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Italians and Eastern Europe in Late Middle Ages. New contributions for an underrated topic

The new frontier : Letters and merchants between Florence and Poland in the fifteenth century

Francesco Bettarini

Résumé

The death of Pippo Spano and the consequent hostility of King Sigismund against the Florentine merchants (1426-1437) marked the decline of the glorious season of the great Italian trading companies in the Kingdom of Hungary. The emergency of an establishment of new institutional relationships brought the Signoria of Florence to intervene repeatedly recommending his merchants in Krakow and Poland. Among them, a major role was assumed by a Florentine family, close to Albizzi. Its members were granted with the assumption of important offices in the administration of the Kingdom, trading between Krakow, Wrocław and Venice.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 I am especially grateful to Erin Mae Black, Rita Mazzei and Katalin Prajda for their suggestions a (...)
  • 2 The shifting geography of Florentine trade is described with an essential bibliography in : Goldth (...)
  • 3 Sapori 1967 ; Kellenbenz 1985 ; Dini 1995 ; Teke 1995 ; Goldthwaite 2009, p. 194-197.

1In the golden age of Florentine financial capitalism, lands that were situated on the north side of the Alps and to the east of the Rhine were commonly defined by Italian merchants as «Magnia»1. The term referenced a context that was only relatively known to Tuscan businessmen, who had rarely travelled across this part of Europe during the Middle Ages. Even though the most relevant networks of Italian cities (Florence, Venice, Genoa) deployed their agents into many European centers, the presence of Italian communities permanently residing here was essentially inconsistent2. Central Europe is not mentioned in the «pratiche di mercatura», the practical handbooks commonly used by merchants in international business3.

  • 4 Kellenbenz 1985, p. 341 ; Mazzei 1999, p. 19.
  • 5 Renouard 1941, p. 208 ; Denzel 1991, p. 114-116 ; Dini 1995, p. 652 ; Weissen 2001, p. 254-255.

2Recent scholars have explained the reasons for the marginality of Eastern Europe in the commercial interests of the Italian network, although the picture was far more complicated. When Italian merchants interacted with German operators they used to trade through Bruges and Venice, where the greatest partnerships and a number of individual firms had their branches. In the late Middle Ages, these cities worked as international markets, promoting trade between merchants coming from Mediterranean countries and Northern Europe ; their commercial and financial initiatives were responsible for the movement of goods on a north-south axis, between the Baltic area and Hungary, or, on the west-east, between Russia and Germany4. More specifically, Venice was the financial market where the Florentine merchants concentrated their investments for trade with Hungary, and then Austria and Poland ; otherwise, direct trading between Italian and German merchants were usually conducted in Bruges or at times in Cologne5.


  • 6 On the collection of ecclesiastical revenues in Gerany and Poland, see Denzel 1995. This is the li (...)
  • 7 Kellenbenz 1985, p. 347. Spuford 1987, p. 17 ; Vergani 2007, p. 220-221.

3The beginning of the Florentine presence in Poland starts with the fourteenth century because of two causes : the involvement in financial and administrative management of royal mints and the participation in the collection of the papal revenues, Since the end of the previous century, several Florentine partnerships managed to conquer this ecclesiastical money market, being finally replaced by other Italian firms in 1342, on the eve of the bankruptcy of the most relevant companies ; nevertheless, the Florentine returned to their primacy in 1362, thanks to the Alberti6. In 1325, the florin was regularly in use in Poland, representing the model for the money-making of German, Polish and Hungarian coins. A Rinaldus de Florentia managed the mints at Brno and Praha at the beginning of the Trecento7.

  • 8 Mazzei 1999, p. 22-23.
  • 9 Renouard 1941, p. 148 ; Denzel 1995, p. 329 ; Weissen 2001, p. 245.

4The city of Krakow experienced a time of great demographic expansion in the second half of the fourteenth century, culminating with the transfer of the capital of the Kingdom of Poland. The settlement was situated at the center of a mining area, from where raw materials (mainly iron and lead) reached Venice regularly without major competition8. We also know that in 1338 the nuncio had explicitly encouraged the Bardi to open in Krakow a branch of their company, with the aim of making safe (tutissimum et securum et certum) the money raised from the papal revenues. The project never saw the light of day due to the Bardi’s lack of interest, perhaps because Florentine bankers were still reluctant to settle permanently on the eastern side of the Rhine and over the Alps ; in addition, we don’t take into account if similar proposals were made to open branches in Cologne, Basel or Lubeck, which were familiar markets for Italian merchants9.


  • 10 The first scholar that highlighted the importance of the relationship with the Angevines for the g (...)
  • 11 A recent description of the Florentine network in Late Medieval Hungary is in Prajda 2013.
  • 12 On textile trade and prices of cloths in Medieval Europe, see Munro, 1991, p. 143-148.

5The conditions that caused a greater projection of the Florentine network into Central Europe had been intensified since 1308 with the addition of the Hungarian crown by the Angevin dynasty, which was a traditional ally to the Guelph party in the intricate mosaic of Italian municipalities. Under the reign of Louis I, the Anjou formed an empire that connected Hungary with Naples and, from 1370, Poland with obvious consequences of an economic nature ; in particular, with the Hungarian conquest of Dalmatia in 1358, the Venetian were replaced by the Florentine in managing the connection between local and the international market10. Buda became the site of the most relevant community of Italian merchants in Central Europe, hosting the representatives of several Florentine companies. These operated in trading and moneylending activities, in close connection with the investments of the banks working in Venice11. The Florentine merchants took advantage of their position as contractors and mint managers to trade with the products from their hometown. Around 1390, the Italians defeated the competition from Flanders for the export of wool cloths to Poland, thanks to the boom in Florentine manufacturing, significantly less expensive than the finest «panni larghi» from the Netherlands12.


  • 13 Since 1393, the collection of ecclesiastical revenues in Poland was controlled by Florentine banke (...)

6The availability of money due to their different economic activities had posed the Italian merchants as the best interlocutors for the application of credit. Having the exclusive rights on the collection of ecclesiastical tithes, Medici and other Florentine banks decided then to keep permanent agents in Poland, particularly in Krakow13.

  • 14 Giuliano Pinto (Pinto, 2014) has recently published a historiographical synthesis of the Florentin (...)
  • 15 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 12-13.
  • 16 It is preserved the text of the Bicarani’s conduct act as zupparius salis. The agreement provides (...)
  • 17 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 88.

