5 The Albizzi Ricordanze: A Family History Website 1. GoalsThe commercial and personal diary of the merchant-entrepreneur Pepo degli Albizzi, a manuscript preserved at the Newberry Library, Chicago, provides an important source for the history of Italian and European culture in the late Middle Ages. We propose to create a free, open-access online edition of this manuscript on a website that will offer scholars interactive critical and historical tools, including an extensive historical introduction, high-quality images of the entire manuscript, a full transcription of its text, and multiple indices. We will take full advantage of available digital tools to provide a highly complete account of the contents of the ledger in all its many dimensions—genealogical, family-historical, social and economic, and paleographical and literary.The project will bring together scholars and digital media specialists from four institutions, the Center for Renaissance Studies of the Newberry Library (Chicago), the Istituto di Studi sulle Societa’ del Mediterraneo (Naples), and the Department of French and Italian at Northwestern University (Evanston).
6 2. The World in a Manuscript Composed of 39 leaves, Pepo’s ledger cum diary presents a rare personal witnessin all of early Renaissance history. These were precisely the “fat years” of Florence’sgreatest prosperity, abruptly destroyed by the Black Death in 1348, and followed by aperiod of economic decline. Many Florentine merchant writers kept diaries during thisperiod, but few survive intact. The author of this one, Pepo degli Albizzi,was an important personage, active in Florence’s signature wool trade, expert in thebest accounting methods of the day (a Tuscan specialty), and actively involved in politics.Pepo in fact achieved high political office, and together with his kinsmen he created afamily dynasty that challenged the ascendency of the Medici. In short, he was a leadingfigure in the “Culture of the Florin,” so-called after the prestigious and widely usedcurrency of Florence and its city-state. His diary as a historical source can be comparedwith the most important of the day— including the famous and more literary accountsof Giovanni Villani and Giovanni di Pagolo Morelli.The manuscript is a unique survivalin another way too, in that its elegant original binding of red and cream leathersremains, complete with metal buckle and Pepo’s monogram.
7 3. The EditionThe full transcription we offer will serve teachers and researchers in several important fields:Business and Accounting History: the ledger/diary presents an extended example of the kinds of accounts kept and contracts entered into by an active wool merchant.Family and Social History: Pepo traces his family’s births, deaths, marriages, alliances, and partnerships with each other and within the larger Florentine society.Literature: the text juxtaposes family and commercial writing styles in a manner typical for both in that period.Linguistics and Paleography: the manuscript offers examples of grammatical inflection, vocabulary, typical merchant’s handwriting, and the use of abbreviations.
8 4. From Birth to Death: The Merchant Diary as a Source for Family History The single most interesting aspect of the diary of Pepo degli Albizzi is what we may call its commercial-familial dimension. The very form of the merchant diary offers a combination of data about Florentine families of the period as both dynastic and economic units. Pepo’s particularly rich diary will allow us to reconstruct important data of several types about the Albizzi family and its world:A reconstructed genealogy of the familyA sense of the family as an economic unit, in which kinship relations and business ones were often identical.Details about family wealth, both in specific cases and in the aggregate, are included. Pepo’s diary offers an important case study of how capital was amassed and preserved.A portrait of family networks.A sense of the life-cycle of the late medieval family in an age of demographic catastrophe
9 5. The Website We plan to build a website with an architecture sophisticated enough to allow visitors to envision the manuscript, to understand its contents in general terms, and to study it in great detail. At its heart will be a digital facsimile of the manuscript, page by page, which may be viewed alone or in parallel with the edited transcription. Ideally, this second, split-screen version would allow visitors to read through the manuscript entry by entry (that is, one logical unit at a time) and also, for the purposes of paleographical study, a few lines at a time. The site will be fully searchable, but since the terminology of the period is unfamiliar to many potential readers, a full index of names, places, and subjects in English and Italian will be made available; and individual terms within the transcription will be linked to definitions on the site and/or to other websites. The site will provide an extensive historical introduction in English and Italian. Within the English section, key passages of the diary will be translated fully. Also included will be an interactive genealogical tree of the Albizzi family with links to places in the text of Pepo’s diary, a full bibliography of articles and books that concern this manuscript and others like it, and a page of selected links to Florentine and Italian history and literature sites.
10 An additional possibility, if sufficient funding becomes available, is to include interactive paleographic tools to assist users in learning to read the original fourteenth-century handwriting. These could include a tutorial on the script and abbreviations used by Pepo, including historical information and an overview of the challenges it presents to readers; a split-screen transcription tool providing an image of the manuscript juxtaposed with an empty box into which the user may type a transcription; and a set of linked reference tools, including lists of common abbreviations, a glossary for paleographic terms, and reference pages for dating, numbers, money, and measurements.