AND CHILDREN'S GAMES
IN FIFTEENTH-CENTURY FLORENCE
What should matter most to a father,
business, matters of state, trade, or the good and saluation of his children?1
In Leon Battista Alberti's early fifteenth-century treatise on the family, the patriarch poses this rhetorical question to emphasize that the rearing and educating of children was indeed men's work. He then goes on to underscore that men's traditional duties outside of the home, including the protection and prosperity of their family and city, make sense only if they first guarantee that their male offspring will be able to fulfill the same responsibilities. The importance of children's education, or pedagogy, for men in early modern Florence is evident by the breadth and diversity of writings on the subject. Merchants like Paolo da Certaldo wrote books of advice for family patriarchs, others like Giovanni Morelli produced ricordanze or domestic histories of their own families, and humanists and preachers like Alberti and Giovanni Dominici wrote complete treatises on the subject. Although my essay focuses on Alberti's text as it is the most thorough writing on the role of fathers in educating children in early modern Florence, I cite works from each of the genres listed above.
1 Leon Battista Alberti, I libri della famiglia, ed. Ruggiero Romano and Alberto Tenenti (Turin: Einaudi, 1980) 63: “ … quale dee pesare piii al padre, o la bottega, lo stato, la mercatantia, o il bene e salvamento del figliuolo?” Trans. Renée Neu Watkins, The Family in Renaissance Florence (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1969), 67.