7The most significant features in this second point were : the growth in the number within the Tuscan community, which meant the long-term permanence of the merchants involved and the widespread ownership of offices and public contracts, following a traditional path traced by Florentine merchants14. The office of the Master of the mint (monetarius), traditionally granted to Italians, continued to be managed by Florentines in the early Quattrocento : Simone Talenti in 1403 and Leonardo of Bartolo in 140615. Italians managed then the office of the zupparius, who had the responsibility to lead the mines and the saline of the Kingdom, safeguarding the administration and the care of the lands16. The collaboration between the Polish crown and the Tuscan city did not fail to engage in this movement of human resources towards Krakow also the skilled artisans. Among the Italians who received the Krakow citizenship, we find, for example, the two brothers Bernardo and Iacopo of Bonaccorso, weavers (1394)17

  • 18 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. XIII.
  • 19 The name of Albizzo de’ Medici appears for the first time in the Polish documentation on June 23th(...)
  • 20 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 27. Another member of Medici family, Matteo, lived in Poland in 1428, w (...)

8Finally, the structure of the Florentine network in Krakow was led by the factors and procurators of the major partnerships trading along the routes from Germany and Poland to Venice, Florence and then the Roman court. A major role was played by Petrus Bicarani from Venice, who also received a charta when the consuls of Krakow claimed themselves as debtors against him18. The Venetian, also zupparius salis, represented a sort of intermediary with the responsibility of maintaining the relations between the Italian network and the Polish institutions. Even if he was a foreigner, he oversaw the business of the Medici, who finally decided, in 1419, to send there Albizzo of Talento, a member from a branch of the family itself ; he lived permanently in Krakow where he died in 143919. During the Twenties, Albizzo was appointed as custom’s officer (theloneator)20.

  • 21 De Roover 1963, p. 240-241.
  • 22 The private archive of the merchant Francesco Datini includes several letters coming from Neri Tor (...)

9The arrival of Albizzo was in part motivated by events related to the turbulent separation between the company and their partner Neri Tornaquinci, who had been the director of the first branch opened by Giovanni of Bicci in Venice. Although the business strategy of the Medici provided that the lending activities remained limited only to foreign merchants residing permanently in the lagoon, Tornaquinci had begun to take a deeper interest in Krakow and the Polish market, extending his claims in that direction without the approval of his masters ; in 1406, the debts lost amounted to 13.405 florins, so the Medici denounced Tornaquinci in front of the court of Mercanzia, relieving him of his share in the company and forcing him to go personally to Krakow in 1410 to obtain reason for a part of the unpaid debts21. Left without the support of his powerful protector, Tornaquinci had formed since 1407 a new partnership with Tommaso of Giovanni to continue his business between Venice and Central Europe22.


  • 23 Archivio di Stato di Firenze (ASF), Missive I Cancelleria, XXVII, c. 1r, May 24th, 1406. The regis (...)

10The importance of the merchants living in Poland was such that in 1406 the Florentine chancellery wrote a letter of recommendation to the King, asking for a special protection for Pietro Bicarani and Leonardo of Bartolo ; that was probably the first formal correspondence entertained by diplomacies of the two governments23.

  • 24 De Rosa 1980 ; McLean,2007.
  • 25 Archivio di Stato di Firenze (ASF), Missive I Cancelleria, XXVII, c. 1r : Nos vero scientes quantu (...)

11The writing of letters of recommendation was an essential part of the diplomatic work done by the Renaissance state. Thanks to this tool, the Florentine state was able to support the network of merchants and businessmen operating abroad, at times taking on their defense against legal proceedings or disputes of a commercial nature24. In the protocol of their epistolary, the chancellor would at time curry favor with the recipient using harmonious rhetorical devices. In this letter, King Ladislaus II is called «benefactori nostro singularissimo«» and we are reminded about his close relationship with messer Giovanni, most likely to be identified with Giovanni of Bicci Medici ; thanks to him, two lions were sent as a special gift to the King to reinforce his friendship. The chancellor emphasizes, therefore, in order to reinforce the antiquity of the Florentine allegiance to the Polish crown, with fidelity traced back to the times of King Louis of Anjou. Although this captatio benevolentiae was a common element in diplomacy, this reference is more proof of the rising role of the Florentine in Poland under the Angevine government25.

12The intensification of the action of these merchants in Krakow served as a prelude to an interesting political action moved by Florentine diplomacy to support his merchants, who benefited of several letters of recommendation. Why this preferential treatment?


  • 26 Prajda 2010, p. 522-525.

13Let’s take a step back. In the decades between 14th and 15th centuries, the relevance of the Tuscan presence in Hungary was guaranteed by the prominent role assumed by Filippo Scolari, a merchant first who had become adviser to the King Sigmund, then overlord of several castles, and finally commander of the royal troops. Thanks to his helping hand, Florentines occupied some important institutional and ecclesiastical positions in the kingdom, being chosen because of their neighborly relations. Moving from the district of Santa Maria Novella, the Scolari family took their residence in the district (gonfalone) of the Keys (Chiavi), where the most powerful family in town, the Albizzi, kept their houses. Their alliance with Albizzi was finally sealed with the marriage between Giovanni of Rinaldo Albizzi and Francesca of Matteo Scolari26.

  • 27 Teke 1995, p. 706-707 ; Prajda 2010, p. 529-532.

14When Filippo Scolari finally died in the 1426, Florentines had lost their protector and later felt diminution of the friendship itself of the King Sigmund, thus starting a new phase wherein Italian merchants ended up being expelled or outweighed by the German27. During those years, six letters of recommendations reached Krakow to support Florentine merchants, particularly the sons of Giovanni of ser Matteo. A thus high number of letters of recommendations was certainly unusual for the standards of correspondence between Florentine chancellery and foreign countries ; a diplomatic action so significant had to constitute an important component of the international policy of the state.


  • 28 The document, taken from the registers of the Venetian « Giudici di Petizion » is edited in : Ital (...)
  • 29 De Roover 1963, p. 44-45, 377. In the declarations of the family at the Catasto of 1427 and 1430, (...)
  • 30 The 1405 reference derives from Michele’s introduction to Venetian citizenship in 1420, having gai (...)
  • 31 On 1409 and 1410, Michele was appointed by Neri Tornaquinci as factor and procurator, being able t (...)
  • 32 See, for example, Michele’s declaration to the Catasto of 1427 : ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217r.

15Despite the significance taken on by the family of Giovanni of ser Matteo, its components seem to remain strangers to the rich historiography of these crucial years. The lack of a family name, the absence of its members from the city and especially the short duration of their splendor, are all elements that certainly haven’t helped them in gaining a place in the history of Florence ; still today, their identity is often confused because of a Venetian document that identifies them with the Ricci’s family name28. In actuality, the association with the Ricci was only the first step for their introduction into the Florentine network living in Venice, when several members of the family had reached a position as merchants. Giuliano of Giovanni of ser Matteo worked for the Florentine branch of Medici’s holding since 1401, finally becoming one of the partners in 140929. His brother Michele (b. 1390), who lived in Venice since 1405, had the merit to forge ahead in his career, more taking a leading role in the deep Tuscan community of the lagoon30. In 1409, he became the factor of the Tornaquinci in Venice, and three years later, when he was 22 years-old, he had formed a partnership with Filippo of Gucciozzo Ricci to trade in the Magna31. After the death of Giuliano, Michele became the holder of a family-owned company engaged with international trading, with his brothers Guido (b. 1382), Bernardo (b. 1387), Leonardo (b. 1391) and Antonio (b. 1395) moving through different cities : Florence, Venice, Barletta and Krakow. Despite the beginnings of their career was spent in the Medici entourage, they built a solid relationship with the Albizzi. The real estate of the family focused around the house in via Fiesolana, inside the Keys district, heart of the patronage system that the Albizzi (and Scolari abroad) had structured within their neighborhood32.

