. This position was maintained 
at the revision of the Statues of all the Guilds in 1266, 1282, and 
1301-1309, but in 1415 the "Guild of Blacksmiths" was raised 
over the head of the Shoemakers, then relegated to the tenth step 
in the Guild ladder. This was the final position of the Guild. 

When Cosimo de' Medici, in 1534, grouped the Fourteen 
Lesser Guilds in four " Universities," the Second was styled 



" Universita de' Maestri di Cuoiame" and included the three Guilds 
of Shoemakers, Tanners and Saddlers in due order. 

The number of Consuls varied between three and six. This 
was a common feature in relation to the Chief Officers of the 
Guilds generally, and probably was due to the nature of the 
business which from time to time engaged the attention of the 
Consuls in General Council. Their Residence was in the Chiasso 
de' Baronelli, nearly next door to that of the Consuls of the 

"Guild of Skin- 
ners and Furriers." 
The Arms of the 
Guild were dis- 
played there, as 
well as on the 
Gonfalon, and con- 
sisted of alternate 
stripes of red and 

The Matricula- 
tion-fee was very 
low, almost the 
lowest of any such 
payments made for 
Guild-membership. Under the year I 290 the Archives of Florence 
record that one " Ricchus Borredicti, a shoemaker of the Popoli 
di San Giorgio, Syndic of the Guild, received forty soldi a head 
for the entrance of new members. 

There appear to have been several divisions of craftsmen 
/under the Guild rules : i. Calzolai Shoemakers, 2. Zoccalai 
Wooden shoe-makers, 3. Zoccholi Sandal-makers, and 4. Ciabattini 
Cobblers, an inferior class. The first three had shops and stores 
in or near the Mercato Vecchio, whilst the last were allowed work- 
ing room, either in the open market, or in some of the basements 
of the houses. 1 In the time of G. Villani the number of craftsmen 

1 Prow. x. 7. 



was considerable: he has placed on record that, in 1299, there 
were as many as three hundred shoemakers' shops and cobblers 
stalls in Florence. 

The Statutes of 1415 contain the following rubrics : " Shoe- 
makers, slipper-makers, and any other persons selling fine skins 
or cuttings or any kind of leather, are warned not to offer common 
dressed goatskins for Spanish morocco, and not to pass off 
inferior leathers for better qualities. Eighty soldi were exacted, 
by way of fine, in each case of substitution." * 

" Shoemakers are forbidden to open their shops, and to keep 
their assistants at work, on Sundays and Festivals. The Consuls 
of the Guild are required to make all Masters of the craft swear 
to observe this regulation, subject to a penalty of one hundred 
lire for each offence. 2 To avoid unfair rivalry and trade disputes 
with the " Guild of Tanners," Shoemakers, and all members of 
their Guild, are strictly ordered not to dress, or cause to be dressed, 
upon their premises horse skins and cattle hides." 3 

" Sandal and clog-makers seem to have been rather a vagabond 
set of fellows, for, in one of the Rubrics, there is an amusing 
caution to Shoemakers and other respectable members of the 
Guild not to harbour any such wandering personages. No chests, 
coffers, boxes, and trunks, were to be left unlocked and open least 
any poor fellow should hide therein. The object no doubt was to 
prevent Masters profiting by the illicit work of unrecognised 
workmen. Perhaps, even with all the elaborate rules and regula- 
tions which favoured honourable trading, inferior operatives were 
subject to " sweating." 4 

" Leather shoes are not to be sold if made of horse and goat 
skin mixed, and advertised as of horse only. Thigh pieces of 
armour may be lined with goat-skin, and kid is permissible as 
a decorative addition to shoes and footwear generally." 5 

The importance of the Guild was recognised in 1282 by 
Cardinal Latino, who called into consultation about the peace 

1 Rub. Ixxiii., 1415. z Rub. Ixxx., 1415. 3 Rub. Ixxxi., 1415. 

4 Rub. Ixxxii., 1415. 5 Rub. Ixxxiii., 1415. 


between the Ghibellines and Guelphs, its Capitudini or Consuls, 
along with the heads of the Twelve Greater Guilds. 

In December 1292, the Heads or Consuls of the Arte de* 
Calzolai took part in the deliberations of the Consuls of the 
Seven Greater Guilds, and again in December 1293 with the 
Consuls of the Twelve Greater Guilds. 1 

That the dignity of the Guild and its Consuls was on a par 
with that of the other Trade Corporations, is proved by the appoint- 
ment in I 30 1, of Benedetto da Carlona, a Sandal-maker, as one of 
the Priors of the Sestiere of San Spirito. 

On the other hand the financial position of the Guild was 
inferior, and in 1321, when a pro rata tax was levied upon the 
Guilds, the sum required from the " Shoemakers " was only one 
hundred lire, as against two thousand gold florins contributed by 
the " Guild of Wool," and fifty gold florins by the " Guild of 

The Zibaldoni) and other private records, are singularly 
deficient in notices of the " Guild of Shoemakers." It is how- 
ever narrated that one of its members made his name famous at 
the siege of Capraia in 1249, when the Guelphs were besieged 
by the Emperor Frederic II. Going to the gates of the town 
Giovanni del Tosco, who had been one of the ancients and was a 
man of wealth and influence, shouted that the place could only 
hold out for one day. This disheartened the besieged so greatly 
that they surrendered at discretion. Two years after del Tosco 
paid for his treachery. He entered Florence among other return- 
ing exiles, but being recognised he was stoned to death by the 
people, and his body was cast into the moat ! 

The kinds of footwear most in vogue would appear to have 
been high boots or leggings, used by the market people and 
working men generally, Galosce^ a kind of pattern, made of 
stout leather with wooden soles, Charlemagne is said to have 
worn such shoes when he visited Florence, and Borsacchini- 
buskins, so-called from the particular kind of leather used soft, 

1 " Le Consulte," ii. 228, 396. 



thin, and pliable, and worn generally by Judges and the Clergy. 
Military boots and strong riding gauntlets were also in the 
province of the Shoemakers. 

It does not appear that the Guild undertook other objects, 
useful or ornamental, in leather, but confined the attentions of 
its members to the supply of all kinds of stout and elegant 
" understandings." 

I. " Stemma delf Arle d Fabbri" 
Black tongs in a white field, a gold florin in corner 

2. " Stemma del? Arte dt? Calzolai." 
Two red stripes upon a white field 





I. ORIGIN. The great Comacine Guild. Freemasons. Ambulatory 
lodges. Grandi and artisans. Early workers in stone and wood. The 
Florentine Lodge. S choice, Laborerum, and Opera Fabbrica. Guild Style first 

II. CONSTITUTION. Architects, Scaffold-builders, Masons, Bricklayers. 
Bricks and Kilns. Workers in Wood. Wages. Good Native Stone. Fine 
Native Timber. 

III. DEVELOPMENT. The Duomo. Francesco Talenti. Arnolfodi Cambio. 
Giotto. Orcagna. Brunellesco. " An Idle Fellow ! " Disputes. " Rustic " 
Style. True Version of Columbus and the Egg. Immense Building Operations. 
Street Laying. Ceraiuoli. Gem-engraving. Fine Ceilings. Leon Battista 
Alberti. Lorenzo Ghiberti. Luca Delia Robbia. Donatello. Florentine 
influence in Europe. Leonardo da Vinci. Michael Angelo Buonarroti. 
Torrigiano. " Those beasts the English ! " Siege of Florence. A note on 

(Two Branches of Guild Rigat fieri and Linaiuoli.} 

I. RIGATTIERI. Early Tailors, Linen-makers, and Hawkers. An Associa- 
tion of retail tradesmen. A "Sandwich" Guild. Codex Membranaceo 
Consuls unable to sign their names ! What might, and might not, be sold in 
shops of the Guild. Fraudulent tradesmen. Fines. Taxes. Prices, etc. 

II. LINAIUOLI. Early use of Linen. Monasteries. Methods of Cultivation 
of Flax. Processes. Regulations. Fees. Veditori delle Coltrid. Surveyors. 
Valuers. Agents. Official stamps. Localities of manufacture. Sales. Church 
vestments. Women-workers. Scolpi Lace. Prosperous Guildsmen. Uni- 
versita de? Linaiuoli. 


IN any book dealing with the subject of Guilds it is quite 
impossible to overlook that great organisation of the Early 

Middle Ages " The Guild of Comacine Masters." The origin 


of this Confraternity is lost in antiquity : probably it was 
a survival of ancient Jewish and Egyptian times. 1 Fugitive 
craftsmen from all parts of Italy, driven from their homes and 
craft by the invading barbarians, sought refuge upon the 
little islet of Comacina in the lake of Como, and the Lombard 
chieftains extended to them protection and patronage. The 
settlement became known as the Casari or Casarii house-builders. 
Muratori first discovered traces of its existence in an edict of 
November 22, 643, signed by King Rotharis the Lombard, which 
makes mention of " Magistri Comacini" as being designers and 
superintendents of buildings and builders, and whom we may class 
together under the term architects. 

These Master-builders, evidences of whose creative skill are 
scattered all over Italy, had in 590 formed themselves, for mutual 
protection and advancement, into a vast University but with no 
Central College or Residence. According to their motto, their 
" Temple was made without hands." 

" The old Records," writes a quaint and sententious writer, 2 
" of Masons afford large hints of their Lodges from the beginning 
of the world in polite nations. . . . Masons were ever the favourites 
of the Eminent, and became necessary for their grand under- 
takings in any sort of materials, not only in stone, brick, timber, 
plaister, but even in cloth or skins, or whatever was used for tents, 
and for all sorts of Architecture. . . . Painters also and Statuaries 
were always reckoned good Masons as much as Builders, Stone- 
cutters, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Joiners, Upholsterers, or Tent- 

Two early patrons of the Comacine builders were Queen 
Theodolinda, who in 737 instructed them to draw plans for, and 
proceed with, the erection of the Cathedral of Monza, and 
Saint Calixtus, to whom the Cathedral of Friuli is due. 

Lodges of this Order were ambulatory. Wherever fine buildings 
were required, and all that were erected between the years 800 

1 Leader Scott, " The Cathedral Builders," p. 10. 
2 Desagulier, " Constitutions of the Free Masons." 


and 1000 A.D. were the handiwork of the Comacine Masters, 
there were established : I. Scholcz Schools for novices ; 2. a 
Laborerum Shop for workmen ; and 3. an Opera fabbrica 
Office for architects. 1 

The operatives employed by the Guild were of two classes 
" murarii builders, and operarii labourers. 

The Senior Master-builder was styled Capo Maestro, and he 
had for assistants two or more Soprastanti, who were charged with 
the drafting of specifications, etc., and with the monetary affairs 
of the members respectively. Thus all the machinery required for 
a regularly constituted guild of craftsmen was ready to hand, and 
at an early date the Comacine Masters were recognised as 
members of a worldwide Order of Freemasons. 2 

Members of these Lodges, of every degree, were treated as 
belonging to a privileged class, and were excused local military 
service : they enjoyed too, liberty of travel and freedom of 

The term " Freemason," as applied to Master-builders, ap- 
pears first in manuscripts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, 
wherein " Sculptores lapidum liberorum " and " Latonii vocati 
fremacconi" are used indiscriminatingly for workers in freestone. 
Master workers in stone and wood, originally, came under the 
designation of Freemasons, and were regarded as a class apart 
from ordinary stone masons and working carpenters. 

Matriculation made all the difference in the world between 
master and man. Hence in Florence the Intermediate " Guild of 
Masters in Stone and Wood " was named with absolute fitness to 
fact and custom. 

The actual work of a " Maestro di Pietra " was in virgin stone, 
freestone, not in marble. There was a clear distinction be- 
tween a worker in " lapis liber" and a worker in " saxum vivum " 
the former was a simple stone-mason, the latter a skilled 
sculptor, or " Maestro" 

1 Ossia Libri Muratori, "Gli Instituzioni, Riti e Ceremonie dell' Ordine de' Francs 
Ma9ons." 2 C. Guasti " Santa Maria del Fiore." 


With respect to workers in wood, " Maestro di Legname " 
was one who could construct scaffolds and build roofs, whilst 
"Maestro a" Intaglio" was a carver or inlayer of wood. This 
division into four classes of craftsmen was complemented by a 
fifth, entitled " Maestri del Disegno " " Masters of Design," or 
" Architects." 

Every ambulatory " Lodge " or stationary " Temple " of the 
Guild or Order was manned by representatives of each of these 
sorts of workmen, and the longer the works lasted so much more 
permanent did the terms and conditions become which controlled 
and directed building operations. One such permanent centre 
was established in the thirteenth century in Florence, where 
stupendous undertakings were in hand. 

Probably the Craft of stone-cutting and wood-working was the 
earliest trade corporation in Florence in the Middle Ages. Under 
Charlemagne, who repeatedly visited Florence, the industry 
developed steadily, and, in the reign of Lothair it became pros- 
perous throughout Tuscany. 1 

During the period, when was gradually built up the Primo 
Popolo, or middle class wherein were united nobles and mer- 
chants, another alliance was cemented, that of outcast sons of 
ruined Grandi and working artisans. Descended from a race of 
robber captains, many a lad had to put his family pride in his 
pocket and to throw in his lot with honest craftsmen rather than 
beg his bread. Trained to follow in the ranks of the Condottieri, 
leaders of mercenary troops, implements of toil came as handy 
as instruments of warfare. 

The two callings which appealed most to these men were 
those of stone-mason and wood-worker ; and this is evident on 
glancing over the Matriculation Registers of the Guild, wherein 
names of ancient noble families appear over and over again. 

It is almost impossible to give the exact date when the 
Florentine Lodge of Freemasons, or Master Builders of the great 
Comacine Guild, was merged in the " Arte de Maestri di Pietra 

1 Muratori, " Antichite Italiane," Dis. 75, torn. vi. Col. 455. 


e di Legname" The use of the word " Lodge " comes from the 
custom of holding meetings of brethren in the " Loggie " or porticoes 
of houses. The first mention in the Archives of Florence of 
Master-builders, masons or wood-workers, is under the year 
1038, when " Johannis qui tornario vocatus est" a wood-turner 
is named. In 1094 appears the first record of a stone-mason as 
follows : " Baldus (?) curtis de Marmorio" Doubtless they had 
many fellow-craftsmen. All through the eleventh and twelfth 
centuries the Scholce, the Laborerum^ and the Opera Fabbrica y 
were administered under constantly improving auspices and 

The Scholce, whilst giving primary attention to the great elements 
of construction, gradually placed their pupils in possession of the 
technicalities of architecture, sculpture, and even painting. Sons 
and nephews of Masters were entitled to enrolment without any 
novitiate as by hereditary right, but outsiders were subjected to a 
severe preparatory course. Certain Masters were appointed to 
teach pupils and apprentices privately in their own studios as well 
as in the public work of the Scholce. These teachers were chosen 
from among the most distinguished of those who had passed 
through the Laborerum. 

The Laborerum^ or shop for workmen, afforded opportunities 
for employment to every matriculated and approved member who 
was not yet advanced to the dignity of Master. Such men were 
called "fratres " in the old manuscripts, and were, so to speak, 
the graduates of the University. A successful course in the 
Laborerum opened out the way to commissions and renown. Here 
it was that genius had full play, and brotherly rivalry led to 
glorious results. 

The Opera Fabbrica, Office of Works, was the headquarters 
H of the Master-builders. There all plans, specifications, estimates^ 
etc. etc., were prepared and exhibited. Contracts were signed 
between patron and builder. Earnest money was paid over. 
Registration of workpeople and their allocation to the various 
operations were undertaken. Communications between the Opera 




and the Laborerum were carried on by a Provveditore specially 
appointed, and contracts were signed in presence of a Notary. 

In the early years of the thirteenth century separate 
associations appear, from time to time, in the public records, 
for example : " Maestri dettAscia " " Master Wood-cutters," 
"Maestri di Muratori" "Master-bricklayers," and "Maestri a" 
Architetti" " Architects." 

In the classification of the Guilds in 1236 and 1266, "Mura- 
tori e Scarpellini " l< Bricklayers and Stone-masons," come tenth 
on the list, and this was the earliest designation of the Guild 
of Master-builders in Florence. 

The style " Maestri di Pietra e di Legname " was first used in 
1282, but the origin of it must be sought in the year 1260. 
Jacopino Rangoni da Modena was then Podesta of Florence, and 
he undertook energetic measures in preparation for the war with 

Twelve Captains of War were chosen two for each sestiere, 
or quarter of the city to raise companies of cavalry and infantry. 
Of these companies two were made up of men accustomed to the 
use of picks, axes, saws, planes, and other similar tools ; and 
to them was assigned the name of "Maestri di Pietra e di 
Legname'.' They formed the van of the city companies the 
place of conflict and honour. 

At the revision of the Statutes and Bye-laws, of all the Guilds, 
in 1282, and 1301-1309, these companies retained their military 
organisation, and united to it the system of industrial incorpora- 
tion. They thus became a powerful and enterprising order in the 
Hierarchy of the Guilds. 

A further honour was bestowed upon the Guild in 1293 by 
Giano della Bella. Just before vacating the office of Prior, he 
carried through the State Council a Provvisione augmenting the 
personal guard of the Chief Magistrate to the number of one 
thousand. He called upon the Consuls of the " Guild of Stone- 
masons and Wood-workers " " to provide the first, or leading, 
company of two hundred men, fifty of whom were to be armed 


with heavy picks." Of course all these military levies were made 
up of operative stone-masons and wood-workers not of Master- 
builders. Of the latter, Villani records, there were, at the begin- 
ning of the year 1299, not less than one hundred and forty-six 
holding the license of the Guild, and directing the labours of 
upwards of two thousand working stone-masons and wood-workers. 
Certain of them, moreover, were put over the foreign workmen who 
thronged the city and besieged the officials of the Guild for work. 
Renaissance Masters, whether designers or architects, scaffold 
or roof projectors, stone-masons or bricklayers, sculptors or carvers, 
were the lineal descendants of time-old hewers of wood 
and cutters of stone. Hence a natural and hereditary trait 
became apparent in the plays and pastimes of their children. 
Quite little mites set about the building of palaces and churches 
in miniature, with all the zest of their parents and big brothers. 
Every Chiasso and Cortile became, for the nonce, a brickfield and 
a masons' yard ; whilst many an embryo " master " displayed his 
dexterity and constructiveness in mud, sand, and shavings ! 

The Consuls of the Guild are named as taking part in the 
negotiations instituted, in 1280, by Cardinal Latino dei Frangi- 
pani, acting as Papal Legate, for the purpose of reconciling the 
Guelphs and the Ghibellines. They, together with the Consuls of 
the Guilds of " Calimala" " Wool," " Bankers " and " Money- 
changers," " Skinners and Furriers," and " Retail Cloth Dealers," 
were not favourable to the negotiations, and nothing was done, 
except to augment still more the power of the Parte Guelfa. 

The number of Consuls, in the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- 
turies, seems to have been three ; at all events that number is 
named, as in attendance, at the combined conferences of the 
Twelve Greater Guilds. Undoubtedly they exercised the same 
functions as the Comacine Capo Maestro ; and, for assistants, 
they also had two Soprastanti, who bore the titles of " Cancelliere " 
and " Camerlingo " like their brother officials in the other Guilds. 

It would fill a biggish volume to reproduce all the regulations, 


cautions, and notices which were, from time to time, issued for the 
better ordering and discipline of the craftsmen. One example 
will suffice. On June of 1456, the Provveditore put out the 
following notice : " It is desired that on no account shall any 
Master go to work outside the Opera, without the deliberation 
and consent of all four Operai. If any absent himself without 
this permission, he shall be considered as discharged." l 

The office of Provveditore was no sinecure, by reason of the 
constant differences between masters and men ; but he had by 
way of assessors two Buonuomini, who acted as arbitrators in 
trade disputes, and also as auditors of the accounts of the Guild. 

When " Masters " were dissatisfied with their salaries, for all 
commissions were undertaken in the name of the Guild and were 
not matters of personal or direct payment by patrons to the actual 
worker, or when workmen refused to work, it was the custom to 
call in the assistance of independent people. For example, in the 
Opera del Duomo the cathedral building, all disagreements came 
before the Consuls and Council of the " Guild of Wool," which was 
charged with the various undertakings. They called for the 
estimates, and for reports of progress, and, after prolonged dis- 
cussion, the matter was usually settled by compromise, fixing 
averages of price and time. 

In questions which affected the internal working of the Guild 
the members of the Opera Fabbrica and the instructors of the 
Laborerum formed a deliberative Council. All Masters were 
bound by contract to the Laborerum. Sometimes payment was 
by the day ; at other times piece work was agreed for. 

Very many men, skilled and unskilled, were, of course, 
employed from time to time in the vast building contracts under- 
taken by the Guild. These men were not enrolled on the Craft- 
major, but were incorporated in trade-unions or associations 
during the continuance of the works, each under its own special 
officers and regulations ; but all subordinated to the Guild proper. 

What working members of the Guild looked like in the 

1 Archivio dell' Opera del Duomo, Caesare Guasto's abstracts. 



fifteenth century may be seen in the woodcut of the Knyghts 
Paune in Jacopo de Cessoli's Guioccho delle Scacchi. He says : 
" The seconde paune y l standeth to fore the Knyght on the right 
side of the Kynge hath the forme and figure of a man as a Smyth. 
And that is reson For it apperteyneth to ye knyghtes to have 
bridellys, sadellys, spores and many other thynges made by the 



handes of smythes and ought to hold a hamer with his right 
hand and in his lyfte hande a dolabre and he ought to have in 
his gyrdell a trowell for by this is sygnefied all manner of worke- 
men as goldsmiths, marchallis, smithes of all forges, forgers and 
makers of monoye. . . . The carpenters ben signefyed by the 
dolabre or squyer and by the trowell we understand all masons and 
kervars of stones and all them that make howses, castels and tours." 
The Council of the Guild also held periodical discussions upon 
designs, methods, materials, etc. etc. for public works ; and ex- 


perts were employed to examine every branch of the various 

When Francesco Talenti was Capo Maestro many meetings 
were held to settle matters of detail. In June 1553 one such 
meeting ordered the removal of the scaffolding from the new 
Baptistery. In August of the same year scale models in wood of 
the Campanile were ordered to be made, to judge of dimensions 
and decorative features. The following month found the 
" Masters " anxious about the financial position of the Guild. A 
Notary was appointed to press the Signoria for the payment of 
one hundred and fifty lire due to the Guild ; and further to 
consult with the " Regolatori " perhaps " auditors," and the 
captains of the Misericordia with respect to the settlement of 
certain legacies under the wills of deceased members of the 
Guild. 1 

At another meeting in the following year, the free supply of 
wine to master-builders, architects when engaged in operations, 
was docked off owing to the lowness of the Guild funds ! 

At the recension of the Constitutions of the various Guilds in 
1415 the " Guild of Masters of Stone and Wood " came in for its 
share of amendment. Many Rubrics were passed affecting opera- 
tives, etc. 

Paviors, brick-kiln men, masters of stone and wood, and 
labourers were bound to make and keep strictly accurate measure- 
ments of quantity, and to maintain an even quality in their work. 
Surveyors were appointed to examine and test all deliveries of 
stone and brick, and to inspect thoroughly each stage of building 
operations. Inferiority of material, and inefficiency of workman- 
ship, were visited with prompt punishment. The surveyors were 
themselves visited with pains and penalties if they performed their 
duties merely in a perfunctory manner ; indeed they were liable 
to expulsion from membership in the Guild. 2 

Paviors and workers in stone and wood were forbidden to 

1 C. Guasto, " Opere del Duomo in Firenze. " 

2 Statuti Pop. et Com Florentiae, 1415; Rub. Ivii. 


have direct dealings with dealers in paving stones. They were 
constrained to work for their masters alone, and with materials 
provided by their masters. 1 

Kiln-men and brickmakers generally were admonished to pack 
their kilns with lime of the best quality only, and to see to it that 
the bricks they burnt were free from blemishes, and well and truly 
shaped, according to the customary standards. Each brick had 
to be stamped on all four sides with the arms of Florence, and the 
sides had to measure exactly four times the size of the ends. The 
ends were required to be evenly finished so that joinings could be 
made as neatly and closely as possible. Tiles, troughs, and edging 
squares followed in the same category. 

Wall measurements were taken with an iron yard-measure, the 
exact length of the " Calimala " canna. Clay-fields and lime works 
were under direct State supervision. Rents and percentages were 
paid for the right of working, and State imposts were made at the 
Gates upon loads of bricks and tiles, which went under the names 
of mattoni, mezzane^ tegole^ pianelle, quadrucchi, according to shape 
and purpose. 2 

Strict regulations were in force with respect to the situation 
and dimensions of the brick-kilns. All such erections were 
required to be beyond the three-mile radius of the old Contado, 
and were not to exceed a height of nine braccia arm's-length. 3 

The price, of bricks per thousand, and the scale of wages per 
week, were settled from time to time by the Consuls of the " Guild 
of Masters in Stone and Wood " ; and the values were exposed in 
all brickfields and workshops of the city. 4 

By the Statutes of 1415, precise regulations were laid down 
with respect to timber. Stocks of wood were not allowed to be 
kept merely for sale through brokers. The quantity permitted 
in the workshops was in strict proportion to the work in hand. 
Masters in wood, and their apprentices, were required to work 
only in timber which bore the stamp of the Guild. Much greater 

1 Rub. Iviii., 1415. 2 Rub. lix., 1415. 

3 Rub. lx., 1415. 4 Rub. lxv.,lxvi., 141 




liberty was extended to foreign workers, although they were 
required to be affiliated to the Guild, and to submit to the ruling 
of the Consuls. Inducements were held out especially to Lom- 
bardian workmen, who were housed free of rent for a time, and 
were permitted to bring in their tools and implements free of 
custom dues. 1 

The wages of an ordinary stone-mason or bricklayer were one 
lira a day, with half a lira for his labourer. A carpenter's mean 
wage was the same. These amounts compared favourably with 
the wages of agricultural labourers, who could rarely earn more 
than ten soldi a day. 

The Residence of the Consuls was in the Chiasso di Baronelli, 
not far from the Loggia de' Lanzi. Over its portals were sculptured 
the arms of the Guild, which of course were also blazoned upon its 
banner a white axe upon a red field. 

In the neighbourhood of Florence two or three kinds of stone 
were easily accessible. 

1. Pietra forte a durable sandstone with calcareous in- 
gredients excellent for building purposes and for paving, but 
found generally in small pieces only. The most used quarry 
was at Camfora outside the Porta Romana. 

2. Pietra serena or Macigno, a siliceous sandstone of a dark 
grey or bluish-black colour, with singular black patches, which 
assumes, in course of time, a bronzy hue. Benvenuto Cellini 
says this stone is found in the hilly country round Florence 
especially at Settignano, Signa, Montelupo and Fiesole. " It is," 
he adds, " marked by beauty and fineness of texture, and is easily 
worked ; but, as it does not resist water nor stand open - air 
exposure, it is best suited for inside work and statuary under 

3. Pietra morta is also mentioned by Cellini, who praises its 
rich tan colour, and its softness and ease in chiselling. It with- 

1 Rub. Ixvii. , Ixviii., 1415. 


stands winds and rains and every action of time, and is excellent 
for ornamental work and for the frames of windows and doors. 

" There is," says Sir Richard Dallington, " digged out of the 
Tuscan hills a kinde of freestone, passing hard, of colour accord- 
ing to the nature of its place wherein it is taken white, red and 
black, of all of which there are in Florence many very gallante 
and stately palaces. They have also in many places pits of 
marble white, blue and parti-coloured excellently good." The 
old chronicler speaks too of the well paved streets, " long and 
straighte and wide and fair laid with hastia" broad setts " so 
as no weather fouls them." 1 

Statuary marble came chiefly from Massa and Carrara, but 
Michael Angelo, at the instance of Pope Julius II., worked also 
in marble from Seravezza. The prospecting, quarrying, and trans- 
porting of the huge blocks which were required by the Masters of 
stone in Florence, called forth big inventive faculties and great 
engineering abilities on the part of the members of the Guild. 

Rare marbles too for the enrichment of monuments, and for 
use in mosaic work, were imported from far and wide. Very 
many costly examples came directly from Rome the ancient 
" Marmorata " being the marble emporium of the world. 

With respect to the timber needed for scaffolding and build- 
ing generally, and the finer woods used in decorative work, there 
was no difficulty about supply. The Vale of Arno was an 
arboretum of trees of all kinds. Pines, oaks, elms, and planes 
furnished the builders, and walnuts, ashes, briars, and many an- 
other, the carvers with all that they required. Plantations too 
of useful trees were constantly made by the sapient rulers of the 
city to replenish garnered plots. In 1534, for example, Duke 
Alexander converted river-mud and sandbanks into the um- 
brageous Casdne, and he and his successors planted many a 
podere, farm lands with trees and shrubs. 

Arnolfo di Cambio, born in 1232, was a native of Colle di 
Val d'Elsa and was the first great Master-builder of the Floren- 

1 " Survey of the Great Duke's Estate." 


tine Guild. He must not be confused with Arnolfo di Lapor or 
with Arnolfo Florentine both of whom were sculptors of the 
School of the Pisani. 1 

Di Cambio's training, of which we have few records, was pro- 
bably carried out at Siena, with, perhaps, a chance visit to Pisa, 
and to Niccola Pisano there. His father, Jacopo Tedesco da 
Campione or di Cambio, had, in a sense, exercised the office of 
Capo Maestro of the Florentine Guild, and had, in 1258, built the 
Bargello. Thirty years later Arnolfo became the architect of the 
Church of Santa Croce. 2 

Arnolfo's fame, however, rests mainly upon his work at Santa 
Maria del Fiore, where he acted as chief architect and builder from 
1294 up to the day of his death in I3io. 3 The Palazzo Vecchio 
also looks to him as its creator. It was indeed a tour de force 
which incorporated the old tower of the Foraboschi, called later 
the Torre della Vacca, and crowned it with its crenelated mural 
cap ! 

An entry in the " Archives " records the grant by the State, 
in 1300, of certain privileges, freedom from taxation and a seat 
in the Signoria, " for his industry, his experience, and his talent." 
He is styled : " Caput Magister laborerii et 'operis ecclesia beate 
Reparate" * A special feature of his manner was the use of 
panels or slabs of variously coloured marble, an example followed 
by all his successors. 

From 1340 to 1348 Giotto was Capo Maestro and Consul of 
the Guild. For his glorious Campanile four Master-masons were 
sent in 1350 to Carrara to buy marble. 

Other famous Master-builders and Consuls were Taddeo Gaddi, 
who rebuilt the Ponte alia Carraia in 1337, and prepared plans 
for the new Ponte Vecchio and Ponte alia Santa Trinita ; and 
Andrea Orcagna, who built the shrine of Or San Michele and the 
pillars of Santa Maria del Fiore. 

1 Crowe and Cavalcaselle, " History of Painting in Italy," vol. i. p. 127. 
' 2 Gaye " Carteggio inedite," vol. i. p. 445. 

3 " Archivio del Duomo Antica Necrologia di Santa Reparata" Carta 12. 

4 Prow., No. X., p. 235. 


The Registers of the Guild contain the names and commissions 
of many Master-builders right down to the year 1418. Among 
them, Simone Giovanni del Pino who in 1363 carved the twisted 
columns of red marble in the windows of the Duomo ; Taddeo 
Ristori, one of the Cione family, the architect, in I 3 36, of Or San 
Michele and of the Loggia de' Lanzi ; and Giovanni Stefani, in 
1381, a noted builder of scaffolding and a specialist in foundation 

In i 349 the Ringhiera Speaker's Tribune was erected 
outside the Palazzo Vecchio by Brother Lorenzo, at a cost of 
one thousand gold florins. Ten years later the plans for the 
facade of the Duomo were made public. They were the joint 
production of the following members of the Guild : Neri di 
Fioravante, Benci di Cione, Francesco Salvetti, Niccolo Tommasi, 
who, with Taddeo Gaddi and Andrea Orcagna, formed a Special 
Commission for the purpose. All these we may suppose were 
serious and able Architects and Master-builders, but in 1418 we 
have a record of one Piero d' Antonio, who, although elected a 
Consul and Capo Maestro, was nicknamed " Fannullone " Brag- 
gart, or idle fellow ! 

Six Master-builders competed in 1418 for the erection of the 
dome of the Cathedral ; among them were Nanni di Banco, 
Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello. None of them were, however, 
successful, and the commission was given to Filippo Brunellesco, 
who, by the way, was not a member of the Guild. He had been 
matriculated in the "Arte della Seta" in 1398, and later, in 1404, 
had enrolled himself a member of the new " Arte degli Orafi"- 
" Guild of Goldsmiths," which was a subordinate corporation of 
the greater Guild of Silk. 

The selection of Brunellesco to build the cupola, and also, in 
1434, to complete the lantern, gave great offence to the " Masters 
of Stone and Wood." They insisted upon his matriculation in 
their Guild, but, to show that a man need not be a Freemason 
to build a church, Brunellesco ignored their protests, and never 
paid his fees ! This led to an amusing, but irritating, process at 


law the Masters of the Laborerum sued him for debt and the 
successful architect was imprisoned ! The offender's cause was 
nevertheless championed not only by the " For Santa Maria" but 
also by the " Guild of Wool," the former doubtless on account 
of his membership therein, and the latter probably from its steward- 
ship of the Cathedral works, and he was released, whilst a scape- 
goat was found in an unfortunate, but nameless, member of the 
" Guild of Masters of Stone and Wood," who was pitched without 
trial into Brunellesco's cell upon a trumped-up charge of being an 
idle fellow! 

The story of Columbus and the egg may be, with far more 
probability, ascribed to Brunellesco in relation to the famous 
dome of the Duorno. The art of building a cupola like that 
of the Roman Pantheon had been lost, and Brunellesco re- 
created it. None of the scientists consulted by the authorities 
could do it, but he proposed that the man who could make an 
egg stand upright upon a flat base should be chosen as architect. 
With a gentle tap he broke in one end and thus easily set it up 
upon the slab ! 

Of Brunellesco's achievement the familiar Tuscan proverb is 
applicable : " Piu rondo che di I'O Giotto " " Rounder than the 
O of Giotto" anything more perfect is impossible. Indeed the 
reverberation of sounds is extraordinary. No echo is discernible, 
but words and music appear to be carried up through the lantern 
and never return again ! 

The erection of the cupola put the builders of scaffolding 
upon their mettle. The whole city seems to have taken the 
matter in hand, for public meetings were held whereat all were 
asked to give expression to their opinions. Models in brick, 
plaster and wood were projected to scale with and without 
scaffolding. Very ingenious plans were devised for the hoisting 
up of heavy material, among others by Antonio da Vercelli a 
leading Maestro di legno. The workmen were kept at their giddy 
posts all day to avoid the loss of time in descending and ascend- 
ing for their mid-day meal. For their accommodation, moreover, 



a kitchen and a dining-room were provided at the top of the 
scaffolding ! 1 

One of the most striking evidences of the immense prosperity 
of Florence was the erection of magnificent edifices of all kinds 
public and private. 


In harmony with the devotional spirit of the period, the 
thirteenth-century buildings were principally ecclesiastical : The 
Baptistery of San Giovanni, founded in the seventh century, 
was rebuilt 1202-1294 ; Santa Reparata, founded in the eighth 
century, was rebuilt as Santa Maria del Fiore 1101-1298; 

1 C. Guasti, " La Cupola di Santa Maria del Fiore," p. 61. 


Ognissanti dates from 1256, La Nunziata 1258, Or San 
Michele 1285, Santa Maria Novella 1279, Santa Croce and 
San Spirito 1295 and San Marco 1299. San Miniato al 
Monte, first built under Charlemagne in 774, was rebuilt in 
1093 ; and was much added to in the thirteenth century by 
the munificence of the " Calimala " Guild. 

Civil architecture also engaged the attention of master- 
builders in the thirteenth century. Designs for all these under- 
takings were prepared, and estimates made out, by the first 
descendants of the old Comacine Masters ; and the work was 
taken in hand by their sons and grandsons in travail. Of Palaces 
were erected: Bargello 1258, Badia 990-1285, and Vecchio 
1294; Bridges: Alia Carraia 1218, Santa Trinita 1252, 
Alle Grazie, or Rubaconte 1237, and Vecchio 1080-1333; 
Gates: Al Prato, San Gallo, and San Ambrogio in 1284, and 
Ghibellina in 1290 ; Hospitals : San Gallo 1218, Santa Maria 
Nuova 1267 and San Bartolommeo 1295. The City Walls 
were rebuilt and extended 1285-1299, and the Stinche Prison 
was erected in 1260. 

The fourteenth century, so far as architecture was concerned, 
was notable for the completion and decoration of many noble 
edifices. Sculptors in stone, wood, and metal, mosaic-masters, 
workers in terra-cotta, and fresco painters were all hard at work 
under the auspices of the Guild. It was the epoch of the 
greatest workers of the Fine Arts. Even the humblest labourer 
felt the influence of their personalities, and the meanest 
work was marked by boldness and elegance combined. The 
very tools they used were ornamented with decorative 

The Foundation-masters too had their work cut out in the 
laying out of the city in fine squares, and well paved streets, 
and the removal of unsightly and incommodious premises. The 
Piazze: di' San Giovanni 1300, della Santa Maria Novella 
1302, della Signoria 1307; and the Loggie : del Bigallo 
1330, de 1 Lanzi 1334, della Zecca Mint 1361, and Mercato 



Nuovo 1362, were some of the principal undertakings of the 
" Masters in Stone and Wood." 

Other Operai Masters of Works took in hand the interior 
decoration of Churches, Palaces, Guild-Residences and the private 
homes of wealthy citizens. Splendidly designed and decorated 
wooden ceilings were a marked feature. That in the Biblioteca 
Laurenziana, by Tasso and Carola shows what manner of arti- 
ficers the Masters of wood-carving were. The favourite style 
was what we call " King Post," concealed by panelling. Rood- 
screens and Shrines, the work of Donatello and Brunellesco, are 
to be seen in Santa Croce. 

The fifteenth century was famous for the construction of 
superb Palaces, which wealthy families erected in noble rivalry. 
Never were the Master-builders and their workmen busier. 
Florence resounded with the significant music of the trowel, the 
chisel, the hammer, and the plane. Bulky scaffoldings trans- 
formed the whole city into a huge woodyard, but there arose 
edifices artistic and grandiose, which will for all time command 
admiration and emulation. 

The Palazzi Antinori, Borgherini, Guadagni, Guicciardini, Nic- 
colini, Panciatichi, Pandolfini, Pitti, Pecori-Geraldi, Rucellai, Serris- 
tori, Torrigiani, Uguccione, and many another followed in quick 
succession. In 1430 the Palazzo Riccardi was completed for the 
Medici. The old Palazzi Strozzi, Albizzi, Pazzi and Buondel- 
monti had been burnt to the ground by the Ciompi in 1378, 
and now phoenix-like new structures took their place. The 
protection of the city edifices, the erection of lordly villas in the 
Contado, and the dedication of country shrines, all called for the 
skilful labours of architect and sculptors. 

