Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages

By Jean Favier; Caroline Higgitt | Go to book overview

NINETEEN
The Merchant and the Arts

The businessman lived with a pen in his hand. Though a product of secular education and unfamiliar with the clerical culture acquired by those of the bourgeoisie who aspired to a profession in the law, he handled a pen every bit as frequently as money. He had sufficient time for leisure and reflection to allow him to become quite a book lover and sometimes even a writer on professional subjects.

A pragmatist in his business affairs, he showed little inclination for vain philosophical or political speculation. He had little enthusiasm for the generally inelegant Latin used in the universities and still, very often, by lawyers. Nor was he impressed by the contrived Latin used by the humanists trying to rival Horace or Cicero. He used the everyday language of commercial correspondence, the down-to-earth prose of the account book. When he took up his pen to describe or relate something other than a newly discovered marketplace or his recent experience of the rates of exchange, he used his mother tongue or sometimes, as in the case of the notary Rusticello of Pisa who recorded Marco Polo's memoirs in French, another language commonly used in the place where he lived.

In turning their backs on the Latin culture of the clerics brought up on Boethius, businessmen sometimes drew near the secular humanists, whose accurate descriptions of the world, combined with a revival of interest in antiquity, had a vitality that had quite vanished from the minute dissections of old texts practiced by generations of scholars in the universities. A number of these businessmen would take their studies to a high level. Palla Strozzi, the richest man in Florence, according to the 1427 census listing taxable wealth, read Greek and had secretaries with the unusual names of Argyro

-349-

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Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Gold & Spices - The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages *
  • Contents *
  • Maps *
  • Introduction 1
  • One Horizons 8
  • Two Opening the Way 31
  • Three Learning About the World 53
  • Four Privileges 77
  • Five Competition 95
  • Six Foreigners 109
  • Seven Currency 125
  • Eight Payment 142
  • Nine Capital 151
  • Ten Business 175
  • Eleven Credit in the Marketplace 193
  • Twelve Toward Modern Banking 215
  • Thirteen the Risks of Business 237
  • Fourteen Accounting 258
  • Fifteen the Power of Business 280
  • Sixteen the Businessman and the Prince 297
  • Seventeen Social Aspirations 312
  • Eighteen Fortune and Conscience 332
  • Nineteen the Merchant and the Arts 349
  • Conclusion 363
  • Bibliography 365
  • Index 376
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