Friday, March 22, 2024

March 13, 2024: Naibi for sale and worn-out naibi

The original is "Firenze 1420 e 1424. Naibi in vendita e naibi triste," at
Words in brackets are mine, mainly for explanatory purposes, after consulting with Franco. Isolated numbers in the left margin correspond to the page numbers of Franco's pdf. Notes are at the bottom of each page.

Florence 1420 and 1424. Naibi for sale and worn-out naibi

Franco Pratesi

1. Introduction

This study can be considered the continuation of two recent ones on the section Magistracy of Minors before the Principality, in which packs of naibi were found in a shop in Ponsacco [note 1] and in a Florentine house of the Vecchietti family [note 2]. The continuation of the research was suggested by . . . mathematics. For a long time this same research had given null results, and arithmetic tells us that adding or multiplying zeros always gives zero. However, now that some specimens have been found, arithmetic tells us that it is possible to add them with similar ones - which it has finally become possible to find - in order to increase the total number. And so it happened. The archive is still the ASFi, the section is still the same. The registers examined in this case are two that I had skipped in the previous research: Magistracy of Minors before the Principality, Sample of inventories and revised data for the neighborhoods of Santo Spirito and Santa Croce, No. 157 from 1 October 1423 to 20 March 1425, No. 158 from 1 October 1425 to 20 March 1426.

2. The naibi for sale

In the first register, No. 157, I encountered a case of considerable interest in the inheritance of Antonio di Lapino from Chastel San Giovanni, who left eleven children. The inventory is introduced as follows, indicating that a previous inventory was copied into this register in 1425.
Inventory of said inheritance. That is, the merchandise was found in the shop “inside” Antonio until April 6, 1420, which was attributed to Michele d’Antonio di Lapino, his son and agent of said inheritance, as appears in the red book of reports 108 page 110.
I reproduce and transcribe the part of interest.
ASFi, Magistracy of Minors before the Principality, N. 157, f. 260v
(Reproduction prohibited)

4 boxes______________________________________________1.-
1 pound of spices at 3 soldi an ounce_____________________1.16
1 ounce of saffron_____________________________________-.16
8 mule harnesses at S. 6 1 each__________________________2.8
15 ox harnesses at S. 6 1 each___________________________4.10
9 pounds of cotton wool for doublets_____________________3.16
2 packs [mazzi] of needles______________________________1.12
1 wooden cutting board________________________________2.1.8
30 wooden soup plates_________________________________1.9
4 dozen earthen "jars"__________________________________.8
6 dozen glazed pots__________________________________+2.8
1 wooden ladle_______________________________________-.4
5 small jars containing "medicines" to be remade__________1.-
4 pairs [paia] of Naibbi_________________________________-.10
5 little boards_________________________________________-.10
4 pounds of yarn of more colors__________________________2.4
16 sheaths____________________________________________-.16
6 small knives_________________________________________1.-
4 pounds of cotton wool________________________________-.1.4
(Prices are usually in LSd. The dash stands for 0; the third term 0 denarii is implied.)

3. The worn out naibi

In the second register, N. 158, I found other naibi in the inheritance of Charlo di Mateo de lo Presto. The relevant inventory was composed on 8 October 1424. In this case, the inventory items are gradually grouped into portions, with a respective overall evaluation. The group of our interest is valued at ten soldi in total and contains ten items, with fourteen objects, as copied and transcribed below.
ASFi, Magistracy of Minors before the Principality, No. 158, f. 79.
(Reproduction prohibited)
3 small jars
2 iron candle holders
2 wooden salt cellars
1 wooden inkpot
2 earthen soup plates
1 box
1 pair [paio = pack] of worn-out naibi
1 ladle
1 iron ladle [or trowel]
1 worn-out knife

The inheritance is richer than average and also includes numerous properties and land.
House with courtyard well and platforms and other buildings located in the parish of San Friano di Firenze.
A piece of the woods . . .
A farm with a master's house and a stable with certain farmhouses, around with plots of land worked and with vineyards, and woods located in the parish of Santa Maria a Charaia [Carraia] in Val di Marina . . .
Mill with one millstone suitable for grinding located on the river of Val di Bisenzio . . .
House located in the castle [fortified town] of Monte San Savino . . .
There follows, on some pages, a long list of minor properties of buildings and land.

4. Comments on the naibi inventoried

In the first register, four packs of new naibi were found for sale in a shop in San Giovanni Valdarno. Castel San Giovanni had been founded and built to a design by Arnolfo at the end of the thirteenth century and had proved to be a useful military garrison especially against Arezzo. At the time of interest here, San Giovanni had recently become the seat of the Vicar of the upper Valdarno, one of the few vicarates established in the peripheral but strategic areas of the Florentine territory. The Castel San Giovanni of the time is also remembered for the birth of Masaccio and, as far as we are concerned, of his brother Giovanni, an important painter in general and also in particular of trionfi playing cards.[note 3]

Of notable importance is the fact that in both cases these are inventories in which a commercial value is associated with the various items. Usually in these inventories, an overall estimate is made on the total value without going into detail on the value of the individual items, as found here. The four decks for sale in San Giovanni have their market value: two and a half soldi per deck, one and a half lira per dozen. These are figures that do not surprise us, based on what we know from other archives: [note 4] wooden blocks for printing on paper have existed for years and there are professionals in the new trade. From this point on, we will have to wait several centuries to encounter technical revolutions.

As regards the second register, with the worn-out [tristi, literally “sad”] naibi, it had already been reported that “sad” was said for deteriorated objects of now very reduced value. In reality, for these worn-out naibi, included in a small group of objects valued together, it would not be easy to determine the corresponding value from the total 10 soldi, but the easy conclusion is that it was an infinitesimal economic value.

This is not surprising: let's even assume that someone had been willing to buy a deck of used playing cards without spending too much. However, no one would have purchased an incomplete deck or one with defective cards, which are now difficult to handle and which perhaps could be recognized individually from a distance.

Unlike some previous cases, here we are in a very interesting era: naibi are still naibi - not referred to as playing cards - and everyone knows them as such. A pack is found clearly damaged from use and preserved with other objects of little value; it could have already been years old when it was placed in that environment, and it had spent more time there, perhaps a long time. At most, it could even have been one of the first naibi decks to appear in Florentine houses.

Despite its low value, for us it remains quite valid as confirmation that the deck registered two years later in the Vecchietti house, in the center of Florence, was not a unique piece, and we can actually assume now that others were preserved in Florentine houses.

5. Conclusion

Two cases of naibi registrations in household inventories compiled for inheritance issues were presented and discussed. The first case concerns four decks on sale in 1420, for a total of ten soldi, in a shop in San Giovanni Valdarno; the second, a deteriorated deck present in 1424 in a private house, as in the inventories dozens could have been found, if not hundreds (and instead they are a real rarity, as also verified previously). It's not surprising
4. F. Pratesi, “Playing-Card Trade in 15th-Century Florence.” IPCS Papers No. 7, 2012.

that the value of the used deck was considered minimal, but then even new naibi were certainly not luxury objects, allowing that they might have been so previously.

Florence, 03.13.2024

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