Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

By David Herlihy; A. Molho | Go to book overview

17
TUSCAN NAMES, 1200-1530

"A name," Bernardine of Siena declares, "is a famosa notitia," a public statement.1 In this paper I review the stock of personal names, and, implicitly, the public statements, associated with the men of women of Florence and of Tuscany, between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. The justifications for this enterprise are two. The surviving sources give overwhelming attention to the rich and powerful; they pay little heed to the poor and lowly. Inevitably, they yield an unbalanced view of Tuscan society. But if in most respects the humble are voiceless, they do bear personal names; they do make, in Bernardine's phrase, public statements.

Moreover, as Bernardine implies, a name is far more than a bland identifier. It is rather a pointer, that directs our gaze in three directions. Its principal and unvarying function is to identify a particular man or woman. It bestows individuality; it ensouls. But names may also recall the past; often, they convert living persons into memorials to the dead. They may also predict the future, express a hope, augur a destiny. They carry, in sum, multiple messages. Through names, we eavesdrop as the old instruct the young, prepare them to carry the culture, and bless them on their way.

Florence and Tuscany offer an exceptional opportunity for studying names of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The city and region possess many, lengthy nominal lists, both surveys and registrations. The oldest survey we shall utilize here comes not from Florence

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1
"Pernomen famosa notitia designatur." S. Bemardini senensis ordinis fratrum minorum Opera omnia, 4 ( Florence, 1956), p. 514.

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