An examination of these masterpieces of a century's domestic 
architecture reveals at once the striking fact, that every character- 
istic of the Florentine race has been preserved and perpetuated 
in stone and wood and metal. Solidity, boldness, and dignity, 
are joined to elegance, simplicity, and reserve, and the product 
is a special style, somewhat inappropriately called " Rustic." 


g I 


The sixteenth century has been called the period of the 
" Late Renaissance," rather should we designate it as the 
" Finished Renaissance." Florence was built up, her architecture 
was complete. She was adorned by statues and carvings in 
stone, wood, and metal, and little more required to be done in 
the decoration of the fair city. 

There remained only the placing of the cap-stone of her 
architecture, the finishing touch of her sculpture, the removal of 
her scaffolds, and the unveiling of her latest art treasures. These 
duties were undertaken by the most commanding personality of 
the century Michael Angelo Buonarroti. The son of a city 
magnate, born amid the attributes of wealth and culture, he, a 
motherless child, was brought up by a simple mason's wife at 
Settignano. He was thus in himself the representative of all 
the noblest traits of citizenship. 

The models of Buonarroti's life's work were the well pro- 
portioned virile figures of his daily companions, hence his ideals 
realised in architecture, sculpture, and painting the highest aspira- 
tions of the Masters of all times. 

During the siege of Florence by Clement VII., in 1529, 
Buonarroti was appointed Commissary-General of the Forces of 
the Republic. He gathered round him the " Masters of Wood and 
Stone," and with their assistance threw up earthworks and walls of 
defence which were quite remarkable for their correct and scientific 

The century was marked by a rage for wax-modelling. 
Every man with artistic tastes set up to be a Ceraiuolo Wax- 
worker. No class took to the art with more earnestness than the 
" Masters of Stone and Wood." Apprentices were instructed 
and encouraged in its pursuit, and in a very short time quite a 
school of artists had arisen, who displayed their skill in por- 
traiture and other fine work. One of the most famous modeller- 
portraitists was Orsino, who made many wax casts of the features 
of Lorenzo de' Medici il Magnifico. 

The cutting of gems and cameos became a specialty of the 


Florentine sculptors in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries. Among the better-known engravers of gems may be 
placed Giovanni and Bernardino Peruzzi 1300-1379, Giovanni 
delle Corniole, with his portrait of Savonarola 1494, Pietro 
da Pescia, the friend of Michael Angelo 1513, and Domenico 
da Pola 1527. These were all matriculated members of the 
" Guild of Masters of Stone and Wood." 

Florentines set themselves the agreeable tasks of entering into 
the labours of their ancestors, and of taking full enjoyment out of 
the glories of their environment. The Medici were past masters 
in the art of entertaining, and open square and narrow street 
revelled in the daily pageants. The magnificent buildings and the 
noble bridges were the boast of the citizens, for had not their 
fathers made them, and were they not their custodians ! 

To give a mere list of the members of the " Guild of Masters of 
Stone and Wood," who have made their names, their Guild, and 
their City famous, and to compile a bare catalogue of their 
achievements, would be a work of supererogation, seeing that for 
their memorial, one has only, as in St Paul's Cathedral, with 
respect to Sir Christopher Wren, " to look around ! " 

Nevertheless, the following Masters, along with those already 
named, gave character and life to their centuries : Jacopo della 
Quercia, Benedetto da Maiano, Mino da Fiesole, Desiderio da 
Settignano, II Cronaca, Baccio d'Agnolo, Baccio Bandinelli with 
the Della Robbia, the Rossellini, the Sansovini, the Pollaiuoli, the 
Ammannati, and the San Gallo or Giamberti. 

Leon Battista Alberti, 1405-1472, stands out as a great 
figure architect, sculptor, painter, mechanician, etc. His " De Re 
sEdificatoria " was the first systematic treatise on Art since the 
days of Vitruvius ; and his ten books on Architecture, Sculpture, 
and Painting, rank as classics. 

Lorenzo Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia, and Donatello, were 
"the three brightest stars of the Renaissance," and Leonardo da 
Vinci, Raphael Santi, and Michael Angelo Buonarroti were " the 
School of the World ! " 


All Europe felt the force of these vigorous craftsmen. 
The Emperor's Court attracted numbers of Florentine Masters ; 
whilst, in Paris, Francis I. welcomed with royal honours 
Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini, Primaticcio and other 
members of the Guild. 1 

, Artistic settlements of Italians, chiefly from Florence, were 
scattered all over England, especially about Winchester and 
Southampton. Their members did work of all kinds in stone, 
bronze, wood, leather, etc., in many public buildings and private 
dwellings. The exhibition of their skill was a tremendous 
revelation and a mighty incentive to native craftsmen. 

Piero Torrigiano came in 1513, and, with the help of his 
Schola at Westminster, he erected the glorious shrine of Henry VII. 
and Queen Eleanor a perfect example of the art of the 
Florentine Renaissance. It is said the Master paid his assistants 
in the Abbey at the rate of three gold florins a month each for the 
first year, and forty ducats with bed and board and horse-hire 
each following year. 

Antonio di Lorenzo, Toto della Nunziata, Benedetto da 
Rovezzano, Giovanni da Maiano, Pietro Baldi, Giovanni Utricci, 
with "the famous engravers Ruccieri and Ambrogio" were all 
greatly encouraged by Henry VIII. and Cardinal Wolsey, and 
employed at Windsor, Oxford and Hampton Court. 2 

The wooden screens and stalls in King's College Chapel, 
Cambridge, were sculptured by Florentine Masters of Wood. The 
Tuscan " Rustic " style became the foster-mother of a native school 
of architects and carvers ; and very many country mansions still 
exist to indicate how those skilful guildsmen prepared the way 
for what we call the " Elizabethan style." 

" Those beasts the English," as Torrigiano called our 
ancestors of his day, were, in spite of his spleen, among the 
most appreciative patrons of the Florentine Arts and Crafts. When 
Elizabeth visited Greenwich in 1583, Roger Manners writing to 

1 M. Vasari, iv. 262, note. 

2 J. A. Gotch, "Architecture of the Renaissance," vol. I. xxii. 


the Earl of Rutland, says : " She was never in any place better 
pleased, and sure the house, garden, and walks may compare with 
any delicate place in Italy." l 

The decline in the fortunes and enterprise of the Guild may 
be traced to the appointment, in 1434, of Brunellesco, after his 
deliverance from prison, as chief architect to all the public build- 
ings in Florence. This action proved to be something of a death- 
blow to the great Masonic Guild. Its influence remained, but its 
organisation was broken up into separate corporations. The great 
Laborerum was shut up, and the Scholce dwindled to very moderate 

Lorenzo de' Medici tried hard to revive the work of the Guild 
by opening and endowing munificently a School of Sculpture in 
his garden at Villa Larga, and it certainly had a measure of 
success. Anyhow to this Schola is due the collection of, and pre- 
servation of, all the finest models and examples of wellnigh three 
centuries of splendid achievements of "Masters of Stone and Wood."" 

It appears to be necessary to say a few words upon the 
subject of Pottery and to account for the silence of authorities 
upon the existence of a Corporation or Guild of Potters. 2 

The Potter's art was of course as familiar to Florentines as 
any other. It was the custom on many poderi in the Contado^ 
early and late, not only to make utensils for ordinary domestic 
and business purpose, but also to fashion figures out of the 
> tenacious subsoil of the Arno valley. Some of the latter were 
of ambitious, dimensions and were finished in colours in the city 
workshops. Among modellers in terra-cotta were Bicci di 
Lorenzo (1373-1452) and the Delia Robbia (1430-1529). 
All these men were artists and were members of the " Guild 
of Workers of Stone and Wood." Hence the higher styles of 
Pottery were regarded as the province of sculptors, whilst the 

1 Historical MSS., Report 12, app. iv. p. 150. 

2 See p. 12, note 2, and pp. 254, 255. 




more homely output of the Potters'-wheel was classed among 
articles for consignment to the apothecaries' and corn-chandlers' 

There was, perhaps, no scope for a separate Corporation 
solely composed of workers in clay and glaze. Besides this 
the best descriptions of earthenware were of foreign origin, for 
example, the finest pottery was made from the opaque white 
clay of Siena commonly called " St John's Earth." 

On the other hand the first artificial porcelain known to have 
been made in Europe was produced in Florence about the year 
1580 under the patronage of Francesco de' Medici, the second 
Grand Duke of Tuscany, who died in 1587. It was composed 
of soft or hybrid paste unlike that required for hard crockery. 
The manufactory was in the Boboli Gardens, but only continued 
for a few years. The usual trade-mark, stamped in blue, was 
the Dome of the Duomo, with the letter " F " below. 


A. Retail Cloth-dealers. 

B. Linen-Manufacturers. 

The history of the two branches of this Guild, the twelfth 
in order in the Hierarchy of the Guilds, is not a little difficult 
to disentangle from confusion and disparity of notice in the 
Archives of Florence. 

The earliest notices of the various trades and callings in- 
cluded within the operations of the Guild are apparently as 
follows : 

" 1032. Casa Florentii Sarti Shop of a Tailor." 

" 1084. Bonus, fil. Johannis, baro Hawker." 

" 1191. Martinus, pignolajno Maker of fine linen." 

" 1 2 1 1 . Ristoro, fil. Fieri buorsajo Pouch-maker." 

" Albizi di Fferrare, pezzaio di Lung* Arno Ragseller." 

Indeed the " Guild of Retail Dealers " seems to have grown 


out of the fact that very many minor Crafts, somewhat similar 
in character, gradually formed themselves into a union, upon 
the usual Florentine co-operative principle, for mutual benefit 
and defence. 

The " Guild of Linen Manufacturers " one would have thought 
would have had precedence alongside the Guilds of the kindred 
industries of wool and silk, but, for some reason or other, quite 
impossible of solution, the growers of flax and the makers of 
linen had to put up with an inferior role. 

A. LArte de' Rigattieri 

This Guild had a most comprehensive character, and included 
in its membership retail-traders of almost every kind. In old 
Florence there was always a goodly number of men who were 
not exactly " Idlers " but who, having matriculated probably into 
their father's Guild, had not entered heartily into its industries. 
Some of them were doubtless men of want of application, but 
many felt that they could do better than by remaining in the 
orthodox ranks of their family avocation. 

The constant increase of commerce, with the inflow of attractive 
objects and the creation of fresh wants, introduced new interests 
and opened out new pursuits. The Sensali, or agents of the 
Greater Guilds, in their travels, took note of novelties, and 
learned foreign customs, which their keen eye to business taught 
them might be profitably transported to Florence. 

Then again, it was seen that the activities of the Greater 
Guilds were of a wholesale character, and that the employers of 
labour had neither place nor opportunity for the sale of small 
quantities. Gradually, therefore, shops were opened, whereat 
citizens and passing visitors might purchase articles, useful and 
ornamental, in retail. The buyers of remnants of silk tissue and 
of woollen and linen cloth, at the workshops, saw a margin of 
profit on sales of such things in the open market. The doffings, 
cuttings, and waste of materials had their values, and old clothes 
' and rags, with cuttings of fur and hide became negotiable assets. 


Buyers too went about purchasing the woven and knitted work 
of industrious housewives. 

Very many objects exposed for sale by the Apothecaries 
appeared to fall under the category of " Odds and Ends," hence, 
a certain number of traders came into market daily as pedlars or 

In some of these avocations, for example, silk and cloth 
remnants, articles of clothing, strips of leather, etc. etc. a goodly 
fortune might be amassed. Sons of merchants and merchants 
too themselves entered largely into these new lines of trade, and 
the estimation in which such dealers were held grew, until the 
necessity of union for the mutual defence of common interests was 

Conditions of life and occupation in old Florence were 
surprisingly like those which rule our time. Men made fortunes 
" round the corner," and in all sorts of unwonted ways, and out of 
all kinds of unexpected sources. The knowing how and what to 
buy was an initial desideratum for every salesman, whether he 
were an opulent " Calimala " merchant, or an indigent hawker 
of haberdashery. 

The " Arte de* Rigattieri" the Guild of Retail-Dealers was 
first incorporated in 1266, and received its banner charged half 
red, half white. With it was incorporated the "Arte de' Linaiuoli" 
" the Guild of Linen Drapers." 

At the same date the place of the Guild in the order of 
precedence, was fixed immediately after the " Masters of Stone 
and Wood," or twelfth in rank ; and consequently, when the Five 
Intermediate Guilds were called into conference with the Greater 
Guilds, the " A rte de' Rigattieri " was always included. This dis- 
tinction of position however was rather depreciated by the fact 
that the Retail-Dealers were regarded as a " Sandwich " Guild, 
and a link with the Nine Lesser Guilds. 

The Consuls of the Guild are named as voting in 1293 
among the Consuls of the twelve Greater Guilds. Statutes of 
" LArte de' Rigattieri delta Magnifica Citta di Firenze" to give 


the Guild its full official and courtly title, were drafted in 1295, 
and were amended and adopted in the following year. 1 

The Codex Membranaceo? under date March 1295, has two 
manuscripts, numbered respectively " No. i " and " No. 1 9." The 
former contains the Statutes, etc., of the Rigattieri, Linaiuoli, 
Sarti) and Venditori di panne ', and begins with the dedication : 
" In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This 
is made and composed in honour of Almighty God, of the Virgin 
and St. John the Baptist, by the men who are Consuls and 
Rectors of the ' Arte deF Ementium ' (Remnant-dealers?), vendors 
of cloth, and vendors of fur linings." 

The manuscript is well written, as are most of the records of 
the period, but the language employed that also common to all 
is a mixture of base Latin with many abbreviations and local 
colloquialities, almost, if not quite, undecipherable. 

The earlier sections of the manuscript deal, as usual, with the 
Statutes and rules for the election of Consuls and other Guild 
officers. One rubric deals with apprentices convicted of theft, 
who were visited by a fine of twenty-five gold florins and the 
cancelling of their indentures. 

Several rubrics prescribe observances at the burial of 
members such as the burning of ceremonial candles in the 
chamber of death, the display of banners, with arms of the Guild 
and of the family, at the doors of the deceased's house, etc. 

Sarti tailors are specially named in the manuscript. They 
are not to make or use stuff mixed with Struppa (stoppa) fine 
hemp or tow, and Bambix (bambagia) coarse cotton, such as was 
used for lamp wicks. In short, " Sartia mzsta" mixtures, of 
every sort were forbidden. 

The second manuscript is the document dealing with, and 
settling, the purchase of a house it is entitled " Compra de resi- 
denza de Rigattieri" etc. ; but it goes on to name the Linaiuoli^ 
the flax weavers, as the actual owners of the property on behalf of 

1 " Le Consulte," iii. 396. * Archivio di Firenze. 



the united trades of " Rigattieri, Venditori di panj-linj, Linaiuolj e 

The signatures at the end of the Code of Statutes are crosses, 
more or less ornamental, with the names of the Consuls written 
underneath in a different hand quite suggestive of the inability 
of these Magnificos to append their own signatures ! 


<c Mark "of a Consul of " The Guild of 
Retail or Second- Hand Dealers " 


" Mark '' of a Consul of" The Guild of 
Retail or Second- Hand Dealers " 

These Statutes of the Guild were revised in 1317 and further 
additions were made in 1323 and in 1326. At the revision of 
the Statutes in 1415, the following rubrics, among many others, 
were enacted with respect to the Guild. 

Any one selling woollen cloth or Sargia d'Irlanda, Irish 
frieze, was required to use not only the Canna measure of the 
" Calimala" but also the Passetto, yard measure of the Market. 
This regulation was rendered necessary by reason of the custom 


of selling fine cloth when fully stretched. Breaches of this rule 
laid the offenders under a penalty of one hundred lire! 

The Retail-dealers were not allowed to sell Zendado the 
richest silk taffeta, or Imbacciacinato highly-raised brocade, to 
any of the Popolo Minuto. The fine for infraction was fifty lire, 
which was accompanied by the withdrawal of the selling license of 
the dealer, and the confiscation of the illicit merchandise. 2 

Retail-dealers, called frequently members of the " Arte de' 
Boldagiori"-wert allowed to sell woollen cloths of the following 
descriptions Romagniuolo Roman wove, Bigello frieze, Burello 
coarse cloth, Cremonense Cremona wove, Pignolati fine linen, 
and all other kinds except redressed foreign cloths, whether manipu- 
lated in Florence, Milan or elsewhere. They were forbidden to sell 
pouches stamped or decorated, caps, belts, fine silk scarves, veils 
and any sort of stuff of greater weight than one pound. Small 
metal basins, mortars, pieces of ivory and other small articles were 
to be sold at so much the pound weight. 3 

With the Retail-dealers and Linen-drapers were generally 
classed Pennaiuoli stationers, Copertolari coverlet-sellers, 
Farsettori doublet-makers, and Coltellinai cutlers, together with 
Dealers in raw flax, hemp, canvas, and string nets. Their shops 
were not to be opened before the ringing of the bell for matins, 
and had to be shut before the stroke of four in the afternoon. 4 

All tailors were directly under the jurisdiction of the Ufficiali 
delta Grascia, the Surveyors of Markets and Trades, who care- 
fully inspected and noted the quantities and qualities of cloth- 
woollen and linen which they had in their shops. Not only so 
but the price which they were permitted to charge for each 
garment they made was fixed, and upon each value a certain tax 
was levied by the State. For example a Roba, robe of red fine 
cloth, paid five lire ; a Cottardita, tunic of blue cloth, three lire\ 
a gammurra, petticoat with stitching in front and buttonholes 
behind, two lire, five soldi ; a Guarnello, a fustian gown for a 

1 Statuti C. e P. Florentiae, 1415, Rub. xliii. 2 Rub. xliv., 1415. 

3 Rub. xlv., 1415. 4 Rub. xcix., 1415. 


woman open at the front, one lira, fifteen soldi ; a Giubba, jerkin 
with folds or tucks, four lire, five soldi ; a Villano, cloth cloak 
with a turn-down collar or hood, one lira ; a Tagliatura, a pair 
of trousers made of cloth, seven soldi ; a Gonnella, a pair of 
trousers made of thin linen and lined, one lira, fifteen soldi, and 
so on. 1 

No tailor was allowed to put in pawn woollen or linen cloth, 
or cloth of mixed wool and flax, whether cut or uncut, or any 
garment, finished or unfinished, or anything pertaining to the 
Craft. Fines of twenty-five lire, and above, were inflicted, 
not only upon the spendthrift tailor, but upon any person who 
accepted the pledge. 2 

Fraudulent and fugitive tradesmen were of course found in 
connection with all the Guilds, but possibly the " Arte de* 
Rigattieri" furnished the largest proportion of such unfortunate 
persons. When such a man fell on evil days, he not only suffered 
himself, but the partners in his business and his family also were 
declared delinquent, and mulcted in penalties. A case in point is 
recorded in the Archives under date January 17, 1330, when the 
partners of a merchant and artificer in the trade of the " Guild of 
Second-hand Dealers," for the sale of old remnants of woollen 
cloth and of linen cloth, belonging to the popoli of Santa Cecilia, 
who had become bankrupt, are declared outlaws. 3 

The Retail-dealers were allowed to keep in stock, and sell the 
following descriptions of goods : 4 

Panni Milanese e Bresciano . Milanese and Brescia cloths. 
Bigelli Romagniuoli . . . Roman friezes, plain and 


Giubboni e Farsetti . . . Doublets and under vests. 
Coltre e Coltroni . . . Coverlets and quilts. 
Panni lini-tinti . . . Cloths with coloured threads. 

Berrette e Cappelli . . . Caps and hats. 
Calze, Calzini e Calzone . . Stockings, socks, and drawers. 

1 Rub. Ixxii., 1415. 2 Rub. Ixxii., 1415. 

3 Archivio del Stato Fiorentino, "della Riforma." 4 Cantini x., p. 66. 


Feltri e Baracani . . . Felt cloaks and capes. 
Tappeti e Celoni . . . Table cloths and striped tester- 


Sargie ..... Coarse serges for men's gar- 
Spalliere ..... Tapestry hangings, and chair 


Ciambellotti e Mocaiardi . . Camlets and hair-cloths. 
Dobbletti ..... Stuffs with cotton and flax 


Saie e Rense . . . . Light serges and cambrics, 
and many other kinds of woollen materials. 

It was permitted also to deal in all kinds of silken goods and 
in sewing silks. Ivy-berries for the red dye called grana, 
dried kermes, whence the crimson dye chermisi was derived, gold 
and silver in cakes, powder, flake, and leaf. Pearls and jewellery of 
all kinds, veils, thin capes, and fichus, every sort of gilt leather and 
tinsel work, were also exposed for sale. Many other objects, far 
too numerous to mention, but still each with the special permission 
of the Council of State, and under the direction of the Consuls 
and officials of the Guild, were allowed to be sold by the Rigattieri. 

B. L'Arte de Linaiuoli 

J Linen is probably the oldest manufactured material for 
domestic use in existence. Thousands of years ago the art of 
weaving linen cloth was known and practised in India, Egypt and 
Greece. Linen was known too to the peoples of the Stone age 
and to the Lake dwellers. The Romans held flax in high esteem 
for personal clothing. 

Apuleius, the wise old monk of the fifth century, says 
sententiously : " Wool, the excretion of a sluggish body taken from 
a sheep, was deemed a profane attire even in the times of Orpheus 
and Pythagoras ; but flax that cleanest production of the field, 
is rightly used for the inmost clothing of man." 


Every monastery on the plains of Italy had its flax patch, and 
the monks encouraged the peasants around them to cultivate the 
useful little plant, with its thin verdant blade and delicate blue 
flower. The Religious, further, engaged themselves everywhere in 
the manufacture of linen-thread and cloth, and gave instruction to 
their neighbours in the mysteries of the craft. 

^Sacristies of churches became treasuries of fine linen, for, by 
Canon Law, this material was exclusively prescribed in the ritual 
of the Mass and for other functions. 

^ From the point, too, of domestic economy, linen was known 
to be practically indestructible, consequently noble and peasant 
alike had in it the most durable material for ordinary uses. 

The cultivation of flax was very general in the Vale of Arno 
all through the period of the Renaissance. In extent it vied with 
that of the vine and the olive, but it far exceeded both in the 
intelligence and labour demanded by its cultivators. Special 
methods of tillage, manuring, sowing, and harvesting, were in 
operation which have remained until to-day. 1 

* The four processes of harvest were as follows : I . Pulling 
The plant being in boll and browned was pulled up by the roots 
never cut ; 2. Rippling the bolls were removed on the field by 
a combing-frame with iron teeth. Two men were engaged 
together one gathered up the seeds, the other the stalks ; 
3. Retting two kinds, water and dew. In the first, pure water 
from the Arno was used, without any addition of lime or iron. 
The stalks of the flax were laid flat in bundles, in hollowed out 
dams or pits, four feet in depth. On the top of the last layer a 
cover of fresh cut rushes was laid, over which were placed heavy 
stones. Fermentation quickly set in when the fibre and the stalk 
became separated the sheath falling away. The dew Retting 
required that the bundles of flax should be opened and spread 
upon close growing grass, without any protection from sun, wind, 
and rain, and in full contact with air and dew. This was, of course, 
a tedious process, and only resorted to by the less enterprising 
1 Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Flax," 1900. 


harvesters ; 4. Scutching the fibre of the flax was separated by 
hand from the wood or stalk, and then passed between grooved 
wooden or iron rollers, which required very careful adjustment to 
avoid, on the one hand, matted skeins, or lumps, and on the other, 
the too complete crushing of the flax, which resulted in a breakage 
of fibre and the production of lint. Flax thus treated was ready to 
be placed upon the market. In the fourteenth century the average 
price for one hundred pounds weight of raw flax was five gold florins. 1 

The first mention of the " Guild of Linen-Manufacturers " seems 
to be in 1236, when the "Arte de* Linaiuoli" was placed sixteenth 
in the Hierarchy of the Guilds. Probably it was the offspring 
of a humble association of flax growers and linen-thread spinners. 

An early notice of the linen industry is found in the Florentine 
Archives of the same year 1236 when Guido, Abbot of 
Coltibuono, received from lacopo son of Bellioto dei Albertischi a 
loan of one hundred and fifty lire, for the payment of a debt due 
to Buonosegno Malcristiano, who had sold the crops, which fed 
the Abbot's household, and which furnished flax for their clothing. 

At the reformation of the Guild Statutes in 1266, the name 
of the Guild does not appear: but the " Arte de' Rigattieri" is 
scheduled. Again in the revision of 1280-1282 the "Arte de* 
Regattieri" figures but no "Arte de' Linaiuoli'' 

There is a record in the Florentine State Archives of the year 
1 294 of a Company of four merchants trading in lino flax, accia 
hemp, stoppa oakum, capecchi flocks, and every sort of material 
for the manufacture of linen, and in all things pertaining to the trade. 
This firm had one warehouse in the house of the Cipriani family 
of the popolo of San Pietro Bonconsiglio, another in the house of 
Petracchio de' Cipriani and his partners of tt\t popolo of Sant' 
Andrea, and a third in the house of the Admidei of the popolo of 
San Stefani. Each partner in the business contributed one 
hundred and fifty lire to the capital the senior member of the 
firm bore the name of Matteo di Beliotto. 2 

1 Peruzzi, Albert! Accounts, p. 367. 

2 Davidssohn, " Geschichte von Florenz," p. 49. 


At the General Revision of the Statutes of all the Guilds 
1301-1309 there was still no mention of the old "Arte de' 
Linaiuoli" \ but in 1340 there appeared a body of regulations and 
laws for the " Guild of Linen-Manufacturers." These, which were 
based upon the common model of the Statutes of the " Calimala 
Guild," were accepted unanimously by the workers in flax. 

Between I 340 and 1350, the Guild was exceedingly flourishing, 
and the manufacturers of linen shared in the general prosperity of 
the city to such an extent, that negotiations were set on foot for 
inclusion amongst the Greater Guilds. 

The Consuls and the Council of the Guild undertook a search- 
ing revision of the Statutes of the Guild. The result of their 
labours was a disappointment for the ambitious aims of the 
members, for they were denied admittance among the Seven Great 
Guilds, and had to be content with union with the twelfth guild 
in order, that of the "Arte di Rigattieri" 

All the same the Linaiuoli retained the right to elect their 
own officers, without restriction of any kind, and to put forth 
bye-laws for the observance of the members, irrespective of their 
articles of association with the " Guild of Retail-Dealers." 

Matriculation into the Guild was conducted upon the same 
terms as in the Greater Guilds so far as men were concerned ; 
but, unlike them, women were admitted to full privileges and duties. 
The fees upon matriculation were, for candidates residing in the 
city, twenty-eight lire : for those living in the Contado, fourteen 

The officers, in 1342 and onwards, included two Consuls, one 
Chancellor and two Provveditori Managers. Two leading agri- 
culturist members were appointed Veditori delle Coltrici Inspectors 
of the flax-beds. They not only inspected the seed, the soil, and 
the labour, but also made agreements with the Custom -House 
officials with respect to the Dogana duties payable by growers. 
They delivered written agreements to the landed proprietors and 
to the peasants which were endorsed by the custodians of the Gates 
of the city. These documents dealt with the weights and condition 


of the bundles of cut flax. In busy years when the area under 
cultivation was extended, assistant Veditori were elected. 1 

The Staff of the Guild was further augmented by the appoint- 
ment of six Misuratori, Surveyors of Weights and Measures, 
at the flax-grounds, at the Gates, and in the Market : they were 
generally chosen from the smaller manufacturers of linen. Stima- 
tori, -Valuers, generally two in number, were elected to examine 
the peasants' pledges, as the rightful growers of the flax cut for 
sale, to appraise the value of the beaten flax, and, in disputes 
about the quality of the linen-cloth, to decide its value. The 
officials of the Guild also included four Donzelli Porters, who were 
specially employed at the Residence and Office of the Consuls. 

As in the case of the sister industries the growers of flax and 
the manufacturers of linen suffered from the existence and intrusion 
of Sensali or Middle-men. These agents, as we might call them, 
or brokers received the reports of the Stimatori, and fixed the 
actual sale-prices of raw beaten flax and of spun thread and 
woven linen whether of native or of foreign origin. They were 
bound by the articles of their admission, as Sensali, to render copies 
of such values each month to the Consuls for their official approval. 

No flax-worker was permitted to purchase the raw produce 
direct from the grower, but only through six senior Sensali 
appointed by the Consuls sales of linen came under a similar 
regulation. Breaches of these bye-laws were visited severely 
fines were enforced of from one lire twenty-five piccioli for a first 
offence, to one hundred lire in an aggravated case. 

The Sensali appear to have been unusually tenacious of their 
rights and of their fees ; and Provvisioni^ and Bandi provisions 
and cautions were constantly enacted for or against their 
interests. Every piece of linen-cloth woven in Florence required 
the official stamp of the Guild, and a bullettino or label had to be 
attached, marked with the length, width, quality, and any special 
points. Imported pieces required also the seal of the Custom- 
House authorities, and only cloth so marked was permitted to be 

1 Cantini, viii. 286, etc. 


sold. Any Retail-dealer, or salesman, offering other cloth pieces or 
linen-thread, became liable to fines ranging from five lire upwards 
according to the gravity or craftiness of his offence. 

Localities where the manufacture might be carried on, and 
where stalls or shops for the sale of linen-cloth and thread might 
be opened, were fixed by the Consuls. The neighbourhood of the 
church of San Lorenzo and the Via dei Servi were particularly 
set apart for the prosecution of the linen industry. Public sales 
were held, in the Market, each Wednesday and Saturday. 

In the fifteenth century fustian cotton-cloth was used for 
church chasubles. The Cistercian Order of Monks were forbidden 
to wear any other kind. Fustian was also generally in vogue for 
doublets and jackets for laymen. 

In the process of manufacture in Florence, the spindle, upon 
which the thread spun from the distaff, or rack, was run, was 
usually about twelve inches in length. After the application of 
the bobbin, a whorl of stone, or glazed terra-cotta, was fixed upon 
the top of the spindle to give steadiness in the rotatory movement. 
These whorls were often enough the handiwork of artistic 
persons, indeed such great masters as the Delia Robbia did not 
disdain to mould, paint and glaze them beautifully for such of their 
lady friends as desired to make their spinning-wheels ornamental. 
Very many such objects are to be found in all art collections, but 
unknowingly they have been labelled " Terra-Cotta Beads " ! 

Graceful kindred industries also sprang up, and women of 
leisure, as well as ordinary workers in linen-thread, took up the art 
of Lace-making. In this very soon the nuns were acknowledged 
as proficient teachers. Their work was known in the Market as 
"punto tagliato " " cut point," because bits of the linen base were 
cut out, and the holes worked with needle and thread. Flax- 
thread and silk-tissue were generally used for ordinary laces, but a 
very delicate fibre, that of the aloe, and withal strong, was pre- 
ferred for the finest work. This aloe thread is used to-day for 
sewing the well-known Florentine show plaits together. 

Agnolo Firenzuola in his " Elegia sopra uno Collaretto " in I 520 


speaks much of " scolpi" carved in relief really highly raised 
point-lace, which was not only woven, or handmade upon cushions, 
but was further subjected to the points of fine scissors, and cut to 
add to its sculpturesque appearance. 

Catherine de' Medici, when she entered Paris as a bride, intro- 
duced Florentine point, which became a perfect rage at the French 
court. A sister of Francis I., in 1545, purchased " soixante aulnes 
fine dantelle de Florence? and Madame Elizabeth de France, upon 
her marriage with Philip II., in 1559, added to her trousseau , 
" passements et de bisette en fil blanc de Florence'' 

At the great upheaval of society in 1378 caused by the 
Rising of the Ciompi, very many groups of aspiring craftsmen came 
to the front. In the Second Operative Guild, established under 
Michael Lando's auspices, an Arte, or Associazione de' Linaiuoli 
"Association of Flax Weavers" took an active part under the 
common banner of " Giustizia" These people doubtless were only 
workers in flax and linen, not merchants or manufacturers. This 
organisation was a further proof of the importance of the industry, 
and of the prosperity of the " Guild of Linen-Manufacturers." 

The Residence of the Consuls and the General Offices of the 
two United Guilds was in the large Casa d' Anzio in the Piazza de 
Sant' Andrea at the corner of the Mercato Vecchio. In 1387 
the foundation stone of a fine new building was laid, and the 
edifice, when completed, became the headquarters of the " Arte 
e Universita de Rigattieri, e Linaiuoli, e Sarti"- as was then 
the title, with armorial escutcheons above the principal door. 
The arms were very simple, just a shield divided longitudinally 
into two halves, red and white. The Audience Hall was one of 
the most noble in the city, and was full of marble statuary, wood- 
carvings, and polychromatic decorative painting by rising artists. 
A Guild record of 1466 is preserved which says the Residence 
" is splendidly adorned with every artistic treasure." 

The shops of Guild members, and their private rooms also, 
were remarkable for their elegance and rich decoration. The 
wealth of the Guild was further attested by the commission 




confided to Donatello in 1411, and to Fra Giovanni Angelico in 
1433, for the enrichment of Or San Michele. 

At the last general reform of the Guilds, in 1415, the union 
of the two Guilds was still effective although the name of the 
Linaiuoli did not appear. This arrangement and nomenclature 
"Arte de' Rigattieri" continued until the year 1534. 

During all these strenuous years the flax industry of Florence 
had made remarkable progress, keeping well abreast of the general 
development and prosperity. Quite late however in the industrial 
history of the City of Merchants, the Linen-Manufacturers came, 
in a sense, to their own. At the end of the last-named year, under 
the rule of the Medici, there blossomed forth the " Universita de' 
Linaiuoli " " the University of Linen-drapers," and the Guild, 
which had for three hundred years hidden its name, now came 
to the front and dominated a union of Lesser Guilds : the 
Vinattieri Wine-merchants, Albergatori Innkeepers, the Sarti 
Tailors, and its senior in the long partnership the Rigattieri. 

The Guild continued to flourish until 1537, when the new 
order of things, introduced by the Medici, greatly altered and 
modified the character of the industry of Florence. Facilities and 
monopolies were created and abolished, at almost one and the same 
time. The march of new ideas, and the introduction of new 
methods, sounded the death-knell of the old shopkeepers. One 
by one their shutters went up, and Guild-life was extinct. 

Stemma del? Arte de Rigaiiieri" 
Half white, half red 




I. WINE-MERCHANTS. The famous red wine of Tuscany. Cultivation 
of the vine. Early barterings. Pergolas. First wine-seller, 1070. Growers 
and consumers. First tavern-keeper, 1189. Rectors in 1291. Two casks of 
wine only : Red White. Measures. Drinking-shops limited. Wine-presses. 
Utensils duly stamped. Wine-merchants not to sell food. Time limits. 
Wooden casks. Famous members of the Guild. Sir Richard Dallington's 
observations. Sorts of Grapes. Processes. The Vintage. Favourite wines. 

II. INN-KEEPERS. Hostels and Inns indispensable. Reception of em- 
bassies. Commercial travellers, etc. Albergatori Maggiori. First Innkeeper,. 
121 1. Distinction between taverns and inns. Early Roll of Matriculation. 
Camere Locande taxed. Dogana. Triennial tenure of premises. Monopoly 
of foreign wines. The Canto degli Speziali. Sign a bottle of wine. Rules 
affecting lodgers. Supply of food. Pack-mules. Games. Ancient inns and 
hostelries. Cooks and cooking. Supper clubs. Sandro Botticelli, Andrea 
del Sarto, and Giovanni Boccaccio good fellows. La Cena Florentine 
Costly Banquets. Boiled peacocks and roasted cranes. Cook's fees. 

III. TANNERS. Natural elements : Animals, oaks, marsh-mallows. The 
father of Florentine tanners. Filii Galigai. Guild expenses. Precedence. 
Various allied Crafts. Relations with other leather Guilds : Shoemakers, 
Skinners, etc. Capitudo. Agents and their duties. Rules and regulations* 
No secret work allowed. No tanning within the city bounds. A tanner's out- 
fit. Methods of the trade. Arno douches. Test of dryness. Parchment- 
making. Cartolari. Bookbinding. Tomasso Maioli. Boiled leather work 
Cuoio lesso for armour. Block-stamping. 


" / T A USCANY is pre-eminently fitted for agriculture" was an 

-* old and trite saying ; so, also in a special sense, were her 

soil and climate suited for the cultivation of the Vine. The 

undulating character of the ground, with its rolling uplands, 



averaging four hundred feet or so above the sea, is that most 
desirable for the perfection of the grape. 

The red wine of Tuscany is the most generous and the most 
famous of all the vine products of the world, and, when it is 
added that the neighbourhood of Florence yields more than one- 
half of all this rich vintage, the importance to her of the vine will 
be at once apparent. 

The cultivation of this invaluable plant in primitive times was 
very uncertain. Whilst cereal crops may be raised with little 
difficulty amid scenes of political unrest and combats of con- 
tending forces of armed men, fruits of all sorts require periods of 
tranquillity and fixture of tenure to come to maturity. 

Such was the condition of affairs in Tuscany all through the 
Middle Ages. The vine however was indigenous in the Vale of 
Arno and grew wild up the hill sides. Men, as they trudged 
along upon warlike expeditions, or on peaceful errands, plucked 
the luscious bunches to quench their thirst. If only a short re- 
spite was afforded, during the ripening of the fruit, its expression 
filled the ample skins and bulky gourds of the wayfarers with 
crude but refreshing wine. 

When times became more settled, and the peasantry were left 
with some measure of freedom, one here and another there turned 
his attention to the wild vine, which threw its trailing branches 
across his land and over his habitation. The labourer who 
digged and dunged, pruned and watered, tasted with zest the 
rich fruit of his toil. 

Owners and landlords were quick to see the possibilities of this 
harvest, and encouraged their farm servants in its development ; 
indeed, some of these worthies, with instincts keen for commercial 
enterprises, took in hand a thorough system of cultivation with 
the view to profitable sales. The law of Mezzaria, "going 
halves," was observed in the matter of grape-culture the first 
half going to the land-owner, the second to the labourer-farmer. 

The year's produce in early days, doubtless rejoiced the 
hearts of the owners and producers, first of all, and what was 


to spare, they bartered or sold immediately to their neighbours 
or their friends in the city or elsewhere. A commerce so 
primitive in its inception speedily developed as harvest followed 
harvest, and vine growers' gains bulked larger in their year's 
accounts as they added to their vineyard occupations the business 
of wine-merchants in the city. 

The methods adopted in the thirteenth century or even 
earlier, were almost exactly those which prevail to-day generally. 
Where the vine grew there it remained. With the least amount 
of labour the plants were trained up growing tree stems, and 
where these were absent Testucchi^ testers or wooden supports, 
were fixed under the weighty branches. These were of two 
kinds espaliers or lengths of trellis work, and single posts stuck 
up at certain distances apart. 

In the vineyards of the richer proprietors the Testucchi gave 
way to substantial stone or brick pillars, to which the name 
of Pergole was given. In either case the plant was allowed to 
grow as it willed, forming a distinctive and characteristic note 
of beauty in the landscape. It was encouraged too to yield 
as many bunches of grapes as possible ; the art of lopping or 
close pruning being unknown to the Tuscan vinegrowers. 

