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Archival Work


Journals and personal memoirs, often called ricordanze in Italian, were written by private individuals in order to record both civic and religious affairs, such as political upheavals, plague outbreaks and royal or papal visits in town, as well as important private family events, such as marriages, births of children, and the deaths of close family members and extended family. In providing descriptions of historical events and ideas in the writer’s own word, journals give us an important insight into the sixteenth- and seventeenth century history, customs and traditions in a way that are not well recorded in other types of sources. 

Although diaries were mostly written by members of the wealthy and powerful families (especially in Florence where over 500 diaries exist from the Renaissance period), several artisan diaries have survived in Italy from our period of 1550–1650.  A Danish diary from the town of Elsinore, kept by two butchers, Tue and Rasmus, for example, recorded events and experiences of everyday life over two generations, providing a vivid account of what local life was like in a sixteenth century Danish society.

Although diaries were used to record primarily the most important occasions, the accounts sometimes also mentioned clothing. For example, on January19 1503, a modest Florentine coppersmith named Bartolomeo recorded in his diary that his father Bernardo had hired a tailor to make him a dark brown-coloured woollen mantle and a hood. This outfit, which marked Bartolomeo’s entry into the adulthood both materially and symbolically, was made from a 6,5 meter long piece of fine local monachino wool, bought from a wool-dealer named Antonio Giuntini in San Martino in Florence, and it had cost the family a high price of 8 florins.

Suggested reading:

Giovanni Ciappelli. Memory, Family, and Self: Tuscan family books and other European egodocuments (14th-18th century). Brill, 2014.

James Amelang. The Flight of Icarus: Artisan Autobiography in Early Modern Europe. Standford University Press, 1998.

Ricordanze di Bartolomeo Masi calderaio fiorentino dal 1478 al 1526, ed. by Gius. Odoardo Corazzini. Firenze: G.C. Sansoni editore, 1906.
Luca Landucci. Diario fiorentino, ed. By I Del Badia. Florence: 1888.