In the Gene Brucker edited Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence: The Diaries of Buonaccorso Pitti & Gregorio Dati we are treated to the autobiographies of two Renaissance Florence merchants. In these autobiographies we discover much more than the lives of the two subjects, for we also uncover a great deal of information relevant to Florence, Italy, during the 14th and 15th centuries, including the merchant’s attitudes toward gain, the Protestant ethic, the handling of money, social responsibilities of merchants, social movement and other facets of Medieval life.
From 1380 to 1430, Pitti and Dati were witness to one of the most creative half-centuries in all of human existence. The two diarists were businessmen, but each from distinctly different backgrounds. Pitti was a member of one of Florence’s most aristocratic families, on a level with the wealthy and powerful Medicis. Dati’s origins, on the other hand, were much more modest than Pitti’s, but despite these humble origins he achieved wealth and considerable political influence in his lifetime.
Pitti’s diary gives us insight into the socio-politics and economics of this era in Florence, along with Venice, the two Republics to survive in Italy. Pitti was a diverse and complex man, one who gambled, bought and sold jewels, and traded everything from saffron to wine. His accounts of his gambling do more than show us he was often unsuccessful at the sport, they also show us how commercial transactions of the era worked. For example, we see him borrow money to pay a gambling debt in one city, which he agrees to pay at a later time in a different currency “When I asked Calcidonio degli Alberti for 500 florins, he replied that he didn’t have any cash, but that he would give me a bill of exchange for some place. I decided not to make any more demands on my friends, but accepted a bill of exchange from Calcidonio for 500 gold florins, payable in Montpellier” (Brucker 83).