  • 33 Ibid. : « Una achomanda mi truovo in Barletta di Pugla nelle mani di Bindaccio di Sandro Altoviti, (...)
  • 34 Bettarini 2011, p. 41-42.
  • 35 ASV, Cancelleria inferiore, Notai, 227, May 14th, 1416.
  • 36 Notes on the debts left by Brunelleschi to Michele are present in the three declarations to the Ca (...)

16One of the major businesses carried on by the brothers was based on the Adriatic routes, probably related to the export of the grain from Puglia. Trade was managed by Bindaccio of Sandro Altoviti in Barletta with a limited-liability company (achomanda) that had matured credits for 1.000 florins in 142733. His involvement in Puglia had to be the main reason why the name of Michele appears among the major creditors of Gabriello Brunelleschi, procurator of the Angevines in Bari34 ; taking advantage of his prominent position in the Kingdom of Naples, Brunelleschi had incurred substantial debts over the years with many members of the Florentine network in Venice35. Although Michele was already acting in 1416 as the trustee of the creditors, in 1433 he had yet failed to fully make claim against the sums due from Brunelleschi’s receivers36.

  • 37 ASV, Cancelleria inferiore, Notai, 228, August 5th, 1418. The laudum was sentenced by Tieri di And (...)
  • 38 ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217r.
  • 39 Libri Commemoriali 1896, regesti 193-198.
  • 40 Commissioni 1869, p. 56-63.

17In 1418, approaching the Venetian citizenship, the brothers stipulated a consensual division of the family properties, which was ratified with an arbitration37. The agreement provided for Michele the maintenance of a quote of common properties that allowed him to deposit relevant sums on the Monte ; these bonds, evaluated with a total of 6,280 florins in 1427, would constitute a sort of guarantee fund for his business in Venice38. In the Twenties, Michele was now part of the leadership of the Tuscan community, attending, for example, the signing of the alliance treaty between Florence and Venice, but, above all, he represented the person of trust and the point of reference in the lagoon for Rinaldo Albizzi, the most influential figure of the Florentine oligarchy at the time39. When Rinaldo led an embassy sent to Hungary in 1424, Michele figured himself as a trustee to arrange for hospitality during his Venetian stop. Staying at the Michele’s house, Rinaldo intervened as witness at the baptism of his last-born child, and the name chosen for the son was Rinaldo ; the Albizzi reciprocated by offering various gifts to Michele and his wife Francesca40.


  • 41 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 17.
  • 42 The sentence is described in an appendix to the « Manuale di Mercatura » by Sanminiato de’ Ricci : (...)
  • 43 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXX, c. 80r, January 5th, 1424 ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 26-27 : Cu (...)
  • 44 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 27 ; Bettarini, 2012, p. 195-196.
  • 45 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 28,
  • 46 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXX, c. 94r, May 12th, 1425.

18The first attempt by the family for trade in Poland and Germany occurred thus in a joint venture with Ricci. Their agreement probably provided a leading role for the Ricci in the management of the company in Florence, while Michele had to supervise the trading operations in Venice ; Michele’s brothers and Sanminiato Ricci, brother of Filippo, had the responsibility to take care of the trade, travelling through Central Europe. The partnership was also involved in the collection of ecclesiastical revenues ; in 1414, Leonardo of Giovanni had sent to his partners 1.000 florins belonging to dioceses of Gnesen and Kulm41. The work of Leonardo in the Magna was continued even after the end of their agreement on 1417 March 16th, when a sentence of Mercanzia declared a solution for the trading relationship between the two families42. Later, we find Leonardo detained in Krakow’s prisons. The event had prompted the Florentine government to start a diplomatic negotiation for his release, as confirmed by a letter of recommendation sent to the King of Poland in 1424. Thanking the King for his release, the Signoria recommended Leonardo and his brothers (negotiatores in partibus vestris), underlining the high esteem enjoyed by their family at home43. We do not know if Leonardo was caught a second time in 1424, or if the Polish King had changed his mind, the fact is that August the Florentine was still devoid of freedom. To meet the demands of the Florentine diplomacy, it was necessary to take an oath of surety by some of the most important members of the Italian community in Krakow : Giovanni, medicus Italicus, Ludovico from Florence, zupparius, Urbano from Genova and Papi (Iacopo) of Pietro from Florence44 ; two days after, judges finally acquitted him of the accusation. The following March, the status of Leonardo was restored to such an extent as to enable him to receive, along with his brother Antonio, the special appointment as zupparius with an engagement of 18.500 marks for a four-years position45. The event was celebrated by the Florentine government with the drafting of a new letter of recommendation, sent with the intention of thanking the majesty for yet another favor received46.

  • 47 Ibid., c. 87v, January 1th, 1425.

19But all that glitters ain’t gold. Leonardo’s detention was sentenced after the complaint had been filed against him by Albizzo Medici for debts, if we consider the motivation of the acquittal. It reveals that the dispute was totally internal to the Florentine community that was unable to solve it on their own or with the help of the institutions responsible for it at home. The consequences of a clash that could possibly transfer abroad the political tensions existing at home could not be negligible. Before the appointment of Leonardo and Antonio as zupparii, another letter had reached Kracow on January to protect the overall work of the Florentine community47. The letter would not be understandable at all, considering that Florentine merchants held such relevant offices of the Kingdom. If Florence was estimated to recommend generically their citizens residing in Poland, it is likely that this was due to a fracture within the community itself, divided because of a dispute which had opposed its most important members. We cannot exclude that diplomacy had taken steps to ensure that both parties (Medicean and pro-Albizzi) prove beneficiaries of an office inside the Polish administration ; in this sense, it would be more understandable the logic of the sudden turn of events that had led to the proceedings between Albizzo Medici and Leonardo di Giovanni, to the detention of the latter, to the oath of surety, and, finally, to the appointment as zupparius.

  • 48 Italia Mercatoria,1910, p. 28-29. The document shows as witness the notarius theleoneatoris, that (...)

20The next July, the parties were again in front of the judge. This time, the controversy concerned the sale of 300 wool yams (stamina panni) that Antonio and Leonardo had pledged to sell at the fair to be held in Krakow on the day of St. Stanislaus. The agreement provided that the two brothers would pay to Albizzo two grossi for each yam unsold. Concluded the fair, the two zupparii had reported that they had sold the entire load of goods, but Albizzo, not trusting them (Illi asserebant quod sic, sed dominus theleonator in oppositum dixit quod non), had requested that they would provide the necessary documentation to prove it. Then, the deal was put forth by the respective notaries, who were charged to view together the loads of clothes owned by Antonio and Leonardo and establish what had been sold or not48.


