A little-known Guide for the Renaissance Merchant

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 23/52

Giorgio di Lorenzo Chiarini, Libro che tracta di marcantie et usanze di paesi, Tuscany (Florence?), 1481, scribe: Lodovicho Bertini, Philadelphia, Temple University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center, (SPC) MSS BH 007 COCH, fol. 9r

The cache of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts housed at Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center includes an overlooked source for our understanding of Renaissance economics: a rare manuscript copy of the commercial manual in Italian known as the Libro che tracta di marcantie et usanze di paesi or Book concerning the Trade and Customs of Various Places (MSS BH 007 COCH). This finely written manuscript represents a genre of text essential to the Renaissance merchant. In addition to learning the elements of mathematics and geometry (represented in items like the University of Pennsylvania’s LJS 27 and LJS 488), those who traded in the interconnected Mediterranean world of the fifteenth century needed to be well-informed about the types of goods available in a large number of cities, as well as the units of measure and coinage used, their denominations, and their exchange rates with major domestic currencies. Thus, the manuscript at Temple contains well-organized information for converting weights, measures, and money across Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus, with major sections devoted to the trading capitals of Florence, Venice, and Genoa. 

Read more