The situation and the aspect of the vineyard excited a 
mighty influence upon the yield both in quality and quantity. 
On the hill terraces, which were made with infinite care and 
patience, the grapes produced a drier and more alcoholic wine 
than on the lowlands. A Southern aspect made for a sweeter 
and richer vintage. 

At first probably the people in the Mercato Vecchio brought 
in and sold their vintages along with their other country pro- 
duce. There sprang up gradually the custom of separating wine 
from the market commodities, and the opening of shops speci- 
ally concerned in its sale. Each important landowner found 
this a convenient way of dealing with his proportion of the 
year's yield, and either he occupied a wine-shop himself, or 
appointed some friend or other to open one. In this way no 


doubt the business of wine-merchant came into existence. The 
first record of such an individual in the Archives of the city is as 
follows : " 1 070 Paganus, qui vocalur vinadro "- Wine-seller. 

Whether this good man had what we call a license, who 
can say, but apparently he sold only beverages in his little wine- 
shop : and we must regard him for want of earlier records 
as the father of Florentine Wine-merchants. Paganus had 
many followers, whose names figure in the Archives, but at 
the end of the twelfth century there is a novel entry: " 1189 
Marcellus tabernarius " Tavern-keeper. This worthy 
citizen, unlike his neighbour of the wine-shop, sold both food 
and drink. He was an important personage in the estimation 
of his fellows, and for want of a scion of earlier pedigree 
must be held as the first eating-house keeper in Florentine 

Thus by the end of the twelfth century there were two distinct 
classes of sellers of wine alike dependent upon the produce of the 
vintage. The year 1211 however reveals a third class by an 
entry in the Archives: " Servodeo osste" Host or landlord 
the first recorded parent of the Innkeeper proper. 

Not much can be gathered from the Statutes, which have 
been spared destruction, of the exact Constitution of the Guild. 
The first mention of Officers is in a petition which the Rettori 
presented on April 3rd, 1291, at the Council of State, seeking 
the refunding of a sum of money due to the Guild as a rebate 
of a tax lately paid. 1 

Certainly the Guild followed the example of the other 
Guilds and adopted, early in the fourteenth century, many of 
the Statutes enacted for the "Calimala " Guild, at the same time 
adding such rubrics of a special character, as were necessary 
for the efficiency of the Guild, and for the well-being of its 
members. In the years 1339 and 1341 alterations and additions 
were made in the Statutes, and a Register of Matriculation, 
down to the year 1335, has been preserved. 

1 "Le Consulte," ii. 177. 


One of the earlier enactments was to the effect that Wine- 
merchants were forbidden to have broached at the same time 
more than two casks of wine in their vaults or cellars for retail 
use. The casks had a fixed capacity, and were ordered to hold, 
one red, and the other, white wine. Wine in quantities was 
usually sold by the barrel or cask. Two casks made up the 
burden of a pack-horse or mule. The highest liquid measure 
in Florence was called Cogno and was equal to ten casks. 

The general revision of Guild Statutes in 1415 contained 
rubrics enacted for the benefit of "the Guild of Wine-Mer- 
chants," and many of these are interesting. 

The porch of San Giovanni Battista was a favourite lounging- 
place for the poorer sort of people and for beggars. Wine- 
merchants were strictly forbidden to sell wine and other beverages 
therein or within a distance of fifty yards. 1 

Wine-merchants were not allowed to have vine-pits or presses 
within the city bounds nor vats for unfermented grape juice. 
They were not permitted to treat grapes or wine-mash with water 
or other liquids, anywhere where smell or waste would cause a 
nuisance. 2 

Every utensil, jug, and measure, required to be stamped with 
the arms of the city, and to bear upon it the quantity it held, 
whether Terzeruola quart, Metreta pint or Mezzetta gill. 
Failure to observe this rubric led to a fine of one hundred 

Wine-shops were forbidden to take in travellers, and to sell 
beverages to be drunk on the premises. They were not to 
supply bread, wine, meat, cooked fish, or any other comestible. 
Sellers of wine were not allowed to stand opposite the Palace of 
the Priors, and the House of the Captain of the People, nor 
within a distance of two hundred arm's-lengths. No wine-shop 
was permitted in the neighbourhood of the Monastery of San 
Giovanni Evangelista. 3 

No private person who sold wine to the poorer people was 

i Rub. Ixxxv., 1415. 2 Rub. Ixxxvi., 1415. 3 Rub. xc., 1415. 






allowed to provide food also, whether in the city or in the Con- 
tado, either in a retail wine-shop or in his own house. Any one 
selling wine to citizens after the final stroke of the Compline 
bell incurred a penalty of one hundred lire. The sale of pro- 
visions was forbidden also within fifty arm's - lengths of any 
wine-shop or wine-cellar. 1 

Wine-merchants and tavern-keepers were not allowed to have 
on the front of their premises bushes or signs, either of laurel, 
olive, or of any other tree. 2 Wines both new and old were 
ordered to be transported in wooden barrels. Each barrel required 
the official seal of the Podesta. 3 

No victualler was permitted to make or to buy unfermented 
wine or crude wines fortified with spirit during the time of vintage 
and up to the feast of All Saints, under a penalty of ten lire ; 
and no wine merchant or innkeeper could sell such beverages to 
the public before that festival. 4 

From the Registers of Matriculation of 1335 and 1415 may 
be learnt how that the following families of Wine-merchants, 
among many others, gave their sons to the membership of the 
guild : Albizzi, Ricasoli, Strozzi, and Guicciardini, of Florence 
proper, Niccolini, of Carmignano, Pucci, of Siena and also of 
Val d'Elsa, Salviati, of Pisa, Toscanelli, of Pontedera, Cocconi, 
of Montepulciano, and Caspelli, of Pontascieve. These names 
are interesting, not only in themselves, but as indicative of the 
wide diffusion of the members of the Guild. They were in truth 
landed gentry, who owned many acres of vineyards and olive 
orchards, and who engaged in the profitable and agreeable trade 
of Wine-merchants at the same time. 

In the first List of Guilds, in 1236, we find vinadro, taber- 
narius, osste, all merged in the " A rte de' Vinattieri " " The 
Guild of Wine-Merchants." This association continued for fifty 
years, for the nomenclature of the Guild remained the same in 

1 Rub. xci., 1415. 2 Rub. cclxiv., 1415. 

a Rub. cclxxi., 1415. 4 Rub. clxxxiii., I4I5- 


that important year of reform, 1266, and the Guild was 
reckoned the thirteenth in order in both lists. 

Under the year 1267 there is a curious entry in the Archives, 
which indicates a sort of fusion of the Guilds of Bakers, Wine- 
Merchants, and Innkeepers. For some purpose, not distinctly 
stated, " Ciprianus Pane, son of Vincente, a Tavern-keeper of 
the sestiere of St Pancrazio, late Rector of the said Guilds, was 
appointed Syndic by the votes of twenty-three members of the 
Guilds, and in the name of the absent members, to negotiate a 
loan of forty-two pounds from Giovanni Alboni Bilicozi of the 
sestiere of Oltrarno. 1 

The first cleavage in the constitution of the " Guild of Wine- 
Merchants " took place in the year 1282, when the Order of the 
twenty-one Guilds was re-arranged. In the List of Guilds 
the thirteenth place was still occupied by the " Arte de'Vinattieri" 
but the fourteenth was occupied by a perfectly new Corporation with 
the title "Arte degli Albergatori Magg iori "- " Guild of the 
Greater Innkeepers." Probably the sale of victuals was proved to 
be inconvenient in the wine-shops, or possibly the influx of strangers 
required to be dealt with on a larger and more enterprising scale. 

The order of 1282 was maintained at all the subsequent 
revisions of the Statutes until 1539, when in the fourth University 
established by the Grand Duke Cosimo I. were included the 
" Guilds of Retail-Drapers and Linen-Manufacturers," " Wine- 
Merchants," and " Innkeepers," under the style of " Universita 
e Arte de* Linaiuoli" 

The Residence of the Consuls of the Guild was next the 
side-door of the Church of San Stefano, in Via de' Lamberteschi. 
Over the entrance was, as usual, stuck up a shield with the Guild 
arms : a blue cup in a white field ; and the same badge 
figured upon the Gonfalon confided to the Guild Standard- 
bearer in 1266. 

Sir Richard Dallington, that most worthy traveller and most 
interesting historian, records many matters dealing with the 

1 Archivio Fiorentino, SS. Annunziata. 

j X 




cultivation of the vine. He says that " Grapes were, in the 
sixteenth century, a very important item in the dietary of the 
Tuscan country people. In August and September they eat 
their grapes, with the leaves they feed their oxen and dung the 
land, upon the pips their pigeons feed, and even the strippings of 
the plant they riddle out and sell at twenty soldi the staio. The 
Vine-dressers used to hang up the bunches of grapes in the Palco, 
or roof, of their dwellings, and keep them to eat in Lent." 

" There are divers sorts of grapes, the names of such as I 
remember are these : Uva Canaiuola, good either to eate or for 
wine ; Passerina, a small grape, whereof sparrows feed, good 
only for wine ; Trebbiana, the best sort of white grapes for wine, 
whereof they make them Vino Trebbiano ; Zibibbo, dryed for 
Lent ; Moscatella, with a taste like muske, not for wine but to 
eate ; Uva Grossa, not to eate nor for wine, but a few of these 
put among a great vessell of wine, giveth it a colour, for which 
it only serveth ; San Columbana and Riinaldesca, a very delicate 
grape, either for wine or to eate ; Lugliola, which hath his name 
of the month of July, wherein it is ripe, better to eate than for 
wine ; lastly, Cerisiana, named for the taste it hath like a cherry, 
better for wine than to eate." * 

So far as may be gathered from scattered notices in many 
authorities the gathering of the vintage was very much the same in 
Tuscany, in the Renaissance, as it is to-day. On the first day the 
peasants of the estate, and hired labourers from the city, accompanied 
the Vine-growers, with shears and baskets, into the vineyards. 

White grapes were picked first, and left to dry in the sun 
for some weeks, until the juice began to drop from them. This 
was the Vino Santo the favourite white wine of honour, and that 
prescribed for use in the Mass. 

The best black grapes were cut and left to ferment by 
themselves, whilst those of inferior quality were cast into big 
wooden vats. When full the vats were drawn by white oxen 
to the vat-house, where, twice a day, for a week, bare-legged 

1 Sir R. Dallington, "Survey," p. 32. 


lads and lassies stamped and danced, upon the fruit, to their 
hearts' content. The first draughts of this expressed juice, which 
had of course been fermenting all the time, were poured over the 
richer black clusters placed carefully in the winepress, whilst the 
rest of the mixture, called " il Primo Vino" was the beverage of 
the well-to-do citizens. Second and third qualities were also 
produced the latter by the addition of water whence its name 
" il Mezzo Vino " the drink of the common people. The wine- 
press was of wood strongly though clumsily constructed, with a 
big wooden screw and flat wooden slabs. 

The Florentines of old were a pleasure-loving race despite the 
many serious traits in their character. Nothing pleased them 
more than to sit in the wine-shops after their meals, and there to 
sing and dance, to wager and to drink, to their hearts' content ; 
but, like sensible men, they knew when they had had enough ! 

The wines most in demand at these jovial scenes were Ver- 
naccia, Leatico^ Trebbiano^ and Vino Santo. They were all sweet 
and aromatic, and of a rich and flashing golden colour, yet not 
too potent to interfere with the full enjoyment and exhilaration 
of their votaries. 

To this list must be added the sweet wines of Montecalcino^ 
Pescianico, and Verdea^ named by many writers. Carmignano^ 
Pomino, and Chianti were alike celebrated, the latter grown on 
the sides of the rocky hills around Siena, both red and astringent, 
and white and luscious. The wine of Artimino had the character 
of the claret of to-day, whilst Montepulciano, by far the most 
famous, combined luscious flavour, with aromatic sharpness and 
a remarkably brilliant purple colour. The finest blend of Tuscan 
wine was that which has been held in the highest estimation for 
more than four hundred years, namely: 7/io Sangiogheto grapes, 
2/10 Canaiuolo and i/io Malvasia or Trebbiano. 

The amount average of wine consumed per annum in Florence 
in the middle of the fourteenth century was upwards of fifty-five 
thousand cogni measures containing each ten barrels. In years 
of public rejoicings the total attained to sixty-five thousand cogni. 


And wine was cheap in those days. Mazzei 1 says that he 
had " heard of an entire vineyard offered for sale at sixty gold 
florins ! " The wine served to the Priors during their tenure of 
office cost only thirty gold florins (l$) t a sum marking the 
moderation of their Magnificences ! 

The extraordinary love of the Florentines for fixing and re- 
gulating quantities, qualities, weights, bulks, prices, etc., descended 
to the merest trifles. Nothing which could in any way be called 
a marketable commodity was forgotten. The common cheap 
drink of the peasantry, clover juice, was free in the Contado 
but taxed in the city. 2 

The value of the Vine industry and the wealth of the Wine- 
merchants were attested in a curious way in the year 1435. 
During the Patronal Festival of San Giovanni Battista of the 
previous year, the immense canvas and silk awnings, which had 
been from early days provided by the " Guild of Calimala " to cover 
over the Piazza di' San Giovanni, were almost completely de- 
stroyed by fire. To assist the " Calimala " merchants to bear the 
heavy expense of restoration, a decree of the Council of State 
was passed on April I4th, 1435, placing, for a space of three 
years, a tax on all wines sold in barrels in the Piazza del Vino. 
From each year's gross yield fifty- two gold florins were to be 
deducted by way of compliment to Messere Bino de' Pecori, Prior 
of the Monastery of San Piero Scheraggio, and twenty-nine gold 
florins in payment to the collector of the tax. 


No symptom of the fame and prosperity of Florence as the 
Mother of Commerce was more pronounced and characteristic than 
the inauguration and incorporation of a Guild of " Innkeepers." 

The mere hamlet needs no guest house, and the village is 
satisfied with a modest house of call, but the rising town requires 

1 Mazzei, i. 158, 395. 2 Perrens' " Histoire de Florence," vi. 492. 


to lodge the visitors who wish to spend some time within her 
walls. This was the condition of affairs created in Florence in con- 
sequence of the enterprise of her travelling agents and merchants. 
Wherever they went trade routes opened, and along their course, 
hostelries sprang up to meet the needs of passers-by. 

Reflexive action was imperative in Florence herself for the 
reception and entertainment of man and beast in the form of 
foreign traders and their equipages. Embassies from other States 
and cities began to visit the home of industry, intent quite as 
much upon commercial aims as upon political achievements. 

The origin of the " Guild of Innkeepers " is not difficult to 
trace ; its actual incorporation, and its inclusion in the Hierarchy 
of the Guilds of Florence, took place in the year 1282. Its style 
was " Arte degli Albergatori Maggiori " "The Guild of Greater 
Innkeepers," and this is significant. 

The first record, of an Innkeeper, in the Archives of Florence, 
which has been preserved, appears under the date 121 1, when one 
Servodeo osste^ Host, or Innkeeper, is named. He was prob- 
ably a superior and prosperous sort of tabernarius, tavern-keeper, 
-who opened his house specially to such visitors as came to 
reside for some days at least in the city, and as we say, " catered 
for a better class of custom." 

Up to the year 1282, as has been related in the history of 
the " Guild of Wine Merchants," Wine Shops for the sale of 
beverages only, and Taverns for the supply of food and drink 
sufficed for the needs of the city. They continued to minister to 
the wants of ordinary strangers, and of citizens of the lower and 
lower middle classes, whilst the landlords of the more pretentious 
and roomy Inns set up for a class apart from their former fellow 

Antonio Miscomini in the "Giuoccho delle Scacchi" has given a 
woodcut of the Quene's Alphyns' or Judge's Paune in the person of 
an Innkeeper of the fifteenth century. " For it is a man," as 
William Caxton printed in his translation of 1481, "that hath 
the right hande strached oute as for to calle men, and holdeth in 



his lyfte hande a loof of brede and a cuppe of wyn, and on his 
gurdelle hangythe a bondell of keyes and this resembleth the 
Taverners, Hostelers and sellars of vitaylle . . . and it apperteyneth 
to them for to seke and enquyre for good wyns and good vitaylle 
for to gyve and selle -to the byers. It appertyneth to them to 
kepe their herberowes and innes and all the thynges that they 


brynge in to theyr loggyuge and for to putte hyt in seure and 
sauf warde and kepynge, ben represented by the keyes hangynge 
on ye gurdell. . . ." 

Little can be gathered from the Statutes of the Guild of any 
special features in the constitution. The Statutes of 1266, so 
far as they related to the section of the " Guild of Wine-Merchants," 
to which Innkeepers belonged, were approved in 1282. The 
general revision of the Statutes of the Guilds in 1301-1309, and 
the additions of 1324 and 1327, made little alteration in the 

2 A 


status or economy of the Guild. Revisions were also undertaken 
in 1334, 1338, 1357, 1415, 1440, and 1529. There is also in 
existence a Roll of Matriculations of the year 1353, but most of 
the documents relating to the origin, and containing the constitu- 
tions, were destroyed during the Rising of the Ciompi in 1378. 
From the sources at command we are able to gather some 
interesting facts, and to obtain some definite knowledge of the 
working of the Guild. 

It appears that Innkeepers were rather hardly dealt with in 
the matter of taking out what we call licenses. The tax levied 
by the State upon the Camere Locande lodgings for strangers 
as the Inns were sometimes called, was pretty heavy. As many 
as forty, fifty, and even eighty gold florins were extracted every 
third year, at which period all Innkeepers were compelled to appear 
before the officials of the Dogana to render up their accounts. 1 

Triennial tenure seems to have been the usual custom, and 
any man might bid for any particular Inn, and might even outbid 
the occupier, who, in such an event, was compelled to vacate his 
house. This auction, for such it was, was marked by a quaint 
custom, the lighting of a candle, and, only whilst it lasted, was 
it lawful to bid. 

Whereas the sale of native wines was restricted to the shops 
of the Wine-merchants, and to the houses of the Tavern-keepers, 
Innkeepers were allowed a monoply in the import of foreign 
wines, both for immediate consumption and for storage. 

Strangers visiting Florence, and seeking accommodation, were 
instructed, by the officials at the gates, to apply at the Offices 
of the Guild, at the Canto, or corner of the Via de' Speziali. 
Certain Inns were set apart for the reception of foreigners, and 
others, for natives of Tuscany, living outside the city boundaries. 
All these hostelries were directed to advertise their willingness to 
take in visitors by exposing, in some doorway or window, a bottle 
of wine. 

By one of the 1357 Statutes no Innkeeper was allowed to 

1 "Sir R. Dallington," "A Survey, etc.," p. 50. 



(4) THK Ciril.n 


exhibit, inside or out, any other public sign than that of the 
Guild arms ; and none were permitted this privilege who had not 
paid all Guild dues, State taxes, and any fines, which had been, 
from time to time, incurred. 

Innkeepers were expressly warned not to admit on any 
pretext men and women of evil fame. There were also strict rules 
affecting the food and drink supplied by landlords to their guests, 
for example : No host, innkeeper, cook or any one else was allowed 
to cook in his house, hostelry, or kitchen, liver, sausages, kidneys, 
and sweet-breads, nor to offer such for sale. 1 

Innkeepers were strictly warned not to sell wine or potables 
of any kind to the poorer people. They were in no way to do a 
rival trade to that of Wine- merchants. They might sell beverages 
to guests and persons in their houses, but not to outsiders. All 
wines required the stamp of the Custom-house. 2 

With respect to the housing of pack mules and horses, no 
stables were permitted immediately under the windows of rooms 
occupied by visitors. Certain streets and localities were set apart 
for the purpose, for example, the Via Lontanmorte had ranges of 
stables for baggage animals, and sheds for the deposit of loads. 
The affluence of visitors became so great that in 1290, only eight 
years after the incorporation of the Guild, there were as many as 
eighty-six Innkeepers and retail Wine-merchants in Florence and 
the Contado. 

Games of chance were forbidden in Inns, Taverns and 
Hostelries within the city and the Contado, as they were in all 
places, within three hundred braccia of any public thoroughfare. 

The Residence of the Consuls of the " Arte degli Albergatori 
Maggiori" was situated in the Palazzo Lamberti Simonetti, in 
Via de' Cavalieri, and opposite the Palazzo de' Pilli. The front 
was finely carved in hard stone. The architrave had four shields 
with arms, among them the escutcheon of the Guild, a red star on 
a silver field. Within, in the Council-chamber, was a finely 
painted ceiling of the fifteenth century, borne upon marble 

1 Rub. ccxxii., 1415. 2 Rub. xcii., 1415. 


pilasters inlaid with mosaic. Very many relics of this fine 
building are preserved in the National Museum in Florence. 

Among the ancient Inns which were destroyed in 1878 in the 
clearing away of the Mercato Vecchio and its neighbourhood, were 
the following : 

" del Cammello," near Porta Rosa, formerly the Palazzo 


" della Corona," Via del Proconsolo, in the house of the 
Buonafi family. In 1427 it was held by Ambrogio di 
Giovanni, called " Romanello " from his affectation of 
Roman manners and dishes. 

" del Guanto," Via di San Romeo. This Inn was a fore* 

gathering place for the workers in kid and fine leathers. 

" della Marciana," at the corner of Via dell' Arciveccordo, in 

a house belonging to the Pecori family. 

" del Moro," Via Vacchereccia, the property of the Fantoni 
family, and a famous lounge for the superior silk- 
workers the Setaiuoli Grossi. 

" dell' Ossa," Via del Piazza, belonging to the Bizzini family. 
" del Re," Piazza de' Macci, the property of the Macci, and 

later, of the Garliani families. 
" di San Luigi," corner of Via alia Paglia, appertaining to 

the Marignolli family. 

The families named here were all members of the " Guild of 
Innkeepers," their houses were registered in the Guild books, and 
they received periodical visits of inspection from the Guild officials. 
In Via de' Speziali were four much frequented hostelries : 
" del Giglio," " del Cervo," " della Rondina," and " del Falcone." 
Near San Martino stood the popular hostelry of " delle Bertucche," 
the Baboons, so called from the fancy of its worthy hosts for 
the rare and curious animals brought to Florence by her merchants 
and their agents in foreign parts. It was too a favourite centre for 
the Cerretani, conjurers, whose command of racy dialect and 
tasty expletive was unlimited. 



A peep into any of these Inns, and into the Eating-houses, 
which abounded in and near the Old Market, revealed not only a 
curious array of cleanest dishes and plates and brightest pots and 
pans, but discovered a great wooden and iron wheel revolving 
over a steady fire. Upon its spokes and tyre hissed fowls and 
ducks, pheasants and partridges, thrushes and larks, wild duck 
and pigeons, and many another feathered favourite. Stuffed well 


with soft bread-crumbs, bits of fat pork and sage leaves, they gave 
forth, as they went round, the most grateful of odours, and caused 
many a watering mouth to anticipate the pleasures of the feast. 

In frying-pans Polenta, is frying in oil, Migliaccio, chestnut 
and millet pudding, is turning a rich golden brown, and Fritto 
mistO) that mystic agglomeration of tasty bits and toothsome 
scraps, is scenting the air. 

Risoto con regalia perhaps Englished by " Hash " using up 
odds and ends of chickens' livers, cocks' combs, oyster bones and 


the like delicious trifles, ever a favourite with all classes, offers- 
irresistible attractions ! 

Yes, there was good eating to be had for the paying, almost 
anywhere in the Mercato Vecchio, although the grimy-looking 
basements and dark cavernous chambers were not quite inviting. 
If you would, you might sniff the grateful incense of stuffed 
boar's-head, and well-larded venison as you passed the open 

Supper clubs were always the rage in old Florence and none 
maintained their popularity with greater brilliancy than the 
" Societa delle Cene poetiche " " the Poetical Supper Society." 
Associates of the Club observed two primary rules : I . The Bill 
of Fare was a nightly competition in smart poetic quips ; 2. Each 
member, in turn, was responsible for the ordering of the supper. 
The convivial meetings of this club were held at Fico's Osteria 
or Tavern in the Mercato Vecchio. The ground landlord was of 
the family of Adimari, who also owned another well-known 
Inn in the Old Market, which went by the name of "del 
Porco " perhaps " Wild-boar " and which was worthy of its 
designation by reason of the excellence of its Risoto and the 
cunning delicacy of its Salame. No Osteria had anything like so- 
numerous a clientele of artists and young bloods. And no 
habitue was more jovial and more brilliant than Sandro Botticelli, 
the leader of a merry crew of artists and good fellows. 

The window-sills of Fico's, and the doorway used to be 
decorated with dishag of Fritti, fried meats, and small birds on 
spits. Inside were large open fires for grilling and frizzling. 
Salame and figs usually did duty as hors-d'ceuvre. The favourite 
fish was Tzncke, from the marshes, fried in oil with rosemary 
leaves, but Arnotti, a river fish, served in vinegar, ran it very 
close for first honours. 

Thrushes, when in season, stuffed with sage and bread, were 
always very acceptable ; but Beccafichi, fig-pickers, stuffed with 
mushrooms and toast, was quite the most popular " bird." 

The wine most in demand at Fico's was Malvasia, hence the 


Tavern was also known as " Osteria della Malvasia." A great 
specialty was Macciana or Maccheroni crisp macaroons, which 
went very well with the favourite beverage. 

Andrea del Sarto, "Andrea senza errore" as his title runs, 
had another side to his character. He belonged to the cele- 
brated artists' club called, " Societa del Calderai" " Society 
of the Cauldrons," whose members excelled in modelling in wax 
and chiselling in stone, comestibles of every sort and kind after 
the -manner of a modern Italian chefs highly decorative sugar con- 
fectionery ! 

" La Cena Fiorentma" " The Florence Supper," became a 
proverb, so vastly grew the fame of her cooks and the joviality 
of her guests. In 1388 no cuisine in all Italy was anything like 
so famous, for not only did her dinners and her suppers surpass 
all others, but her delicious confitures and her tasty snacks 
between meals, washed down with delicate and luscious wine, both 
red and white, recalled the historic days of the Greek epicures. 

Nothing pleased the successful members of the Guilds more 
than to sit in their Loggie giving on the Market, or on the 
streets, and invite their friends to join them in discussing light 
refreshments for the admiration of the passers-by. For more 
substantial repasts the custom was to adjourn to some well- 
known Inn, and then to feast upon the good things served up 
by the worthy landlord. 

By 1472 a rage for costly banquets had set in, both public 
and private. These functions were marked by extravagance and 
luxury before which the notable entertainments of the noble and 
wealthy Romans almost paled. Arrayed in richest garments, 
and adorned with precious stones and gold, the magnates of 
the city reclined upon softest silk and fur. Waited upon by 
small armies of gaily liveried attendants, both white and coloured, 
each great man vied with his neighbour in the magnificence of 
his hospitalities, and the literary and poetic culture of his guests. 

Such festivities culminated in the public Festivals of Christ- 
mas, Easter, Pentecost, and the Patronal Feast of San Giovanni 


Battista. Each Guild had its Commemoration with its pro- 
cession, its games, its music, and its banquets. Rich men too 
were wont to show off their wealth by ostentatious entertainment 
of their poorer brethren. These celebrations were usually held 
in connection with Marriage-feasts, and the like, and were 
undertaken by some well-known Innkeeper, whose cook was 
famed for his culinary skill. 

A goose baked in the oven, and stuffed with garlic and 
quince, was an exquisite dish in the days of Francesco Sacchetti. 1 
The same racy author relates that, at a supper given by the Gon- 
faloniere, in his Palace, to a celebrated physician, the first dish 
brought to table was a calf s belly, followed by boiled partridges 
and stewed sardines. Chichibio, cook to the Gianfigliazzi family, 
according to Boccaccio, served his master with a roasted crane. 2 
Leeks were ordered as a special dish by the Constitutions of the 
Chapter of San Lorenzo, when the Canons were in residence. 
Sweet tarts were served with the roast and counted as a single 
dish. Saffron was an ordinary condiment both in soup and 
other dishes. As an appetiser Liverwort was eaten first. 3 Soup 
was flavoured with marjoram and other herbs. Kid was served 
boiled in white wine. On great occasions boiled peacock, with 
the feathers on, was displayed but not eaten, and wine and fruit 
jellies coloured and moulded into shapes was a dish of honour. 4 

The salaries, or fees, payable to cooks varied with the occa- 
sion which demanded their services. For a banquet at the 
Investiture of Knighthood two gold florins ; for a Wedding- 
breakfast one gold florin ; for a repast of twelve covers twenty 
to thirty soldi y and so on. 5 


The history and practice of Tanning and Currying leather 
marches hand in hand with the records of the " Skinners and 

1 F. Sacchetti, "Nov." 185. * Boccaccio, "Nov." 8. 

3 L'Osservatore Florentine, vol. vi. p. 108. 4 Firenzuola, "Nov." 8. 

5 Rub. ccxvi., 1415. 


Furriers." The mediaeval wearing of skins and furs, both by 
warring robbers from the north, and by peaceful inhabitants of 
Tuscan lands, called forth early enterprise to render such primitive 
coverings strong and durable. 

Together with prolific animal life wild and tame there 
flourished on the hillsides great groves of lordly oaks, whilst in 
the marshy lands, and by the river sedges, grew patches of the 
humble mallow. Oak-bark and the ruddy robbia furnished, ready 
to hand, the basis of tanning and of dyeing. It needed but the 
awakening intelligences of the dwellers by the banks of Arno, 
and on the Fiesolan hills, to co-apply these natural riches in the 
production of the very useful and the very profitable leather 

In the absence of earlier records, we must hail one, Paganuccio^ 
who under date 1098, is called in the Archives of the State, 
" Galligario " " Tanner," as the father of the Leather workers 
of Florence, and this appears to be the first mention of the 

In the Roll of the Guilds of the year 1236, the " Arte dei 
Cuoiai e Caltgai" " Leather-dressers and Tanners," is placed 
eleventh, and consequently fourth in the order of the Lesser 
Guilds. In a Latin document, dated August 9th, 1245, mention 
is made of a Society of Tanners under the designation of " Filii 

The Archives of Florence record a meeting held on December 
iith, 1276, in the church of SS. Apostoli, at which forty-two 
tanners were present all inhabitants of \h&popoli of SS. Apostoli. 
The business transacted was the nomination, by the Rettori, 
Rectors, of a Syndic, " who shall take up a loan on behalf of 
the Guild, in order to pay the tax levied that year upon the 
members of the Guild, and also to meet the general expenses of 
the Guild." The latter included salaries of officials, hire of pre- 
mises for Guild purposes, river freight-dues, and various other 
items. Provision was also made, at the same meeting, for the 
" rent of the Residence of the Rectors, or Consuls, and of certain 


workshops and a leather warehouse." At the same time agree- 
ments were come to, whereby members of the Guild might purchase 
materials required in the exercise of their industry, at two per 
cent, discount off retail prices. 

The revision of the Title and Statutes of the Guilds in 1282 
considerably altered the former, and confirmed the latter. The 
style " Cuoiai e Caligai" disappears, and instead we have "L'Arte 
dei Galigai Grossi" "The Guild of Master-Tanners." The 
Guild moreover is now placed sixteenth in the order of pre- 
cedence. Why this degradation was accomplished no one can 
say, possibly the increasing prosperity of the city affected more 
favourably the " Masters of Stone and Wood," " the Retail Cloth- 
Drapers and Haberdashers," "the Wine-Merchants," "the Inn- 
keepers " and " the Salt- Merchants or General Provision Dealers," 
all five Guilds being scheduled before the Tanners. 

In the fourteenth century no alteration in the position of the 
Guild was effected. A minor Corporation, probably affiliated to 
the " Arte de' Galigai" came into existence in 1327, called 
" Compagnia de Vaginari" Company of Scabbard-makers. Of 
the three operative Guilds, formed at the Rising of the Ciompi, in 
1378, the third was made up of "Sheep-shearers," " Patchers of 
Skins and Hides," and " Sandal-makers," in addition to other minor 
Crafts, all of which had relations with the " Guild of Tanners." 

The Order of the Guilds in 1415 raised the " Arte de Galigai" 
one step in precedence over the " Salt- Merchants," who henceforth 
were styled the "Arte degli Oliandoli" "Oil-merchants." At 
the final grouping of the Lesser Guilds, in the year 1534, when 
four " Universities " were created, the second of them included 
" Calzolai" " Galigai" and " Coreggiai" and bore the title of 
" Universita de' Maestri di Cuoiame " the " University of 
Masters of Leather." 

The " Tanners " doubtless had all along dealings with 
" Skinners and Furriers," " Shoemakers," and " Saddlers," but 
apparently no details have been preserved of such intercourse. 


From the scrappy references to the " Guild of Tanners," in the 
Archives of Florence, and in consequence of the wholesale destruc- 
tion of documents during the Ciompi riots, and other city tumults, 
very little information can be gathered of the Constitution of the 
Guild. Among the Archives, however, is a Roll of Matriculation for 
the year 1320, which gives little information beyond a record of 
names. That there were earlier codes and rolls than the above 
is obvious, but probably no complete set of Statutes was put out 
until after the General Revision of 1301-1309. 

The title of Consul was not bestowed upon the chief officer of 
the Guild until the fourteenth century, before which period he was 
merely called " Capitudo " or " Head." His Residence was in the 
Via delle Torre, near the Buondelmonti tower, where the armorial 
bearings of the Guild were carved, a white field divided by a 
broad red stripe, the same device appearing on the Guild gonfalon. 

The Sensali, agents, numbered four, and were practical and 
experienced workers in leather of every description. They were 
appointed by the Consuls and held office for a year. They fixed 
the price of skins, hides, leather in the rough, and also the rates 
for tanning, dressing, etc., and kept registers of all workpeople 
employed by the Guild. They received a percentage upon all 
imports of skins and hides, for each hundred pairs of skins and 
hides from India, Greece, England and Norway, seven lire, for 
each roll of leather dressed abroad one lire, and so on. The 
consignments were made to the Sensali, and by them distributed 
to the various tanners and dressers. 1 

No tanner, currier, or scrap-leather dealer, was allowed to offer 
for sale hides of oxen, cows, and other large animals, within the 
city and Contado unless they had been soaked in brine and cold 
water for eight months, or for at least three months in hot water. 
The fine for infraction was two hundred lire? 

All such persons were warned against currying hides with 
cinders or ash, or treating leather to any tanning mixture which 
would become a nuisance to the neighbourhood. Leather could 

1 Rub. Ixxv., 1415. 2 Rub. Ixxvi., 1415. 


not be sold in the market, or at the tanyards, which was not per- 
fectly dry, and well cured, and free from putrefaction, under risk 
of fines of not less than one hundred lire. 1 

Tanners and scrap-leather dealers were forbidden to burn the 
hoofs and horns of cattle, and the hard corns upon horse skins 
and cow hides for use in the process of currying. 2 

All workers in leather were forbidden to work in secret. 
Every tanyard and dresser's shop was inspected from time to time. 
Stringent regulations were in force dealing with offal and other 
unsavoury and insanitary matters. Cuttings and rubbish were 
ordered to be burnt or removed. The skinning of dead carcasses 
was not permitted within the city, and the limits were constantly 
enlarged wherein such prohibition held good, until, in the six- 
teenth century, no Beccai^ slaughterer-skinner, was allowed to 
exercise his calling within a radius of ten miles from the Palazzo 
Vecchio. 3 

The ordinary outfit of a " Tanner " and " Currier " cost the 
rather considerable sum of eighteen gold florins ; probably this 
sum included expenses incurred through the distance of the scene 
of operations. 

' The methods of the Florentine Tanners would seem to have 
been much as follows : The raw hides were first salted to check 
putrefaction, and limed in weak lime liquor and brought to a 
suitable condition for dishairing and fleshing, within somewhere 
about three months. Then they were placed between layers of 
coarsely ground oak bark in pits until full, when a thick topping 
of bark was put over them. No water or any other kind of liquid 
was allowed to get into the pits. These packs were taken up 
and reversed several times, fresh oak bark being introduced. 
This kind of tanning occupied somewhere about eighteen 

/ Oak-bark was the only tanning medium used in early days, 
and of it there was no limit in the supply. All around Florence 
were thick forests of oak trees, which not only provided the 

1 Rub. ccxxvii., 1415. 2 Rub. Ixxviii., 1415. 8 Cantini, xi. pp. 106, 107. 


u Galigai" with their material, but also fed the fires and furnaces 
of all the houses and workshops in the city and Contado. 

Quick-witted Tanners however disregarded the rule about 
the introduction of water, and, knowing the virtues of the Arno, 
they freely used douches, and were able to secure rapid absorption 
of tannin by the skins. 

The next process was " handling," in which the hides were 
transferred to larger pits, and then turned over every day in a 
liquid or ooze made of oak-bark. This process lasted five or six 
weeks. In later times robbia and other dyes in liquid form were 
introduced in the Tanning process, so as thoroughly to saturate 
the skins which it was wished to finish coloured or dyed. For the 
last manipulation the skins were hung over big wooden bars im- 
mersed in the tanning-dyeing medium. 

The drying process was the most difficult and uncertain, so 
far as the looked-for result was concerned. Too rapid action led 
to discoloration and cracking, whilst a slow method made for 
moulding and unevenness. The drying shed was a wooden 
building, provided with many openings at the sides, to admit of 
currents of air, but excluding the direct rays of the sun. 

The usual test of dryness was the holding of a mirror, or some 
other highly polished object, close to the hanging skin if moisture 
was condensed upon the bright surface the Tanner knew the piece 
was not ready, and vice versa. 

Foreign tanned and curried skins and hides were imported to 
make shoe-soles and sandals, but were treated, by the Florentine 
Tanners, with baths of brine and oak. Sometimes to get a 
quicker market they limited the period of re-soaking but thereby- 
incurred fines and penalties. 

j An important and profitable branch of the currying industry 
was the preparation of parchment. Up to 1209 its use for 
writing was confined to the Monasteries and to Notaries, but 
thenceforward the sale was thrown open to the public. Good 
sheets were usually rare and costly, but in Florence the same 
address which characterised her sons' skill in other industries was 


not wanting in the production of superior quality and in a 
sufficiency of supply. 

White parchment, smooth and nearly transparent, was best 
suited for fine penmanship, and it took the overlay of gold and 
silver better than skins which had been stained yellow or purple. 
Only the very finest quality of kid skin was used for this purpose, 
whilst other descriptions were rendered for more general and 
rougher purposes for example, the binding of books. 

The market prices were moderate, hence the number of 
Zibaldoni and other private diaries, as well as public records and 
business journals. The " Cartolai" or Stationers were a trade 
corporation affiliated to the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries " ; 
they retailed the produce of the parchment-makers, and always 
appear to have had a large stock on hand, from which they 
exported prepared skins to every European country. 

Bookbinding was an important section of the leather industry, 
but whether it was undertaken by the " Guild of Tanners " or by 
that of " Saddlers " or by an association of leather workers employed 
by the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries," or by all three 
separately, no one can say. Anyhow the skill possessed by the 
Florentine workers and stampers of leather could not have been 
turned to better account, and, from the first, Florentine books were 
turned out in peculiarly attractive forms. 