  • 49 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXX, cc. 108r-110r ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 29-31.

21The legal troubles and the competition with the Medici did not prevent the sons of Giovanni of ser Matteo to successfully continue their business in Florence, Venice and Poland. However, the support to its network continued to be pursued by the Florentine government even when things turned for the better. A new letter of recommendation, written on February 2th, 1427, was sent in several copies to the King and his councilors to celebrate the success of the management of the salt mines during the early years of the administration carried on by Leonardo and Antonio49

  • 50 Ibid. : Nunc vero, prout nobis a quam multis renuntiatum est, non ohscuro quidem sermone sed una o (...)

22Anyway, the celebration was hiding the worry of Michael and his brothers about the non-payment of wages owed ​​by their contract of management. In supporting the reasons for their citizens, the Florentine government did not fail to underline how the administration of saline Wielicensis et Bochnensis had reached qualitative results never achieved by anyone else before, in spite of the damages suffered during the passage of a recent plague50.

  • 51 Bettarini 2011.
  • 52 ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217v : « sta in Pollonia nella Mangnia, lire 817 di grossi, e perché à fare d (...)
  • 53 ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 576r : « E po’si trova Antonio, loro fratello nella Mangnia in Polonia, fiori (...)

23In that same 1427, the Florentine government instituted a new way for the detection of the assets of each taxpayer, just to determine the coefficient for tax with the calculation of both movable and immovable estates. This source, the Catasto, allows us to take a screenshot of the accounts of the sons of Giovanni of ser Matteo, being careful to not forget that the omissions in this kind of declarations were far from rare51. Among the debtors of the Michele’s Venetian company, the credits related to traffic in Magna appear together in a single record ascribed to his brother Antonio. The note says that he was leading a business with the Polish court, trading with merchants and nobles, although these debtors gave not any chance on regaining the money ; the total value of the credit is evaluated with 4.000 florins, an estimate that probably was deliberately underrated in order to weaken his financial position in front of the revenue officers52. As the note was copied from Michele’s accounting book, an overall estimate of the credits claimed for the international trade is also present in the statement submitted by his brothers ; these credits, probably due to reasons existing outside the company accounts, were evaluated with 1.000 florins for Antonio and 500 florins for Leonardo53. Nevertheless, Michele’s company reports then the names of three German merchants, probably because of the relief of their entity :

Matteo e Qurado di Bresilavia dela Mangnia, lire 10, soldi 12, denari 6 di grossi. Vagliono in Firenze fiorini 116
Piero Bede di Bresilavia dela Mangnia, lire 20, soldi 12, denari 1 di grossi. Vagliono in Firenze fiorini 226
Giovanni Bancho di Bresilavia, de’ dare lire 40, soldi 15, denari 6 di grossi. Vagliono in Firenze fiorini 470

  • 54 Mysliwski 2009 ; Breslau and Krakau 2014.
  • 55 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 34. Rinaldo was son of Sandro Altoviti and Eletta Albizzi. His father w (...)
  • 56 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 35-50 ; Sxekely 1964, p. 56 ; Sapori 1967, p. 156-159 ; Samsonowicz 199 (...)

24The three debtors come from Wrocław (Breslavia) in Slesia, crossroad of the major trade routes through Germany, Poland and the Kingdom of Bohemia. Here, goods from Venice, from Baltic and from Flanders as well the precious raw materials, particularly minerals, the lapis lazuli (lapides) or the Polish cochineal dye (cremesi), were exchanged by merchants54. In Wroclaw, Antonio and his brothers used to trade availing oneself of local intermediaries or factors, such as Rinaldo of Sandro Altoviti, a young scion from another family related to the faction pro-Albizzi ; in 1428, Rinaldo had sent to his masters a relevant quantity of lapis lazuli and cochineal just to be bartered in Venice with silk and taffeta cloths55. His trade put in communication Michele of Giovanni with Johann Banke, the Giovanni Bancho recorded at the Catasto ; the relationship between this merchant and Michele’s family can be traced back to a conflict ended in front of the Krakow’s court on April 13th, 1429. The documents related to the disputation, part preserved in Krakow and part in Venice, were edited by Jan Ptasnik and discussed by many scholars because of their interest56. That day, a group of six arbitratores from Krakow introduced themselves in front of the city’s consuls, proclaiming their agreement about the controversial existing between Antonio, administrator of the salt (utriusque salis terre Cracoviensis supparius), and Johann Banke, a chief wholesaler in Wrocław. In the first part of the agreement, the consuls discussed the charges brought by Antonio about the stealing of his money, private documents and some fish (piscature), for what the judges recognized Banke as a responsible condemning him to pay 195 marks in Bohemian coin. It is interesting to underline that after the sentence, Antonio asked to speak to remind the damage that he had received after that his letters and privilegia were stolen ; with this, the Florentine complained that the German merchant had put his position in a bad light in front of the other merchants, «in detractione fame et honoris sui».

  • 57 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 39 : Si enim mee res ille vel ego voluissem eas assumere per fratrem me (...)

25The third complaint informs us that Antonio owned a house in St. Adalbert’s square at Wrocław. The house has been granted temporarily in use to Banke, who at the end had come to occupy it without allowing the return to its rightful owner. Then the document descends into the detail of the business matter, because of the mutual debts owed in their trades between Venice and Wrocław. Faced with a total investment of 12.000 florins, the Florentine had then requested the payment of a profit of 1.200 marks ; in this case, Johann Banke swore to have not gained more than 75 marks, rejecting therefore the estimate made ​​by Antonio. But the Florentine was not the only one that had something to get back, because of the financial operations made with Michele to deposit the partnership’s gains or export goods to Venice. In both cases (involving together a money flow valued with 3.650 florins), Antonio defended himself trying to include his brother in the responsibility of Banke’s credit ; in his answer, Antonio felt again compelled to justify his reputation, declaring that he should be ready to pay immediately his part as soon as Michael had confirmed the veracity of the facts mentioned57. .

  • 58 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 50-59.
  • 59 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 60-66.

26The arbitration, however, did not lead to the solution of the conflict. The following year the matter came back to debate in the courts of Venice, where Michele and several procurators had tried to defend their position about the trade concerning the export and sale of cochineal dye sent by Johanne Banke to Venice58. In his defense, Michele exhibited twelve evidences (vere avidenzie) that were supposed to prove the truth of his reasons and the wrong (ingano) of the other side ; a long speech where he attempted a reconstruction of facts showing private letters and documents from the previous sentences. At the end of the trial, Venetian judges condemned Michele to pay lire 49, soldi 8, grossi 2 and piccoli in Venetian coins to Johann Banke plus all the judicial expenses. Again, that was not enough. A final trial was held in Venice on December 16th, 1430 to allow Michele and his brothers to split their payment in three times, to be concluded on June, 143259.


