Pratica della mercatura

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The Florentine merchant Francesco Balducci Pegolotti compiled his Libro di divisamenti di paesi e di misuri di mercatanzie e daltre cose bisognevoli di sapere a mercatanti between 1335 and 1343, probably within the period 1339 to 1340. The work is commonly known as the Pratica della mercatura, the name given to it when it was first printed in 1766.

Pegolotti's work is based on his own experience as a banker and merchant, and on various local documents, statutes and price lists available to him. He seems to have had access to an earlier, much more limited compilation made at Pisa in 1279, now preserved in the Biblioteca Comunale at Siena, entitled Hec est memoria de tucte le mercantie come carican le navi in Alexandria e li pesi come tornano duna terra addunaltra.

Its reception and influence[edit]

No autograph survives. The surviving manuscript, the one used by Pagnini and Evans for their editions, is in the Biblioteca Riccardiana at Florence: it was completed on 19 March 1472 by Filippo di Niccolaio Frescobaldi.

Pegolotti's work was probably used by the compiler of the Venetian trade manual Tarifa zoè noticia dy pexi e mexure di luogi e tere che s'adovra marcadantia per el mondo in the 1340s. It then served as a source for a later work which shares its title, the Pratica della mercatura compiled by Giovanni di Bernardo da Uzzano in 1442. Soon afterwards it was drawn on by the author of Libro che tracta di mercatantie et usanze de' paesi, compiled in 1458 probably by Giorgio Chiarini, afterwards incorporated in Luca Pacioli's Summa de arithmetica.

Pegolotti's Pratica della mercatura was first published by Gianfrancesco Pagnini as part of Della Decima, his multi-volume history of the finances of Florence, in 1766. Only short sections have appeared in French and English translation. The 1936 edition by Allan Evans is now standard: it includes important glossaries of commodities, place names, coins and money, etc., but no translation.

Outline of contents[edit]


Glossary of terms then in use for all kinds of taxes or payments on merchandise as well as for every kind of place where goods might be bought or sold in cities (Evans, pp. 14–19). Languages listed as necessary include

Routes and trading cities[edit]

Listing of the principal routes and trading cities frequented by Italian merchants; the imports and exports of various important commercial regions; the business customs prevalent in each of those regions; and the comparative value of the leading moneys, weights and measures.

Lists and tables[edit]

  • Lengths of cloth (Evans pp. 277–286)
  • Fineness of gold and silver coin (Evans pp. 287–292)
  • Spices and their packing (Evans pp. 293–300, 307-319)
  • Compound interest tables
  • Valuation of pearls and precious stones
  • Buying and selling grain
  • Shipping
  • Calendar tables
  • Fineness of gold and silver (Evans pp. 331–360)
  • Types and qualities of spices and other trade goods (Evans pp. 360–383)


  • Fabio Mariano, I luoghi della mercanzia: dal palazzo medievale alla Borsa novecentesca, in: Aa.Vv., Arte, economia e territorio. Architettura e collezioni d'arte delle Camere di Commercio, Edizioni Jaca Book, Milano 2008.
  • Gian-Francesco Pagnini, Della Decima. 4 vols. Lisbon, Lucca, 1765-1766.
  • Francesco Balducci Pegolotti, La pratica della mercatura ed. Allan Evans. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Mediaeval Academy of America, 1936.