The most common bindings were of white smoothly dressed 
sheepskin and polished vellum, either perfectly plain or with orna- 
mental markings in black ink and gold. Tooling leather covers 
for books, that is to say the art of impressing small dies in 
a running or connecting pattern, undoubtedly originated in 
Florence. Rich skins, often enough with the fur retained and 
closely clipped, were used and associated with clamps of silver 
and copper. About the middle of the sixteenth century books 
were as an old rhymer has it : 

" Full goodly bound in leather coverture, 
Or of satin damask, or else of velvet pure." 

Tommaso Maioli, of Florence, was a famous book-collector, 


who stamped his treasures " // Maioli et Amicorum" His style 
of binding set the fashion of the day for delicacy and richness of 
material and workmanship. His favourite material was the finest 
white kid, with gold enrichments. His chaste manner however 
soon gave way to an almost embarrassing richness of decorative 
detail, so that Florentine books of the sixteenth century are 
remarkable for the variety and elaboration of their bindings. 
Wood, silver, ivory, parchment, enamelled plaques, papier-mache, 
embroidered textures, and every possible material, was put under 
contribution, and enrichments of pearls, precious stones, and gold- 
work were added. 

It would of course be quite impossible to describe at length 
the various uses to which the skilful Florentine Tanners put the 
leather they manipulated. They produced in short the whole of 
the base-material which formed the industries of such indispensable 
craftsmen as Shoemakers, Saddlers, Bookbinders, Shieldmakers, 
Wall-hangers, Chair-upholsterers, etc. etc. Painters, Modellers, 
Bas-relief workers, and many other artistic artificers looked to the 
Tanners for the substance upon which to place their beautiful 

Quite a speciality of the leather-workers' trade was the ren- 
dering of the hides of various animals, by repeated soakings and 
boilings in the tan pits, soft and malleable for mouldings. Cuoio- 
2esso } boiled leather, as it is called, was shaped by pressure, 
when damp, and then upon, and in, its surface were stamped and 
cut ornaments of all kinds, both in high and low relief, after the 
manner of wood-carving. This decorative process was called 
41 block stamping." 

Articles in leather so treated were usually stained black or 
rich dark madder-brown, and examples are to be found in every 
collection of Art Treasures, in the various shapes of: Bellows, 
book-backs, chair-backs and seats, writing-cases, picture-frames, 
door-panels, wall-friezes and hangings, pouches and bags, boxes of 
all kinds, etc. etc. Cuoio-lesso was employed in the thirteenth 
and fourteenth centuries by the fitters of suits of armour, as elbow, 



knee, and loin guards. Thanks to this fashion very many most 
valuable documents have been preserved in their ornamental 
leather cylindrical cases. 

The Guild continued its successful career far on into the 
sixteenth century; but, inasmuch as Francis I. of France and 
other royal patrons encouraged workmen to settle in their 
dominions, Florentine Tanners and Leather-dressers were amongst 
those who found homes in foreign lands, and, thus, uniting with 
native workers, carried on their industry, whilst in consequence 
Florence was the poorer. 

I. " Stemma deir Arte 
de 1 Vinattieri" 

Blue cup in a white 

2. * * Stemma delP Arte degli 
Albergatori " 

Gold star upon a silver 

3. Stemma delf Arte 
de* Galigai" 

A red stripe upon a 
white field 




I. OIL MERCHANTS. Tuscany an agricultural country. Land-tenure. 
Mezseria. " Share-and-share alike." The Mezzadro and his Podere. Sir 
Richard Dallington's comments upon the soil, etc. Farm labourers. Cattle. 
Crops. Sheep. Poultry. Silk-cocoons. Fruit. Vegetables. Fine physique 
of peasantry. Leonardo da Vinci's models. "David." Contadinc. Luca 
della Robbia's models. Happy people. Cantastorie. Cultivation of the olive. 
La Mosca olearia. Fattori. Sales of land. The Guild of Oil-merchants 
essentially the Guild of the country people. Many small dealers. Early sales- 
men. Importance of pork and salt. Biadaiuoli join the Guild. Shops in the 
Mercato Vecchio. Standard weights and measures. Limitations of sales. 
Unlicensed persons fined and imprisoned. Women beaten ! Sunday closing. 
No loiterers allowed. Perfect wholesomeness of comestibles. Fines. Risks 
from fire. Straw and fire-wood. Bargemen of the Arno. List of saleable 
articles at the shops. Cheese of Lucardo. Custom dues on imports. No 
goose ! Monopoly of salt. Italian warehousemen of to-day. 

II. SADDLERS. Horsemanship. Agnolo Pandolfini. Duke Federigo's 
broken nose ! // Cortigiano. Giostre Games. " To win one's spurs." Saddles, 
Harness, Stirrups, Scabbards, Shields, etc. Brunette Latini " On Horses." 
Jobbers and Horse-dealers. Pack-animals. Many Crafts affiliated to the 
Guild. Six classes of members. Imitation pig-skin. Kinds of shields. 
Scarselle, Pouches. The " Guild of Painters " and good workmanship. 

III. LOCKSMITHS. An ancient Craft. Diversarium artium Schedula. 
Early Florentine craftsmen. Affiliated trades. Scrap-iron. Engravers in copper. 
Ill-written and ill-spelled documents. Tests of skill required before admission 
to the Guild. Early prosperity. Fashionable trifles. Cardinal Wolsey's horse- 
harness. Sunny skies affect workmanship. Wax models. Fine bronze-work. 
Famous " Masters of metal." Damascening. Rich cabinets. Benvenuto 
Cellini. Embossing. Francesco del Prato. Artistic tools. Salve! 

" T A Toscana e regione eminentemento agricola " " Tuscany is 
pre-eminently an agricultural country," was a well-worn 
axiom erstwhile the civilisation of the Renaissance dawned upon 
the fruitful Vale of Arno. 

2 B 3 * s 


The form of land tenure in Tuscany during the period of the 
Renaissance, and that still largely in vogue, was the Mezzeria 
" share and share alike." It was the outcome of the Feudal 
system, and preserved many of its features. Each estate was 
divided into so many/ft&FVj or fields, averaging between thirty and 
forty acres. Half the produce went to the landlord and half 
was retained by the Mezzadro peasant-farmer. There was 
however a tacit understanding that the year's harvest was split 
into three portions, one of which was always kept out of the 
reckoning ! 

The Mezzadro held his land by a contract with the landlord, 
which, although nominally only binding for a year, or from year 
to year, was treated practically as a life-interest, and commonly 
passed on from father to son. 

Sir Richard Dallington speaking of the sterility of the soil 
of Tuscany, and of the extraordinary patience and diligence 
of the peasantry in cultivating " fruites, herbages, and graine," 
says l : " The nature of the soile is generally light and sandy. 
But by reason of the cities and great towns neare, and the 
number of the people it is much forced, and made more fruitful. 
For there are those who all their life-time doe nothing but 
with their asse go up and downe the cities, gathering up the 
dung in the streets, and carrying it to the land of those with 
whom they have bargained." He also refers to the system of the 
divisions of the poderi, and says : " The country man will stirre 
of them eighteen with his two yoke of oxen, the one yoke 
feeding while the other laboureth, in one day. He hath for his 
labour foure crazie apiece, which is three halfpence sterling, so 
that he and his beasts earne som foure shillings, sixpence sterling 
the day. . . ." 

The same old chronicler goes on to say : " On the hill sides 
they grow acorns, olives and chestnuts, for acorns," he continues, 
" they eat, and so do their pigs. Olives they eat not, but crush 
them to export the oil, chestnuts are the countryman's bread as 

1 " Survey of the Estate of the Great Duke," pp. 30-36. 


water is his drink." He remarks also that Florentines appeared 
to be excessively fond of green-stuff, and says : " Herbage is the 
most generall food of the Tuscans, at whose tables a sallet is as 
ordinary as salt is at ours." Figs too formed, in the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, a profitable source of revenue to the culti- 
vator ; the best kinds were called " Brugiotti? 

Expenses necessary for the upkeep of the farm-buildings, and 
for the plantation of trees, were met by the landlord, who also was 
part owner of the spans of oxen used on the podere^ and in 
addition paid the taxes upon the land. On the other hand, 
labour, which was beyond the strength of the mezzadro, was paid 
for by him, such payment generally consisting simply of board 
and lodging. The mezzadrrfs usual helpers were his younger 
brothers and his sons, who lived somewhat hugger-mugger in the 
farmhouse. Hired labourers were at a discount, as they were 
usually townsmen out of work, or spare hands who bore doubtful 

Upon each/0dkr were a roomy labourer farmer's cottage, a 
stable and yard for cattle, a shed for fodder, a vat-house for 
grapes, and an oil-press, all of which were the property of the 

The mezzadro knew exactly the capabilities of each portion of 
his holding, and understood all about the proper rotation of crops. 
His principal objects of cultivation were vines, olives, wheat, beans, 
.and millet for forage, which kept him pretty busy the year 
through. Mulberry-trees, chestnuts, and oaks, with flax, hemp, 
fruit, and vegetables claimed also his care and labour. 

Whilst he looked after his pigs his spouse minded the poultry, 
.and she too made the butter and the cheese, and grew her flowers 
.and sweet herbs, and other items, for the market. To her was 
assigned the care of the bees and the rendering of the honey. 
Many a goodwife had, besides, her trays and drawers of silkworms 
.and silk-cocoons, under the patronage of the " Guild of Silk," and 
she also spent much of her time in spinning flax, plaiting straw, 
and in assisting her husband to make wicker baskets. 


The breeding of cattle and of sheep, only indirectly, formed 
part of the peasant-farmer's occupation, for, generally speaking,, 
in the neighbourhood of Florence, the herds and flocks, were the 
property and business of the Beccai, wholesale breeders and 
butchers, and chiefly ranged almost wild through the Maremma, 
the low lands by the seaside. Horses, however, and mules and 
goats, claimed the attention of the mezzadro, along with his oxen 
and his dogs the latter he used to watch his crops and his stock,, 
and to give notice of intruders. 

The Tuscan peasants were a fine well-developed race with 
handsome brown faces and intelligent expressions. The vigour 
begotten of healthy open-air life and constant toil and exercise 
conduced to sobriety, and simplicity, which made for natural 
courtesy of manner. 

The " David " of Donatello, the first nude bronze of the 
Renaissance, represents truthfully the peasant-boy of Tuscany 
just budding into manhood. It was characterised by Leonardo 
da Vinci as a " perfect figure." Michael Angelo's " David " was 
modelled from just such a youth, alert and conscious of strength 
and fine condition. Many handsome farm lads like the shepherd 
boy of Israel found their way daily into Florence with market 
produce. The two statues are quite typical of the race to which 
the young peasants belonged. 

Leonardo, himself a son of the soil, was possessed of immense 
physical strength and high spirits. He used to go out into the 
poderi and chat with the farm-labourers. Nothing pleased him 
more than to make well formed youths jump, wrestle, and climb 
trees, that he might behold their muscular charms, and transfer 
their bodily perfection to his pictures. In 1506 he painted a 
comely young man, seated upon a grassy mound, his head crowned 
with vine leaves. The form is purely Florentine, and the physical 
beauty of every part indicates the fine qualities of the Tuscan 
peasant. The picture is entitled " Saint John Baptist," but it is 
more truly a representation of a trimmer of vines and a presser of 
olives a Renaissance "Bacchus"! 


The great Florentine was also in his element when telling 
groups of lounging peasants ridiculous stories, which convulsed 
them with laughter, for then he swiftly sketched their attitudes 
and expressions. 

And if these great artists have preserved to us the traits of 
manly character and vigour, the Delia Robbia, Raphael, and 
Andrea del Sarto, and many more beside, have given us the 
no less striking charms of the contadine, old and young. The 
terra-cottas of Luca Delia Robbia, in particular, reproduce faith- 
fully the two types of the women of the Renaissance. Stateliness 
of carriage and solemnity of manner are characteristic of the silent 
country-life of the hills, where the drama of nature is ever being 
enacted. In the other type, the abandon of town life in the valley 
where all is gay and busy lends assurance to the bearing. The 
*' Madonna and Child " of the Via dell' Agnolo is at once the 
true representation of a healthy, radiant peasant woman and her 
babe, and the symbol of the intelligence of the Renaissance. 

The peasants of the Contado and beyond were happy people, 
and beguiled the monotony of their daily toil with jests and songs. 1 
As soon as one ended what he knew, another burst forth with the 
melody, each vieing with his neighbour in friendly rivalry. Who- 
ever could sing the most songs was acclaimed the leader. Parties 
of songsters were wont to frequent the fairs and public games, and 
exhibit their vocal powers, getting for their recompense many a 
flowing bowl of good red wine, and a supper fit for a king, at one 
or other of the hospitable hostelries ! These popular ditties were 
known by the name of " Cantastorie" and none went with a better 
swing than those which they sang on May mornings. 

Something of what a country-man looked like in the fifteenth 
century may be seen in a woodcut of the Rooke's Paune in Jacopo 
de Cessolis* " Giuoccho delle Scacchi" " This manner of people," he 
says, " is figured ... in the shape of a man holdynge in his 
right hand a spade or shovell, and a rodde in the left hand. The 
spade or shovell is for to delve and labour therewith the earth, and 

1 " Italian Folk-Lore Songs." 



the rodde is for to dryve or conduycte with all the bestes into the 
pastures. Also he ought to have in his gyrdell a crokyd hachet 
for to cutte of the superfluytees of the vignes and trees. . . . " 
The cultivation of the olive-tree was a very important branch 
of country life. Planting, irrigating, pruning, and shaking, called 
for constant attentions, for no tree is more fickle in the matter of 



bearing. The oliveyards of Tuscany vied with the vineyards 
in area under cultivation. Wealthy citizens owned scores and 
hundreds of trees, whilst the humblest contadino had his two or 

Agricultural ways are slow to change, for, in the present day, 
the methods of shaking and collecting the dark purple-green 
fruit are exactly those of five hundred years ago. Big canvas 
sheets are spread upon the ground under each tree, into which 
nimble youths climb armed with long thin sticks to shake gently 
each branch and cluster, so that the berries shall not be injured 


by their fall. The value in ordinary years of the yield of each 
tree-beating averaged ten to twelve gold florins, equal to 5 or 
6 of our money. 

Tuscan oliveyards were always more or less troubled by 
visitations of the dreaded Mosca olearia, the olive pest. Expedients 
of many kinds were employed year after year to check its ravages, 
which sometimes caused the entire failure of the crop, and more- 
over weakened the tree for future bearings. 

The methods employed for the extraction of the oil were 
pretty much those now in use all over Italy. Each podere had 
its olive-press and clearing-mill, generally lumbering construc- 
tions of wood and iron, which were worked both by hand and 
by ox-power. The price of good average olive-oil in the fifteenth 
century was six lire ten soldi a barrel equal to one-half a pack- 
mule or ass burden. The best oil was produced at Lucca, Calci 
and Buti to the north of Florence. 

That there was an ample and constant supply of fruit of all 
kinds for consumption in Florence, is borne out by the character- 
istic summary which Buonaccorso Pitti gives in his " Chronicle " of 
the fruit trees in his garden. He says : " On the twenty-fourth 
of April in the year 1419, being my natal day, I counted all the 
fruit trees in my garden and vineyard, and found that, exclusive of 
hazel-nuts, they amounted to five hundred and sixty-one, of fig 
trees sixty four, of peaches one hundred and six, of plums 
eighty, of cherry trees fifty-eight, of almond-trees twenty-four, 
of apples twenty five, and of pears sixteen. There are besides 
six orange trees, seven pomegranates, two quinces, four walnuts, 
and nine Amarini bitter cherry. In addition to sixty olive trees 
in full bearing there are a great many more fruit trees of all kinds, 
which have not yet borne any crop, but maybe they will if the 
drought does not trouble them." * 

The Fattore bailiff was the owner's agent, and superintended 
the working of the different poderi^ and rendered his master a 
bi-annual account. These men were sometimes cruel to the 

1 "Cronica," p. 112. 



mezzadrt, and not always too honest in their relations with the 
landlord ; but, generally speaking, they were conspicuous for 
fairness and discrimination in their dealings. Many of them, 
after serving a lengthy stewardship on the land and having 
acquired some considerable property, settled in the city, and 
became Wine-merchants, General provision dealers and Innkeepers. 


Indeed it was no uncommon custom for a Fattore to be matri- 
culated in one of the Arti, " de Vinattieri? " degli Oliandoli? 
or " degli Albergalori " ; and this spread to the better- to-do 
mezzadri) who thus were able to carry on the combined trade 
of growers and salesmen. 

Some idea of the conditions of property, and of the relations 
between landlord and tenant, may be gained from the example 
of Guido del Antella, who has been already named in this book. 
That he was a man of means is shown by the fact of his letting 
certain premises for shops. One of these had a rental of fifteen 


gold florins a year, with "a fat goose at the Feast of All 
Saints each year according," as he is careful to add, " to the 
feudal custom." In 1379 he let a piece of land, or podere, on 
condition that the tenant should yield him at Christmas, one 
hundred and fifty pounds weight of pork, with a couple of capons, 
and five dozen eggs ; and at Easter, a couple of capons and five 
dozen eggs. In addition the farmer was bound to deliver by his 
waggon the portions of wheat, oats, and oil, and half the portion of 
wine which were his due as proprietor. The farmer too had to 
tend certain vines belonging to his landlord, and had to break in 
each year two span of oxen which he had to part-purchase. 

Sales of land were generally effected at Or San Michele 
where a number of Agremensori Surveyors were in daily attend- 
ance. Their fee was one gold florin for each sale effected, with 
what we now call a stamp-duty of nine soldi. 

This Guild, the eighth in the order of Precedence among the 
fourteen Lesser Guilds, was essentially the Guild of the Market 
people. Under its white banner, charged with the singularly 
appropriate arms of the Guild, a red lion gardant under a green 
tree, were ranged not only lordly growers of olive trees, owners 
of fruitful orchards, makers of country cheese, and sportsmen 
keen after game, but every sort and kind of great and small 
dealers in the numberless necessaries of daily life. 

The Guild provided a common union of persons occupied in 
avocations of an agricultural character, just in the same way as the 
" Arte de* Rigattieri" furnished a comprehensive Corporation for 
citizens engaged in small industrial pursuits. 

The precise date of the first enrolment of the " Arle degli 
Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli" is, as with most of the other Guilds, 
absolutely uncertain. Early records have disappeared, and the 
first historical notices of the existence of some of the trades, 
united in the Guild, appear to be as follows : 

" 1 02 1. Florentius -paliarius Straw-seller." 

" 1084. Bonus / Johannes baro (for barullo) Hawker." 


" 1104. Bonizo olearius Oil-merchant." 
" 1 139. Lupaccia lo tricco Fruit and Vegetable-dealer." 
" 1 1 88. Arizito piezicario Victualler." 
" 1191. Ugolinus granario Corn-chandler." 
" I 2 1 1 . Ispenallo kasciajuto Cheese-monger." 
In the first list of the Guilds, that of the year 1236, the 
"Arte degli Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli" is placed fifteenth. The 
revision of 1266 preserved the same order, but gave to the 
" Guild of Oil- Merchants and General Provision Dealers " suitable 
armorial bearings. 

The list of Guilds, made in 1282, makes no mention of the 
" Arte degli Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli" but instead we see, in the 
fifteenth position, the "Arte dei Venditori del Sale" "the Guild 
of Salt-merchants." This was still the designation of the Guild in 
1295, in which year the " Guild of Salt " is named in the Archives. 
The reason may be found in the fact, that as the city grew in 
population, so grew in estimation the merchants and dealers whose 
business relations were of the greatest value to the citizens. 

At the reformation and rearrangement of the Guilds in 1415 
the fifteenth place was taken by the "Arte de* Galigai" "the 
" Guild of Tanners " and the " Guild of Oil-Merchants and General 
Provision Dealers " was put sixteenth. Why this loss of pre- 
cedence was effected it is impossible to say, anyhow the Tanners 
maintained their superiority till the very break-up of the Guilds in 
the sixteenth century. 

There is an entry in the Archives of the Mercanzia dated 
1328, of judgment delivered against a certain Granaiuolo grain- 
merchant of the " Guild of Bakers," and in favour of the Consuls of 
the " Guild of Oil-merchants." The title of the Guild is given 
in full, and it includes a variety of curiously linked industries : 
Biadaiuoli Corn-chandlers, Casciaiuoli Cheese-factors, Bicchierai 
Glass-blowers, Funai Twine-pullers, and Saponai Soap- 
boilers. In 1380 the Biadaiuoli threw in their lot with the 
Oliandoli and ceased to be a separate association. 

Although no special proofs are at hand to show, there can be 




no doubt that the " Guild of Oil-Merchants and General Provision 
Dealers " followed the example of the Crafts in the adoption of 
the Statutes of the " Calimala " of I 301-1 309, with certain adjust- 
ments to circumstances, as a code of moral and commercial 

Early memorials and acts of Consuls or Councils have 
perished, consequently we cannot discover the exact number, or 
the duties, of the various officers, nor indeed can we obtain a 
complete list of all the trades and callings which were allied under 
the banner of the Guild. 

That the chief officials had the rank at all events ultimately 
of Consul is perhaps shown by the fact of their Residence being 
situated in the basement of the Palazzo de' Lamberti, the upper 
part of which edifice was occupied by the Consuls and Courts of 
the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries." It is however of 
special interest to record that Savonarola established his famous 
''Monte di Pieta" in the same basement which also bore the 
name of " La Casa di Pzgli" as a set-off to the exactions and 
rapacity of the Jewish money-lenders. 

Happily the Statutes of 1415 have been preserved, and in 
them we see ample evidence of the importance, prosperity, and 
admirable government of the members of the Guild. 1 The fol- 
lowing are some of the interesting items which may be gathered 
from a perusal of the three portly volumes. 

All Provision dealers, whether members of the " Guild of Oil- 
Merchants and General Provision Dealers " or not, were required 
to provide themselves with weights and measures strictly in 
accordance with the established standards, and were further 
obliged to exhibit them to the State official inspectors. All 
utensils of capacity were to be approved by the Consuls of the 
Guild, and patterns of those articles approved were kept at the 
Residence for imitation. 2 

On no account were such dealers to sell fresh fish but only 
such descriptions as had been salted or dried. Eggs, cheese, 

1 Statuta P. et C. Florentiae, 1415, vol. ii. in. 2 Rubs, xciii. and xciv., 1415. 


chickens, mushrooms, small birds, venison, and game of all kinds, 
were all marketable commodities on their stalls. 1 

The export of foodstuffs from Florence, city and Contado, 
was very strictly prohibited. Included in the prohibition were : 
Grain of all kinds, ears of corn, vegetables, olives and olive oil, 
fat beasts, oxen, pigs, wine, fresh meat, fish, undressed hides, fruits, 
cheese, and victuals of every kind.' 2 

It was strictly forbidden to offer grain for sale mixed with 
chaff, seeds, or any other matter. Blades of wheat were not to be 
steeped in water to swell them before being exposed in the Market, 
Granaiuoli, Corn-chandlers, guilty of such conduct were mulcted 
in heavy penalties. They were moreover required to state the 
place of origin of their merchandise, and on no account to sub- 
stitute the crop coming from one locality for one issuing from 
another. 3 

Vegetable-dealers, whether men or women, were not allowed 
to offer for sale any sort of grain in quantities exceeding two 
staioi bushels unless with the special license of the Officials of 
Or San Michele. No dealers in vegetables were permitted to 
purchase fruit or vegetables before the hour of " Nones," nor to 
frequent public places where wholesale salesmen were before that 
hour. Women were forbidden to hawk green produce about the 
streets. Green nuts were also forbidden to be sold. It was strictly 
prohibited to carry through the streets, or to offer for sale, more 
than three bunches of unripe grapes. Ripe wine grapes were also 
forbidden as marketable commodities. 4 

On Sundays, and all through Holy Week, the sale of green-stuff 
in the Mercato Vecchio was absolutely prohibited. All fruiterers 
and dealers in vegetables were required to appear in the month 
of January each year, before the Market Officials, and swear to 
carry on their business honestly, peacefully, and diligently. 5 

The sale of certain articles was absolutely forbidden in the 
squares, bridges, and certain other localities : Olives, fruit, vege- 

1 Rubs, xcv., xcvi., 1415. 2 Rub. clviii., 1415. 

3 Rub. clix., 1415. 4 Rub. clxi., 1415. 

5 Rubs, ccxxiii., ccxxiv., ccxxv., ccxxvi., ccxxvii., ccxxviii., 1415. 


tables, grass, straw, cheese, eggs, fish, geese, small birds, chickens, 
foxes, hares, and venison. Hawkers of such were not allowed to 
stand in front of the Market-stalls or street shops of established 

Poultry, vegetables, fruit, eggs, game, venison, and other like 
produce could not be offered for sale in the Markets or shops if 
the place of origin was outside a nine-mile radius. Thrushes and 
blackbirds were on no account allowed to be offered for sale in 
Florence. Quails might be sold only in August, September and 
October. 1 

No Innkeeper, Vegetable-dealer, or anybody who traded in 
such things, was allowed to buy in the streets, bridges, or squares 
the following comestibles : pigs, kids, calves, chickens, pigeons, 
eggs, cheese, and joints of fresh meat, or sows with litters. The 
last prohibition held good also in the case of butchers. Pork- 
butchers were not allowed to use the same slaughter-houses as 
those occupied by the Beccai. Pigs indeed could only be killed 
between September and March. In the shops of the Guild every 
kind of salt meat was on sale, and also fish salted and dried. 2 

If any fruiterer or poulterer of whatever condition ventured to 
buy mushrooms, cheese, eggs, chickens, or poultry of any kind 
and venison, or to loiter about where such things were offered for 
sale before the hour of " nones " with or without license or 
to wait within two hundred yards, he or she was liable to a fine 
of ten lire, which if he or she could not, or would not pay, then the 
man was put in prison for a month, and the woman was beaten 
through the streets with a stick ! 3 

All Provision dealers were obliged to appear in the month of 
January each year before the Market authorities and their notary, 
and to pay over a sum of fifty silver florins by way of security 
for their honest dealings with the poorer people. They were 
under the same schedule of Statutes as were the millers and 
bakers with respect to the sale of grain and baked meats. 4 

1 Rub. ccxxix., 1415. 2 Rub. ccxxx., 1415. 

3 Rub. ccxxxii., 1415. 4 Rubs, ccxl., ccxli., 1415. 


The olive-oil they offered for sale had to be pure and clear 
and sweet-smelling, and meat stuffs of whatever kind required 
correct marking substitution of inferior for superior qualities were 
closely watched. If any comestible was found to be bad or 
mouldy, the dealer was visited with a fine of twenty lirel 

The measures for oil were the same as for wine, and each 
cask, jar, bowl, ewer, bottle, or other utensil, had to bear in clear 
figures the quantity which it was reputed to hold. No oil- 
merchant could have in his shop at the same time more than four 
jars of olive oil, which were labelled with the name of the olive 
yard and the olive-grower. Dealing in oil between private persons 
was forbidden, as also was its hawking about the city. 2 

Provision dealers who supplied candles were enjoined to see 
that they were made of good tallow, and had serviceable cotton 
wicks. All inferior descriptions were seized and destroyed by the 
Market officials. The boiling and melting of tallow for making 
candles was forbidden within sixty yards of any principal street. 3 

Sellers of straw, fire-wood, and other burning materials, were 
required to appear each January before the Market officials, and 
to promise solemnly to observe all the regulations and bye-laws 
affecting their calling : failure to appear incurred a fine of fifty 
lire. At the same time no combustible matter was allowed to be 
stored for sale within the city walls. 4 

Cautions were further addressed to the packers of loads of 
straw and inflammable materials. The burden for each donkey 
was not to exceed two hundred pounds in weight, and to be com- 
pactly and evenly ordered. Vegetable-dealers, and others of like 
calling, were also cautioned about the bulk of fire-wood they led 
into the city. No timber of more than two yards in length and 
two hundred pounds in weight was permitted for each animal. 6 

Restrictive laws were in force also with respect to the amount 
of firing which a citizen might purchase. In the case of private 
houses no more than two ass loads were allowed, at factories and 

1 Rub. ccxlii., 1415. 2 Rubs, ccxliii., ccxliv., ccxlv., 1415. 

3 Rubs, ccxlvi., ccxlvii., 1415. 4 Rubs, cccxlviii., cccxlix., 1415. 

5 Rubs, ccl., cell., 1415. 


shambles larger quantities were permissible. No one was per- 
mitted to hawk about, in carts or on pack animals, coals, pitwood, 
straw, or any other such matters. 1 

The barge and boat men of the Arno were under strict regu- 
lations and bye-laws. Once a year in the month of January they 
were required to give security to the amount of one hundred lire^ 
that they would neither lade, carry, nor land, any contraband or 
merchandise which was contrary to the laws of the State. They 
were forbidden to load for export grain, vegetables, olive-oil, fruit, 
bulls, oxen, pigs, wine, cheese, beyond an hundred pounds in 
weight, salt- meat, fish, lake-tench, baked-bread above a bushel, 
mushrooms, and all other comestibles, scheduled for home con- 
sumption by the officials of Or San Michele. 2 

In spite of all these careful, not to say restrictive, measures, 
the operative classes, and many even among the better to do 
citizens, were remarkable for their disregard of the ordinary rules 
of eating. Improper food, ill-fed meat, and bad qualities, were as 
little considered as were, in badly managed homes, the simple and 
cleanly laws of cooking. Many Provvisioni were passed against 
purveyors supplying inferior descriptions of food to the poor, and 
against uncleanliness in the preparation of the people's table. 

The Statutes of the Guild were revised and added to in 1345, 
1415, and 1529. At the final grouping of the Lesser Guilds 
in 1534, the " Arte degli Oliandoli e Pizsicagnoli" was included in 
the first University of the four along with the Beccai, and the 
Fornai, and the Association was styled " Universita di For San 
Piero " " University of Saint Peter's Gate." 

Whilst a complete list of all the articles sold by the Oil- 
merchants and General Provision Dealers would be a very lengthy 
document, it will suffice to schedule the following, as being the 
principal items : Olives fresh and bottled, olive-oil of various 
qualities, olive-wood ashes for religious and domestic purposes, 
crushed olive beans, cedar fruit, dried cedar-wood for fumigations, 
1 Rub. cclii., 1415. 2 R uh - ccliv - 


pine-cones for burning, mulberry leaves for silk-worms, chest- 
nuts whole and powdered, sweet oranges, cucumbers fresh and 
pickled, beans whole, crushed, and salted, herbs fresh and dried, 
cereals and corn stuffs, all sorts of fruit and vegetables, cheese, 
butter, eggs, salt, pork fresh and salted, beans, sausages, lard, 
dried fish of all kinds, dried meat whole or in powder, and every 
other sort of foodstuff. 

In another category were : Straw in bundles, or made into 
bands and mats, rope and string, sieves, hoops for tubs, tubs, 
casks, barrels baskets, nets, wicker-cases for oil-jars and wine- 
flasks, willow-withs, bottles and glass articles of all kinds, 
pitchers and pots in stone, earthenware, and metal, flails for 
thrashing corn, canvas of all lengths and strengths, soap, tallow, 
grease, candles wax and tallow, pitch, tar, and what not. 

In Franco Sacchetti, Simone della Tosa, the Peruzzi Codex, 
the " Libra di Montaperti" the accounts of the Alberti, the Prov- 

visioni, and other sources, we find a great number of interesting 
details about the values and prices of commodities of all kinds 

in Florence during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth 

centuries. 1 

The best cheese came from Lucardo, in the Val d'Elsa, 

"where they make good cheese," as the common report had it. 

Much also was imported from Sicily and Sardinia, as well as from 

Apulia, but upon all such foreign supplies a tax of ten soldi was 

charged, for each thirty pounds of weight. 

On October I3th, 1330, notice was given to the Officials of 

the " Mercanzia" of the arrival at Leghorn, of a ship laden, among 

other things, with three hundred and fifteen jars or casks of 

clear olive-oil, eighty-five of unrefined oil, and forty thousand 

pounds of Apulian cheese. 2 

The Customs officials at the Gates were a very acute sort of 

men, and in truth they had need to be, for in a trice they could 

detect the massive gold chain of a Siena Magnifico underneath his 

1 See Perrens, vol. iii., Appendix. 

2 Mercanzia, 1415, f. 127. 


silken jerkin, and punish him by annexing not only it, but the 
good cob he was riding also ! The Market people suffered greatly 
at the hands of these nimble gentry. Sir Richard Dallington 
says : " I saw a poore country-woman, who coming to the 
gate to pay her tolle for a basket of Lettice she brought in : 
one of the foxes, who I thinke could smell a goose, for he could 
not possibly see any, searched under the hearbes, and finding one 
dead without feathers, sent the poore woman away halfe dead for 
sorrow, without her goose ! " 1 

Whilst Florentines were moderate in the consumption of 
butchers' meat, they were very partial to a preparation called 
41 Mischiasto" desiccated beef, an import from Barbary. This 
meat powder was on sale at all the shops of the Guild. 

The worldly wisdom of the Florentines in their aptitude for 
striking good bargains is amusingly illustrated by a wise saw of 
the period with respect to the purchase of grain : " When you buy 
oats look out that the measure is not filled too quickly, for it will 
always sink two or three per cent ; but when you sell, fill quickly 
and your oats will grow ! " 2 

The monopoly of salt was in the hands of the State, which 
owned the ancient pits at Volterra, Portoferraio, and Castiglione ; 
but upon the " Guild of Oil-Merchants and General Provision 
Dealers " devolved the retail-sale of this indispensable commodity. 
So important to the community at large was its supply that in 
1 266 the Guild became popularly known as the " Arte dei Venditori 
del Sale"" The Guild of Salt-Merchants." 

The price charged at the shops of the Guild for salt varied with 
the circumstances of the time, for upon no other article did the 
legislators of the Republic fasten new taxes so readily and stiffly. 

The treatment of Salt was on a par with the exercise of the 
other industries of the city, and Florentine Salt-Merchants became 
famous. A document, dated November i6th, 1564, is in the 
possession of the Paganelli family, by which Queen Elizabeth of 

1 " Survey of the Great Duke's Estate," p. 67. 

2 G. Biagi, " The Private Life of the Renaissance Florentine," p. 24. 


England grants to Tommaso Baroncelli of Florence, the privilege 
of introducing into England the art of refining and bleaching salt, 
as practised in Florence, and the monopoly of manufacturing white , 
salt, for a period of twenty years. 

The "Arte degli Oliandoli" was after all not wholly confined to 
Florence, but sent out branches far and wide. Under the style of 
" Italian Warehousemen " General Provision Dealers have long 
been known in England. In the shop of any such a tradesman may 
be seen to-day most, if not all, the heterogeneous articles which 
used to make the salesmen of old Florence busy in supplying 
daily wants. 


Few things were regarded with more pride among Florentines 
of the Renaissance than the art of Horsemanship. To begin with 
the ownership of a riding-horse was esteemed as a passport to 
good society, although with respect to the use of mounts by the 
Messeri of the " Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries " very little 
attempt was made by such worthies to ride a horse for riding's 
sake ! 

The curriculum of all the physical-culture schools of the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries included skill in horse exercise, 
Agnolo Pandolfini, "The Peaceful Citizen" (1360-1446), as he 
was acclaimed by his fellow citizens, had at his villa at Segni 
twenty highly bred and trained horses. He was an adept at 
every sort of physical exercise, and in the pursuit of every fashion- 
able sport ; and he trained his sons, his apprentices, and his 
servants, to follow in his footsteps. 

Vittorino da Feltre also (1397-1446), the founder of the 
celebrated Physical-Culture School at Mantua, placed horseman- 
ship and hunting in his list of obligatory exercises for the noble 
youths who were committed to his charge. 

The great Duke Federigo d'Urbino, himself a pupil of 
Vittorino, was a proficient in all manly sports. He adopted the 
profession of arms, and joined the troop of the Condottiere Niccolo 


Peccinino. He bore in his body honourable marks of his prowess, 
inasmuch as at a Jousting, outside the town gate, he had the 
misfortune to lose an eye and to break his nose ! 

Among the exercises necessary for a gentleman, laid down by 
Conte Baltazzare di Castiglione, in his world-famous book, "// 
Cortigzano" " The Courtier," published in 1531, was horse- 
manship. " I would have," he says, " that a gentleman should be 
a perfect horseman in every respect skilled in riding, running at 
the ring and tilting, . . . hunting the wild-boar and bull. . . ." 

In the days of the " olde chivalrie," when not engaged in 
active hostilities with foreign foes, young warriors found outlets for 
their exuberant vigour in the tournaments. These were at first 
bloody combats wherein one, sometimes both, of the combatants 
were slain. Such sanguinary encounters were suppressed by 
Sacred Canon from Rome, and instead were instituted less 
sanguinary pastimes. To these Florentines applied the title 
" Giostre." 

The great Giostre were held at the principal Church Festivals. 
The Tilting-ground was of considerable extent to allow of a free 
gallop for the horses. Each knight had to ride three courses. 
Tilting at " // Saracino " the Moor our " Turk's Head ! " 
offered opportunities for fearless horsemanship. 

To " win his spurs " was the ambition of every esquire, and 
indeed the dream of every youthful page. The esquire could 
wear only short and plain silver spurs, whilst the knight was 
spurred in gold. The use of spurs was a mark of independence 
and authority. 

Such being the fashion of the times there was an immense 
scope for the employment of manipulative skill in the making of 
saddles, bridles, stirrups, and all the adjuncts of the stable and 
the course. Saddlers, Harness-makers, Shield-makers, Scabbard- 
makers, and the like had their hands full of commissions, which of 
course called for greater skill, and provided greater gain, than the 
world-old manufacture of ordinary cart and carriage harness and 


" There are," says Brunette Latini, " horses of all kinds 
chargers, or tall horses, for the combat, others for gentle exercises 
use palfreys which are also called amblers and hackneys, others 
again employ pack-horses to carry loads. 1 Mares were never used 
for saddle purposes indeed to offer a mare to a knight was 
considered an insult : they were reserved for traction and pack- 
horse purposes. 

Horse-dealers and Horse-Jobbers formed a not inconsiderable 
portion of the Guild : at least Guildsmen were the acknowledged 
agents between the raisers of stock in the Contado and beyond, 
and the horse-buyers of the city. Doubtless, in this trade, they 
were in a sense partners with the Albergatori, Innkeepers, 
many of whom owned, or rented, stables for the baiting of travellers' 
horses and mules. 

The numbers of pack-animals and draught-horses were of 
course considerable on the trade routes between the sea and 
Florence, and upon the more distant lines of communication with 
France and Germany. Merchants and commercial travellers 
looked to the dealers and jobbers of Florence, and the neigh- 
bouring cities and townships, for their relays of convoy animals. 

The Archives of Florence contain several records of Saddlers 
and allied craftsmen, for example : 

" 1031. Martinus Cabellarius " Horse-jobber. 

" 1073. Aezo Sellarius" Saddler. 

" 1076. Barone Scutarius" Shield-maker. 

" 1 1 o I . Sichelmus Stafarius " Stirrup-maker. 

