Italian Paleography


Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Wing Case MS folio Z 311 .G445
Alessandro Giunta
Alessandro Giunta Letter
Antwerp, 14 February 1603

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This letter, written in Antwerp in 1603 by Alessandro Giunta, head of the Giunti Press in Florence in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, was sent to Marchese Ipolito Bentivoglio (1549–1639) in Modena. It details a swirl of payments and debts among various Italian merchants in the Flemish city. Ipolito Bentivoglio was the second Marchese of Gualtieri, a title given to his father, Cornelio, by Duke Alfonso II d’Este of Ferrara in 1579. The title was only bestowed upon the Bentivoglio family in 1567 as thanks for Cornelio’s role in leading d’Este forces against Turkish troops invading Hungary. In 1603 Ipolito was living in Modena, just to the south of the family territory of Gualtieri, while construction began on the impressive Renaissance piazza and palace that still bears the family name today. Giunta outlines the complex debt and payment relationships among Italians residing in Antwerp, and asks Bentivoglio’s permission to utilize the debit that he has with one merchant in order to make payment to another, noting that this will negate the annual interest that his debt accrues.

Notably, the money discussed throughout the letter is all in Italian denominations. While due in part to the specific identity of the merchants in questions, it also speaks to the dominant role of Venice and Florence in mercantile exchange aroundEurope in general. Even in a distant site like Flanders, the Venetian ducat and Florentine florin were the de facto coins of international trade. The letter specifies “denari moneta di Venezia” to remove ambiguity, as many countries minted their own version of the ducat and florin based on Italian prototypes. The sums of money discussed represent contemporary six-figure transactions, and relied heavily upon a system of credit to ensure physical coins were not required except for minor transactions.


Corsiva (1603) dal tracciato sottile e incerto, ductus moderatamente corsivo e un notevole slancio delle aste, abbreviazioni correnti.
Da notare: la a con ultim tratto di andamento retrogrado e antiorario (r. 11: asciende a molto); la grande C italica spesso dal tratto leggermente ingrossato (r. 7: Capponi).

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