Brief Historical Overview.

Tre Maggiori Birth registrations Guild elections Bibliography

The Tre Maggiori. (Series 05). The Tre Maggiori, the highest executive offices of the Florentine Republic, consisted of the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia and Priors (assisted by a notary) and two advisory councils: the Buonuomini and the Gonfalonieri di Compagnia. The Gonfaloniere di Giustizia and Priors were called the "Signoria"; the two advisory councils the "Collegi". Legislation was initiated by the Signoria, discussed in consultation with the Buonuomini and Gonfalonieri di Compagnia, and then in certain cases agreed to or rejected by a general Consiglio del Popolo or Consiglio del Comune. In certain circumstances special temporary ad-hoc Balie (commissions), whose members included the men currently holding the Tre Maggiori, but also many others, were entrusted with matters of particular weight and political significance.

1282 -- June. The first three priors (Priori delle Arti--guilds) were elected: Bartolo di Iacopo Bardi (from the Arte del Calimala and the Sestiere of Oltrarno), Rosso Bacherelli (Arte del Cambio, Sestiere of S. Piero Scheraggio), and Salvi di Chiaro Girolami (Arte della Lana, Sestiere of S. Pancrazio). Previous governors of the city had been mostly nobles. In August the number of priors increased to six (representing different guilds and each of the six Sestieri of the city). Priors were elected by a variety of means, but initially generally by co-option in consultation with the outgoing Priors, the Savi, and the Consuls of the Major Guilds.

1293 -- November 1292 into the spring of 1293: "The Ordinances of Justice." This further defined the highest offices, and enfranchised some of the minor guilds. It defended the "Guelf" character of the regime by excluding nobles ("magnati", often "Ghibellines") from holding office. A seventh prior appeared as the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia ("vexillifer justitiae"--"Standard-bearer of Justice") who was to execute judicial sentences pronounced by the Podestà (the chief judicial official--always a foreigner) and to assume leadership of the guild militia.

1293 -- February. The first "Gonfaloniere di Giustizia": Baldo Ruffoli from the Sestiere of Porta del Duomo. He is said (by Davidsohn) to have been a protégé of Giano della Bella whose name is often associated with the Ordinances of Justice and who was one of the Priors selected in February 1293.

The Florentine constitution proved to be remarkably stable. However, political circumstances affected the election of the Tre Maggiori at several significant points. Florentine politics of the fourteenth century was marked by internal strife and foreign threat, and by a refinement of the electoral process. (For a full and detailed discussion of the development of the electoral system in the fourteenth century, see John M. Najemy, Corporatism and Consensus in Florentine Electoral Politics, 1280-1400. [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982].)

1301 -- In the continuing feud between the Guelf "Whites" (Cerchi) and "Blacks" (Donati), Corso Donati (supported by troops of Charles de Valois) entered the city in October, liberated the prisons, attacked the Palazzo della Signoria, and forced the election of a substitute Signoria on 7 November (all "Blacks") who remained until the next regularly elected Signoria that entered office on 15 December. Thus in November 1301 there are two lists of priors. The "Whites" did not return to power. Dante Alighieri (who had served as prior once) was exiled from Florence early in 1302 in the aftermath of this crisis.

1304 and 1313-16 -- In response to further civic strife the group in power took the precaution of nearly doubling the number of priors in the February and April elections of 1304, between the April election 1313 and the August election 1314, and in the October and December elections of 1316. Thus in these periods there is a doubled number of priors.

1328 -- A reform of the electoral system established the selection of men for the highest offices by sortition (drawing by lot from Borse--purses--the "Tratta" [drawing]; the plural is "Tratte") after previous periodic scrutinies of the eligible candidates. Although the twelve Buonuomini (two from each Sestiere--from 1321), and the nineteen Gonfalonieri di Compagnia (the standard bearers of the urban militia--four from the Sestiere of Oltrarno and three from each of the remaining Sestieri--from ca. 1304-06) existed earlier, the first listing of names in the Priorista di Palazzo (the official record of members of the Signoria) for Gonfalonieri di Compagnia dates from those entering office on 7 December, and for Buonuomini from those entering office on 12 December 1328.

1343 -- Following the attempt of Walter of Brienne (the so-called Duke of Athens) to assume the Lordship of Florence (September 1342 to July 1343), the groups who defeated him undertook a reform of the system of selection for the highest offices. In August, fourteen Riformatori under the leadership of the Bishop of Florence, Agnolo Acciaiuoli, briefly removed the prohibition against "magnati" ("grandi") holding office. The names of the advisory council of eight elected that month in substitution for the Buonuomini paired four "grandi" (Bartolo di Iacopo Bardi, Domenico di Iacopo Cavalcanti, Nepo di Doffo Spini, and Beltrame Pazzi) with four "popolani" (Adovardo Belfredelli, Francesco di Lotto Salviati, Piero di Feo, and Piero Rigaletti).

The Riformatori redistricted the city from six Sestieri into four Quartieri, which helped to contain the expanded population toward the recently constructed third circuit of walls. The Sestiere of Oltrarno became the Santo Spirito quarter, the Sestiere of S. Piero Scheraggio and a third of the of the Sestiere of S. Piero Maggiore became the Santa Croce quarter, the Sestieri of S. Trinita and S. Pancrazio became the S. Maria Novella quarter, and the Sestiere of Porta del Duomo and two thirds of the Sestiere of S. Piero Maggiore became the S. Giovanni quarter.