" 1 2 1 1 . Ristoro fit. Fieri Buorsajo " Pouch-maker. 

These various branches of the leather industry and others like 
Bookbinding, Gauntlet-making and many fancy trades having a 
common material and ministering to the wants of the fashionable 
and the literary classes of Society, were quite naturally drawn 
together, to the mutual advantage of all. 

The " Arte de' Coreggiai" first appears in the list of Guilds in 
1236, when it was placed twelfth in the order of the Fourteen 

1 " II Tesoro," I3th century. 


Lesser Guilds. The same position was retained in the revisions 
of 1266 and 1280-82. In the latter year the style of the Guild 
was added to and became' * LArte de' Sanolacciai e Coreggiai e 
Scudai" "The Guild of Harness-makers, Saddlers, and Shield- 
makers." Incorporated as a branch of the Guild an Association 
of Bridle and Reins-makers is recorded in 1285 under the style 
of"L'Arte de Frenair 

Among minor Associations affiliated to the Guild was that of 
" Prestatori di Ronzoni" "Horse-dealers and Jobbers," which is 
frequently named in the years 1309-1316. In 1321 another 
Company is mentioned the " Vaginari" "Scabbard-makers." 

The Guild must have prospered, for in 1415 it no longer 
occupied its very lowly position in the Hierarchy of the Guilds, 
but had advanced to the tenth place among the Lesser Guilds. 

The first regular Statutes of the Guild were put forth in 
1301-1309, as was the case with all the Guilds, Greater and 
Lesser. They were revised and added to in 1342, 1415, and 
1501. Under Consuls, whose numbers as usual varied as circum- 
stances required, but were always in excess of some other Lesser 
Guilds, as representing the various associated trades were the 
usual Guild officials. 

The Saddlers were arranged in six classes: (i) Makers of 
saddles and harness for heavy haulage, and stirrups, (2) Car- 
riage-reins and Bridle-makers, (3) Gold and silver spurriers and 
Horse armourers, (4) Makers of saddle-bows and pack-frames 
all of wood, (5) Curriers, who covered the wood-work with 
leather, and (6) Saddle-painters and decorators. 

The Shield-makers also were sub-divided : ( I ) Workers in 
metal-frames, (2) Turners of the wooden foundations, (3) Stretchers 
and liners in leather, (4) Embossers and Painters. The other 
constituents of the Guild were similarly sub-divided : Harness- 
makers, Scabbard-makers, Gauntlet-makers, Bookbinders, etc. etc. 

Under Cosimo I. in 1530 the "Guild of Saddlers and Shield- 
makers " was amalgamated with the " Shoemakers " and " Tanners " 



in the third University of Lesser Guilds, under the style of 
" L Universita de' Maestri di Cuoiame " " the University of 
Master Leather-Workers." 

The Arms of the Guild were two red stripes upon a white 
field. They were emblazoned upon the Banner, first given to the 
Guild in 1266, and also appeared upon the Consuls' Residence. 

With respect to saddles, their use for military purposes, 


came in with steel and iron armour. Men in armour could not 
keep their balance without support, consequently for combats not 
only were leather seats provided, but the flaps of the saddle were 
made to enwrap the thighs of the horseman, and so give him a 
steadier perch. 

Saddles were by degrees provided with : (i) the Tree or 
Stretcher upon which to fix the leather this was made of wood, 
(2) the Seat proper, (3) the Skirt, and (4) the Flaps. The 
" Tree " was usually made of beechwood upon an iron framework. 


Pig-skin was the customary leather used, but tricky saddlers were 
not beneath using imitation skins, as many a horseman found to 
his cost ! 

Pillions and litters for ladies and for the sick, with saddle- 
cloths and horse-caparisons, were made by saddlers, who had 
recourse to embroiderers and to stampers of leather for enrich- 

Saddlers were also engaged in cutting and sewing bridles, 
reins, and stirrup-straps for riding horses, and the heavier harness 
for draught-teams and pack-animals. For these articles, which 
were required to be at once light and strong, they made use of 
uncoloured strips of hardened well seasoned leather which had 
also undergone the process of pressing. 

Stirrups were first made in France, and were of various shapes 
and sizes to suit military and civil equestrians. The tournament 
stirrups were bulky and heavy, but richly adorned and strengthened 
with iron bearings. They were essential in combat, whether 
in the field of battle or in the lists of chivalry, but ordinary 
horse-exercise was taken without them. 

A list of Saddlers' ironmongery is quite a long one : Buckles, 
bits, snafHe-chains, head-pieces, collar-steels, saddle-bearings, gear- 
ing-chains and bolts, spurs for civilian use, straps of all sorts and 
kinds, whips and whip-bands, etc. 

With respect to Shields, the making of which appertained 
to the Craft of Saddlery, in the twelfth century, they were 
kite-shaped or triangular. Smaller shields of much the same 
shapes were introduced in the thirteenth century, with holes 
cut on the right hand upper corner to serve as a rest for 
the spear or lance. Round bucklers were worn upon the hand 
in the fourteenth century, and pear-shaped shields upon the arm. 
In the fifteenth century knights' shields had a bulge, and were 
about two feet and a half long. 

Various names were given by the Florentine Shield-makers 
to the different kinds of bucklers for example : Rotella round, 
Scudo oblong, Brocchiere a small shield worn upon the arm 


and bulging, Targa a large square or round shield, and Pavese 
a shield which covered the whole body. 

The materials used were iron, copper, wood, and leather, but 
generally in combination. When two materials were used the 
shield was bound with an iron rim. Tournament shields were a 
speciality of the Florentine " Scudai" and were made rather for 
show than for use. They were elaborately adorned with paint- 
ings, or embossed with mouldings of gesso, or inlaid by patterns in 
wood and metal, and were decorated, often enough by artists of 
the first rank. 

Pouches, Purses, and Gauntlets all came under the category 
of Saddlery. Their manufacture and adornment formed an at- 
tractive trade and one of no little profit to the skilful craftsman. 
Each class of citizens had a distinctive shape of pouch or purse, 
and it was possible to distinguish the wearers' Guild by the shape 
each affected. Civilians were accustomed to display their arms, 
or those of their Guild, upon their Pouches, " Scarselle" as they 
were called. 

Very much rivalry and considerable variety were excited by 
this custom. The smarter a man was in his dress and in the 
style of his belt and pouch and his gauntlets the more considera- 
tion did he receive in public. 

Dante refers to this fashion in the " Inferno " : 

" . . pendant from his neck each wore a Pouch 
With colours and with emblems various mark'd 
On which it seemed as if their eyes did feed." * 

" Scarselle " and gauntlets of leather were sold by the 
" Rigattieri? as well as by the Saddlers, who were also the 
makers of gloves of all kind. 

The Scarselle were often works of art, wherein the finest effort 
of the dresser of leather, or the stitcher of cloth, was coloured 
with the pigments of acknowledged artists, and decorated with 
the embroideries of skilful silk-workers and goldsmiths. They 
were suspended from the belt, on the right side, or from the 

1 " Inferno," Canto xvii. 


neck, and contained the wearer's petty-cash, daily tablets, and 
other fashionable nicknacks. 

As time went on more and more care was expended on the 
finishing and adorning of leather work. As a case in point, it 
is on record that in the middle of the fifteenth century the 
Saddlers of Florence had introduced a debased style of work- 
manship. Fashion demanded pictorial embellishment on saddles, 
shields, book-backs, and other objects in leather ; and the " Guild 
of Painters " stepped in, and passed a rubric which forbade their 
members to paint or decorate any kind of leather but the very 
best ox-hide or pig-skin and on no account were they allowed 
to use inferior colours. 1 


The Renaissance made demands upon all sorts and conditions 
of artizans for finer and more artistic workmanship than had been 
sufficient in mediaeval times. No industry felt this influence more 
keenly than that of metal-workers. The " Guild of Blacksmiths," 
by reason of the bulk and character of their materials, no less 
than by the solid requirements of their trade, were entirely un- 
equal to cope with the thousand and one tasteful objects which 
skilled hands could fashion out of base metal. 

As early as the fifth century Ampelius, the monkish historian, 
in his " Legends of the Saints," speaks of a " Corporation of Lock- 
smiths," and instances the intricacies of their craft. Another 
monkish historian, Theophilus, in his " Diver sarium Artium 
Schedula" put out in the early part of the twelfth century, gives 
descriptions of methods of embossing, and damascening, and 
other work, in iron, steel, copper, and bronze. He further adds 
a list of locksmiths' tools, including hammers, chisels, screw-jacks, 
saws, scalpers, burins, scratching-needles, burnishers, etc. etc. 

In the Archives of Florence of the twelfth century there are 
the following records of locksmiths : 

" 1 1 08. Florentius Clavajulus"- Locksmith. 

1 Rub. Ixxix., 1415. 


" 1 1 46. Johannes (faber) f. Brictonis "- Knife-maker. 
" 1147. Uguccione Calderarius" Copper-smith. 

In the first List of the Guilds 1236 the "Arte de* 
Chiavaiuoli" is reckoned tenth in the Fourteen Lesser Guilds. 
This position was maintained in 1266, but in 1280-82 the Guild 
was promoted to the sixth place, and received an extension of 
its title, namely: " LArte de' Chiavaiuoli e Ferraiuoli-Vecchi e 
Nuovi" "The Guild of Locksmiths and Workers in old and 
new Metal." 

In 1301-9, when the Statutes underwent a strict revision in 
consonance to the general adoption, by all the Guilds, of the 
model code prepared for the " Calimala " merchants, an alteration 
was made in the designation of the Guild as follows : "LArte de* 
Chiavaiuoli, Ferraiuoli, e Calderai" "The Guild of Locksmiths, 
Iron- Workers and Braziers." In 1415 the original style of 1236 
was restored and the Guild was classed eleventh in the Fourteen 
Lesser Guilds. 

Very many trade Associations were affiliated to the Guild, 
for no industry presented fuller opportunities for varied workman- 
ship, both useful and ornamental. These Associations ranged 
from groups of most skilful artists in metal, both precious and 
common, to the very dregs of the population, for example, in 
1311 the " Ferravecchi" " Scrap-iron Dealers," a recognised 
trade apart, were incorporated, and in 1327 the " Incisori in 
Rame " " Engravers in copper," were included in the Guild- 

If the custom which Ampelius the Monk cites in the fifth 
century, of electing two Consuls, and which he calls, " the good 
old Republican title," was continued in the twelfth and thirteenth 
century, by the Locksmiths of Florence, then the Guild was quite 
in line with the other trade corporations with respect to its chief 

Who and what the remaining officials were can only be traced 
after a laborious search through ill-written, ill-spelt, and much 
abbreviated vernacular documents. We may however take it 

AKT1XAN -111 




for granted that much of, if not all, the system carried out in the 
" Laborerum " of the " Guild of Masters of Stone and Wood " was 
adopted by the Masters of iron and copper. 

Tests of skill in workmanship were required before admission 
to the Guild, and not only had the candidate to produce samples 
of his work, but he was further called upon to give evidence before 
the Consuls of his dexterity in the use of tools of all kinds, by then 
and there manipulating metals of various sorts. 

The Residence of the Consuls of the Guild was a small house 
opposite Or San Michele and contiguous to the Offices of the 
" Guild of Wool." On the wall were carved as usual the Arms of 
the Guild, a big black key, which appeared also upon the red 
field of the Guild gonfalon. 

Some idea of the progress and prosperity of the Guild may 
be gained by comparing the amount contributed, at the tax- 
ing of the Guilds in 1325, to pay the expenses of the warlike 
enterprises of the Republic, with that furnished by the " Guild 
of Masters of Stone and Wood" the amounts were exactly 
alike, namely, eighty gold florins. This sum was in excess 
of that raised by the " Guild of Tanners and Skinners." This 
test of development holds true with respect to the number of 
members of the Guild, their financial capacities, and their ability 
and fame. 

Workshops abounded in old Florence for the artistic working 
of metals, sometimes two or three trades shared the same 
premises, and carried on their work side by side. In Fico's 
basement, in the Mercato Vecchio, was a furnace for Glass-blow- 
ing, and a shop for Locksmiths and Gimlet-grinders, where one 
could purchase a flattering hand-mirror, or a tasteful flower-vase, 
and inspect the latest fashions in metal belt-clasps, dress buttons, 
cinctures, the fittings for purses, and other personal ornaments. 

Florence very soon became the rival of lordly Milan in the 
art and craft of Locksmithery. Indeed, on one occasion at least 
she bore off the palm when Cardinal Wolsey ordered in Florence 


two thousand sets of horse-harness, with embossed and damas- 
cened metal work. The price was sixteen shillings per set a 
large sum in those days. 

Much of the fineness and delicacy of Florentine Locksmithery 
was undoubtedly due to the sunny, tonic climate of Tuscany. In 
the very characteristic workmanship there is an entire absence of 
deep furrows and profound shadows, whilst low relief and light- 
ness of touch are evident in every object. The designs are 
instinct with life and cheerfulness. If the mask of tragedy scowls 
menacingly, there is something about its expression which sug- 
gests merely a passing mood. The features of comedy never 
relax their merry laughter : every smile, every dimple, and every 
blush, are exactly marked with sympathetic touch. 

In nothing so much as in the making of locks and keys, and 
the hinges of doors and cupboards, etc., did the nimble-fingered art- 
workers in metal exhibit this influence of atmosphere, in the 
perfection of skill and adaptability. 

These articles were almost always constructed in connection 
with wood and leather, hence locksmithery, joinery, and curriery, 
marched hand-in-hand, absorbing and assimilating like ideas and 
methods. For an example of this statement it is only needful to 
compare the tongued and grooved work of the Middle Ages with 
the framed and morticed treatment of the Renaissance. The 
long, over-strapped, hinge of a door, or chest, was changed into 
the dove-tailed " bull-hinge," as it is called. 

The making of locks attained such a degree of excellence, 
that they were accounted rare objects of art, and taken, with the 
utmost care, from place to place. The designs most commonly 
carried out in Florence were armorial bearings, letterings, and 
grotesques, with conventional foliage and ribbon work all in 
sympathetic relief. Keys followed suit : they were first dis- 
tinguished in Florence as " male " and " female," the former had 
solid shanks, the latter were barrelled. 

The models of these objects, and others similar in character, 
were invariably made in wax. The wax-modellers of Florence 


excelled those of all other art cities. It is curious, perhaps, that 
they never associated themselves as a Guild or Corporation. Their 
finest workmanship resulted in glorious bronze medallions, which 
are the pride and the joy of artist, artificer, and collector alike. 
They are remarkable for the lowness of their relief, nothing more 
delicate was ever achieved by the hand of man working in metal. 

The following are some of the more prominent Masters 
in bronze, who worked in the shops of the Locksmiths : 
Antonio Avertino, Giovanni Petrecini, Michelozzo Michelozzi, 
Andrea Guazzalotti, Niccolo Fiorentino, in the fifteenth cen- 
tury ; and in the sixteenth, Benvenuto Cellini, Giovanni da 
Bologna, Francesco di Sangallo, Antonio Pollaiuolo, Domenico 
Poggini and the brothers Gianpaolo who were all of them matricu- 
lated members of the Guild. 

The damascening of metal a beautiful Art consists of the 
incrustations of gold and silver upon steel and bronze. The 
method pursued in Florence was that introduced from the East, 
namely the spreading of the stamped-out design laid flat and 
close upon the surface of the metal. Pressure and blows were 
applied both under heat and cold. Artificers called it "Air 
Azzimina" like a "coat of mail," and "Alia Gemina" "after 
the original." 

The finest work of this description was exhibited in the 
magnificently wrought iron cabinets, inlaid with gold and silver, 
which became the craze of wealthy citizens in the sixteenth 

Benvenuto Cellini is very warm in his praise of the damascening 
of steel by Florentine craftsmen. He says : " With their needle- 
like chisels they turn up every twist and curve of the most 
intricately overlapping acanthus leaf, and their introduction of 
little singing birds and playful animals seems to make the bare 
metal a living entity." 

The embossing of metal was by no means the least admirable 
of the output of the Florentine Locksmiths. In this art-craft 
.they emulated the workers in leather and the carvers of wood. 


Indeed so skilful did all three classes of workmen become that, 
given a subject to be done in each of the three materials, it was 
their aim to produce a common result, wherein nobody could say 
at sight which was metal, wood, or leather ! 

Few artificers were greater in this beautiful craft than Fran- 
cesco dal Prato di Girolamo : he worked on the lines of Michele 
Agnolo, who perhaps introduced it into Florence from Germany. 

The greatest artists were not above making the most simple 
things, for instance, Benvenuto Cellini made salt-cellars, Jacopo 
Sansovino inkstands, Donatello mirror-frames, the Pollaiuoli 
candlesticks, and so on. That these objects were strong as well 
as beautiful one has but to recall the feat of Leonardo da Vinci 
in wrenching off door-knockers with one hand alone in response 
to a wager. A favourite style of door-knocker was a chiselled 
figure of a naked child, much after the lovely bambini of the 
Delia Robbia, holding a scroll inscribed " Salve? 

Endless are the objects which the clever members of the 
" Guild of Locksmiths " have left to posterity to admire and to 
imitate. Among the most striking, as evidences of thoroughly 
artistic proclivities and practical convenience combined, were the 
everyday working tools. These were not, as now, mainly, and 
often obtrusively, utilitarian, but they were designed and made by 
men who have taught the eternal lesson that the useful and the 
ornamental need never be parted. 

Many humble but indispensable implements of daily life have 
beautiful enrichments, for instance, cloth smoothing-irons with 
coiled snakes for handles, carpenters' compasses with floral designs 
impressed and chiselled, nut-crackers, trays, scent-caskets with 
delicately fine pierced work, farriers' tools have richly embossed 
work, surgical saws, of the sixteenth century, have handles of ivory 
inlaid with silver and amber, other instruments have ebony 
handles, with incrustations and small plaques of bronze. Snuffers 
were embellished with patterns in stamped diaper. Braces for 
drilling, pincers, fire-irons, knives, forks, spoons, skewers, thimbles, 
candle-prickets, hand-planes, and the tools and instruments used 



in all the trades of Florence, were all of them made for work but 
adorned by art. 

In a word the Locksmiths' Art was an absolute affirmation of 
all the mighty powers of the Renaissance. Without the clever 
artificers of metal much of the charming revelation of that precious 
awakening would have been non-existent. The " Guild of Lock- 
smiths " supplied the instruments with which the secrets of orna- 
mental craft and useful art have been revealed to a delighted 
world. They gave spatulas to sculptors, paint-boxes to painters, 
compasses to architects, sextants to explorers of nature, pestles 
and mortars to doctors and apothecaries, combs to silk-carders, 
fine frame wires to silk weavers, smoothing-irons to " Calimala " 
cloth finishers, needles to lace-workers and embroiderers, sensitive 
scales to coiners at the Mint and many more indispensable 
implements and apparatus. 

When Cosimo, the first Grand Duke, in 1534 established his 
four Universities of the Crafts, the " Guild of Locksmiths " was 
incorporated as the Third in order along with the " Blacksmiths," 
the " Masters of Stone and Wood," the " Armourers and Sword- 
makers," and the " Carpenters." The style of the " Combination " 
was " L Universita de' Fabbricanti " " University of Artificers." 

I. " Stemma dell 1 Arte 

degli Oliandoli " 
Green tree, red lion, in a 
white field, wit 

2. " Stemma del? Arte de 


Two red bars upon a 

white field 

" Stemma delf Arte 
de' Chiavaiuoli" 
A black key in a 
white field 





I. ARMOURERS. Italy the battlefield of Europe. Mediaeval armour. 
Renaissance armourer-smiths. Early Florentine craftsmen. Cuirass and 
sword-makers united. Thirteenth-century Guild Officers. Dispute about a 
banner. Many linked industries. Tent-making. The Condottieri. Tourna- 
ments. A knight's kit. Price of a Ronzone a charger. Duels. Feats of 
strength. "Treatise on Military Arts." The artillery of 1530. 

II. CARPENTERS. At first subordinate to "Masters of Stone and Wood." 
Fabri-tignarii of Charlemagne. Many kinds of workers in wood. Price of 
tools. Rules about obstructions. Fines. No litter. Furniture. The "festive 
board." Cassoni. Intarsiatura Mosaic. Walnut and pear wood abundant. 
Carvings. Gesso. Certosatura. Families of skilled craftsmen. " // Grosso 
Legnaiuolo \ " Giovanni Rucellai's dressing-table. 

III. BAKERS. Contado produced little corn. The " Annona? or Magis- 
tracy of Abundance. Foreign supplies. Gate-dues and ruses. An ancient 
custom. Qualities of wheat. The Vacca. Or San Michele Shrine and Market. 
Affidavits. Chopping-off fingers ! Ill fame of bakers. Sweating. Distinction 
in the Guild between Mugnai millers, and Fornai bakers. Storage of corn 
and flour. Boccaccio's satires. Byelaws. Pastry-cooks. Carnival song. 
Yearly inspections. Fuel. Bakers prosperous and ostentatious. 


A LTHOUGH the primitive arms of the Etruscans came 
JL\ originally from Greece, and were famed for the excellence 
of pattern and manufacture, and although the legions of the 
conquering Roman armies crossed and recrossed Tuscany, and 
impressed the solidity and workmanship of their weapons and 
armour upon the subjected races ; it is a matter of certainty 
that Florentine arms and armour came directly from Germany. 
In Italy the business of making armour and weapons 

especially swords was a specialty of Milan and other towns in 


Lombardy. The patterns and workmanship exhibited in these 
workshops were undoubtedly Teutonic, but, in the skilful hands 
of Italian workmen, the plain and practical instruments of attack 
and defence received the addition of artistic decoration. 

One of the earliest armourers of fame in Milan was Galvano 
Fiamino, who, in 1288, had established a great renown for making 
helmets, breastplates, shields, and other portions of body-armour, 
in burnished metal. The Giulino family too was famous for 
making steel-armour, but excelled especially in defensive armour 
for horses. 

From the eleventh to the fourteenth century armoured men 
wore iron shirts only. In the thirteenth century cross-bows were 
generally used, with a variety of arrows, for example : Verrettoni 
sharp, short darts, Moschette ball-pointed medium length, and 
Quadrelli long four-feathered shafts. 

Before the invention of gunpowder, in the middle of the 
thirteenth century, the instruments used for artillery were as 
numerous in variety as they were extraordinary in form. Their 
manufacture required the services, not only of armourers and 
workers in metal, but the assistance of carpenters, rope-makers 
and other artificers. After the application, in 1280, of gunpowder 
to artillery, this class of offensive weapons became a distinct and 
largely employed industry. With the introduction of fire-arms 
there came into activity a rival class of workman gunsmiths, 
who, as the science of warfare developed, ousted by degrees 
armourers from their place and employment. 

Throughout the whole of the fourteenth century knights con- 
tinued the practice of wielding lance, sword, and battle-axe. 
Foot-soldiers were armed with short swords, bows and arrows, 
darts, short axes, slings, knives, daggers, and javelins. Scale 
armour was rarely, if ever, used after the fourteenth century. 

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Tuscan infantry were 
armed with steel or iron breastplates, but were unarmed on their 
backs. They carried pikes of iron, set upon stout wooden poles, 
seventeen feet long, with swords, rounded at the point. Head 

2 D 


armour was not worn. Arquebuses made their appearance only 
at the beginning of the sixteenth century. 

The work of Armourer-smiths seems to have reached its highest 
point of excellence in the second half of the fifteenth century. 
The influence of the Renaissance made itself felt in the richness 
of decorative attributes rather than in the quality of the metal 

Very evident too was the advance made, intelligent as well 
as artistic, in the output of the armourers' shops. Ill-fitting 
pieces yielded to well moulded articles, much in the same way 
that badly-made cloth garments never leave the table of an 
observant and diligent tailor. 

.Bronze armour came in during the sixteenth century and was 
worn until the year 1558. Its adoption was mainly due to the fact 
that it was far easier to keep clean than was steel. Black armour 
followed on the heels of bronze armour, and its sombreness 
brought into vogue the splendid decorative qualities of gold and 
silver damascening. Embossed and fluted armour was quite the 
latest adaptation of defensive dress, and became fashionable at 
the end of the sixteenth century, rather for State functions and 
parades, than for use in field or at joust. 

As early as the end of the eleventh century Armourers were 
in existence In Florence if not much before that period. The 
Archives have the following entries : 

" 1090. Johannes, fit. Rodolfo -pugnitore" Dagger-maker. 

" 1128. Florentius Spaliarius " Armourer. 

Workmen who had been trained in the Milan workshops found 
their way to Florence, along with very many other artificers, when 
her sun began to rise so gloriously in the early Renaissance. 

Florentine armourers, along with those of Pisa and Pistoja, 
very soon attained to fame as proficient in the art of making arms 
and armour. To the latter city is due the distinction of having 
manufactured the first " Pistol," a lethal weapon with a wheel 
lock and a barrel a foot long. The increase of the industry led 


naturally to an incorporation of the artizans, and so it is not to 
be wondered at that in the first list of the Guilds, that of 1236, 
the " Arte de* Corazzai e Spadai" finds a place. 

Certainly the rank of the " Guild of Armourers and Sword- 
makers " was very humble eleventh among the Fourteen Lesser 
Guilds. This position was maintained in 1266, but in the List 
of 1280-82 the Guild displaced that of the "Locksmiths," and 
retained the step in 1301-1309, and right on till 1415. In the 
latter year the " Armourers and Sword-makers " gave way to their 
rivals in the industry of artistic metal-work, and even lost one 
place more, coming out as last but two of all the Twenty-one 

Upon the last re-arrangement of the Lesser Guilds in 1534, 
the " Armourers and Sword-makers " were scheduled with the other 
workers in metal, stone, and wood, the " Blacksmiths," " Lock- 
smiths," " Masters of Stone and Wood," and " Carpenters," under 
the comprehensive title of the "LUniversita de' Fabbricanti" the 
third of the four Universities incorporated under the Grand Duke 

In a document of the thirteenth century, to which no date is 
attached, it is stated that " those who hammer their metal plates 
and make steel cuirasses are a Guild apart, and exercise their 
craft under Consuls, or Rectors, like the other Guilds of Florence." 

Another entry, dated 1303, names nineteen individuals "who 
are declared to be more than two-thirds of the members of the 
Guild, and who in full meeting elected two Consuls or Rectors." 
Among other matters which came before these officials was a 
dispute between the " Armourers' Guild " and that of the 
" Escutcheon and Shield-makers' Guild." They appointed two 
members of the Guild to act as arbitrators. The disputants, who, 
it is stated, had, or ought to have had, a common Banner, were of 
different opinions as to who should pay for a new one, and who 
should have the care of it. The decision arrived at charged the 
" Armourers " with two-thirds, and the " Escutcheon and Shield- 
makers " with the remaining one-third of the cost. Further, 


because the latter had held possession of the Banner for one whole 

year, to the former was allocated its custody for two years in 


Another matter in dispute, the share of grain which the two 

Guilds were called upon to contribute to the Florentine army in 

the field, was arranged in the same way. 

Hardly anything can be gathered out of the Archives and 

Records of Florence which relates to the Constitution of the 


Statutes were first put out in 1300, up to which date custom 

and convenience appear to have been considered sufficient for the 

purposes of government and development. These were revised in 

1305 upon the model of the " Calimala " Code. Additions and 
alterations were made in 1314-1316, 1321, 1342, and 1463, 
in the same way as in the case of the " Guild of Carpenters." x 
Among the Statutes of 1315 was one which required every horse- 
man, serving in a campaign, to provide himself with a helmet, 
breastplate, gauntlets, cuishes, and leg-pieces, all of iron, made 
by acknowledged armourers of Florence. 

That there were many linked industries included in the 
membership of the Guild goes without saying, but what were 
their relations one with another it is not easy to say. One such 
association is recorded in 1309-1316: the " Compagnia degli 
Arcariai" the " Company of Makers of Bows and Arrows." 

Armourers were looked to to supply camp equipage generally 
as well as the arms and armour of the soldiers. Trabacche 
bell tents, and Padiglioni pavilions, were made of stout canvas, 
and were, in early days, provided by the soldiery themselves. 
The latter were often of immense size, very handsomely adorned 
with painting and embroidery, and were much beflagged. 

Doubtless the progress of the Guild was much assisted by the 
ample native supply of metals for which Tuscany was ever famous. 
As significant of the expansion there is a record in the Archives 
which states that: In September 1294 an Assisi merchant pro- 

1 G. Gonetta, "Bibliografia Statutaria delle Corporanzic d'Arti e Mestieri d'ltalia." 


mised to pay Nato Melliorati and Pela Lapi, partners in business 
and citizens and merchants of Florence, a sum of seventy lire, 
payable within a month, for a certain consignment of merchandise 
belts, hats, breeches, bucklers, helmets, and swords. In the 
following year also there is a record of a credit sale by three 
Florentine armourers and merchants to a tradesman from Assisi, 
of a number of breastplates, breeches, helmets, caps, and short 
swords, etc. 1 

In the Taxing List of 1321, when the Guilds were mulcted in 
proportionate charges for the benefit of the State, the " Arte de* 
Corazzai e Spadai" is put down for one hundred and fifty lire a 
very small sum indeed as compared with the contribution of two 
thousand gold florins by the "Arte della Lana" In the same 
List the " Compagnia degli A rcariai " is charged separately the 
very modest sum of eight lire the least amount of all. 

In the days of the Condottieri, when the spirit of warfare 
and the scourge of brigandage were joined hand in hand, lethal 
weapons and body armour were greatly in demand. Florentines 
however were an industrial race, not a warlike folk, and managed 
their battles by proxy. 

Vast sums of money were paid for the arming, mounting, and 
provisioning of the trained bands of mercenary troops, who, led 
by Florentine commanders or alien captains, vindicated the 
honour of the " City of the Lily " and proclaimed her power over 
rash opponents. Such leaders were Uguccione della Faggiola, 
Castruccio Castracane, Bartolommeo Colleoni, Giovanni de' Medici 
(delle Bande Nere), Guarnieri, and Hawkwood. 

Each Condottiere regarded his troop, and some of them num- 
bered thousands of soldiers, as the arbiter of peace and war, and 
took the utmost pains to keep his armaments abreast of his times. 

Every young Florentine of birth was trained in some such 
school as that of Urbino, and quickly assimilated the teaching of 
Castiglione's " Courtier." " I would have," wrote the Count, " a 
complete gentleman to be of good shape, and well proportioned in 

1 " Archivio della Citta di Firenze," i. f. 26. 



his limbs, yet light and easy, and to be well acquainted with all 
exercises becoming men of arms. To handle, besides, well all 
kinds of weapons, and to wrestle well, which generally accompany 
all exercises of arms on foot." l 


The kit of a Florentine warrior was by no means a small one, 
nor one cheaply to be obtained. In October 1365 an armourer, 
Barna da Valorino by name, presented his bill for goods supplied 
to a knight, one Paolo Sassetti, which bill by the way was made 
out by the hands of Ser Lorenzo di Ser Lando, a notary : 

One Cuirass with screw and lace holes. 

1 "II Cortigiano," 1531. 


One Helmet with an iron band or chin-chain. 

One pair Gauntlets of fine chain-work. 

One armoured Neck-piece. 

One pair of Armlets, and Cuffs of leather. 

One pair of Thigh-pieces of thin metal. 

One pair Leather Greaves. 

One Tilting-Helmet or Casque. 

One Pennon with its staff. 

One cavalry Lance. 

Two Saddle-bags. 

Two Knights' coffers. 1 

Although the prices of these articles are not appended, we 
gather, from a Price List of the year 1372, that it was no incon- 
siderable undertaking to furnish a knight with his body armour, 
weapons, horse, and banners. A ronzone, charger, cost forty to 
fifty gold florins, and his daily keep at a public-stable came to the 
fifth part of a gold florin, or more. A pair of spurs cost half a gold 
florin, a bridle three-fourths, and a chased chafing-bit nearly one 
gold florin. For the Page, a mule cost twenty gold florins, a pair 
of stirrups half a gold florin, and the bridle three quarters. 
A sumpter-horse for a servant cost at least twenty-five gold 
florins. 1 

If Milan was the acknowledged mart for warlike armour, 
Florence was no less renowned as the source of weapons of 
display. Her " Armourers and Sword-makers " were chiefly em- 
ployed in making outfits for knights for the Giostre or Tourna- 
ments things of beauty and of price rather than of strength and 
of use. 

As early as the year 1260 young Florentines of all classes 
were accustomed to go out to Peretola, a famous jousting-field, 
three miles away, and practise with lance and sword in friendly 
rivalry. The ancient rule had been that only young men of 
noble birth, and soldiers of fame, were eligible to take part in 
these contests ; indeed the right to wear weapons was denied 

1 See Perrens, " Histoire de Florence," Appendix. 


the lower classes. Under the rule of the Medici however the 
Giostre were thrown open to all classes. 

These tests of skill, strength, and agility, were always carried 
out at the chief Church festivals. Tilting-grounds were formed in 
the larger squares of the city and in all the more important 

One of the most famous duels, fought to the death, was during 
the siege of Florence in 1530, when the gigantic Dante da Cas- 
tiglione encountered Bertino Aldobrandi, a renowned Florentine 
champion. With one crushing blow the latter, although his 
right arm was crippled, clove his adversary's helmet and skull 
right down to the shoulder ! 

Another celebrated Florentine renowned for all time as pro- 
ficient in many arts and sciences Leon Battista Alberti was 
also a great athlete. He thought nothing of leaping in full 
armour upon the back of a galloping horse ! 

Much encouragement was thus given to the craft of the 
armourer, and the members of the " Arte de* Corazzai e Spadai" 
became extremely skilful and also extremely wealthy. 

The Residence of the Consuls of the Guild was in the Piazza 
del Duomo in the same building as that occupied by the offices 
of the " Mzsericordia" One of the most important workshops of 
the " Armourers " was situated in the Via de' Spadai, by the side 
of the Church of Sant' Andrea of the Mercato Vecchio, and con- 
tiguous to the famous Market-shrine of the Madonna. The Arms 
of the Guild were put up over both buildings : a red sword and 
a blue cuirass in a white field. 

In the year 1472 appeared a "Treatise on Military Arts" by 
a Florentine called Giovanni Valturio : in it is the first mention 
of guns, and the like engines of war, as being wrought by the 
"Guild of Armourers and Sword-makers." Up to 1474 Floren- 
tines had only iron guns drawn by bullocks more or less for 
show for after each discharge these primitive weapons required 
several hours to cool before they were again available ! The 
standing army of the Republic was small. It had no artillery 




until 1530, except a few clumsy pieces called " Moschetti" which 
were limbered about on mule-back. 


The Guild of Carpenters was one of the least esteemed in the 
Hierarchy of the Guilds, and occupied in every List the penulti- 
mate position, taking precedence only of the " Arte de* Fornat" 
The why and wherefore of this inferiority it is quite impossible 
to state. Possibly the mutual relations between the Guild and 
the " Masters of Wood," incorporated with the "Arte de' Maestri 
di Pietra e Legname" were such as to associate in the latter all 
the more skilful and artistic, no less than the richer and more 
influential, workers in wood. 

It is quite probable that the rougher wood-craftsmen were 
originally peasants of the Contado accustomed to felling trees 
and preparing them for the Master-builders in the city. Some 
too were doubtless gatherers of fuel and loose timber, and such 
men would be quite able to put together, more or less crudely, 
the huts and cottages in which they dwelt, and the sheds and 
barns wherein they sheltered their cattle and stored their harvests. 

What the "Guild of Carpenters" failed to attain of high 
place in the Guild economy they undoubtedly possessed in the 
question of origin. Priority of existence of the trade is without 

In the days of Charlemagne there are records of a " Society 
of Carpenters " in Tuscany, under the designation of " Fabri- 
tignarii" "Workers in wood." The Robber-captains in the war- 
like times before Countess Matilda, like her ancestor Boniface, 
created first Marquis of Torscia or Toscana in 828, found plenty 
of occupation in clearing forests and planting stockades, and in 
manufacturing pike sticks and bows and arrows. Many sons of 
such wild sires, in later days, apt in their manipulation of timber, 
became members of the first Carpenter Associations in Florence. 1 

1 Perrens, " Histoire de Florence,' vol. i. p. 190. 


In the Archives of the State the earliest preserved entries of 
handicrafts in wood are as follows : 
" 1038. Johannes, qui tornario vocatur "- Turner. 
" 1132. Berignallo, fil. barlittario" Cooper. 
" 1136. Scartone pettinario " Comb-maker. 
" 1199. Reinaldus pancone" Carpenter's-bench and Loom-maker. 

In 1209-1213 mention is made of certain workmen under the 
designations of "Bottariai" Coopers, and " Madiellariai " 
Trough-makers. Reference is made in 1327 to two other allied 
trades : " Cunatori " Chest and cradle-makers, and " Vernicia- 
tori " Varnishers. 

In the List of Guilds at the various revisions of the Statutes 
in 1236, 1266, 1280-82, 1301-1309, and 1415, the " Arte 
deLegnaiuoli " is placed twentieth : in the latter year it is 
entitled "Arte de y Legnaiuoli Grossi "--" Guild of Master 

A set of carpenters' tools in early days cost a man a very 
small amount, for example : a broad-axe 5 soldi, a plain saw 
3 soldi, a plane 4 soldi, an adze 2 soldi, a square, a spoke- 
shave, and a chisel i soldo each ! 

The Statutes of the Guild, first put out in 1300, as was the 
case in the similarly situated Guilds of " Armourers," " Lock- 
smiths," and " Saddlers," were written in characters so difficult 
to decipher that no one has yet succeeded in making known 
fully the details of its Constitution. The General Code, drawn up 
for use by all the Guilds, with adaptations to their peculiar re- 
quirements, in the years 1301-1309, was adopted in 1305 by the 

As to the peculiar Officials, elected to adminster the affairs of 
the Guild, we seem to have no information. That there were 
Consuls, as in the other Guilds, goes without saying, and is proved 
by the fact that their Residence was situated in the Via de' 
Lamberteschi, next door to the Zecca Mint ; over which their 


coat-of-arms was emblazoned : a green tree and a red house in 
a white field. 

No carpenter or dealer in wood in the Mercato Vecchio was 
allowed to move timber by night under the penalty of ten lire. 
They were forbidden to place their benches outside their houses 
and to make litter in the public thoroughfares. Articles in course 
of making, such as benches, chairs, chests, etc., were not permitted 
to encumber the footpaths. 

Projections of any kind into the street or Market-place were 
subject to measurement, and anything which exceeded the canna 
of the " Calimala " had to be removed, and the owner incurred a 
fine of ten lire. In the Mercato Nuovo wooden frames with 
hooks for stretching and drying woollen cloth ; and along the 
Ponte Vecchio tubs, boxes, blocks, and other articles or encum- 
brances of wood, were prohibited, and the offenders were fined ten 
lire for each offence. 