  • 60 ASF, Catasto, 361, c. 364v : « Antonio di Giovanni di Charchovia, mio fratello, lire 295 di grossi (...)
  • 61 Ibid. Family partnership declares to Catasto credits for 8.113 florins and other 325 florins for c (...)
  • 62 ASF, Catasto, 361, c. 365r. Among the silk prodecers, we find : « Iachopo di ser Maso, setaiuolo [ (...)

27The grueling disputation that dragged on for nearly four years could not fail to have an impact on the stability of the family and the organization of its network. The status declared at Catasto in 1430 shows significant differences with the previous one. Leonardo, who not appears anymore after 1427 in the Polish sources, was dead, while his brother Antonio had gone bankrupt («è disfato»), having no longer the opportunity to pour into the accounts of the company 295 lire in Venetian coins. The credit was not accounted by Florentine officials because of the impossibility of having reason of it ; in the margin of the note, a comment by Michele reveals the weight of the damage suffered because of the mistakes of his brother («me à disfato del mondo»)60. The incidence of damage for the accounts of the company was indeed significant, since the debts had exceeded credits. Scrolling on through the names of the creditors waiting for payment, the most are Florentine producers of silk cloths who had sent their products to Venice61 ; it is likely that the disruption of the business traded by Michele between Venice and Central Europe had temporarily deprived the Florentine entrepreneurs of an important export market. Finally, it is not negligible the value of the debts incurred by the company with a strong presence of those silk producers and bankers that have supported their investments62.

  • 63 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXXII, c. 80v, June 8th, 1429.
  • 64 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 72-74.

28When Rinaldo Altoviti delivered Michele’s declaration on January 31th, 1431, family network had already been redesigned after the failures and deaths occurred. The first step was about to send to Poland a new agent that should take care of the interests of the company, urging the creditors existing in Krakow and Wroclaw. The man chosen to trust was Niccolò of Vagio Useppi, who arrived in Krakow in the summer of 1429, bringing with him a letter of recommendation written by the chancellor Leonardo Bruni63. There remain several sources collected by Ptasnik among the testimonies given by him in front of the Venetian judges in 143164. Among them, we read how Niccolò had travelled in the previous year through Wroclaw, Nuremberg and Venice searching for the Banke’s attorney, a merchant named Venceslao, who was refuting to deliver to Michele some goods remained in the hands of the German merchant ; when Niccolò was in Nuremberg, Venceslao had played his cards, declaring to him that he cannot give him anything since Antonio was asking to him too ; then, no merchant present in the German city would have secured for him.

  • 65 ASF, Catasto, 361, c. 364v : « Viagio di Charchovia in Polonia in manno di Nicholò di Vagio e di G (...)
  • 66 ASF, Missive I, Cancelleria, XXXII, c. 185v, February 23th, 1430. The recommendation was written t (...)

29Meanwhile, another member of the family, Guido, reached Krakow to support Antonio in the critical situation in which he had been precipitated. Antonio had invested heavily on his permanence in Krakow, taking marriage and having sons, a choice that was usually assumed by Florentine merchants just after the achievement of their final statement. The travel of Niccolò Useppi and Guido had brought with them a new investment of the company in the Central Europe market, valuated with 3.120 florins65. With Guido’s arrival, another letter of recommendation, the last one prepared for the sons of Giovanni of ser Matteo, was approached by Florentine government to introduce his citizen to the Polish rulers66.

  • 67 ASF, Catasto, 365, c. 398r : « Truovasi chontanti in traficho di Puglia nella chompagnia ghoverna (...)
  • 68 ASF, Catasto, 365, c. 398r : « Bernardo di Giovanni di ser Matteo, si truova al presente portato p (...)

30Finally, Bernardo departed to Barletta with his wife and his children to settle permanently in Puglia and direct the Adriatic trade, a market that was still relevant for the family business67. In his 1430’s «portata», Bernardo claims that all his rights on the real estates in Florence and its countryside had been sold to Michele, in exchange of a compensation for 500 florins ; otherwise, Antonio and Guido have not to be considered in the fiscal records, because they had no rights anymore on the family patrimony («no’ne ànno niente»)68.


  • 69 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 74-76.
  • 70 Ibid., p. 75 : se submisserunt et obligarunt, quousque ad plenam domino nostro regi solutionem, su (...)

31The future of the Florentine community in Poland depended on the rescue of Antonio’s debts and the safety of his position in compliance with agreements established with the King on the procurement of the saline. This is demonstrated by the May 31th, 1431 act by which the King Ladislaus forced the members of the Italian community to swear an oath of surety towards Antonio ; it was required to let them guarantee their lives with the promise of compensation of those revenues from saline that were never paid by Antonio to the Treasury69. Maybe respecting a hierarchy dictated by their relevance in the community, the document shows the actors in the following order : the egregius vir Giovanni from Pavia, medicus, Albizzo Medici, Guido of Giovanni of ser Matteo, Paulus Ostrosska, Giovanni Parvisini from Milan, Niccolò of Vagio, Pietro of Giovanni from Florence, Iacopo from Florence and Margherita, Antonio’s wife and mother of his sons. Together, they vowed to mortgage their property and their own lives if Antonio had not paid his debts within the next Christmas Day, after which they would have been imprisoned until complete solution of their obligations70. The debt of Antonio was essentially become the debt of the entire community.

  • 71 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 76-77.
  • 72 RI XI/2, n. 9252. His wife Margherita stayed in Krakow, as we know by a document in which she choo (...)

32Although the community had found the strength to write off the debts incurred by Antonio of Giovanni, the latter's position was compromised. On February 13th, 1432, there was the final judgment of the Krakow’s scabins on the lawsuit filed by Johanne Banke, while the office of zupparius, already fallen in the previous year, was not reappointed again to him71. Antonio had to leave Poland after this judgment, as we find him in Siena in September during the passage of King Sigismund ; on that occasion, Antonio was appointed as familiaris of the King, becoming part of the entourage on his way to Rome to receive the imperial crown72.

  • 73 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 77. On March 31th, 1432, Pietro of Giovanni, manentem Cracoviam, quonda (...)

33The process of political and commercial synergy between Florence and the Kingdom of Poland had inevitably suffered a setback, as we consider the composition of the Italian community rooted in Krakow. Not only Florence had supported formally and exclusively the action of this family to strengthen trade relationships, but the same organization of the network had been brought forward in only one direction. With the exception of Albizzo Medici, the group of Tuscan merchants just consisted of relatives or procurators of Michele of Giovanni of ser Matteo : his brothers, with their families, and his procurators Niccolò Useppi and Pietro of Giovanni, who is qualified in a document as vicezupparius once the office was administered by Antonio73.

