Saturday, February 6, 2016

Nov 21, 2015: 1514: Florence: Law on games (synopsis)

This is a synopsis and partial translation of Franco's note "1514: Firenze: legge sui giochi", dated Nov. 20, 2015. It is online in Italian at My comments and translation here first appeared at If I get time, I may translate the whole note.

Franco in his article examining the 1514 law says that the new law says that the old law had fallen into disuse in recent times--which I take to mean the time after Savonarola but before the establishment of the Duchy under the Medici descendants.

There are five parts to the 1514 law. The first is about the use of ornamentation in dress--fancy necklaces, etc. The third concerns blasphemy and provides stiffer penalties than earlier, as much as 100 lire, an average person's income for a year. But the judge had considerable latitude in sentencing. The fourth and fifth have to do with magistrates and enforcement. It is the second that has to do with prohibited and allowed games. Franco quotes this provision in full:
Et perché esintende che, indifferentemente, in molti luoghi et per molte persone publicamente et etiam in luoghi segreti si guocha a ogni et qualunque guocho etiam proibito non solamente con charico della Città ma anchora con rovina di molti giovani donde ne segue grandissimi danni a padri et maestri equali commettono el governo delle substantie et exercitii loro per necessità a efigluoli et altri giovani. Et desiderando a tale inconveniente rimediare et veduto questo procedere perché le leggi che sopra tale materia disponghono sono ite in desuetudine et emagistrati per ciò deputati non le fanno observare per tanto et per ricordo et consiglio di molti savi cittadini providono et ordinorono:
Che la leggie fatta sopra el guocho l’anno 1473 del mese daprile per la sua finale conclusione per ladivenire sobservi in tutto et per tutto et in ogni parte et effetto con quello che ne fu dipoi aggiunto. per la leggie sotto di 20. del mese di marzo 1376 per la sua finale conclusione.
Since this is in the Tuscan of 1514, it is not that easy to translate, but I will try a rough one:
And because it is understood that. indifferently. in many places by many people publicly and also in secret places play each and every game, also prohibited ones, not only with the burdening of the City but also with ruin of many young people, from which follows very great damage to fathers and masters, also requiring government substance being exercised, by necessity, to children and other young people. And desiring to remedy this shortcoming and seeing this proceeding because the laws ordered on this matter are in disuse and the appointed magistrates do not do much to observe and remember the advice of many wise citizens, be it provided and ordered:
That the laws made about games in the year 1473 in the month of April for its final conclusion become observed in all and in every part and effected with what was afterwards added, to the laws adopted of the 20th of the month of March 1376 for its final conclusion.
Franco then comments:
Allora, dopo la legge molto dettagliata del 1473, seguita dalle leggere modifiche introdotte nel 1477, e dopo una quarantina d’anni in cui i consigli non avevano ridiscusso la materia (anche perché per qualche anno furono addirittura soppressi), cosa avranno avuto da cambiare i legislatori nel 1514? Praticamente nulla. In effetti le vecchie leggi vengono riproposte, come se nel frattempo gli esecutori e i cittadini se ne fossero dimenticati; anzi, viene scritto esplicitamente che quelle leggi erano proprio cadute in disuso.

(Thus, after very detailed law of 1473, followed by slight changes introduced in 1477, and after forty years in which the councils had not reconsidered the matter (because for some years they were even suppressed), what will have to be changed by the legislators in 1514? Practically nothing. In effect the old laws are reaffirmed, as if in the meantime their executors and the public had forgotten them; indeed, it is explicitly written that those laws had in fact fallen into disuse.)
In addition, here is Franco's final conclusion, in the last paragraph of his article:

È stata presentata e discussa, con cenni al contesto storico, una legge fiorentina sui giochi che sembra essere sfuggita all’attenzione degli storici; la legge in questione fu emanata nel gennaio 1514, insieme a disposizioni contro l’eccesso di ornamenti femminili e le bestemmie, il tutto con l’intento di riportare la vita sociale della cittadinanza entro limiti più decenti; altre disposizioni intendevano migliorare il funzionamento degli uffici dei magistrati. Per quanto riguarda i giochi, non si propone niente di nuovo rispetto alla legge approvata nel 1473 e leggermente modificata con quella del 1477; si dichiara che tali leggi ormai cadute in disuso devono essere invece tenute presenti e fatte rispettare. Nonostante il lungo tempo trascorso dalle leggi precedenti, niente di nuovo viene aggiunto relativamente ai giochi di carte esclusi dalle proibizioni.


A Florentine law on games has been presented and discussed, with nods to the historical context, that seems to have escaped the attention of historians; the law in question was enacted in January 1514, along with provisions against the excess of female ornaments and curses, all with the intent to bring the social life of citizens within decent limits; other provisions were meant to improve the functioning of the offices of the magistrates. As for games, it does not propose anything new with respect to the law passed in 1473 and is slightly modified in relation to that of 1477; It states that these laws now fallen into disuse should instead be taken into account and enforced. Despite the long time passed since the previous laws, nothing new is added in relation to excluded card game prohibitions.)
Franco has more to say, of course, leading up to this conclusion. In particular, this law supports what he had already concluded in another study:
Tuttavia, anche in un recente studio sui Libri del Giglio, è stato verificato che le condanne per il gioco (come del resto quelle per uscite di notte e porto di armi proibite) diminuirono fortemente nella seconda metà del Quattrocento con una deriva continua dei controlli e delle catture, fino a sparire praticamente del tutto.(7)

(However, in a recent study of the books of Giglio, it was verified that the sentences for the game (as well as those for being out at night and bearing prohibited weapons) declined strongly in the second half of the fifteenth century with a continuous drift of controls, to end by sparing practically all. (7))
There may well be new games since 1477 that now are traditional, changes to old ones, and old games no longer played. Indeed, Lorenzo himself plays germini, as Huck discovered and Franco reitered. "Germini" was not a word used in the old laws; whether it now counts as an allowed game is not totally clear, but probably it is similar enough to minchiate, perhaps even identical, so as to fall under minchiate's 1477 status as a permitted game. Franco argues:
D’altra parte non si deve dimenticare che lo stesso Lorenzo dei Medici era un giocatore abituale di germini e come minimo avrebbe dovuto indicare questo gioco come permesso, se non fosse stato sufficiente il fatto che il gioco delle minchiate era già permesso dalla legge. Anche al termine della sua vita, alcuni degli amici con cui stava governando la città, come ricordato sopra, e in particolare Jacopo Salviati e soprattutto il cognato Filippo Strozzi, condividevano e assecondavano la sua passione per il gioco dei germini. (8)

On the other hand we must not forget that Lorenzo de Medici himself was a regular player of germini and at least they should have indicated this game as permittede, had not it been sufficient that the game of minchiate was already allowed by law. Even at the end of his life, some of the friends with whom he was ruling the city, as mentioned above, and particularly Jacopo Salviati and especially his brother-in-law Filippo Strozzi, shared and indulged his passion for the game of germini. (8)
These details are left to the magistrates, who are not likely to go after Lorenzo in any case. But the main thing now is to re-establish law and order, especially to put a stop to games whose sole purpose is gambling, and re-establish the limits on the amounts to be gambled also in the permitted ones, as in former times when the Medici had played a leading role in the life of the city.

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