Carpenters were forbidden to work in the two Markets, and 
also in front of Or San Michele. Any work absolutely necessary 
there had to be completed within three days, and every care 
exercised to remove shavings, sawdust, and litter, without delay. 
No carpenter was allowed to leave timber beyond three days 
lying in front of his workshop, but he had the right to a foot's 
width beyond his wall, where to store wood he was actually 
using. 1 

Whether an arbitrary line can be drawn between the avoca- 
tions of the " Masters of Wood " and those of the " Carpenters " is 
a matter of opinion. Apparently scaffoldings, roofings, and panel- 
lings, and all such important matters, which required strict archi- 
tectural knowledge, were undertaken by the former Guild, together 
with the designing of artistic decorations and, possibly, their 
manipulation. The " Carpenters " were doubtless more especially 
concerned with frame-work, flooring, and fitting, and repairing 
jobs, whilst much of their time was absorbed in cabinet-work. 

The furniture of the Renaissance was by no means the least 

1 "Tractatus Extra-ordinatus," Lib. IV., Rub. xlii., etc. 


considerable object of artistic workmanship. In the varied forms 
of bedsteads, cupboards, chests, for marriage outfits, and other 
purposes, couches, chairs, tables, picture-frames, etc. etc., 
Florentine workmen gained a high reputation for skill and 

Up to the fifteenth century, with few exceptions, the table for 
meals was nothing but a loose board, or boards, laid upon trestles 
hence the term " festive board ! " With respect to chairs, until 
the end of the first decade of the sixteenth century, the only chair 
set by the board was that occupied by the Master of the house, 
the Bishop or General of a Monastery, or the Head of a business 
house. " Taking the chair " is an expression directly traceable to 
this custom, meaning thereby the place of honour. Only gradu- 
ally did the long hard benches disappear, and chairs, seated, first 
in plain wood, and then with leather, and lastly, upholstered, 
take their places. 

And who is not familiar with the splendid Cassoni, marriage 
coffers, belonging chiefly to the sixteenth century, with their 
grandeur of outline, and substantiality of workmanship, which 
the whole School of Florentine painters, man by man in turn, 
adorned with superb paintings, forming, in a way, a running 
history of the men and the women, the manners and the fashions 
of the Renaissance. 

Cabinetmakers were not satisfied with crude effects or simple 
treatment, but added enrichments of all kinds. Veneering was 
the mother of mosaic-work, and it was an early accomplishment 
in Florence. At first it was confined exclusively to the addition 
of various sorts of cane and foreign wood. Gradually a more 
solid surface became the fashion, and almost imperceptibly 
Florentine mosaic became the characteristic of her Carpenters and 
workers in wood. 

The surface of the wood, in this art, is no longer visible, 
or only visible in part, for upon the plain timber foundation is 
laid a solid mass of stone and metal, -Lapis-lazuli, malachite, 
and jasper columns, with gilt capitals and enwreathments, and 


pedestals of gilt bronze, are associated with medallions of agate, 
carnelian, bloodstone, and onyx. By an easy transition this 
inlay, or encrusting work was applied to stone foundations, and 
here was obtained that class of artistic work which commonly 
goes by the name of " Mosaic." The Grand Duke Ferdinand I. 
introduced the style from Milan, in the year 1580, for the adorn- 
ment of the Medici tombs at San Lorenzo. 

Another form of artistic carpentry was an especial favourite 
in the sixteenth century the overlaying of ivories upon ebony 
groundwork. This was called " Scagliuola" and in it was pro- 
duced the latest expression of the artistic taste of the 

Walnut and pear were the favourite woods in the hands of 
the carvers of wood, who probably belonged to the " Masters of 
Wood " ; whilst the workmen of the " Carpenters' Guild " did the 
roughing out of panels, borders, balustrades, etc. etc. 

The secrets of the manufacture of Florentine picture-frames 
have never left the fair city on the Arno. Wood gilding was a 
fine art as much as was the carving of the wood. The mouldings 
were covered with red lead and then with coatings of thinnest 
white glue, thicker in the burnished parts, and sometimes as 
many as ten coats were applied. 

Polishing too of wood-work, whether on the flat or carved, 
was a serious art A mixture of turpentine and beeswax was 
brushed carefully and repeatedly over the surface, and then 
rubbed down with hard brushes. Olive-oil was poured unstint- 
ingly over the parts, and then heavy heated irons were applied, 
and the whole finished with the swift manipulation of soft leather 
and silk waste. 

Gesso, which was a very ancient process, was revived in 
Florence in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Cennino 
Cennini, in his " Treatise upon Painting," throws much light 
upon the different methods of working in this material. 

The material was calcined chalk, or whiting, mixed with 
viscid liquid such as glue or size. This formed an admirable 


medium for low-relief, and was much used by carpenters and 
cabinet-makers in the decoration of ceilings, marriage-coffers, wall- 
panels, tournament-shields, and very many kinds of furniture. 
" Pastiglia " was the term applied, in the workshops, to this fictile 
substance, which was laid on almost like pigment, with hog's-hair- 
brushes and metal spatulas. Indeed this form of decorative art 
was actually relief painting, and engaged the attention and energies 
of many a craftsman who had a feeling for beauty. 

Intarsiatura, called also briefly " Tarsia" was employed for 
the floors and walls of rooms, and consisted of a simple inlay of 
various sorts of wood. The term " Certosiatura " was applied to the 
finest descriptions especially the inlaid work put down in Churches 
and religious houses, hence the name " work of the * Certosa! " 
This furnishes an interesting proof that the monasteries bore their 
part in the advancement of the arts and crafts. 

A common practice was to glue together long rods of various 
kinds of wood, and, when dry, to saw through the block, whereby 
a chequered pattern was disclosed. The favourite blend was 
black or very dark wood, and the palest strain of white, which 
produced the effect of a draughtboard, and was much in vogue in 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

That the Guild was prosperous, and its members profitably 
engaged in their calling, is evidenced by the position occupied 
by the Guild with respect to the raising of taxes. In 1 3 2 1 , for 
example, the Carpenters are mulcted in the proportionate amount 
of fifty gold florins, the Guild counting tenth in order of affluence 
among the whole Twenty-one ! 

Some of the names of worthy craftsmen and their special 
branches of carpentry have been preserved, for example : Antonio 
Leopardi was a well-known maker and inlayer of tables, 1450- 
1525; the family of d' Agnolo, Bernardo the father, and Domenico 
and Giovanni, his sons, were celebrated as designers of inlay- 
work and as carvers of wood in the churches of Florence, 1460- 
1563 ; and the brothers Tasso, Domenico and Giovanni, who 
worked with Michael Angelo, were renowned wood-carvers. 



An amusing tale is told in one of the Novelle, " // Grasso 
Legnaiuolo " or " The Fat Ebony-Carver " : A good-natured 
fellow of thirty-five, by name Manetti Ammanotini, in 1409, 
opened a shop in the Popolo San Giovanni. He was an agreeable 
and amusing butt for the wags of the quarter, very fat and good 
looking, and quite hail-fellow-well-met with everybody. A party 


of young bloods, seeing him very busy in his new holding, got 
round him, and talked and talked, until they fairly persuaded him 
that he was another man. Supping with him later on the same 
Sunday evening, at Tommaso de' Pecori's, they tricked him, and 
made the poor fellow so thoroughly miserable, that he waddled 
home, and made up his mind to commit suicide. The jest became 
so serious that the larrikins had the greatest difficulty in unravelling 
the muddle they had caused. However Manetti recovered his 
senses and his own personality once more. He was all the same 


a very skilful workman, and was overdone with commissions from 
rich merchants. One of his creations was a remarkable inlaid 
dressing-table for Giovanni Rucellai. 1 

Almost the last movement in connection with the Guild was 
that of 1534, when, under Grand Duke Cosimo I., the Lesser 
Guilds were divided into Four Universities. The third in number 
was styled LUniversita de y Fabbricanti, and included "Smiths," 
" Lock-smiths," " Masters of Stone and Wood," " Armourers and 
Sword-makers," and, last but not least, " Carpenters." 


Note : Much of the information concerning the Guilds of 
" Armourers " and " Carpenters " has been derived from " cuttings " 
collected by the late Rev. S. T. Baxter and most kindly placed 
at the Author's service. 


In spite of the natural pre-eminence of Tuscany as an agri- 
cultural country, her inhabitants were singularly unappreciative of 
their advantages with respect to the growing of cereals. 

Vines, olives, mulberries, and flax, seem to have claimed the 
attention of the old-time agriculturists, to the exclusion, relatively 
speaking, of grain crops; This is the more remarkable because the 
Florentine instinctive far-sightedness in the making of money in 
this matter, at all events, was actually at fault. Possibly industrial 
pursuits engrossed them, as offering better prospects of financial 

The Contado produced little corn, certainly not more than 
three or four months' consumption. Montepulciano, Arezzo, the 
higher parts of the Val d' Arno, and around Pisa, were the most 
favourable home granaries. The provisioning of a city of the size 
of Florence, with her rapidly growing population was a very 
serious business. 

A Magistracy of Abundance, or " Annona" as it was called, 
existed from very early times, but no records of its institution 

1 Roscoe's "Famous Italian Novelists," vol. iv. 


have been preserved. Originally this Magistracy was composed 
of eight Capitudini, Heads of Families, but in 1352 their duties 
were assumed by the Council of State. 

The officials of the " Annona " were chiefly occupied in buying 
and importing foreign grain. In ordinary times their operations 
were carried on in Romagna, the country north of Siena, and in 
Sicily, whilst in years of scarcity recourse was had to the more 
remote supplies of Egypt, Barbary, and the East. 

This system however set up a monopoly, and the working of 
the Government contracts became a matter of oppression and of 
scandal. No regular reports were issued of the supply and 
demand. Prices were not fixed, and losses were not examined 
into. As long as the daily supply of foreign corn in the public 
market of Or San Michele amounted to fifty or sixty loads, at 
ordinary price, no questions were asked. 

On the other hand all the roads leading into Florence from 
the country districts were placed under the surveillance of six 
officers, whose duty it was to see that no hindrance was placed in 
the way of the easy access of grain. 

Nevertheless taxes were imposed at the Gates upon all loads 
of corn from districts not directly under the rule of Florence. 
Many were the ruses adopted to evade this impost. Messengers, 
spies, and agents in disguise, intercepted convoys, and either 
purchased the loads on the spot, or relabelled the consignments 
before they reached the city. The successful running in of grain 
packs entitled the bold driver and the skilful agent to security 
from arrest for debt and to other privileges. 

Many Statutes, Rubrics, and Provvisioni were put forth by 
the Government during the years 1296-1299 to regulate this 
contraband commerce. 1 

The prices current for grain of course varied with circum- 
stances ; for example, between the years 1224 and 1232, the 
limits were from fifteen to two soldi per staio or bushel. 

The annual fixing of the price of corn, flour, and bread, was 

1 Prow. vi. 126; viii. 98; x. 39. 
2 E 


the subject of a very quaint and primitive ceremony. " The 
Officers of Abundance," as they were called, mounted to the top 
of the ancient Granary of Or San Michele, just before the harvest,, 
and settled the year's quotations by the impressions they got on 
viewing the country from that coign of vantage the greener the 
crops the higher were the rates ! l 

Corn in the market at Or San Michele was sorted into four 
descriptions : I . Calvello big barley which would not pass- 
through the standard sieve, the highest priced ; 2. Sicilian wheat, 
second in value ; 3. Grano Comunale, the last Florentine harvest, 
sometimes mixed with barley ; and 4. Grano Grosso, coarse 
varieties of corn. 

All grain for human use was exposed for sale in Bigoncie r 
baskets or trays, made of rushes or wood, each generally holding 
seven or eight staii. As many as three hundred of these recep- 
tacles were to be seen in the Corn-market in times of plenty. 

Another duty of the Officials was to go about amongst the 
sacks, bags, and baskets of grain, brought into the market for sale, 
and make personal examination of quantities and qualities. The 
amount of wheat required for daily consumption in 1427 was 
one hundred vioggi about a bushel. Daily when the great 
" Vacca " struck the hour of nine the " Officers of Abundance " 
seated themselves on a platform, within the Loggia of Or San 
Michele, and from thence watched the orderly distribution of the 
certified stocks. 

In front of the Shrine of the Madonna del' Or San Michele was 
placed an office, a desk and a bench, where sat daily at certain 
hours one or more Notaries. These legal officials were appointed 
for the purpose of receiving the affidavits of Corn-chandlers and 
writing out contracts. These were couched in stringent terms, so 
as to bind buyer and seller alike to act honourably, and to 
prevent the imposition of inferior qualities, and the inflation of 
prices. Appeals in disputes on the spot were referred to the 
Notary, who, not uncommonly, was accompanied by a Dominican 

1 Cantini, iii. 60. 



or other religious personage, the duty of the latter being to set up 
burning candles before the Shrine as witnesses of straight dealing 
before God and man. 


In times of dearth or distress well-disposed merchants, and 
others, were accustomed to send in waggons laden with corn, to 
be sold as the " Officers of Abundance " directed to the poorer 
citizens. Very often too, wealthy and ambitious men, in order to 


curry favour with the populace, placed supplies of grain at the 
disposal of the Officers for gratuitous apportionment. 

Sometimes, when the pinch of want became severe, people 
clamoured and fought around the Granary-shrine for daily doles 
of wheat. Among relics of the " good old times " preserved for 
years, in the Sacristy, was a fearsome instrument in the shape of 
an axe, and a wooden block. The latter used to stand by the 
platform whereon the " Officers of Abundance " presided under 
the Loggia, and was used in connection with the very summary 
method to which these worthies resorted, when they quietly chopped 
off a finger or two from the hands of the more unruly claimants ! 

The effect of the intervention of the " Uffiziali delta Grascia " 
and " dell' Abbondanza" the Market authorities, was not wholly 
conducive to the cheapening of comestibles. The constant suc- 
cession of new men and new laws made for confusion and 
difficulty, and hence the sales of corn in the Markets and the 
shops of the Granaiuoli^ Corn-chandlers, no less than the prices 
of flour and bread at the bakehouses of the members of the 
44 Guild of Bakers " varied considerably and perpetually. 

The preponderating influence of the " Annona " had a great deal 
to do with the subordination of the " Arte de' Fornai" Members 
of the Guild were wholly dependent upon their good offices or 
bad in the prosecution of their trade. 

Whilst at Pisa the " Guild of Bakers " ranked amongst the 
Seven Greater Guilds, in the Florentine hierarchy it came last of 
all the Twenty-one Corporations ! This inferiority of precedence 
lends colour to the story of the ill-fame of the trade in general in 
the capital city. 

Certainly in reading through the acts of the Council of State 
of Florence one is struck with the frequency with which the 
" Guild of Bakers " and its members appear as delinquents. It 
was constantly necessary to take measures against them, in 
common with " the Guild of Butchers," in consequence of " the 
dishonour they do the Commune, and the Podesta, by the bad 
quality of the flour and of the mutton they offer for sale." 


A light is thrown upon the reason of the disesteem in which 
the Guild was held in a speech made in the Council of the 
Captain of the People on January 30, 1282, by Bernardo Rossi 
a baker. He maintained that " there were many wealthy citizens, 
who had money interests in the trades of milling and baking ; 
but who took no part in the business themselves. By the high 
prices they charged for flour they encouraged working bakers to 
mix inferior qualities, and by the high rents they demanded for 
the hire of bakehouses they compelled the tenants to make 
excessive charges for inferior bread. The latter indictment had 
its complement in the use of unjust weights. This state of 
things," he went on to say, " affected the poorer classes more than 
the better-to-do citizens, and consequently excited popular 
prejudices against the ill-used bakers, rather than against the 
grasping capitalists ! " 1 

Of the actual date of the establishment of the Guild there are 
no records ; indeed the early Archives of Florence, such at 
least as have been preserved, contain only very scanty notices of 
milling and baking, and hardly any of a Corporation of Craftsmen. 

That avocations so essential for the public weal were actively 
and largely in operation goes without saying from the earliest 
period. Doubtless a goodly number of customs and methods had 
grown with the lapse of time, and out of these quite naturally 
more or less regular codes of procedure and conduct had been 

In the Archives there are early notices as follows : 
" 1028. Ursus . . . pistor a Baker." 
"11 47. Bernardus Mugnarius a Miller." 

In the year 1236 the " Arte de 1 Fornai" was duly scheduled 
with the rest of the Twenty-one Guilds, and placed seventh in 
the order of the Fourteen Lesser Guilds. This pride of place was 
retained only for a few years, for in 1282 the "Guild of Bakers" 
appears last of all the Guilds, and so it continued to the end. 

1 " Le Consulte," torn. i. Quad C. p. 48. 



Certainly in 1534 the Guild received something like promotion 
for it was included with the Guilds of " Butchers " and " Oil- 
Merchants and General Dealers " in the Universita di For San 
Piero the first of the four Unions of Lesser Guilds established by 
the Grand Duke Cosimo I. 

Whatever special features or peculiar Officers the Guild may 
have had in earlier days, seem to have disappeared by the end of 
the thirteenth century, and the Guild fell into line with the rest, 


and accepted as a model for its new constitution the reformed 
Statutes of the " Calimala" Guild of 1301-1309. 

Probably at first the chief officers were styled " Capitudini "- 
" Heads " rather than " Consuls," although their Residence was 
called consular, and was a fine house situated in the Chiasso del 
Buco by the Mercato Vecchio. Upon its front was emblazoned 
a white star in a red field the armorial bearings of the Guild, 
which were assigned to the " Arte de* Fornai" by the Priors in 

From the first a distinction was drawn between the two 
different classes of citizens who formed the membership of the 
Guild : the Mugnai Millers and Fornai bakers, The former 


were engaged in grinding flour at their mills in the Contado, or 
along the river side, and in carrying their full sacks to the Corn- 
market at Or San Michele. The latter were employed in knead- 
ing and baking bread and in selling it retail. 

Millers were forbidden to retail flour in Florence on their own 
account. Three pounds of grain went to the bushel. Millers 
were expected to deliver the ground flour within three days of the 
receipt of the grain. 1 

The wholesale storage of corn and flour, which would have 
a tendency to harden the market, and which could be sold at 
higher rates in times of scarcity, was absolutely forbidden. 
Persons evading the prohibition were liable to have the whole of 
their stock confiscated and to see their names exposed to public 
infamy. 2 

Probably much of the obloquy which attached to the bakers 
must be laid at the door of the millers. Boccaccio throws out 
many a hint that, in spite of their well-lined doublets and fair 
white aprons, the latter class passed in general for sharp fellows, 
not to say cheats. It was said that they invariably kept back 
one-half the flour which every grinding produced ! 3 

In 1296 full powers were granted to the Priors to draw up a 
Statute against this dishonest way of dealing, and also a Provvisione 
to determine the retail-price of bread. 4 This was all the more 
needful seeing the great variations which existed in the value of 
corn, flour, and bread, at different periods. In 1224, for example, 
a staio, bushel, of wheat cost fifteen soldi ; whilst, during the 
great famine, in 1328 the price rose to one gold florin ten 
shillings. 5 

A Statute was passed fixing four denari for a staio , one 
third of a sack of corn, of bread ; but inasmuch as fuel, 
always more or less a scarce commodity, cost more in winter 
than in summer, it was impossible to sell at one price the 
year round. Naturally people wished to buy at the lowest 

1 Rub. ccvii., 1415. 3 Boccaccio, "Giorn." vi. "Nov." 2, torn. iii. p. 26. 

2 Rub. ccix., 1415. 4 Prow. vi. 25, v. 5 "Le Consulte," i. 114. 


summer prices, and consequently any rise on the part of 
the baker led to disputes and sometimes to the raiding of 
their shops. They complained that they were the wronged 
persons, and made appeals to the State for protection. At 
last it was agreed that the bakers should charge four denari 
in the summer and five in the winter, for the same quantity 
of bread. 

Villani says the bakers were the gainers by the new arrange- 
ment, and daily made into bread as much as one hundred and 
fifty loads of grain. Each loaf had to bear the mark of the baker 
stamped upon it. Any bread offered for sale unstamped was at 
once confiscated by the " Officers of Abundance," and the offend- 
ing baker was mulcted in heavy damages. 1 

Bakers, however, felt the strain of taxation, because they had 
to pay a tax, not only on the flour they baked, but also for the 
privilege of keeping their shops open and their ovens heated. 2 
The constant alterations in bye-laws pressed arduously upon the 
bakers. One day, for instance, a man might bake and sell bread 
of a certain quality and weight, which the next were deemed 
illegal. 3 

Kneaders of dough, and bread-bakers, were not allowed to 
work on Sundays and other days of solemnity. Any one so 
doing was fined forty soldi. The " Sportello " however might be 
open on such days after Mass for the sale of bread. 

Makers of maccaroni and vermicelli were required to take out 
their licences in the month of January, and all unlicensed bakings 
were fined ten lire for each sale effected. 5 

Citizens were warned not to purchase nor to keep large 
quantities of bread, unless they were Innkeepers. Bread for 
the family had to be purchased fresh daily, and no private indi- 
vidual, or person unconnected with the Guild, might sell bread 
under any conditions. 6 Foreigners visiting Florence and residing 

1 Villani, xi. 93. 2 M. Villani, i. 57. 

a Villani, 1347, xii. 72, xiii. 956. 4 Rub. cc., 1415. 

5 Rub. ccxiv., 1415. 6 Rubs, clxxxix., cxli., 1415. 


for a period were permitted to bake, cook, and sell, as they 
liked, regardless of the embarrassing regulations which hampered 
the Florentine bakers. 

Bakers never gave credit beyond the value of ten lire, and 
they were obliged to furnish the Consuls of the Guild, at stated 
periods, with lists of their customers and the amount owed by 

Bread was not by any means the only commodity which 
bakers might sell, but flour of all kinds, as well, and bran and 
sifted grain of every description. There was consequently a sort 
of rivalry set up between them and the Granaiuoli, Corn-chandlers, 
who were associated with the " Arte degli Oliandolil' 

A very important, and withal popular, branch of the Bakery 
business was that of the Panattieri Pastry-cooks but this was 
a later development of the art of baking. Pastry made with eggs, 
butter, sugar, milk, and flour, however, is never named in Records 
before the end of the sixteenth century, when a company of pastry- 
cooks migrated from Milan to Florence, and introduced their 
special delicacies. 

In the Canti Carnascialeschi Carnival Songs where all the 
Guilds and Crafts are celebrated, or caricatured, there is no mention 
of Pastry-cooks. First sung by Berni in his " Orlando Innamorato" 
pastry supplied the epicure with delights he had never even 
dreamed of: 

" To live delicately in every way 
Needs the aid of foreign culinary. 
Pastry goes well with your savories and with your 
Poultry, boiled and roast, and with baked meats." r 

The Pastry-cooks' shops, it need hardly be added, were, in later 
times, irresistible attractions to the merry Florentines. Many a 
pretty young contadina, tripping along with her lover, picked up 
some toothsome trifle or other. Just off the hot iron plates of the 
oven, and temptingly set out in dainty wicker-baskets, were such 
delicacies as berlingozzi puff-pastry, cialdoni thin spiced wafers, 

1 Lib. iii. chap. vii. sect. 51. 


ciambelle jam rolls, bericuocoli ginger-bread cakes, bracciatelli 
crisp sweet biscuits, lasagne maccaroons, and many other 
delights, along with whole cakes and confectionery of all descriptions. 

All bakers and pastry-cooks whether men or women were 
required to exhibit a sign over their bakeries and shops emblazoned 
with the Lily of Florence in blue. 1 Once a year, in the month of 
December, they were required to appear before the Officials of Or 
San Michele, and to swear solemnly that they would well, truly, 
and honestly, prosecute their calling, and commit no fraud against 
the State and the public, but observe, strictly and intelligently, all 
the regulations of their Guild, and the laws of the State. 2 

The weights and measures used by members of the Guild 
were under the inspection and correction of the officials appointed 
by the " Captains of Or San Michele " ; who also had power to 
examine and test the weight and quality of all bread baked in 

Within the first month of their assumption of office Podestas 
and Captains of the People caused a careful inquiry to be made 
into the position, construction, and inofTensiveness, of all public and 
private bakeries and ovens. All nuisances or dilapidations were 
pointed out, and time given for their amendment. Failure to 
comply with the directions of the officials led to fines of one 
hundred lire, or more. 3 

Attention was also paid to the amount of fuel, wood or other 
inflammable matter, stored by each baker, and strict rules were 
enjoined as to its storage and protection from fire. 4 

The Guild, in spite of let and hindrance, flourished exceed- 
ingly. The members built fine bakehouses and shops, and palatial 
residences, which they furnished handsomely, encouraging thereby 
many a rising artist and craftsman. In their Sunday and gala 
dress they were not a whit behind their more aristocratic fellow- 
Guildsmen, whilst in their hospitality, and the upkeep of their 
tables, they yielded to none. 

1 Rub. ccxxxviii., 1415. - Rub. cxcv., 1415. 

3 Rub. ccii., 1415. 4 Rub. cciii., 1415. 



They apparently cared little enough for their arbitrary position 
of inferiority in the Guild Hierarchy and each individual did his 
best to show that he was as good a citizen, if not better, than 
his neighbour the Butcher and the Provision-Dealer ! 

I. " Stemma del? Arte 
de* Corazzai e Spadai " 

Red sword, blue cuirass, 
in white field 

2. " Stemma del? Arte 
de" Legnaiuoli " 

Red house, green tree, 
in white field 

3. " Stemma delf Arte 
d<? Fornai" 

White star in 
red field 



MERCATO VECCHIO. The lungs of commerce. Tradition. Dante's 
testimony. Conrad II. Palaces. Origin of the Loggia, A ghost story. 
Oratorio delta Tromba. The Market language. " The Echo of the Market." 
Antonio Pucci. " La Proprieta di Mercato Vecchio" Market churches. Dona- 
tello's Dovitzia. Market bells. A day in the Market. Silence unknown. 
Market games. " Accorr 'Uomo\" Help! The Stocks for knaves. Chaos 
and dirt. Strict Market bye-laws. Market porters. Story-tellers. A mermaid. 
Sbirri. Good food and drink. Cattle. Fish. Poultry. The " Giglio." Fruit. 
Thirsty souls. " Salate / " Barbers. Burchiello. Voce Toscana. Legend of 
the White Hen. 

MERCATO Nuovo. Rise of silk industry required a new Market-place. 
The Loggia for Bankers. Tables of Money-changers. No comestibles in 
Mercato Nuovo. The " Carroccio" Whipping bankrupts. Debtors privileged. 
Bearing of arms in the Market forbidden. Goldsmiths' shops. Benvenuto 
Cellini. Hat-raising. Le genti di Firenze. " Making the fig ! " Sad days. 
Party strife. Great prosperity. Junkettings, A terrible storm. "// Centra 
di Firense." 

THE lungs of the Commerce of Florence were the two Markets 
the Mercato Vecchio and the Mercato Nuovo. The 
home-trade of all the Guilds and Crafts, for more than five 
hundred years, was transacted within their precincts. Here went 
up for ever and a day the hue and the cry after gain. Men, and 
women too, toiled, as only those busy Florentines of old knew 
how, both for individual success, and for the prosperity of their 
beloved city. The keenness of her barterers and hucksters, no 
less than the alertness of her manufacturers and her merchants, 
have their cue in the words of Boccaccio : 

" Those who have no possessions are little better than dumb 
cattle ; he who has most is reputed the most worthy." x 

1 Boccaccio, "Centi Novelle," Giorno viii. "Nov." 10, fol. 195. 


The Mercato Vecchio was the most venerable site in Florence. 
The first portion of the city to be built, it was geographically the 
centre of the municipal area, and became, judicially, the seat of 
the most ancient legal tribunal, socially, the residence of the old 
aristocracy, and, commercially, the emporium of the known world. 1 

An old tradition marks out the Old Market as the exact spot 
where the fierce Fiesoleans of old, coming down armed from their 
stronghold on the hills, bartered with the peaceful dwellers by the 
river banks. 

Dante says, that before 1150 Etruscans, Romans, and Lom- 
bards had all spoken of the Mercato Vecchio : at which date one 
of the earliest important buildings was erected the tower of the 
Caponsacchi family. 

Among traditions of the Old Market, perhaps, the earliest 
relates that Conrad II. visited Florence in 1037, and took up his 
abode in the Market-place. Already there were well-known 
residents of the Market : a wealthy noble Conte di Martino, a 
rich dealer Rufo, and certain well-to-do artisans Olivo and 
Giovanni. At least, it is said, that Conrad seized the dwellings 
of the three latter and bestowed them upon the canons of San 
Giovanni, who had championed his cause. 

The earliest historical record gives the year 1079 as the date 
when the Mercato Vecchio received its name. Markets seem to 
have been held in various parts of the old-world city, and old 
woodcuts represent trafficking as going on just outside the doors 
of San Giovanni Battista ; but such " pitches " were of uncertain 
and inexact prescription. 2 

Around the Old Market were the houses, or palaces, of many 
of the principal inhabitants : the Adimari, Amieri, Agolanti, 
Alamanni, Alfieri, Altieri, Caponsacchi, Cacciaguide, Macci, 
Manfredi, Medici, Nerli, Pegolotti, Sizi, Soldanieri, Tosinghi, 
Tornaquinci, Vecchietti, and others. 

The Palazzo Tosinghi, called also " II Palazzo," because it 
1 F. L. del Migliore, p. 572. 2 Follini, iv. 188. 



surpassed the rest in size and dignity, was an excellent 

specimen of the city palaces, which were 

marks of the liberty of the Commune. Across 

the whole of the front ran open galleries 

called Laubie, from the German, the origin 

of the English word " lobby," supported upon 

pillars or arcades. They were used, by the 

inmates, for taking the air, enjoying their 

meals, viewing the movement of the Market and 

f// j ./K. ii....ti.. f .. . //.in.. 1.1 in i\ \\itt ti.,.rfiii 

VVmrVi jjffi \\ ia>.riilLUI ii tiri fitlfrl frLiMi > 


addressing crowds. Later on Laubie gave place to Loggie. 

The Amieri Palaces formed a range of fine buildings in the 


Old Market. Their Ghibelline towers looked down upon many a 
strange scene, but on none so weird as the shrouded figure of 
Ginevra di Niccolo degli Amieri knocking helplessly at the big 
door of her father's house. Married to Francesco Agolanti, she 
sickened of the plague in 1400, and was laid out for dead. 
Funeral rites were duly performed, and the poor young wife was 
left in her grave ; but she had only swooned, and, awaking in 
alarm, she cast off her grave clothes, and, wrapping the burial 
shroud around her, she hurried to her husband's house. Terrified 
at what he was convinced was a ghost, he rushed away from her. 
All her friends, affrighted, refused her assistance, and the poor 
girl was like to perish really from exposure and hunger, when 
a boy-lover appeared upon the scene. Ginevra returned his im- 
passioned embrace, and Antonio Rondinelli led her to her second 
bridal, and, as the story books say, " they lived happy ever 
after ! " Via della Morta was named from Ginevra's Wake. 

At the corner of the Market, where enters the Via degli Speziali, 
was a tabernacle with an altar, to which the name was given of 
" Oratorio di Santa Maria della Tromba." It was built in com- 
memoration of the ministrations of Saint Peter Martyr, and more 
especially as a thank-offering for his miracle in exorcising the 
Evil One, who, in the shape of a black horse, terrified the neigh- 
bours. In 1361 the care of the Shrine was entrusted to the 
" Guild of Doctors and Apothecaries." It was adorned with a 
painting of the Madonna and Saints by Jacopo del Casentino. 
Mass was said daily, and devotions were addressed to the Mother 
of God and the Saints, by devout passers-by. Moreover every 
poor criminal condemned to death was dragged past this Madonna 
and compelled to bend the knee on his way to execution. 

The Mercato Vecchio was distinguished for its possession of a 
language of its own a conglomeration, in truth, of all the dialects 
of the Contado, intermixed with popular renderings of classical 

Whilst Dante fixed the Tuscan language of the Early Renais- 
sance, and laid the foundation of "della Crusca" the polite speech 


of the Florentines, Boccaccio, 1 Sacchetti and Pucci harked back 
upon ancient usage, and have preserved for us the vernacular 
" La Lingua Fiorentina di Mercato Vecchw"-used alike by rich 
and poor. Francesco Sacchetti has been justly called " The Echo 
of the Old Market"; born in 1335, of the family of Benci 
d'Uguccione, he died in 1410. His " Novelle " are precious 
repositories of the topical slang of the Market. 

Frate Passavanti, of the " Order of Preachers," and chaplain to 
Archbishop Acciajuoli, in his " Specchio delta vera Penitenza"- 
written in the support of the Accademia delta Crusca, reproaches 
Tuscans, and especially Florentines, for their indiscriminate use of 
vulgarisms, for clipping their words, and for the affected pitch of 
their voices : " the idiotic style of the Mercato Vecchio," as 
he calls it, " which has sacrificed both grace and vivacity, but 
which, nevertheless has preserved honourable traits." 

Antonio Pucci, the inimitable poetaster of the Markets, who 
rejoiced in the style of poetry called " Satirico-giocoso" perhaps 
" satirical banter," has given us a living picture of the life and 
work of the Mercato Vecchio. 2 His "La Proprieta di Mercato 
Vecchio" written very early in the fourteenth century, long 
before " The Chronicle of Villani " saw pen and parchment, -is 
composed of many stanzas, some of which, freely translated, are as 
follows : 

" Our old Market, for all the world, finds ample food, 
And beats all other marts in produce rich and good, 
You could not match it, out of Florence, an' you would ! 

It is highly bless'd for busy occupation, 

At each corner, a church for godly contemplation ; 

Whilst streets branch out in every direction. 

Physicians are at hand for every human woe, 
Flax-merchants display yarns and linen-cloths also, 
About are pork butchers apothecaries too. 

Here they sell fine glasses, and plates, and pitchers stout, 
Taverns, too, with food and drink temptingly laid out, 
And pretty serving maids, with whom to flirt no doubt ! 

1 Boccaccio, "Giorn." i., "Nov." 9. 

2 Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani, torn. vi. p. 267, etc. 



Good woollen cloths and silks attract, the world well dress'd, 
And look where e'er you will, in spite of jeer and jest, 
Are open butcher's stalls with joints quite of the best. 

On one side poulterers with many luring words 

Sell hares, and boars, and kids, prey of sportive shepherds, 

And pheasants, starlings, pigeons and all kinds of birds, 

And here and there and everywhere are keen bargainers, 
With seats and desks for ready-money changers 
Needful in the push of commercial undertakers. 

Pawnbrokers also and dealers in quaint old guise 
Are ready with their loans ; whilst others cast the dice, 
So that none need be hindered be he fool or wise. 

And where else can a man so fair a garden view 
As that presented in the Markets old and new, 
Which daily feasts the eyes of Florentines so true ? " 

Lnd so he runs on. 

Well may he speak, as he does, in the last verse ; for the 
Mercato Vecchio was called " Giardino di Firenze " " the Garden 
of Florence "- just because it was always full of abundance and 
delights, and because it was the fruitful source of the life and 
enterprise of the whole community. 

Pucci places first as all devout Florentines would the 
temples of religion. Santa Maria in Campidoglio just behind 
the old Fish-market adjoined a popular tavern, the Osteria della 
Croce di Malta, the social meeting-place of the members of the 
various Associations of commercial travellers. Its site was that 

of the ancient Roman Capitol. San Piero Buonconsiglio, 

abbreviated to San Pierino, at the south-west corner, was 
founded in the eighth century, and was the Sanctuary and Parlia- 
ment-House combined, of the " Guild of Judges and Notaries." 
It had a little outside pulpit, whence it was customary for orators to 
address general audiences, and for doctors of the law to deliver 
public lectures. 

San Tommaso, at the north-east angle, became later on 
the church of the Medici. " The Guild of Doctors and Apothe- 

2 F 


caries " used this temple for private and public devotions. Here 
too many of the Wool-merchants were wont to attend the daily 
early Mass. Sant' Andrea, the senior parish church of Florence, 
was a very ancient edifice, having been founded as a convent of 
Nuns, in 852. Near at hand was the Piazzetta di Sant' Andrea 
where the members of the " Guild of Linen-Merchants " were 
wont to forgather. In the church was the chapel and altar of 
the Guild. Merchants also of the " Calimala Guild " used to pop 
in, as they passed, and count their beads. 

In the centre of the Mercato Vecchio was erected a fine 
column of oriental cipollino, which came out of the Baptistery of 
San Giovanni. Upon it was placed, in 1430, a marble figure 
emblematic of Abundance the " Dovitzia " of Donatello. Two 
iron rods ran up the shaft, one connected with the bell, which was 
rung at the opening, and at the closing of the day's business ; the 
other rod smartly jangled a similar bell when it was necessary to 
warn all and sundry that there were thieves and evil persons 
prowling around ! 

Before dawn rumbling wheels bore in the day's supply of 
country produce. The clatter of iron hoofs upon the big flat 
stone setts mingled discordantly with the harsh imprecations of 
drivers and dealers. The barking of country dogs, and the 
yelping of town curs cuffed perchance by lusty yokels or trod 
upon by belated carousers accompanied inharmoniously the 
cackling of geese and the bleating of lambs and calves. 

The Florentines of old were -early risers, for before the bells 
for " Lauds " had ceased their clang in the belfries, artisans were all 
thronging the portals of the churches, euphemistically at least, assist- 
ing at the hurried low Mass, as for a brief space they checked 
their course to smithy, tanyard, and loom. Yes, work began at 
daybreak the year round ; aye, and before the shades of night had 
passed, many a flickering lantern danced its way across the grim 
old Market-place. 

Mingling in the throng were leather-aproned smiths and 
armourers, bare-armed cloth dressers of the " Calimala" silk- 

1 1 
1 II 1 



spinners wending their way to San Bigio, carders and weavers 
hurrying to their workshops from Oltrarno, goldsmiths' artificers 
in tidier guise, dyers and tanners with stained hands and arms 
and clothes, and many another honest working man and working 
woman, greeting one another with kindly words of cheer or taunt- 
ing cries in jest 

The day wears on and simple housewives, in their plain 
woollen gowns and linen kerchiefs, basket on arm, and child at 
breast, range themselves along the rows of market-people ready 
for their custom, seeking their husbands' breakfasts and other 
homely needs. The Albergatori the Innkeepers too, are early 
afoot to pick up cheap food stuffs for good wives to cook to set 
before their hungry guests. 

The Messeri of the Great Guilds pick their way through the 
chattering, chaffering crowd, to and from their palaces. Possessed, 
as most were, of pleasant villas in the suburbs, where true villeg- 
giatura was ever to be had, they loved the Old Market, and all its 
dirt and noise. It was to every Florentine the well of his life, the 
fulcrum of his fortune, and the show-ground of his pride. 