  • 74 ASF, Catasto, 455, c. 315r : « Ghuido di Giovanni di ser Matteo suo fratello, ch’è morto 3 mesi fa (...)
  • 75 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 78, Niccolò was engaged for 14 weeks with a salary of 28 marks.

34The final break of the network occurred in 1433 with the death of Guido. In his new declaration at the Catasto, Michele announces the death of his brother, stressing that he had left none legacy but the expenses for his funeral74. Among the debtors «chattivi» left in default of their obligations towards Michael and his company, we also find Niccolò Useppi for 79 lire in Venetian coins. Niccolò had broken any kind of relationship with his master, becoming no longer accessible ; in 1434 he still lived in Krakow, working for the new zupparius, Nicolaus de Tarnawa75.


  • 76 From the rich bibliography on the rise to the power of the Medici, I choose here the monograph by (...)
  • 77 Cavalcanti 1838, p. 627-628 ; Rinuccini 1840, p. LXXII.
  • 78 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 80.

35With the well-known balia of September 28th, 1434, Cosimo de’ Medici conquered the power in Florence forcing to exile all his opponents76. The defeat of the pro-Albizzi party dragged also Michele, declared immediately rebel by the new government and sentenced to death in absentia. Venetian citizenship and his remoteness from home not long profited, since the new treaty of alliance between Florence and Venice foresaw between its clauses the delivery of all political opponents. Then, Michael was arrested along with ser Antonio of Niccolò dell’Ancisa, Zanobi of Adoardo Belfredelli and Cosimo of Niccolò Barbadoro and led to Florence, where they were hanged on June 30th, 1436 between the palace of the Executor and the palace of the Captain, in front of the court of the Mercanzia77. Just a year earlier, the courts of Krakow had ordered the seizure of all assets remaining in the hands of Antonio and stored in Gorizia (Nova civitate Stiriensi)78.

  • 79 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 34.
  • 80 Weissen 2001, p. 168-169.
  • 81 Weissen 2003, p. 173.

36In Krakow, the Florentine community was left in the hands of the Medici, with Albizzo, zupparius of lead mines since 1428, and Roberto Martelli, arrived in Poland in 1436 as collector of ecclesiastical revenues79. Otherwise, their golden age was coming to an end, as we not find Florentine anymore among the officials of the Kingdom ; in addition, no letter written by Florentine chancellery reached Poland anymore. Since mid-century, Italian merchants were also supplanted by German competitors, both in the procurement of papal tithes and in the trade routes that linked Krakow to Nuremberg and Frankfurt80. Just after the establishment of new fairs in Nuremberg and Leipzig, the conditions for a greater presence of Italian operators returned for this area81.


37At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the international network of Florentine merchants had experimented with the possibility of extending its range in Central Europe, attempting to intervene directly on the import of those raw materials that were usually exchanged in Venice by German merchants. The best solution was found in the strengthening of trade and diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Poland, whose capital, Krakow, was characterized as a gathering place for a permanent community. The protagonists of this phase were the members of a family close to Rinaldo Albizzi and the Florentine network operating in Venice. Between 1425 and 1430, the Florentine diplomacy worked tirelessly to recommend and support the integration of members and attorneys of the company of Michele of Giovanni of ser Matteo, favoring them for the assumption of public contracts essential for the Polish state. At the same time, the Medici held a parallel path but devoid of explicit political support ; a member of the family, Albizzo, lived permanently in Poland for more than twenty years, representing the company's interests in Central Europe and assuming also the provision of important public procurements. In the making of its organization, the weakness of the local network was probably the cause of the failure of this operation. Trade required a credit coverage that the network was not yet able to offer in all the centers crossed here by Italian merchants. In the specific case of the family of Michele di Giovanni di ser Matteo, thus emerges the trouble of integration between the Italian and German trading systems, which manifests itself in the grueling disputation between Antonio and Johanne Banke. Then, the story of this family is primarily the testimony of the importance of political support in the definition of new trade routes in the Renaissance.

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Notes

1 I am especially grateful to Erin Mae Black, Rita Mazzei and Katalin Prajda for their suggestions and support.

2 The shifting geography of Florentine trade is described with an essential bibliography in : Goldthwaite 2009, p. 126-202.

3 Sapori 1967 ; Kellenbenz 1985 ; Dini 1995 ; Teke 1995 ; Goldthwaite 2009, p. 194-197.

4 Kellenbenz 1985, p. 341 ; Mazzei 1999, p. 19.

5 Renouard 1941, p. 208 ; Denzel 1991, p. 114-116 ; Dini 1995, p. 652 ; Weissen 2001, p. 254-255.

6 On the collection of ecclesiastical revenues in Gerany and Poland, see Denzel 1995. This is the list of Italian collectors in Poland (1281-1344) edited in Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. VI-X : Gerardo from Modena, 1281-1286, for the Alfani company in Florence ; Giovanni Muscata, 1284-1295, for the Rimberti company in Florence ; Ruggero and Lapo Spini and Simone of Gerardo for the Spini company in Florence ; Iacopo of Gaetano, Giovanni of Falcone, Guido Balsamo, 1300, for the company of Benedetto from Pisa ; Bonagiunta from Casentino, 1301-1309, for the companies of Cerchi and Bardi in Florence and Chiarenti from Pistoia ; Andrea de’ Verlusi, 1325-1329, for the company of Bardi in Florence and Giovanni from Carmignano, merchant in Savona ; in the same years, Pietro de Alvernia, for the companies of Bardi and Acciaiuoli in Florence ; Gallardo de Carceribus, 1335-1342, for the company of Acciaiuoli. The Alberti are cited for the years 1360-1370.

7 Kellenbenz 1985, p. 347. Spuford 1987, p. 17 ; Vergani 2007, p. 220-221.

8 Mazzei 1999, p. 22-23.

9 Renouard 1941, p. 148 ; Denzel 1995, p. 329 ; Weissen 2001, p. 245.

10 The first scholar that highlighted the importance of the relationship with the Angevines for the growth of the Florentine network was probably Gino Luzzatto 1949, p. 225.

11 A recent description of the Florentine network in Late Medieval Hungary is in Prajda 2013.

12 On textile trade and prices of cloths in Medieval Europe, see Munro, 1991, p. 143-148.

13 Since 1393, the collection of ecclesiastical revenues in Poland was controlled by Florentine bankers : Doffo Spini & co. (1393), Giovanni de’ Medici 8 Benedetto de’ Bardi (also through Ilarione and Bartolomeo de’ Bardi), 1399-1425, Carlo Tornaquinci & co. (1414) ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 4-26.

14 Giuliano Pinto (Pinto, 2014) has recently published a historiographical synthesis of the Florentine expansionism in the Europe.

15 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 12-13.

16 It is preserved the text of the Bicarani’s conduct act as zupparius salis. The agreement provides to him a salary of 7.000 marks ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 21-24.

17 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 88.

18 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. XIII.

