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Merchant Culture in Fourteenth-Century Venice: The Zibaldone da Canal.



John E. Dotson, ed. and trans. (Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 98.) Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1994. 2 pls. + xii + 228 pp. $25.

As Dotson notes in his introduction, the Zibaldone "is the earliest extensive [merchant's] manual," a genre whose minutely-detailed repertoires of commercial information are "extremely important sources for the economic history of late medieval northern Italy Northern Italy comprises of two areas belonging to NUTS level 1:
  • North-West (Nord-Ovest): Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria
  • North-East (Nord-Est): Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Emilia-Romagna
" (23). His edition/translation is enhanced with a gazetteer gazetteer (găz'ĭtēr`), dictionary or encyclopedia listing alphabetically the names of places, political divisions, and physical features of the earth and giving some information about each. , map, note on the monetary system, compilation of weights and measures weights and measures, units and standards for expressing the amount of some quantity, such as length, capacity, or weight; the science of measurement standards and methods is known as metrology. , and bibliography. The manuscript's appealing drawings have also been reproduced, enlivening en·liv·en  
tr.v. en·liv·ened, en·liv·en·ing, en·liv·ens
To make lively or spirited; animate.



en·liven·er n.
 the sometimes dry material.

One function of the notebook was to teach useful mathematical skills to fledgling merchants by posing practical problems, such as calculating the weight of a larger ball of wax ball of wax
n. Slang
An unspecified set of items or circumstances: went shopping, had dinner, saw a playthe whole ball of wax. 
 from a smaller one. My favorite My Favorite is an independent synthpop band from Long Island, New York. They released two CDs: Love at Absolute Zero and Happiest Days of Our Lives. My Favorite broke up on September 14, 2005, when singer Andrea Vaughn left the band. : how long will it take a dragon to climb a 50-braccia tower if each "day he climbs up 1/2 braccia (sic; read braccio) and in the night slips back 1/3 braccia (sic)." With rare diligence, Dotson has reworked all of the problems, noting errors and inconsistencies. And with even rarer and much appreciated candor, he acknowledges those instances in which a solution or explanation is unavailable (e.g., 200-01). His introduction puts into the perspective of merchant life such problems, along with the Zibaldone's lists of various Mediterranean weights and measures; further, by plotting the points of reference on a map, he is able to correlate information given in the Zibaldone with Venetian trading practices. Some gaps in relevant bibliography occur, however. No reference is made to Frederic Lane's astute observation, contained in an essay prefixed to Alfredo Stussi's edition of the Venetian text (Venice, 1967, LVII-LVIII), that such manuals came about because increasingly sedentary merchants needed information to protect themselves from distant agents. Nor does Dotson discuss the mutual implications of the Zibaldone and Roberto Cessi's essay "Politica ed economia di Venezia nel Trecento tre·cen·to  
n.
The 14th century, especially with reference to Italian art and literature.



[Italian, from (mil) trecento, (one thousand) three hundred : tre, three
," in Politica ed economia di Venezia nel Trecento (Rome, 1952, 7-22), which links the growing centrality of commerce to Venetian interests with the consolidation of the merchant aristocracy.

Considering the utilitarian prose of the original, Dotson chose an English style that is neither "a modern American idiom" nor antiquated (xi), a choice that generally serves the text well. He deftly handles a number of difficult passages; the "Precepts of Solomon" (155-61), for example, is rendered in a style that is both dignified and lyric. However, at times Dotson's decision to translate literally "locutions that make understanding difficult" (xi) results in unnecessary obscurity. The Venetian passage "lo mill(ie)r de Venexia vien costado lo 6 men de quanto fosse costato lo mill(ie)r de Pullia" (18) is rendered "a thousandweight of Venice will cost six less than as much as a thousandweight of Apulia would cost" (43). A clearer translation: "the Venetian thousandweight costs 6 less than the Apulian thousandweight." In a few instances the translation misses the mark. The original "ben cognosciuto/e' t'azo in el spudare" (Dotson edition, 173 n. 329) is translated "knowing full well/that I have thee in my soul." The Glossario degli antichi portolani italiani, compiled by Henry and Renee Kahane and Lucille Bremner and translated by Manlio Cortelazzo (Florence, 1967, 42) defines conoscere as "riconoscere (soprattutto per mezzo mez·zo  
n. pl. mez·zos
A mezzo-soprano.


mezzo
Adverb

Music moderately; quite: mezzo-forte

Noun

pl -zos
 dei punti di riferimento)." As for spudare, it is the homely home·ly  
adj. home·li·er, home·li·est
1. Not attractive or good-looking: a homely child.

2. Lacking elegance or refinement: homely furniture.
 "to spit," registered in its later form spuar by Giuseppe Boerio in Dizionario del dialetto veneziano (Venice, 1856). A better translation thus would read, "well did I recognize you / by the way that you spat," an earthy earth·y  
adj. earth·i·er, earth·i·est
1. Of, consisting of, or resembling earth: an earthy smell.

2. Of or characteristic of this world; worldly.

3.
 image expressing the embattled tone of the contralto contralto (kəntrăl`tō), female voice of lowest pitch. Originally, the term denoted a second voice set against (contra) a high voice (alto); thus, a second high voice.  in which it is found.

These minor cavils aside, Dotson is to be commended for his thorough-going edition/translation of this important fourteenth-century text, as is Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies for making it available to a wider audience of scholars and students.
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Author:Carroll, Linda
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
Words:646
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