Some of these Magnificos are wending their way to the Resi- 
dence of the Consuls of their Guild, or to the offices of their various 
companies, to meet travellers and agents from abroad. Others are 
going to see how their workpeople are getting on in the workshops, 
and to inspect new machines and new methods. Many too are 
bound to the Palace of the Podesta, or to the Palazzo Vecchio to 
transact affairs of State, or to advance their own political interests. 
Each wears the lucco, or gown, of his class, with its distinctive 

Judges too and Notaries in the habits of their callings are on 
their way, with befitting dignity, to their seats in the Courts 
carefully shunning, as they pass, all familiarities and jocular 

Silence was unknown in the Old Market. Early and late, by 
night as well as by day, the good year round its many voices rose 
up far beyond the roof-ridges of the houses, and climbed away 



into the belfries of the four churches, where they were re-echoed 
amid the jingle-jangle of the bells. At all seasons there were noisy 
clinking at the Money changers' tables, and highly vociferated prices 


of exchange. The banging of pots and pans daily met the chal- 
lenge of hucksters and cheap-jacks of every kind. The harsh 
" Chiabbratta-baratta, Vratta ! " " who wishes to exchange or to 

sell I " not unlike the creaking of a cart-wheel, sounded here and 

there and everywhere. 


As noon approaches the animation of the Market mounts still 
higher. Into the Square begin to pour batches of frolicsome 
apprentices, set free until the bell tolls them back to their work. 
With empty stomachs and hungry mouths they snatch and toss 
one to the other, onions and chunks of bread and cheese, casting 
anywhere their piccioli small money as often as not throwing 
down no coin at all ! On they surge, munching as they go, and 
cutting down many a fat sausage hung in their way, on the stalls 
of the Pork-butchers. Unheeded are the protests of the contadine 
and the salt-meat sellers. Their empty flasks and drinking cans 
replenished with good Trebbiano, at wine-shops by the way, they 
jostle to and fro, a merry, noisy, mischievous throng, to finish 
their frugal meal on the steps of Santa Maria in Campidoglio, and 
then to play impromptu at Calcio or Pallone among the stalls and 
tethered beasts heedless of place and circumstances. 

Artists too, and artisans, with brief respite for their hands, 
flock into the Market precincts dirty, hungry, and tired. Some 
are bent on dining simply in the open, on fruit and eggs, perchance 
with Donatello, Luca della Robbia, and their set ; and some, with 
pockets better lined, are intent on richer fare, with the Ghir- 
landaji and Pollaiuoli, and with men of fashion a Rucellai, 
an Alberti, or a Medici. 

The siesta is not forgotten, and many a brawny limb and 

curly head of hair lie prone on steps, nay even on the bare ground 

in later days with fragrant weed or smoking pipe between their 

teeth. But, hark ! the work-bell rings, and in a trice, the dreamers 

rise and stretch themselves, and hie them to their tasks again. 

But, "Accorr 'uomo f Accorr 'uomo !" "Help! Help!" 
sounds out alike for a runaway horse and for a personal assault. 
Taken up, the cry became, often enough, the signal for the prompt 
closing of shops and dwelling-houses, as conflict broke out between 
class and class and trade and trade. Riots in the Market were 
normal events. Perhaps a clumsy porter, or a pack mule, acci- 
dentally kicked a Ricci, who at once struck the offender, and he 
in his turn was belaboured with blows from every Albizzi within 


reach, until the two families and their adherents were involved in 
a grim death struggle. 1 

Rival trades were wont to join in battle-royal over the merest 
incident. The dyers and the finishers of the " Calimala Guild " 
fought out to a finish disputes with the operatives of the " Guild 
of Wool," and so on. 

Stone-throwing was ever a ready means to an end. Many a 
time the street-boys, " Hooligans " great and small, bent on 
mischief, formed light troops in the van of the opposing parties. 

The Podesta and the Magistrates sat long and wearily dealing 
with troubles of the Market. Litigants were as fierce as they were 
numerous. Often enough no other remedy was readier than 
to clap the lot in the town's Stocks to cool their ardour ! 
Such unfortunates, it need hardly be said, became the butt of 
all that passed them by. Sometimes the poor wretches suffered 
grievous bodily injury, but the Market overseers were wont to 
punish the aggressors by placing them cheek by jowl with their 
victims ! 

Was that busy Mart ever swept and garnished ? Garnished 
indeed it was, but with such materials as only made the litter 
greater. Vegetables, stripped by the side of their natal beds, 
went through a further toilet. Chestnut shells lay thick around 
the barrows of Brucciata and his brother roasters. Bits of cloth 
and linen, and oddments of silk and velvet, with many a tuft of 
fur and leather-shavings, were tossed hither and thither. Offal, 
filth, and rags vied with rascality, brutality, and disorder, in 
offering unsavoury and forbidding objects to the gaze of noble and 
simple wayfarers. 

Notwithstanding all this chaos and dirt, strict rules governed, 
not only the traders in the Old Market, but also their customers : 
contraventions of which were treated with severity. The accused, 
whether guilty or not, were usually tied to the column in the 
centre of the Market, with fools' caps upon their heads, and labels, 
stating the nature of their offence, upon their breasts ! More 

1 G. Biagi, " Private Life of the Renaissance Florentines. 


serious infractions of the Market Bye-laws were visited by periods 
spent in the Stocks, with a heavy iron collar locked round the neck, 
and attached by a chain to a post ! l 

The market porters, and mighty men were they, were of 
course under strict rules and subject to special bye-laws. For 
instance, no man was to undertake loads of more than two 
hundred pounds in weight, for a course of two hundred and fifty 
yards, and his wage was fixed at six denari. For greater, or 
less distances, and with lighter loads or heavier, the payment was 
to be pro rata. Refusal to pay the recognised tariff, attempts at 
over charges, or disputes about the weight and distance, landed 
the offender in prison for a month. 

As the sun westerns, preparations are made by the country 
people for trooping home, but are intermitted whilst quiet groups 
steal into the four churches, at the bidding of the Vesper bell, and 
there, whilst mechanically counting down their beads, they mentally 
cast up their day's accounts ! 

If a lull comes over the busy scenes of trafficking, it is but 
a cover for the activities of unfortunate beggars : whilst dicers, 
gamblers, and rogues of every degree look out of their hiding 
places. Vagabond boys, whose tongues were wont to wag in 
concert at brutal street games, pilfer where they will and can, and 
little children, running home from school, carry scares and tales 
amid bitter tears and rippling laughter. 

Evening coming on apace finds many a group of interested 
hearers gathered around the seats of the story-tellers, for few things 
did Florentines more thoroughly enjoy than tales romantic or 
of war. Now laughing, now crying till salt tears ran down the 
cheeks of all, the speaker's pathos touched sympathetic chords, and 
every one dipped into a shallow pocket for a coin of some sort or 
another to cast into the charmer's proffered cap. 

At times strange exhibitions amused the leisure hours of the 
busy workers : for example, in 141 3, a great sensation was caused 
by the capture, in the Mediterranean, of a mermaid or syren. 

1 Rub. cclxii., 1415. 



Presented to the Signoria, it was exposed to public view in the 
Palazzo Vecchio, and excited universal astonishment. Very fitly 
it was called in the public notices " The Fish out of Water " a 
term ever after offensively applied to any foolish freak, and 
especially when an official of the State proved himself an unskilful 
workman ! Night settles down upon a sleeping city, whilst 
ghostly sbirri, watchmen, steal along the streets with clanking 
iron-shod staves and glowing lanterns. 


All the public wants in food and drink were supplied in the 
Mercato Vecchio. Originally the cattle and sheep market was 
held in the Old Market, but the inconvenience became intoler- 
able, and a more suitable site was found in Borgo d'Ognissanti. 
In the same way the stalls of the Butchers were later on felt to 
be unsuitable and encumbering in the Market, and they were 
removed to the shops upon the Ponte Vecchio. 

Fish was first sold, of course, on the banks of the Arno, as 
soon as it was landed from the river boats, but, later on, its sale 


was taken in hand by dealers in the Mercato Vecchio. This 
proved a nuisance, and as early as 1 177 a small fish-market was 
opened in a shed erected at the Lung' Arno end of the Ponte 
Vecchio. The Grand Duke Cosimo I. rebuilt the Loggia del 
Pesce, and put up the inscription 

" Forum piscariuui q. usq. ad hue temporitur 
Quadragesimalibus ad Pontem Veterum frequentabatur? 

Attached to this Fish-market was a small market for the sale 
of fruit and vegetables which could not find room in the Mercato 

Poultry, game, and pork, alive and dead, were brought daily 
to market by the country people, and were sold at the shops of 
the " Arte degli Oliandoli" The cries of these creatures added not 
a little to the hubbub of the scene. Falcons, goshawks, and other 
birds of prey, were not allowed to be sold publicly, whilst faddists 
and lovers of feathered songsters, among the latter being Leonardo 
da Vinci, went about buying up the little birds to give them 
again their liberty ! 

With Poulterers were allied Greengrocers, and no stalls in the 
market were gayer than those which were daily decked with 
flowers, and fruit and vegetables. The Giglio of course was the 
prime favourite the famous iris-lily of Florence, but roses and 
pinks filled the air with fragrance, as did the bunches of sweet 
herbs and lavender. The painters have preserved the form and 
colours of the floral treasures of the hillsides and gardens of the 
Contado Botticelli and his mates. 

Of fruit there was no dearth, and endless was the variety. 
Yellow apricots divided first honours with pine fruit and prickly 
pears ; brown medlars, piled up in baskets, had for neighbours 
what looked almost like strawberries, but were luscious arbutus 
berries. Children spent their piccioli upon the glossy brown 
berries of the Giuggiolo jujube-tree, and the oval cherry-berries. 

In summer time water-melon sellers reaped rich harvests, but 
many a thirsty soul preferred the acid juice of the Nespolo, the 


yellow medlar, or the fresh made lemonade of the lemon 
squeezers from the Vicolo de' Limonai. 

Nuts too were in universal demand, and none were more 
toothsome or more in favour with the apprentices than the little 
kernels of the stone-pine. Chestnuts raw and roasted were ever 
a Florentine fancy. Pinocchiato, pine seeds, eaten with honey 
and sugar, never came amiss. 

Vegetables were as plentiful as they were decorative. Strings 
of crimson capsicums, piles of scarlet tomatoes, heaps of purple 
Petronciani, pumpions or mad-apples, mounds of golden pome- 
granates, mingled their attractions with cabbages of all colours, 
creamy marrows, yellow Ceci, chick-pea, and beans of all sorts 
and sizes. Tender sprays of dark green fennel, strange looking 
Fungi with succulent Radicchio, endive, and tasty Gobbi, the 
market name for Carciofi because of their " humpy " appearance, 
artichokes, and many a toothsome herb besides. 

Cries of " Salate ! Salate ! " daily rent the air, for all Floren- 
tines understood how to make and how to enjoy a salad, whilst 
everybody made a point of patronising the itinerant vendors of 
salted lupine seeds. 

Under the Vecchietti Palace lived the famed Cavolaja, or 
cabbage woman, who made her fortune by coining into the 
Market every day to sell the produce of her little podere, or farm. 
When she died the bells of the four Market churches and of Santa 
Reparata were rung from All Saints' Day till Ash Wednesday 
so she willed. She was buried with much pomp in the Baptistery 
in Bishop Rannucci's tomb. 

In sunny weather, and amid winter rain, covers were allowed 
over the stalls in the Market, and awnings were permitted over 
the fronts of the shops, but none of these might extend beyond 
the width of the stalls, nor more than five yards beyond the 
buildings. 1 

Naturally a great number of private interests and personal 
perquisites, if not absolute rights, sprang up in connection with 

1 Rub. Ixxxix., 1415. 


the Mercato Vecchio. For example in the " Petition of the 
Guilds," presented to the Signoria in 1378, clause 15 runs 
as follows : " That Giovanni de'Mone, honourable citizen of 
Florence, always zealous in the service of the Commune, and 
already rewarded by the belt of Knighthood, shall receive, during 
his natural life, three hundred gold florins annually in respect of 
Market-dues, paid by the butchers and the retail-dealers in meat 
and poultry." 1 

These dues were really the annual rents paid for the botteghe 
or shops, which were arranged all round the Mercato Vecchio, 
immediately in front of the entrances to the houses and palaces. 
Giovanni de' Mone was a Corn-chandler, who, with Guido Bandiera 
and Salvestro de' Medici, was knighted by acclamation of the 
Popolo Minuto in the Cioinpi rising. 2 

The merriest busiest botteghe, in and around the Old Market, 
were the shops of the Apothecaries and the saloons of the Barbers. 
All the fashion of the day forgathered at the former to deluge 
the city with gossip, whilst at the Barbers men congregated alone 
to hear and tell the latest scandal. 

The operations of the Florentine Barbieri were usually con- 
ducted in fair weather in the open : each barber having the right 
to place a chair, a shaving basin, and a looking glass, outside his 
shops. They were permitted to keep open on Sundays, and to 
employ their apprentices ; but were not allowed to place their 
shaving stools and other articles of their craft outside their doors. 

On Sundays and Festivals they were forbidden to go or send 
out to shave their customers at their homes. Among other pro- 
hibitions, barbers were on no account to exercise their calling by 
candle-light. If any customer ventured to wash his hands or his 
face in public the accommodating barber was fined ten soldi for 
each offence ! 3 

Perhaps the most famous of all the barber confraternity was 
Domenico di' Giovanni Burchiello "the son of a barber, and 

1 G. Capponi, " Storia della Repubblica di Firenze," vol. i. p. 346. 

2 Prow. i. 80, 1288. 3 Rub. Ixxv., 1415. 


the grandson of a barber" as he liked to call himself. His 
bottega, in 1408, was close to the Residence of the Consuls of the 
" Calimala Guild " ; and it became the most celebrated shaving 
saloon of the century. 

Burchiello, who matriculated in the " Calimala Guild "in 1432, 
was by way of being a poet, and versified the current topics 
of the day in the vernacular and style of the Old Market. 
Indeed he is justly famous as the originator of the "Lingua 
Burchiellesca" the inimitable Society slang of Florence. Noth- 
ing was more taking than his witty verses and his pointed jokes, 
perhaps, at times, a little strong, and unsuitable for general 
repetition! They were published, in Florence, in 1480 one of 
the earliest prints of the Printing Press. 

His keen razor kept time with laugh and splutter. Many a 
smart lucco^ and many a tight-fitting hose suffered from soapsuds 
shot out of choking roaring mouths ! Still no one could give a 
clean shave better than Messere Domenico Burchiello, and in the 
fifteenth century at all events a smooth face was the fashion. 
George Eliot puts into the mouth of the Florentine barber Nello 
" Here at Florence, we love not to see a man with his nose pro- 
jecting over a cascade of hair." * 

Quite the most favourite fashion of hairdressing, in the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries, was known as " Zazzera" The crop was 
cut square on the shoulders and not thinned downwards. A saucy 
finish was added with the curling-tongs, for the love-locks were 
disposed as an aureole, or, as they said, " like a moon in a mist." 
This was par excellence^ in Paris, London, and elsewhere, known 
as the " Florentine cut " ! Machiavelli, it is said, was cute enough 
to value the delicacy of the barber's art, and to discern in his mani- 
pulation of il pelo deir uovo, "the skin of the teeth," as we say 
the quickening of his faculties. 

Barbers and Apothecaries were rivals in the Market, but the 
former pointed jestingly at the crowds thronging " // Moro "- 
" the Moor " and other famous botteghe degli Speziali, as bereft of 

1 G. Eliot, " Romola," chap. iii. - See Plate xxiii. p. 162. 


the joys which alone a sharp razor and a lively wit could 
bestow ! 

Antonio Alamanni, born in 1480, was a disciple of Giovanni 
Burchiello, and kept up the cult of "La Burchia " the Burlesque. 
He too produced topical melodies and established " La Trottola " 
banter-songs. It must have been a very funny sight to watch 
grimacing Alamanni, arm in arm with his eccentric and serious 
friend Antonio Magliabecchi, the great Librarian, crossing the 
Market-place with Giovanni Pegolotti tagging on behind ! The 
latter was the inexhaustible author of jokes and gibes at the 
expense of the clergy and the medical faculty, capricious and 
bizarre, but entirely characteristic of the lighter side of life in 
the Market. 

Music too, vocal and instrumental, was not wanting from the 
purlieus of the Old Market. Living in a hilly country, and by a 
swiftly running river, the Florentines were naturally endowed 
with sweet and full toned voices, and with correct and musical 
ears the " Voce Toscana " became a proverb. Dante has preserved 
the name and the fame of Belacqua, a musical instrument-maker 
in the Market, and of Casella, his skilful musician friend. 1 

The Mercato Vecchio was a treasury of local traditions and 
stories. One, " The Legend of the White Hen," is as follows : 
There was in the Old Market-place of Florence an ancient house 
and shop, over the door was the figure, in bas-relief, of a good 
fat hen, to show that eggs could be got there. The old body who 
kept the shop was called Furicchia, and she was a mystery to her 
simple minded neighbours. She had always on hand an enormous 
quantity of eggs, but where they came from nobody knew. She 
did a splendid trade, and rapidly became rich especially as her 
eggs had the virtue of curing sick people and bewitched children. 

One day a poor but high born Florentine dame, who was very 
jealous of Furicchia's prosperity, determined to discover the secret. 
She visited the little shop, and found its mistress out, but she 
heard a hen clucking in a cupboard : 

1 " Purgatorio," Canti ii. and iv. 


" Coccode ! Dear me ! Where can Furicchia be ? 
Coccode ! Furcchia mine Bring me some warm red wine, 
Coccode ! These eggs I have laid. Coccode ! now six for your trade, 
Coccode ! Now these are mine. Bring me quickly the warm red wine. 
Coccode ! Take them away ; Many more further will I lay, 
And thou wilt be a lady grand, As fine as any in all the land ; 
And should it happen that any one, Drinks of this wine as I have done, 
Eggs like me she will surely lay ; That is the secret, that is the way. 
Coccode! Coccode!" 1 

Sure enough on the fire there was a pot of red warm wine, and 
without more ado the Signora drank a big mouthful and hastened 
home. Alas for her curiosity and her thirst, for she began to sing 
to everybody's amazement : 

" Coccode ! what a pain in my leg ! 
Coccode ! I must lay an egg. 
And if any eggs I cannot lay 
I shall surely die to-day." 

And so she went on laying, laying, and pecking at crusts like a 
hen. Soon she began to shrivel up until she became a hen and 
hatched mice from her eggs, which all ran away and then 
she died ! This is the " Legend of the White Hen." 

The name " Mercato Nuovo " was first applied to the auxiliary 
of the Mercato Vecchio in the fourteenth century. The destruc- 
tion of many houses and towers laid bare a site, within easy reach 
of the Old Market, at a time when the daily barterings were 
overtaxing its capacities. 

The rise of the silk industry, and the immense number of 
crafts and trades associated with it, required almost a separate 
mart. Together with the increase of industrial output, the 
" Guild of Bankers and Money-Changers " found the Mercato 
Vecchio very unsuitable for the discharge of their daily monetary 
business. Accordingly an area was cleared of rubbish and sur- 
rounded by fine buildings residences, shops, and offices. The 
principal families resident in the Mercato Nuovo were the Caval- 
canti, Giandonati, Infangati, and Mangiatori. Among the offices 
1 Leland, C. G., "Legends of Florence," p. n. 


newly erected was a branch agency of the " Calimala " Guild, 
where the banking business of the " Mercanti Francesca " was 
chiefly conducted. 

At one side of the Market was erected a Loggia, and here the 
" Guild of Bankers and Money Changers " established an 
Exchange, where couriers and agents might be matriculated, and 
where also those already in commission might forgather to render 
their accounts, and compare the daily bulletins of foreign Bourses. 

Tables with seats for Money-changers were set up all around 
the Market : those of the Matriculated Guild members covered 
with green cloth, and those of uncovenanted exchangers merely 
bare boards. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries there 
were nearly a hundred such " Banks " set up. The number of 
" Banks " was adjusted to the accommodation of the Market for 
conservatism of locality was ever a canon among Florentines. 
Not till the sixteenth century did bankers presume to extend 
their business-holdings to other Piazze and along the streets. 

The Mercato Nuovo differed from the Mercato Vecchio, in 
that no comestibles were sold within its precincts. The sale of 
flowers however was allowed, especially for Church festivals and 
public ceremonials, a form of merchandise and a delightful 
custom which continues to the present day. 

Cosimo de' Medici, " The Father of his Country," ever loyal 
to his native city and to his family, noted the inferiority of the 
Florentine Loggia to the Borsa of Amsterdam, and other capitals, 
and determined to erect a more worthy edifice. Two architects 
undertook the commission, Bernardo Tasso and Buono Talenti, 
but the former did most of the work, and the present beautiful 
building was completed in 1548. By the side of one of the 
pillars stands the famous bronze Boar, calmly regarding the 
cool fountain it was cast by Tacca, a pupil of Giovanni da 

The Loggia presented a fine sight when filled, as it was every 
day, at the hour of " Tierce" with merchant nobles in their stately 
robes, and distinguished foreign visitors, swarming like bees, and 


discussing the state of the Florentine money-market and foreign 
financial quotations. The crowd was divided into three sets, 
according to the order of the columns, which supported the roof 
of the building : ( I ) the venerable fathers of banking interests, 
(2) the vigorous middle-aged operators and speculators, and (3) 
the pushing young men clerks and aspirants to fiscal prominence. 

In the centre of the Mercato Nuovo used to stand the " Car- 
roccio" the old Florentine battle-chariot, for thirty days before 
the armies of the Republic moved out to meet the foe. Kept in 
the Baptistery, it was in troublous times drawn by two milk-white 
oxen, covered with vermilion cloths, into the New Market. Over 
it was raised the red and white banner of the people, and, at an 
altar, erected upon its square platform, Mass was said daily. A 
guard of youths, dressed all in white, kept watch around this Pal- 
ladium of the city. 1 The use of the " Carroccio " began early in the 
thirteenth century, when it preceded the Florentine army on their 
way to Siena, in 1230. Strange to say, the sacred car was last 
used in another war against the same city, during which it fell 
into the hands of the Sienese, by whom it was destroyed. 

In place of the " Carroccio" the Signoria ordered a marble device 
to be laid in the centre of the Market, where the car had been 
wont to stand. This took the shape of a wheel with six alternate 
spokes of black and white marble, let into the paving. 

On this spot, later on, was erected a stone pillar, or post, to 
which bankrupts were tied, and publicly beaten three times with 
every mark of personal indignity. Doubtless the present-day 
custom of " hammering " a delinquent on the London Stock 
Exchange had its origin in this Florentine usage ! 

There was no way for a man to obtain his discharge but by 
undergoing this degrading flagellation. If there was one thing 
the Banking community of the Mercato Nuovo feared and hated 
more than any other it was, of course, failure. A man, or a 
business house, who could not meet payments was an object of 
universal contempt and persecution. The same measure was also 

Delizie degli Eruditi Toscani, vol. vii. p. 84. 


meted out to all citizens who persisted in " playing games with 
cards and dice, which distract honest men from work." l 

A special privilege however was allowed, by custom and law, 
to debtors, who were free from arrest, so long as they remained 
within the precincts of the Market. 

Another law was passed, and generally observed, which made 
for the dignity and the liberty of the Mercato Nuovo no person 
bearing arms was permitted to enter. In times of public tumult, 
no doubt, this regulation was inoperative : nevertheless the 
trained bands of the " Guild of Bankers and Money-changers " 
were always on guard to defend the interests, and fight for the 
privileges of the money-market. 

Many goldsmiths' workshops were established in the base- 
ments of the houses bordering the Market. The studio of 
Giovanbattista Sogliani, Benvenuto Cellini's third master, who 
admitted his distinguished pupil to share his quarters, was here. 
They did such a thriving business that they required three shops, 
which were held from the " Guild of Goldsmiths " by Salvadore and 
Michele Guasconti, workers in the precious metals. 2 

It was not the fashion to raise the hat in old Florence, and 
this was nowhere more evident than in the Market. Even the 
Messeri of the " Doctors " and the " Judges " Guilds were received 
with scant courtesy, for were not the frequenters also mostly 
members of honourable Crafts, and possessed of full civic rights, 
or aspiring thereto ? 

There was a good deal of " I'm-as-good-as-my-neighbour " 
about the genti of Florence. To salute an equal betokened 
inferiority : to cap a superior well there were none in the 
opinion of the artizan-aristocrats ! All were members of a great 
and progressive industrial and commercial Republic, wherein the 
meanest citizen had the power of attaining to the highest seats of 
dignity. Ceremonious customs came in with the rule of the 
Medici, and marked the downward course of Florentine greatness. 

On the other hand not a few were the gestures of contempt 

1 Ademollo, i. 179. 2 J. A. Symonds, " Life of Benvenuto Cellini." 

2 G 


and indifference. To turn sharply away upon the heel from a 
person whom it was wished to insult, or to pay out, and to 
" make the fig," were very common and offensive customs in the 
Markets. The thumb was pushed between the laid down two first 
fingers of the hand, and then pointed at the disesteemed person. 
Dante refers to this gesture in his " Inferno " : 

" When he had spoken, the wretch just raised his hand 
Pointing in mockery, and cried, ' Take them, the deuce, 
At thee I jerk my fig.' " l 

And certainly our English expression " don't care a fig " has its 
origin in this Florentine custom. 

Sad days however, as in all human affairs, befell the 
Markets. Riot, Famine, Flood, Fire, and Plague, in rapid 
sequence avenged the frolics and the crimes of heedless and 
treacherous citizens. The cry of AWArme ! AW Anne ! resounded 
many and many a time, from side to side of the busy Market- 
place, and re-echoed down the streets and lanes, until it was 
caught up at river side, and wafted across to Oltrarno and right 
over the Contado. 

In 1304 terrible encounters were witnessed between the 
Bianchim& the Neri the "Whites" and the " Blacks," under the 
Cerchi and the Donati respectively. Fierce popular passions were 
aroused, and many a lusty craftsman, as well as many a noble 
merchant, lay weltering in his life's blood. Whole families were 
wiped out, and industries were checked and destroyed. Fire was 
laid to the houses of the rival factions, and the Cavalcanti and 
Gherardini, of the Markets, were burnt out. 

Again in 1312 party strife broke out with renewed frenzy, 
and Guelphs and Ghibellines fought out their feuds in the Markets. 
Operatives and people from the country joined in the fray, and 
every workman plied his axe, his knife, his mallet, and his saw, 
in the bloody work of civil war. " Men," says Dino Compagni, 
" kill each other regardless of law." 7 

The fourteenth century found Florence torn and distraught 

1 "Inferno," canto xxv. 2 Dino Compagni, "Cronica," p. 312. 


by party strife. Headed by the Acciaiuoli, the Bardi, and the 
Frescobaldi, the Donati, the Pazzi, and the Cavicciuli, the 
Adimari, the Albizzi, and the Medici respectively, the populace 
was divided into three hostile camps. Day and night resounded 
in the Markets and in the streets " Evviva il Popolo ! " each 
party was the people's party ! " Shut your shops follow us ! 


pay no more tolls and taxes ! down with the despots ! " Such 
were the rallying cries, 

Machiavelli, in commenting upon those times of disorder, 
says : " They demonstrated forcibly how perilous it is to free a 
people who prefer slavery." x 

A few years later saw the city at the very pinnacle of her 
prosperity, when citizens and their wives paraded Market and 
street arrayed in rich attire and bedizened with jewels and gold. 
Music and dancing shortened the hours of labour, and the tourna- 

1 Machiavelli, " Le Istorie di Firenze," iii. 51 A. 


ments and shows reduced the daily Market throng. The whole 
city went mad with excesses, and the Mercato Vecchio and the 
Mercato Nuovo were the scenes of wild debauchery. 

The junketings however were rudely stopped in November 
I333j when a fierce storm raged for four whole days and nights. 
The terrified citizens, sobered by the catastrophe, sought the 
sanctuaries of the churches, until they too were washed by the 
flood. The Market was four feet under water, and many houses 
fell : the bridges over the Arno were washed away. Very many 
people were drowned and much cattle was carried off. When 
the waters, after a week of destructive action, abated, a foetid 
slime was left behind, which covered everything and, emitting an 
evil odour, caused a pestilence to break out in the cramped 
houses of the city. The wells too and springs of water were 
polluted, and stacks of corn and hay and other food stuffs were 
rendered useless. Famine seemed to threaten completion of the 
fateful work of an avenging Providence. 

" // Centra di Firenze " became a social and political expres- 
sion in the middle of the last century. Decay, dirt, and dissolute 
habits, had combined to invest the Mercato Vecchio and its 
precincts with an evil reputation. Schemes for restoration, or 
amelioration, were raised and dropped : questions of private com- 
pensation and of public convenience were ranged against one 
another. Financial obligations became the doom of many a sane 
suggestion. At last people tired of a project which seemed to be 
insoluble, but the cry for the demolition and removal of ancient 
buildings became fierce and urgent. 

The Municipality yielded, not unwillingly, to the demand, and 
the fell work of destruction was commenced. At first tentatively, 
and timidly, the housebreaker plied his calling ; but getting bolder, 
and casting to the winds his reverence for antiquity, a vast area 
was cleared of buildings. 

The palaces, towers, shops and taverns of the Old Market 
have disappeared. Its four churches have gone, and the Colonna 


del/a Dwitzia, with all its spiral stories of a busy past, has been 
laid low. 

The living, though choked up lungs, which had breathed in 
and out the life of centuries in Florence " the Beautiful and the 
Busy," ceased for ever their functions ! The Mercato Vecchio 
was no more ! 

Memories of long past deeds, and perhaps the ghosts of long 
dead worthies still linger, and mingle in a weird maze of "Inferno" 
with " Paradiso" Time and distance have mellowed the cries of 
the traders, and stilled their tramping feet. A dim figure glides 
off, and a hushed voice proclaims : " Here once was the Old 
Market ! " 

Stemma del Popolo di Firenze. 
A red cross upon a white field. 



STREETS : A maze of streets and lanes. Description of Florentine houses. 
Linen windows. Street noises. Children's games. Straw-matting. Fires 
Pace da Certaldo's expedient. Via di Calimala and its State awnings. " Rowdy 
Row." Bernardo Cennini's printing office. Gorgeous banners of the For Santa 
Maria. Apprentices and their tricks. Artists' workshops. A great blaze. 
Bufifalmacco's jokes. II Diavolo del Mercato. A street of Palaces. Narrow 
Chiassi. Dark deeds. Charles Dickens. 

SQUARES : Piazza della Signoria the focus of official life. Giants at the 
Gates. Palazzo della Mercanzia. Loggia de' Lanzi. Piazza, di San Giovanni 
and great religious festivals. Palla e Maglio. The Crusades. // Pallone. 
Santa Croce. // Calcio. Annual fairs. Love philtres. 

BRIDGES : Ponte Vecchio. A bridegroom done to death. Butchers and 
Gold-smiths. Ponte alia Carraia. Loads of wool. A link between past and 
present. Ponte Rubaconte, or Alle Grazie. Shop signs animals. The quay of 
the sand-men. Ponte alia Santa Trinita. Trysting-place for lovers. Dante 
and Beatrice. 

Scenes and stories : Street violence. Bordone Bordoni. Wedding-bells. 
Practical jokes. Horse races in the Duomo ! Solemn Processions. Madonna 
dell' Impruneta. The Misericordia. Festival of St John Baptist. Banners. 
Towers. // Palio. Burle e Beffe ! The curfew. The Spirits of the past. 

A PERFECT maze of streets and squares, with tall irregularly 
built houses, of every kind and degree, extended all around 
the Markets. Mostly paved with big hard flat stones, and, here 
and there, a range of river cobbles set upon their roughest ends, 
they were the substantial but the noisy stage upon which the 
comedies and the tragedies of old Florence were enacted. 

The houses of Florence bore many designations for ex- 
ample : Palazzo a town mansion, Palagetto a smaller edifice, 
Casolaro an old palace inhabited by many poor people, Casa 
an ordinary house, Casella a small dwelling, Bottega a 
shop, and Loggia a porch or arcade. 



Some of the buildings were all that remained of the grim 
castles of the Societa delle Torre : others showed the crenelated 
battlements characteristic of Guelph and Ghibelline days of con- 
flict. As a rule the basements were arcaded, or at least big 
pilasters and arches bore up the superimposed floors, leaving 
cavernous depths, into which scarce glinted the light of the sun. 

By day these arcades and loggie were thronged by small 
dealers in every conceivable commodity, who kept up a never- 
ending babel of voices, pitched in every possible key. 

At night time, and in days of stress, domestic or political, 
big doors or shutters and strong iron bars were wont to be shot 
into position for the security of the inmates and their property. 1 

Many were the gaming dens of ill-repute which flourished in 
those dark entries. Tables for " Chess " and for " Woman," the 
two popular games, were laid out, and others for risky and 
nameless games of chance. On rough forms sat the players, whilst 
around were grouped idle and dissolute persons wagering upon 
the play. A charge of cheating, or a run of ill-luck, set gamblers, 
spectators, and the proprietors of the tables, at maddened variance. 
Knives were whipped out, and e'er the cry " Accor* uomo ! " had 
reached the outside world a poor wretch lay prostrate and done 
to death. 

Shabby enough were the fronts of many of those grand old 
houses, in spite of titanic stones and massive metal-work, for, were 
not their windows, if such we may call the many shaped open- 
ings for light and air, covered only with dirty strips of oiled 
linen, stretched tightly over wooden frames ? Window-glazing 
was a luxury of the rich, and even many of the Magnificos were 
content to live in the semi-darkness of their poorer neighbours. 

The street noises were intolerable. What with the raucous 
ejaculations of vendors of merchandise puffing their multifarious 
wares, the fierce oaths of drivers of pack-animals and carts, the 
imprecations of the jostled hucksters and passers-by, the ribald 
and obscene snatches of song and jest, and the howling of un- 

1 G. Biagi, " Private Life of the Renaissance Florentines." 



controllable ragamuffin boys, the air was rent with bewildering 

uproar, which no poorly fitting oiled-skin could possibly keep out. 

The merry laughter of school children, passing to and fro, 

or indulging in happy games, and the pert tones of winsome 


maidens giving back as much as they had taken from their bold 
lover lads, were wont to be harshened by the scudding rush of 
cutting stones, as one hooligan band gave battle royal to its rival 
from the adjoining street. 

Of all the children's games played in the streets of old Florence 
rone was more characteristic than that of " Guelfi o Ghibellini" 


doubtless the parent of our " Oranges or Lemons." Two strong 
youths or maidens, grasping tight each other's hands, stood and 
sought to encircle the waists of passers-by, as well as of their play- 
mates, asking each captive to which party he or she belonged. 
The prisoner was released only to hold on to the tail of his chosen 
side. When enough recruits were obtained the two strings pulled 
as hard as ever they could, the conquerors tugging their weaker 
opponents where and how they listed. 

Full of people in every sort of costume, rich and poor, old and 
young,^merry and grave, all the live long day, no time was ever 
found to sweep away the litter and the dust. Happily rain ran 
in rivulets, and washed betimes the gutters free from refuse, but 
this cleansing swept the people's " porkers," which grubbled in 
the dirt, into the basement of the houses, and made the disorder 
indescribable. The straw-matting, which was on the floors of rich 
and poor alike, harboured both dirt and vermin ! 

The houses were, as to their interiors, swept once only in the 
week on the Saturday, so well may be imagined the accumu- 
lations which choked every corner, and dusted the tangled veil- 
ings of prodigious spider-webs ! x 

The dwellings of the Florentines were much exposed to fire : 
their linen windows, the wooden frame-work of their fittings, and 
their doors, the vast expanse of drying clothes, woollen and 
linen, waving their lengths from the topmost stories, all these, 
and many another object, favoured conflagration. Ill-contrived 
too were the measures of security from fiery outbursts. 

Pace da Certaldo, a fourteenth-century writer, advised all 
and sundry, " to keep handy at least twelve capacious canvas 
sacks, in which to put your things, whenever there is a fire in 
your neighbourhood, and also a thickish piece of rope, to reach 
the ground, to help your escape through a window ! " 2 

1 " Florence Gazette," 1891-92. 2 MS. Biblioteca Riccardiana. 



Of all the streets which debouched into the Mercato Vecchio 
by far the most important was the Via di Calimala some- 
times called Strada Francesca. Not only did the most consider- 
able merchants daily frequent it, but it gave its name to the 
greatest of all the Guilds. Its principal building was the Palace 
of the Cavalcanti, which they gave over as a Residence for the 
Consuls of the Great Guild. Upon the feast of the Patron Saint 
of the city the whole street was covered with a State awning of 
blue canvas richly embroidered. 

This was always the rallying-point for friends, and for foes 
too, of the merchants. At times the solemn tread of venerable 
city fathers and their subdued and serious conversation gave way 
to the hurried march of armed Ctojnpi, seeking, with protest 
first and then with fire, the removal of some trade injustice, or 
the granting of some political privilege. 1 

At the end of the Via Calimala, where it entered the Mercato 
Nuovo, was a narrow lane, leading to the Via de' Calzaiuoli 
called " // Baccano" " Rowdy Row ! "- because of the hoarse 
and profane cries made by apprentices to attract customers to 
fare that way. In 1470 a change came over the scene, and the 
discordant voices of disorderly lads, gave place to the metallic 
music of the first type-foundry of Florence. Here Bernardo 
Cennini established himself as a printer and publisher, and his 
machines have revolutionised the world. In the Via Baccano 
was situated the first banking-house of the Medici. From " // 
Baccano" to the little Via del Garbo, was but a pace or two, 
and there only a short time after printing became the step- 
mother of learning, was set up the first Florentine Booksellers' 

The Via Por Santa Maria yielded to none in importance, 
wealth, and romance. Here was the Residence of the great Silk 

1 L'Osservatore Fiorentino. 



Guild, whose fa$ade was wont to bear the finest banners of the 
city, and whose Consuls and merchants walked with heads erect, 
and pockets full of gold florins, prouder than their fellows. And 
just because of this swagger the street was famed for its practical 
jokers, with crossed chains and unexpected obstacles, to trip up 
the finest of all the fine folk ! 

A favourite trick of the apprentices and practical jokers of the 
Via For Santa Maria was to place before the doors of the 
houses of the merchants, and under the deep shadows of the 
Torre degli Amidei, and of the other towers, butts or pails of 
dirty water. The unwary pedestrian tumbling into one of them, 
was the signal for uproarious mirth, whilst skilful stone-throwing 
boys, at the corners, sent in deadly volleys ! It was in the Via 
For Santa Maria that Benvenuto Cellini, when only sixteen years 
old, routed five opponents who had basely stricken down his 

In the street leading from the For Santa Maria to the Piazza. 
della Signoria was situated the ancient church of Santa Cecilia, 
where were held the joint meetings for mutual advantage between 
the two great Guilds of Wool and Silk. Sometimes these con- 
ferences led to disturbances through the mutual jealousy of 
individual members. 

Via de' Calzaiuoli was originally divided into three parts : 
Corso degli Amidei, Via de'Pittori, and Via de'Caciaiuoli. The 
latter was ever odoriferous with the merchandise of cheese- 
mongers, members of the " A rte degli Oliandoli" and many an 
epicure came dawdling along on tasting bent. Via de'Pittori 
appealed to the art instincts of the people, as did the other to 
their olfactory senses. The new name came about through the 
prosperity of the " Guild of Shoemakers," and their cutting, 
knocking, punching, and the other noisy details of the trade, were 
in full operation. In Via de' Calzaiuoli was the Palazzo Macci, 
the residence of the Duke of Athens during his tenure of the 
Chief Magistracy. The shops too of the makers of body-hose and 
stockings were in this street. This manufacture was a speciality 


of Florence, so that when Charles V. entered the city in 1506, 
wearing light breeches, he was hailed as a true Florentine ! l 

Just beyond the Bigallo, in the Via de' Calzaiuoli, Donatello, 
Luca Delia Robbia, Michelozzo, and Masaccio, worked as brothers 
for the common cause of art and craft. 