19 The name of Albizzo de’ Medici appears for the first time in the Polish documentation on June 23th, 1419, while the last document that shows the Medici in life is January 23th, 1439 ; the next November, his executors started the process of his testament ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 20, 83-84 ; see also : Weissen 2001, p. 133.

20 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 27. Another member of Medici family, Matteo, lived in Poland in 1428, when he was moneylender in Guesna ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 34.

21 De Roover 1963, p. 240-241.

22 The private archive of the merchant Francesco Datini includes several letters coming from Neri Tornaquinci and Tommaso of Giovanni, partners in Venice. See database on www.datini.archiviodistato.prato.it.

23 Archivio di Stato di Firenze (ASF), Missive I Cancelleria, XXVII, c. 1r, May 24th, 1406. The registers of the Chancellery not include any letters sent to Poland since 1375.

24 De Rosa 1980 ; McLean,2007.

25 Archivio di Stato di Firenze (ASF), Missive I Cancelleria, XXVII, c. 1r : Nos vero scientes quantum vestra clementia erga florentinos dilectione affectus (neonem) affinitatem qua iungebamini cum celebrande indelebilisque memorie invictissimo illustrissimoque principe et domino domino Lodovico olim rege Hungarie et cetera nostre civitatis singolarissimo protectore [...]. Sunt enim cives nostri maiestatis eiusdem devotissimi servitores quos in regno vestro dignemini opportunis favoribus prosequi et in eventibus quibuscumque suscipere recommissos et inter alios Leonardum Bartoli de Florentia monetarium vestre clementie.

26 Prajda 2010, p. 522-525.

27 Teke 1995, p. 706-707 ; Prajda 2010, p. 529-532.

28 The document, taken from the registers of the Venetian « Giudici di Petizion » is edited in : Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 62. This is the only source where Michele and his brothers are cited with the Ricci family name. A deep research in the both fiscal and political databases excludes for sure this association, because the names of the members of Michele’s family never appear in the Ricci’s references. See the databases Search the Tratte (http://cds.library.brown.edu/projects/tratte/search/personinfo.php) and Florentine Catasto of 1427 (http://cds.library.brown.edu/projects/catasto/newsearch/). The reference in the Venetian document was probably the consequence of the memory of the initial partnership between the two families in Venice.

29 De Roover 1963, p. 44-45, 377. In the declarations of the family at the Catasto of 1427 and 1430, we find the name of Giuliano among the credits at the Monte (see the following notes for references).

30 The 1405 reference derives from Michele’s introduction to Venetian citizenship in 1420, having gained the time required by law for its granting. The grant of Michele’s citizenship is included in the CIVES (www.civesveneciarum.net), Collocazione : SM53 :83R SP1 :189R. Venetian citizenship and the Florentine community in Venice are discussed in Mueller 1992 ; Mueller 2010.

31 On 1409 and 1410, Michele was appointed by Neri Tornaquinci as factor and procurator, being able to substitue him for all the matters would have involved his master ; Archivio di Stato di Venezia (ASV), Cancelleria inferiore, Notai, 226, March, 12th, 1409 and July 18th, 1410. In a third attorney, in 1412, Michele appears as partner of Filippo Ricci ; ASV, Cancelleria inferiore, Notai, 227, April 8th, 1412.

32 See, for example, Michele’s declaration to the Catasto of 1427 : ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217r.

33 Ibid. : « Una achomanda mi truovo in Barletta di Pugla nelle mani di Bindaccio di Sandro Altoviti, lire 177 soldi 16 di grossi, e perché sono in molti debitori tristi e vechi stimogli lire 88 di grossi in Barletta. Fiorini 1.000 ».

34 Bettarini 2011, p. 41-42.

35 ASV, Cancelleria inferiore, Notai, 227, May 14th, 1416.

36 Notes on the debts left by Brunelleschi to Michele are present in the three declarations to the Catasto of 1427, 1430 and 1433 ; ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217v ; 361, c. 364v ; 455, c. 315r.

37 ASV, Cancelleria inferiore, Notai, 228, August 5th, 1418. The laudum was sentenced by Tieri di Andrea, a Florentine merchant living in Florence.

38 ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217r.

39 Libri Commemoriali 1896, regesti 193-198.

40 Commissioni 1869, p. 56-63.

41 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 17.

42 The sentence is described in an appendix to the « Manuale di Mercatura » by Sanminiato de’ Ricci : « 1416. A dì XV di marzo, a Richordanza che a dì detto di sopra ebbi la sentenzia da Sei della Merchantantia di Firenze per le diferenzie e quistioni àvi tra Michele e Bernardo e Antonio di Giovanni di ser Matteo e altri loro fratelli, miei maestri che per adrieto sono stati, e chome per quella fu chiarito che fine generale facesso l'uno e l'antro di ciò che avessimo auto a fare insieme per qualunque chagione o modo avessi auto del loro, io et eziandio mio fratello, e per lo simile io a loro ; excetto rimase in pandette (?) una partita di f. 70 mi restavano a dare di panni di meo dosso, che io lasciai a Michele a Vinegia quando mi mandò nella Mangnia. Della quale partita elleno dicono esserne finiti, e questo farme pruove. E di ciò sono cho' lloro in chompromesso per questo dì 17 di marzo 1416 a mesi 4 che veggimo in ser Piero Chalchangni e Iachopo Tani, chome apare nelli Ati della detta Merchatantia, in questo dì XVII marzo. E questo dì 17 è stata portata la sentenzia negli Atti della detta Chorte. Richordanza che io ò i libri e ongni scrittura tenuti a pratigha in uno forzeretto serato a chiave di messer Lionardo, il quale è in chamera de' ... E detti libri ò voluto più volte consengniare a Ber(o)nardo di Giovanni di ser Matteo, che a lloro attenghano, con questo, che lui m'abbia fatto chiareza di sua mano, chome detti libri abbia ricevuti. No llo à voluto fare, e per ciò no li à avuti, chome ser Pietro Chalchangni è informato di tutto » ; Manuale di Mercatura 1963, a c. 55.

43 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXX, c. 80r, January 5th, 1424 ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 26-27 : Cum mirabili quidem humanitate Leonardum lohannis ser Mathei, mercatorem et dilectissimum civem nostrum, maiorum suorum meritis nostre reipublce acceptissimum, ex non digne per eum gestis detentum libertati pristine donatum et gratia restitutum Serenitatis Vestre benignitas dimicti imperavit [...].

44 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 27 ; Bettarini, 2012, p. 195-196.

45 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 28,

46 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXX, c. 94r, May 12th, 1425.

47 Ibid., c. 87v, January 1th, 1425.

48 Italia Mercatoria,1910, p. 28-29. The document shows as witness the notarius theleoneatoris, that was the Albizzo’s secretary.

49 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXX, cc. 108r-110r ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 29-31.

50 Ibid. : Nunc vero, prout nobis a quam multis renuntiatum est, non ohscuro quidem sermone sed una omnium vocc palam dicitur, memoratos Antonium et Leonardum suis sumptibus, hiboribus et industria zuppas ipsas in brevi rcformasse, ipsas in statum optimum reducentes, et de die in diem in melius reformare pro posse dispositos esse seu fidelissimos ac diligentissimos Vestre Serenitatis rerum servatores. In 1428, the King asked to Antonio a description of his accounts as zupparius ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 34.

51 Bettarini 2011.

52 ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 217v : « sta in Pollonia nella Mangnia, lire 817 di grossi, e perché à fare della chorte e chon altri singnori e chome à altri debitori chattivi di molti anni passati, chome vi potete informare da ch’è stato nel paese, stimogli lire 400 di grossi, che volentieri me ne torei molti meno. Vaglioni in Firenze fiorini 5.000 ».

53 ASF, Catasto, 80, c. 576r : « E po’si trova Antonio, loro fratello nella Mangnia in Polonia, fiorini mille […] gli trafichò. Fiorini 1.000 [...]. E po’si trova Lionardo, loro fratello in detto luogho nella Mangnia, fiorini 500 e gli trafichò. F. 500 ».

54 Mysliwski 2009 ; Breslau and Krakau 2014.

55 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 34. Rinaldo was son of Sandro Altoviti and Eletta Albizzi. His father was exiled in 1434 by Cosimo de’ Medici, being one of the major supporters of Rinaldo Albizzi ; Sandro Altoviti, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Volume 2, 1960.

56 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 35-50 ; Sxekely 1964, p. 56 ; Sapori 1967, p. 156-159 ; Samsonowicz 1999, p. 454 ; Mysliwski 2009, p. 108-109.

57 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 39 : Si enim mee res ille vel ego voluissem eas assumere per fratrem meum, cur non deberem eas sibi persolvere sicut decet virum bonum?.

58 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 50-59.

59 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 60-66.

60 ASF, Catasto, 361, c. 364v : « Antonio di Giovanni di Charchovia, mio fratello, lire 295 di grossi, è disfato e questo è plubicho e me à disfato del mondo. [...] Lionardo di Giovanni, fu mio fratello, resta a dare lire 9, soldi 6, denari 6 ».

61 Ibid. Family partnership declares to Catasto credits for 8.113 florins and other 325 florins for credits lost. Debts are accounted in 8.850 florins.

62 ASF, Catasto, 361, c. 365r. Among the silk prodecers, we find : « Iachopo di ser Maso, setaiuolo […] ; Iachopo Albimari, setaiuolo […] ; Noferi, setaiuolo [...] ; Meo e Iachopo Arnoldi, setaiuoli ; Matteo ser Dini et chompagnia, setaiuoli [...] ; Lorenzo di Francesco, setaiuolo [...] ; Antonio Choveri, setaiuolo in Firenze [...] ; Zanobi sdi Iachopo, setaiuolo in Firenze [...] ; Bernardo di Betto, setaiuolo ; Zanobi di Iacho, setaiuolo [...] ». Among the bankers : « Christofero d’Andrea de’ Priole del bancho […] ; Chelo ser Nardi e chompagnia, banchieri [...] ; Antonio Balbi e fratelli, banchieri [...] ».

63 ASF, Missive I Cancelleria, XXXII, c. 80v, June 8th, 1429.

64 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 72-74.

65 ASF, Catasto, 361, c. 364v : « Viagio di Charchovia in Polonia in manno di Nicholò di Vagio e di Ghuido mio fratello [...] lire 200. Fiorini 3.120 ».

66 ASF, Missive I, Cancelleria, XXXII, c. 185v, February 23th, 1430. The recommendation was written to the King and his consiliarii ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 59-60.

67 ASF, Catasto, 365, c. 398r : « Truovasi chontanti in traficho di Puglia nella chompagnia ghoverna per Michele, suo fratello, prochura detto Bernardo fiorini piccoli 1.000 ». In 1433, profits were increased : « abita al presente in Puglia a Barletta chon tutta la sua famiglia. Portato per me, Alamanno di Sandro Altoviti, per sua chommissione. Una chasa a pigione a Barletta per suo abitare e paghane l’anno di pigione duchati dodici. Truovasi in danari chontanti fiorini piccoli milleseicento i quali si trafficha in Puglia, Fiorini 1.600 » ; ASF, Catasto, 478, c. 555r.

68 ASF, Catasto, 365, c. 398r : « Bernardo di Giovanni di ser Matteo, si truova al presente portato per Giovanni di Domenicho di Cambio, suo chognato, a chatasto nello chatasto vechio insieme chon Ghuido e Antonio e Lionardo suoi fratell, fiorini piccoli 1. Ora perch’è morto Lionardo e Ghuido e Antonio, no’ne ànno niente, à chatasto per sè proprio choxì ».

69 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 74-76.

70 Ibid., p. 75 : se submisserunt et obligarunt, quousque ad plenam domino nostro regi solutionem, sub privation colli et bonorum predictorum ammissione. […] submiserunt se captivari, vinculari, detineri et huc Cracoviam tamquam factores veritatis sine omni contradictione duci [...].

71 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 76-77.

72 RI XI/2, n. 9252. His wife Margherita stayed in Krakow, as we know by a document in which she chooses Andrea, famulus sui mariti, as her attorney in Wroclaw ; Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 77-78.

73 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 77. On March 31th, 1432, Pietro of Giovanni, manentem Cracoviam, quondam vicezupparium Anthonii, was cited by Nicolaus, abbas Brzesenensis, because of an obligation of 140 florins to be paid by Guido of Giovanni, campsore.

74 ASF, Catasto, 455, c. 315r : « Ghuido di Giovanni di ser Matteo suo fratello, ch’è morto 3 mesi fa per una scritta à di sua mano, di più soma di denari ch’el detto Ghuido gli doveva dare di che non si può ritrarre nulla del suo, se non fiorini 100 de’ dare Francescho de’ Ricci per vichore di uno lodo per Piero Girolami, i quali danari il detto Michele spera ritrarre. Altro non v’è di redità di detto Ghuido, ma à avuto a paghare il mortoro per lui et altre spese ».

75 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 78, Niccolò was engaged for 14 weeks with a salary of 28 marks.

76 From the rich bibliography on the rise to the power of the Medici, I choose here the monograph by Rubinstein 1997.

77 Cavalcanti 1838, p. 627-628 ; Rinuccini 1840, p. LXXII.

78 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 80.

79 Italia Mercatoria 1910, p. 34.

80 Weissen 2001, p. 168-169.

81 Weissen 2003, p. 173.

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Francesco Bettarini, « The new frontier : Letters and merchants between Florence and Poland in the fifteenth century », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 127-2 | 2015, mis en ligne le 07 octobre 2015, consulté le 23 juin 2017. URL : http://mefrm.revues.org/2648 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefrm.2648

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Francesco Bettarini

University of Chicago – Neubauer Collegium - frbetta@gmail.com

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