The Corso was the scientific frontier between the Cerchi and 
the Donati. The Via de' Cerchi, a quaint narrow lane, ran 
parallel to the Via de' Calzaiuoli. At the corner, where the Via 
di Cimatori joined it, a stone pillar stood displaying three circles 
the arms of the redoubtable " Whites," it was part of their 
loggia. The Borgo degli Albizzi, at the other end of the Corso, 
contained the houses of the " Blacks." 

During a street fight, between these hostile parties, in the 
year 1302, a great many candles were burning at the shrine of 
Or San Michele. One evening the flames ignited some waxen 
votive offerings hanging there. The blaze so greatly excited the 
populace, that, catching up the burning fragments, they madly 
set fire to all the houses in the neighbourhood ! 

Just beyond the Church of San Pierino, of the Market, was 
the Vicolo del Guanto Glove Lane, where dwelt the dressers of 
kid and calf skin, and the makers of gloves and gauntlets, a 
favourite trysting-place for cavalier and maiden bent on tasteful 
hand wear. Sometimes the narrow lane was called Vicolo del 
Leoncino, from its noted hostelry and world-famous banking- 

In the Via di Mellone now Via Ricasoli forgathered 
thirteenth century artists and artificers, and playful wags. Tafi, 
long gowned and almost giddy with his mosaic-fixing within the 
dome of the Baptistery, had to put up with the daily girdings of 
Buffalmacco the champion joker. Giotto cast his quaintly- 
capped shadow adown that way, after ceasing his toilsome 
" Gospel of Labour " on the Campanile his chisel and his 
measure stuck in his belt. Jostling them came many an 
enthusiastic comrade, with song and jest and gossip, and coy 

1 Florence Gazette, 1891-92. 


glances from buxom lassies, at the street doors, excited many a 
palpitating heart ! 

In the Via di Vaccherecia the musical tintinabulations of 
goldsmiths' hammers, and niellists' gimlets subdued the harsher 
melodies of engravers' scratching needles and burnishers' rasping 
files. The Pollaiuoli, with Maso Finiguerra and many and many 
more, made pleasant and profitable metal harmonies, amid the 
chitter-chatter of Brunellesco and his boon companions. Hard by, 
in the Via di Sant' Egidio, at the Casa Delia Robbia, Ghiberti 
cast his glorious gates, whilst from Cellini's furnace, next door, in the 
Via della Pergola, issued the celebrated pewter-fatted " Perseus " 
of the Loggia dei Lanzi. 

Andrea del Sarto with Franciabigio had their shop at the 
corner of the Piazza dell' Or San Michele, a famous gathering 
place for artists and for wits. Peals of laughter arrested ofttimes 
the passers by, and caused many a curious step to pace the dark 
threshold in search of sport. Fra Bartolommeo della Porta, the 
painter par excellence of Florence, gained his name from his 
birthplace near the Roman Gate, and there his faithful companion, 
Albertinelli, exchanged his brush and palette for the wine-flask 
and glass-beaker of the Vinattiere. 

The Via de' Pelliccieri, with its palaces and towers of the 
Lamberti, Toschi, Cipriani, Pilli, and other families connected with 
the " Guild of Skinners and Furriers," was equally frequented by 
the Goldsmiths. In this historic street too, pigment masters 
dallied, as they chose the fairest pieces of vellum for their minia- 
ture illuminations, or the finest grained panels for their Madonna 

From the elegant and comely avocations of the Via de' Pellic- 
cieri to the dirt and reek of the Via del Fuoco, just round the 
corner of the Residence of the " Guild of Wool," was but a step 
in distance, yet a league in sentiment. With its image and shrine 
of the Virgin, and her ever-burning lamp, a votive offering for 
the staying of a city conflagration, the Street of the Furnaces 
was always grimy as grimy could be. Charcoal-dealers, iron 


moulders, and traders in fiery elements, were ever a strenuous and 
a noisy race. 

At the corner of the Via de' Vecchietti and the Via de' Ferri- 
vecchi where once stood the Palazzo Cavolaia the Palace of 
the " Cabbage-woman," -was put up the uncanny bronze figure of 
" // Diavolo del Mercato" cast by Giovanni da Bologna. Appro- 
priate enough was its fixture there -the scene of the labours of 
scrap-iron dealers, wrangling and blaspheming the live-long day ! 
The principal workshops of the " Armourers " and " Locksmiths " 
were hard by scenes of noisy machinery and voluble machinists. 

The Via de' Bardi was and is a characteristic thoroughfare of 
the city, where every course of stone, and door of wood, and heavy 
bits of iron, speak of warlike times, and of old-world romance. 
Its palaces have gone, gone by fire, pillage, and flood, but 
there still remain the spirits of strenuous, busy woolworkers and 
the subtle-minded bankers. 

The Chiasso de' Ricci, and the Chiasso de' Erri, and many 
another lane and ginnel of the busy centre of old Florence, were 
alive with human interests. Almost shut out of the light of the 
sun, by the contiguity of the sheltering eaves of opposite buildings, 
the silent warning to wayfarers " only can you pass an' we will " 
seemed to be as effective to arrest locomotion, as the notorious 
street chains in times of unrest and uproar. 

Weird entries and courtyards existed, fringes of the lanes 
and streets, and well designed for tragedy and oblivion. Secret 
histories and plots, as well as noble enterprises and literary memo- 
ries, invest those narrow, busy thoroughfares with the romance and 
the reality of a living humanism. 

" Magnificent, stern, and sombre," wrote Charles Dickens, " are 
the streets of beautiful Florence." 


The Piazza della Signoria was the focus of the legislative and 
official life of old Florence, and at the same time the rallying 




place of the armed bands of the Guilds in times of unrest. 
Dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio, built in 1298, it was a 
secure residence for the Priors. The tower, world famous, is 
that of the old Foraboschi Palace, and it gained the name of 
Torre delta Vacca, because the great bell of Florence was hung up 
there the bell whose notes called citizens to fight, or to work, 
as times were warlike or peaceful. 

" The Giants at the Gates," as they were fittingly termed, were 
heroic marble statues of " David " by Michael Angelo, and " Her- 
cules slaying Cacus " by Baccio Bandinelli. Over the great portal 
of the Palazzo may still be read the proud legend, carved in the 
fifteenth century : " Rex Reguin et Dominus Dominantium" 
Along the front of the Palace ran the Ringhiera, or public orator's 
platform, completed in 1349. 

Close at hand was the Badia, the official residence of the 
Podesta, in it was kept the " Banner of the People," half red 
and half white. Not very far away was the Bargello, the Palace 
of the Capitano del Popolo, he had the custody of the Banner of 

Republic the Giglio or Lily of Florence. 

On one side of the Piazza was the Palazzo della Mercanzia the 
Chamber of Commerce the Parliament so to speak of the Guilds. 
At an angle of the Piazza stood originally the Church of San 
Piero Scheraggio removed to make way for the Uffizi or Offices 
of the Government, and next it the Loggia de' Lanzi begun in 
1374 by Orcagna, and named after his lancer legendaries by 
the Grand Duke Cosimo I. in 1541. 

Beyond the Palazzo Vecchio was the great Neptune Fountain, 
constructed by Baccio Bandinelli, and called by Florentines, 
" // Biancone " " the great White Figure " when, by time- 
honoured custom, they invariably bade it a respectful farewell 
before starting upon a foreign journey. 

The Piazza di San Giovanni Battista was the most venerable 
square in Florence, and the most highly venerated by the 
Florentines. It was the scene of all the great public religious 
festivals. In 1283 the Rossi family and their adherents, to the 


number of one thousand persons, dressed all in white under a 
leader styled " the Lord of Love," presented a series of miracle 
plays during the Festival of the Patron Saint. 

Marriages of prominent citizens were sometimes held in the 
open Square, for example, in 1419, Salvestro di Messere Filippo 
Adimari wedded Lisa del Abbatacchio de'Ricasoli, amid great 
magnificence, in the presence of Pope Martin V. The bride- 
groom's best man was the Condottiere Braccio da Montone, a 
successful adventurer and Lord of Perugia. 

This circumstance called forth the doggerel verse : 

"Braccio valente "Brave Braccio waring 

Vince ogni gente. Conquers every nation. 

// Papa Martino But not worth a farthing. 

Non vale un quattrino /" Is Pope Martin's station ! " 

the poverty and gentleness of his Holiness making no appeal to 
the practical Florentines. 

In 1526, when a new armed force of young cavaliers was 
raised to oppose another Pope, Clement VII., a richly decorated 
altar was placed in the centre of the Piazza, whereat officers and 
simple knights publicly took the oath of allegiance to the 
Republic, in the presence of the magnificent Signoria. 

Naming great things and small together not a few Bull- 
fights were celebrated on the quasi-holy ground for the delectation 
of foreign princes and ambassadors, whilst, in 1453 a Goose Fair 
was established as an annual observance upon the Feast of All 
Saints, greatly to the advantage of the members of the "Arte degli 
Oliandoli" who kept high festival in consequence. 

The Piazza di San Marco contains in its Monastery and 
Library the most lasting memorials of Cosimo de' Medici " the 
Father of his Country." Memories too of the good Archbishop 
Sant' Antonino, and of Fra Angelico, the " Divine " painter, linger 
lovingly around. But by way of contrast the Piazza was the 
playground of the young men of the city. The popular game 
played was " Palla e Maglio " " Ball and Bat." The " Maglio " 


was a bat of wood like a flat club, the wicket a single stump, and 
runs were scored much as in modern single-wicket cricket. The 
" Palla " was a small hard ball. This was without doubt the 
parent of the British national game, brought to England's public 
schools and colleges in the sixteenth century at the time of the 
so-called " Tuscan Fever," when so many Florentine customs took 
root in Great Britain. 

The Piazza di Santa Maria Novella was ever the scene of 
religious fervour and warlike romance. Here was unfurled, in 
1287, the banner of the Florentine Company of the Second 
Crusade, which had been committed to the charge of proud 
Pazzino de' Pazzi, by the Bishop, in the neighbouring church of 
San Donato alia Torre. Thither too he rode back, at the head 
of his knights, wearing the mural crown placed upon his brows 
by Godfroi de Bouillon. 

To mark his gratitude to Almighty God, Pazzino set apart a 
sum of money to pay for a perpetual annual remembrance of the 
exploits of his command. This festival is still celebrated on 
Holy Saturday with the ceremony of the Sacred Fire, but it has 
been transferred to the Piazza del Duomo. 

In this famous Square there were wont to gather the ring- 
leaders of the city's tumults. Brave were the speeches and stout 
were the hearts of those fierce " Wooden Shoes," as shouldering 
tool and weapon, they rallied to the cry " Evviva il Popolo \ " 

Sports and pastimes too found place and partizans under the 
shadow of the glorious church. "// Pallone" the foster-father of 
Lackets and Court Tennis, was the special game, and the ball was 
tossed up merrily against the massive walls and traceried windows, 
until prudence and the sense of fitness led to the players 
migrating to the Cascine. 

The Piazza di Santa Croce yielded to none in the magni- 
ficence of its pageants, nor in the romance of its associations. 
In early days given over to the solemn chants of monks and the 
harmless plays of children, it became the scene of the city's 
welcome to, and entertainment of, her distinguished visitors. 

2 H 



Together with exhibitions of skill in arms, the Tournament and 
the Parade, was displayed the special Florentine game " // 
Calcio"- the parent of Rugby Football, and introduced at that 
celebrated School by Florentines in the sixteenth century. 

Twenty or more noble youths formed equal sides, clad in red 
and blue respectively. The rules, the players, and the ball, were 
all as we see them to-day, only the artistic proclivities of the 
Florentines surrounded them with splendid pageantry. By the 


middle of the sixteenth century " // Calcio " reached its climax : as 
great a sum as 1600 was spent in mounting the spectacle, and 
the spectators, ranged around the Square, numbered upwards of 
forty thousand. All that was noble and lovely forgathered, and 
true was the saying : " None but the brave deserve the fair." 

The spirits of the mighty dead still hover over the Piazza : 
for do not the bodies of the greatest men of Florence lie buried 
within the sacred walls of the grand old church ! 

The Piazza dell' Annunziata had its annual fair, not a 
serious traffic mart in cloth and silken tissue, but a winter 
festival and feast combined, in honour of the Conception of Saint 


Mary. To it was given the name of "Fiera collina " from the con- 
tadine, who came yearly out of the hill country of Pistoia and 
the Casentino, to sing their plaintive hymns to the Virgin Mary } 
and to sell their yarn and dried mushrooms, the former the 
produce of the past year's home-industry, borne in big bundles 
upon their sturdy backs. Devotions completed and sales effected, 
the residue of the day was devoted to pleasure in the booths and 
among other attractions of the fair ground. 

It was a mothers' and a children's revel, with every innocent 
deception and delight. Quack-doctors, conjurers, and cheap- 
jacks roared out from their different pitches their nostrums, their 
tricks, and their bargains. Mystic pills to allay headache, ear- 
ache, and may be, heartache too, were to be had cheap enough, 
and antidotes against drowning, burning, and the like uncanny 
ills, were moderate enough. 1 

But the Square, quiet enough at other times, was the gracious 
scene of much kindly benevolence on the part of the saintly 
Servite Brethren. There too, in later days, many a returned 
explorer related to his fellow-citizens, and the members of his 
Guild, the Doctors and Apothecaries, tales of adventure and 
of success. 

The Piazze de' Brunelleschi, and di Cipolle, were ever much 
frequented. In the former, also called Piazza di Marroni, were, 
along with candied-chestnut vendors, shops of the " Arte de' 
Rigattieri" where the newest things in tasteful nick-nacks to deck 
a maiden's boudoir attracted many a loving couple. The latter, 
just behind the Strozzi Palace, was the dumping-ground of the 
less odoriferous but ever popular onions. The salesmen dis- 
played them on the big stone benches, which surrounded the 
Square, and, whilst fashionables rarely risked a visit, many an 
amorous little city lass stole furtively along to secure a love 
philtre, from one or other of the old " gossips," who sat meditating 
and soliloquising there. 

In almost every Square and open space young fellows of good 

1 G. Biagi, "Private Life of the Florentines of the Renaissance." 


birth and manners were accustomed to engage in a curious sort 
of game or posing called "// Civettino" " The Fop." Generally 
three youths were engaged together, and their movements partook 
of the graceful steps of a minuet and the elegant postures of the 
gymnasium. 1 


The building of bridges has ever been regarded as a token of 
vigorous political and commercial life. Florence easily took a 
lead over other cities by her early enterprise in bridging the 
Arno. Much of the life and business of the city was carried on 
upon, as well as over, her four substantial bridges, whose stones 
were polished by the hurrying feet of craftsmen, and their beasts 
of burden. 

The most famous bridge, as well as the oldest, the Ponte 
Vecchio, dates from Roman times, when the Roman- Etrurian 
street was conducted over the river upon a stone archway. The 
first structure was washed away, but in 1080 another bridge was 
thrown across a kind of herald of the Renaissance. The vicis- 
situdes of the Ponte Vecchio were countless in number and 
various in effect, and aptly illustrate the fortunes of the city itself. 
Flood, fire, pest, and bloodshed, swept those ancient piers, and 
assailed those venerable superstructures time out of mind. 2 

It was upon this bridge, and at the foot of the mutilated 
statue of Mars, the city's earliest Palladium, that, on Easter 
Day in 1215, a comely bridegroom was dragged from his richly 
caparisoned steed, and done to death by the daggers of the 
enraged Fifanti. Buondelmonte de' Buondelmonti had jilted a 
daughter of the Amidei, and had espoused Beatrice Donati : it 
was Mosca de' Lamberti who said, " Let him die ! " This murder 
gave rise to the two great factions, the Guelphs and Ghibellines. 

The present most interesting bridge was built by Taddeo 
Gaddi in 1345, at a cost of sixty thousand gold florins. Upon 
a buttress may still be seen the original inscription : 
Gaddi me fece, il Ponte Vecchio sono." 

1 See Plate xxiii., p. 162. 2 G. Villani, " Storia Fiorentina," Lib. ix. 


In 1378, in recognition of his devotion to the cause of the 
Popolo Minuto, Salvestro di Messere Alamanno de' Medici was 
awarded, together with his knighthood, by the leaders of the 
Ciompi government, the annual rental of all the forty-four shops, 
which had been erected upon the bridge. This produced in 1281 
only the paltry amount of five hundred lire, but a hundred years 
later the shops were worth at least a thousand gold florins a year. 

These shops appear at first to have been occupied by any and 
all comers, but from 1422 to 1490 they were rented exclusively 
by members of the " Guild of Butchers," whose trade had out- 
grown the Old Market precincts. Under Cosimo I., the Capitani 
di Parte Guelfa signed an order for the Butchers to abandon the 
bridge, and in their stead were installed the Goldsmiths. 1 Thence- 
forward have resounded the lusty voices of jolly young appren- 
tices, assailing all who pass their way, to purchase some of the 
pretty trinkets which their skilful hands have made. 1 

In 1564 Cosimo I. constructed the covered corridor which 
connects the Pitti and the Uffizi, and completely altered the 
appearance of the venerable bridge. 

The Ponte Alia Carraia, built and washed away, and built 
again by turns, was the workman's bridge. None was so greatly 
thronged by hastening operatives to and from the woollen factories 
of the " Umiliati " and of the merchants of the " Wool Guild." 

Its very name betokens toilsome enterprise, for daily were 
its approaches blocked by laden carts and burdened pack-mules. 
Its earliest designation, however, was " II Ponte Nuovo," and 
that it bore in the opening years of the thirteenth century. The 
first bridge was of wood, and thrown across in 1218. The Ponte 
alia Carraia is, metaphorically, the link between the mediaeval 
seclusion of the monasteries and monastic influences and the 
Renaissance freedom of the arts and crafts. Gaddi's bridge was 
finished in 1337, and cost seventy-two thousand gold florins. 

The Ponte Rubaconte first built under the Podesta Ruba- 

1 D. Manni, "Delia Vecchiezza Sovraggranda del Ponte Vecchio." 
- " Tractatus Extraordinatus" Rub. xlv., Lib. iv. 


conte da Mandola by Messere Lapo, master of Arnolfo di Cambio 
in 1237, suffered like its fellows, but it came to be regarded as 
the fashionable bridge of Florence, and its houses were lofty and 

There is a notice in the Archives dated August 22, 1297, 
of the letting of fourteen or fifteen shops newly erected upon the 
Ponte Rubaconte. The average rental was fixed at from five to 
forty lire, per annum, according to proximity to the Via di Por 
Santa Maria. Among the traders on the bridge were six Strap 
and Stirrup-makers and five Pouch or Purse-makers members 
of the " Guild of Saddlers." Each shop was required to bear 
a separate sign, and these signs were all of animals, for ex- 
ample :_ The Two Lions," " The Unicorn," " The Wolf," " The 
Leopard," " The Stag," " The Cat," " The Panther," " The Bear," 
"The Camel," etc. 1 In 1333, when the disastrous flood, which 
carried away the other four bridges over the Arno, spared the 
Ponte Rubaconte, the name was changed, as a token of thank- 
fulness to the Almighty, to Ponte alle Grazie, and a votive chapel 
was erected over the centre arch. 

On the Oltrarno side of the bridge was the Piazza, de' Mozzi. 
Tommaso de' Mozzi built his palace where the river was after- 
wards embanked by the Via dei Renai or the Quay of the 
Sandmen. They were a very vigorous set, but given, so report 
had it, to personal violence and robbery. Nevertheless they 
figured as models for Michael Angelo's " Slaves" and Benvenuto 
Cellini's " Perseus" and their Trade-association was not the least 
considerable among its fellows. 

The Ponte alia Santa Trinita was the last of the four bridges 
to be built. It is said that the Frescobaldi, who with many other 
merchant families settled in the erstwhile poor suburbs of Oltrarno 
in 1252, threw a private wooden bridge across the river from the 
Borgo San Jacopo. This was a favourite trysting-place for lovers. 
The young men were wont to lounge upon the bridge, and 
because it was unencumbered with houses and shops, its parapets 

1 Archivio del Stato Fiorentino, cap. xxiv. fol. 165. 












gave directly upon the Lung 'Arno right and left. Thence could 
the maidens of their choice, or the reverse, be seen, modestly 
walking hand-in-hand, along the pavement, by the river walls. 
Dante was not the only Florentine youth who saw and loved his 
Beatrice there ! 

Taddeo Gaddi built a new bridge in 1339, at a cost of 
twenty-six thousand gold florins, after the flood of 1333, and the 
present structure was completed in 1346. 

Chronicles of faction fights are not the only records of 
interest in the story of the Streets and Squares of Florence. 
Amusing and diverting are very many of the old narratives. 
At one time, for example, robbery with violence became rife 
and unbearable. Houses and persons were alike attacked, and 
the whole scheme was arranged upon an elaborate system. 

A band of thieves organised themselves to sweep the city 
bare. Many carried instruments of music and serenaded the 
occupants of houses, who felt bound to unbar door and window, 
and bow to their visitors ; but, when thus engaged, confederates 
of the musicians effected an entrance, and of course ransacked 
the premises ! 

A charming and unique feature of their exploits was the 
engagement of the best connected children, who might be 
accessible, to accompany them as dancers, singers, collectors, 
and the like. Some of these were posted at the ends of streets 
to be " burglared," to warn wayfarers not to venture there, as 
danger was brewing ! One of the leaders was a young fellow 
called Bordone Bordoni, well connected and rich. He was at 
last caught and beheaded, and his band of prowling miscreants 

Wedding bells too rang in and out of tell-tale belfries, as, 
with jingling spurs and chafing bits, cavaliers pranced along to 
their bridal with maidens fair of high and noble mien and par- 
entage. The frou-frou of silken skirt and the sheen of flashing 
gems sweep many a time over the pages of the history of old 


Florence. Where eye spoke to eye, and heart beat for heart, 
there they stretched right across the narrow streets, striped 
awnings, and greenery festoons. On house fronts were em- 
blazoned proud coats of arms, gay banners waved aloft, and, 
hanging over balcony and window sill, were tapestries and skins 
of beauty and of worth. 

The Via della Vigna was crowded from end to end with 
people in gala dress and spectators of the show, and all was gay 
for Romola or Caterina, or some other lovely bride. And then, 
the marriage over, with music, flowers, and sunshine, the Tilting- 
match attracts the crowd. 

On such days the bouquet of fine vintages pervaded the air, 
as streets and lanes ran deep with red and yellow wine ; whilst 
workmen, serving folk, and beggars, were regaled with much good 
cheer. 1 

High days were days of frolic too for gay young Florentines. 
Inflamed perhaps with game and wine, or with the mere excess 
of animal spirits, companies of festive youths were wont to course 
through the city, entering houses and breaking up the many 
parties they contained, or constraining the hospitable hosts to 
make open house and to admit them to the feasts. 

Young bloods would, as Benvenuto Cellini records, resort to 
practical jokes, which became sometimes outrages upon decorum 
and sanctity. It was considered quite a first-rate prank to seize 
the ink-horns of passing Notaries, and, rushing with them into 
the churches, pour their contents into the holy-water stoups ! 
Raids too were made upon the cringing Apothecaries, and assa- 
fcetida and other ill-odoured concoctions were seized to mingle 
with the incense stocks in the sacristies ! No sport, however, 
equalled in jest and desecration that of driving market animals 
into the churches, and racing on horseback around the Tribune at 
the Duomo ! 

But days of gloom, and hushed with the tread of heavy feet, 
came oftentimes to the good people of Florence. The solemn 

1 G. Biagi, " Private Life of Renaissance Florentines." 


dirge of monks tramping in from La Pineta with the sacred image, 
of the Madonna def Impnineta, in propitiatory procession to the 
Duomo, in face of some disaster or catastrophe, brings all men to 
their knees. With a hastily marked cross upon the breast and a 
whispered " Ave" working men and women kneel for a moment 
side by side on the causeway with their employers and their 
rulers. The Guilds are prostrate before the emblems of the 
Christian faith. Church candles are all ablaze, whilst the loom 
lights are extinguished, and hands skilful in the Crafts are dropping 
rosary beads one by one in silent reverent pause. 

" May God, Saint Mary and the Saints especially the good 
Saint John avert the plague or stay it, give needful rain, or dry 
up the flood-waters, defend the right against the public enemy, 
compose the feud of rival houses : may God protect Florence ! " 
such were the orisons which pierced the blue Tuscan vault of heaven. 

Still other sights, affecting and arresting, were witnessed day 
in day out in old Florence. Through spacious Square and narrow 
Street pass the silent hooded bearers of the sick, the dying, and 
the dead. The Misericordia Brethren have, time out of mind, 
picked up a poor body in some dingy corner an outcast or a 
waif perchance the victim of another or of himself, and passing 
through the buyers and the sellers in the busy Markets, have 
struck a pathetic chord in many a rugged heart, and have called 
forth the quiet cry " Miserere nobis Domine " from many a pursed - 
up mouth. 

The Festival of San Giovanni Battista, the Patron of Florence, 
was always an occasion of rejoicing in the Markets and the Streets. 
The ceremonies of the day began in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, 
in the Piazza della Signoria, where every one, noble and simple, 
in holiday attire, went to pay their respects to the Gonfaloniere di 
Giustizia and the other Magistrates. These dignitaries, arrayed 
in robes of State, took their places upon the Ringhiera early in 
the day. 

One hundred gorgeous banners were unfurled, and displayed 
by as many richly apparelled gonfalonieri. They represented not 


merely the various sestieri of the city, and the Twenty-one Guilds, 
with the pennons of allied trade companies and confraternities 
but among them were many trophy flags the captured emblems 
of vanquished cities. 

Greetings over, the Magnificos led a vast procession to the 
Baptistery there to lay their offerings upon the altar of the Saint. 
A splendid feature in the cavalcade was the succession of gaily 
ornamented cars belonging to the several Guilds, each attended 
by the Consuls and Officers and a full complement of members. 
Famous artists were employed to decorate the cars for example 
Andrea del Sarto painted one for the " Guild of Wool," and Piero 
di Cosimo another for the " Guild of Silk." The cars were drawn 
by richly bedecked horses and oxen, and many bore curious 
waxen towers, painted and adorned, which were made to revolve. 

At San Giovanni costly offerings were dedicated by the 
Officers of State, by the Consuls, and by the richer citizens ; 
whilst even the poorest person presented his humble tallow-candle, 
which he had purchased at one of the Apothecaries' shops. 

The towers of wax were always hailed with delight, but often 
as not with jests. Generally young fellows, up at house windows 
on the route, tried to upset the towers and the boys inside them, 
with long wands. Others varied the joke by jerking out of the 
hands of the processionists their candles and their lamps, which 
they did with long wands or rods. Such scapegraces were dubbed 
" bel Ceio" "Impudent stupid fellow": but nevertheless their 
pranks were always condoned. 

For the Festival the whole of the Piazza di San Giovanni was 
covered with a vast awning of light blue linen canvas, at the 
expense of the " Calimala Guild." It was made up of five pieces, 
three of which covered the Piazza and the space between the 
Baptistery and the Duomo the middle strip before the doors 
bearing the embroidered arms of the Republic. The other two 
pieces were stretched over the side of the Misericordia Office and 
formed a canopy to San Giovanni. The purpose of the awning 
was, first of all, to afford shelter from the heat of the midsummer 


sun, and next to lend dignity to the festive ceremonies. It was 
originally put up in the year 1349. An entry in the Archives of 
the Guild is as follows : " By the direction of the Consuls of the 
* Calimala Guild,' the awnings were made for San Giovanni : they 
were light blue, sprinkled with yellow lilies, which numbered 
fifteen hundred." x 

At noon a general feast was held. Every tavern and eating- 
house in the Market and its contiguous streets was crammed with 
hungry, thirsty, and rollicking, merry-makers, perhaps, each one 
realising for himself a favourite saying of the Market people : 
" caught like a flea in a bundle of tow ! " 

Then, after the briefest of siestas under the Market loggie, or 
elsewhere in the shade, every one moved off to find a place for 
the " Palio " the great annual horse-race. The course lay right 
through the city from the Porta al Prato to the Porta alia Croce, 
along the Borgo degli Albizzi, the Via Vigna Nuova, and the 
Borgo d'Ognissanti. 

The " Palio " invariably formed a foremost feature in all 
public rejoicings. If a victory had been won over Siena, Lucca, 
Pisa, Prato or any other rival city, horse-races were the natural 
and popular adjuncts. They were held immediately Hinder the 
walls of the vanquished stronghold by the victorious troops, as 
well as in Florence by the peaceful citizens. 

This spectacle over, a further adjournment was made, either 
to the sports ground at Peretola, or to the Piazze della Croce and 
Santa Maria Novella, to view the giostre^ or tournaments and 
games. The merry, noisy, perspiring, throng of the city, swelled 
by the incursion of visitors from the Contado and the neighbour- 
ing towns and villages, passed to and fro with burle and beffe 
jokes and pranks. 

An ancient Carnival song ran thus : 

" To the CW7<?-field, up comrades and away. 
The bounding football there invites us all to play 
No game so full of sport to occupy the day." 

1 Vasari, " Vita di Cecca Inseguere." 



Whilst exquisite forms of youthful manly beauty displayed 
their perfect physical charms in sportive exercises, fair maidens 
Tessas, Giovannas, and Marias smiled approvingly, and, by the 
language of the eye, bespoke the lover's tryst. 

Fun and frolic ran wild, and many a broken head with 
tattered clothes and empty pockets, was carried painfully home 
by weary feet, long after the curfew had sounded ! 


And oh ! how, what is left us of venerable palace and ancient 
shop, of well worn street and busy mart, speaks, in solemn tones, 
of the sternness and the grandeur, of the frolic and the fray, of 
those far-off scenes in old Florence ! 

Those stout and massive buildings are like the serried ranks 
of armoured city companies, those open doorways and secluded 
basements resemble busy toilers. Those solid towers, with 
square headed merlins of the Guelphic builders, or forked, after 
the manner of the Ghibellines, proclaim watchful captains of the 
Guilds, and proud nobles of the Signoria all bent and hoary, 


but full of dignity and pathos still. Her buildings are in truth 
human entities, with the features, on their fronts, of a Dante, 
a Farinata, a Soderino, a Lando, a Savonarola, a Machiavelli, 
an Alberti, a Pazzi, and a Medici, all sons, fathers and makers 
of Florence ! 

And out, beyond the city gates, the fruitful Contado and the 
fair hill country, with the clear blue Tuscan sky overhead, are 
eloquent witnesses of the joys and of the sorrows of Florence the 
Busy and the Beautiful. 

Her lilies still emit the time-old sweet odours, and her silk- 
worms are still spinning the web of industry and romance. From 
Fiesole come echoes of the past caught up by shady San Miniato, 
and silent spirits of the dead, from the historic Streets and 
Squares, and Bridges, linger whispering around the Campanile of 
Giotto, the Dome of Brunellesco, and the Torre della Vacca ! 

Stemnta de* " Priori dJ Liberia" 1434. 
(Red " Liberia " on a white field.) 


Humanism. Greek ideals. Roman methods. Pleasure, ambition and 
avarice. The Church non-aggressive. The Pope's party : the People's party. 
Campsores Papce. Types of the great artists of Florence. The Baptistery. 
Early system of registration of births. Religious associations. " The Watchers 
and Servants of Mary." The Umilitati. Public participation in daily " Hours." 
No cant, no hypocrisy ! The Madonna. Prayers before business. Obscure 
" Beatitudes." " Candle-spikers " and " Breast-beaters." Poor and rich alike 
affected. Private chapels. The Certosa di Val d'Ema. "Apostles of the 
Lord." Days of religious obligation. The Sportelli. Ex votes. Facilities for 
attending Mass. Free thought. Religious equality. Platonic philosophy. 
Writings of Leonardo da Vinci, Leon Battista Alberti, Francesco Guicciardini, 
Niccolo Machiavelli, and of others. Church festivals. "The Feast of 
Love." Superstitions. San Giovanni Battista. Lorenzo de' Medici's image. 
Miracles of healing. " How to extinguish a big blaze ! " Cleanliness next 
godliness. The " Evil Eye." The Brevi. Large families. Fatalistic tenden- 
cies. Monks and nuns. " Firenze la Prima ! " The Council of Florence. 
The Inquisition. Savonarola. Sermons. "Imitate Barletta ! " Burial 
customs. Michael Angelo's torch. The Paterini. The " Black Company." 

THE Religion of the Florentines of the thirteenth century was 
simple humanism. The blending of the various strains of 
human life, which formed the Tuscan race, produced also a 
spiritualism which inspired men and women with virile devotional 

A people so conspicuous for keenness of mind and vigour of 
body could not be otherwise than affected strongly by religious 
instincts. Essentially practical in everything which concerned 
human progress, the Florentines were ready to assimilate all 
spiritual truths which presented themselves in sympathetic 

Together with simple trust in all the generally accepted 
traditions of their race and land, there was mingled a tenacious 
hold upon Greek ideals and Roman methods. 



In the days when the law of might was superior to that of the 
law of right, and when households were broken up and men became 
fugitives, the scattered details of a warlike people held on to all 
they knew of nobility of aim, energy of will, and effectiveness of 
accomplishment. Into their personalities entered the character- 
istics of Dante's three weird animals the nimble panther, the 
haughty lion, and the lean-looking wolf, pleasure, ambition and 
avarice. 1 Whereas in most States and cities in the Middle Ages 
the action of the priesthood was aggressive, the Religious, who 
settled in Florence, were remarkable for their reserve and reti- 
cence. Probably this characteristic was induced by the spirit of 
freedom, which early breathed throughout Tuscany ; and which 
was indeed the guiding influence in all her pre-eminence in later 
years. Hermit clergy, in their cells on hillside and by river bank, 
the self-denying pioneers of Catholic Rome, bore their part 
nobly in the softening and refining of the minds and lives of the 
wild people they dwelt among. The favourable bearing of the 
Papal See did much to control and to subordinate the passions of 
the lower classes, and to encourage and to foster the goodwill of 
the ruling citizens. The Pope's party became also that of the 
People, and, under the title of Guelphs, stood for liberty and pro- 
gress. The Church of Rome was regarded as a political govern- 
ment to negotiate with, rather than a spiritual institution to 
submit to. 

Florentines were essentially of a non-theological cast of mind : 
religious doubts and differences of belief had little or no interest 
for them. Rome, ever wise, and able at once to feel the public 
pulse and to recognise the popular temperament, never trenched 
upon the liberties of the city. If Pontiffs launched now and 
again their Interdicts, they were pretty soon persuaded to remove 
them, and to consult the People's prejudices and wishes ; whilst 
they profited not a little by the sapient industrial enterprise, and 
far-reaching commercial policy, of their adherents. 

That the Florentines were emotional goes without saying the 

1 " Inferno, "Canto I. 


Greek and Etruscan in their blood provided this characteristic, 
just as clearly as did the Roman and the German reticence fashion 
their stoicism. There was a good deal of the Greek in the expres- 
sion of their religious feelings. Fine forms, fine features, and fine 
movements, were ever held in just reverence. Simplicity, natural- 
ness, and grace, marked their public functions, and their private 

The singing boys and girls of Luca Delia Robbia's " Cantoria " 
with the trinity of " Davids " : Donatello's goat-herd, Verro- 
cchio's town-apprentice, and Buonarroti's young giant-hero, pre- 
serve the comely types of the youth of those days. Masaccio, 
Ghirlandaio, and Botticelli, have fixed, with their rare pigments, 
the features of the men and women who worshipped God and 
reverenced perfect manhood. 

San Giovanni Battista was the earliest centre of the religious 
life of Florence. There, in the midst of stalls and carts of market 
people, with sales going on almost within the sacred portals, stood,. 
like the heart in a human body, the venerable temple of God,, 
sanctified by the baptism, first vows, and earliest Mass, the 
marriage and the death rites, of the whole population. 1 

The black and white beans, respectively, registered at one and 
the same time a child of God and a child of the Commune. 
Prayers and bargains were in close comradeship, and were joined 
together in every contract and statute, as they were in every 
church ceremony and civic feast. 

Candles too were burnt there, not for meaningless show and 
illumination, but, in some sort of a way, as sure accommodations 
with heaven. 

Catechisms and sermons were taught and preached by priests 

sons of the people to their own kith and kin, with a freedom 

and a sincerity quite as profound as were those traits in the 
characters of the hearers. Each and all worked as hard at 
religious duties as in the ordinary avocations of life. They 
judged that, as groups and companies in industry and commerce 

1 Biblioteca Laurenziana, " Biadaioli '* MS. 





prospered by the contact of interest and respect, so association in 
worship brought with it consolation and refreshment. The voices 
of laymen and the conduct of lay devotions were heard and seen 
in every sacred building, as people spared time to count their 
beads and recite their " Pater-nosters." 

The Monastery and the Church of La Nunziata, for example, 
was built by the Servites, an Order of working monks, founded 
in 1239, by seven rich and noble citizens of Florence. They 
were in the habit of meeting daily to sing " Ave Maria" in the 
chapel of San Zenobio, then standing on the site of Giotto's 
Campanile. It is said that their piety and charity were so con- 
spicuous, that passers-by in the streets pointed them out as 
Guardatori e Servi di Maria" "Watchers and Servants of 
[ary." The walls of their sanctuary quickly became covered 
with votive offerings from all conditions of men of like passions. 

Great as was the influence of the " Umiliati" upon the in- 
lustrial life of the Florentines, it was even more emphatic in its 
iligious and charitable bearings. Their example and teaching 
ippealed irresistibly to all classes of the population. The peers 
>f merchants and manufacturers in mental calibre, the " Humble 
Brethren " were also the equals of artizans and operatives in 
lanual skill. They were laymen, and as such with no special 
lass distinctions, they were in full accord with the human in- 
irests of their neighbours. Brethren in labour they were at the 
tme time fathers in religion. 

The " Umiliati" exhibited daily how it was possible and pro- 
"able to combine toil and worship. To fear God and to honour 
lan was the initial tenet of this faith. The daily recitation, in 
leir chapel, of " The Hours " and various lay devotions, attracted 
lasters and workpeople alike. There was something virile about 
leir way of serving God, which agreed admirably with the in- 
:incts of the Florentines. 

Very soon there sprung up in groups and families the self- 
ime spirit of sobriety, morality, and devotion. The churches 
-ere visited regularly, and serious men and women joined heart 

2 I 


and soul in the daily offices. This was nowhere more remark- 
able than at Santa Reparata. The clergy, ever tactful, gauged 
the temper of the people, and admitted them freely to choir and 
lectern. Immense psalters, with their great big black square notes, 
were set up at the entrance of the Sanctuary, in order that men 
and lads might stand around and join their voices to the clerical 
recitations. This admirable observance was continued in the 
new church of Santa Mari