The first solution for the new system of selecting priors gave an assured place to the "grandi". In the election of twelve priors in August 1343 one was chosen among "grandi" for each quarter, and two among "popolani". But the "grandi" priors were expelled from the city on 22 September and the counter-solution arranged by the remaining "popolani" priors from August for the next election of priors (October 1343) created the system that was to continue: the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia and Notaio, eight Priori (two from each quarter), exclusion of "grandi" from holding office, and election of priors both from both the Arti Maggiori and Arti Minori (in different but varying ratios). The distribution of office among different guilds fluctuated during the 1340s and early 1350s. The number of Buonuomini remained twelve after the reform of 1343, but the number of Gonfalonieri di Compagnia was reduced from 19 to 16, one from each of the four Gonfaloni in each of the four quarters. (No names of regular Buonuomini were recorded in the Priorista di Palazzo or the Giornali of the Tratte between the elections of May 1342 and June 1346, or of Gonfalonieri di Compagnia between July 1342 and December 1345.)

The dates of entry into office also changed. The Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, Notaio, and Priori had earlier entered office for their two-month terms on the 15th day of the month; now they entered office on the first day of the successive month: January, March, May, July, September, November. The Gonfalonieri di Compagnia entered office for their four-month terms on the 7th day of the month after their election: January, June, September. The Buonuomini, however, entered office for their three-month terms on the 15th day of the month (December, March, June, September) and were generally selected about the 12th day of the month they entered office. In a given year the first term of office for the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, Notaio, and Priori, and for the Gonfalonieri di Compania began in the first week of January after their election in the last days of December of the previous year; the first term for Buonuomini for that year began on 15 December of the previous year. (Although by the Florentine calendar, in use until 1751, the year began on 25 March, the first term of office holding for a year began nonetheless in December-January when the whole spectrum of office holders changed together. All dates in the data file have been changed to the modern system of beginning the year on 1 January.)

1348 -- The Black Death so decimated the population of Florence that the Borse from the scrutiny of 1343 had to be opened and the names read out to determine who were still among the living, and new Borse were created (Borsa vecchia, Borsa dei Morti, Borsa nuova). Before 1348 the population of Florence may have reached nearly 100,000; thereafter it fluctuated around 50,000, with perhaps 20,000 less in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, and perhaps 20,000 more in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

Scrutinies: The first step in attaining office was to pass one of the periodic scrutinies of eligible candidates. Candidates had to be enrolled in one of the guilds and (at least initially) to actually exercise a trade. Scrutinies were carried out, and the proposed names were voted on, by special commissions that had varying composition. Ideally a scrutiny was held and new Borse were composed about every five years, but as in all as aspects of Florentine office holding a scrutiny involved political considerations. It could be to the advantage of the group in power to delay holding a scrutiny and creating new Borse. However, a political crisis generally hastened a new scrutiny.

Extractions and Divieti: The Borse containing the name slips were kept under lock and key in the sacristy of the Basilica of Santa Croce. The chest they were kept in was taken to the Palazzo della Signoria and opened in the presence of the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, Priors, Collegi, and other officials. Extractions by the Notaio of the Riformagioni (one of the subordinate administrative officials) began with the oldest existing set of Borse (a new scrutiny did not negate the right of individuals earlier scrutinized to be considered for office--and older Borse were sometimes joined together). Names were drawn and their current eligibility for office was determined. Initial extraction meant that a man had been "veduto" ("seen"), but this did not necessarily mean that he was "seduto" ("seated") in office. Divieti (prohibitions from the final "seating") often resulted from an individual having held office too recently, or from one of his immediate family members being currently in office. Increasingly, as the system developed, fathers entered their under-aged sons in scrutinies, and the individual drawn might be under-age for the office in question. Individuals might be absent from Florence, in tax arrears (speculo), or subject to a variety of other conditions. Also, the individual in question might have died since his name was initially placed in a purse. The extractions among candidates deemed eligible continued until the right number of office holders was "seated".

The names of men drawn for office ("veduti" and "seduti") were recorded in the "Giornali" of the Tratte (our primary source). The entries in the Giornali begin on 29 December 1345, but all names were not recorded at first and there are other gaps in the Giornali. Before 1345 we found names from the Priorista di Palazzo; after 1345 we continued to fill missing names for the Signoria from the Priorista, but since the Giornali are the only continuous later source of names for the two Collegi, some gaps remain for these offices in the fourteenth century (see the note on the coding and editing of the data). But, to our knowledge, such detailed information remains for no other electoral system of such antiquity as what is contained in the Giornali of the Tratte.

1378 -- The "Ciompi" revolt. The unsuccessful Ciompi revolt of minor guildsmen and men in unorganized trades ("scorporati") aimed at reducing the dominance in office of men in the major guilds. The turbulent and bloody events of that summer are reflected in the identity of men holding the Tre Maggiori. One notices the substitute Signoria elected on 26 July, with unusual occupations among the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia and Priors, other substitutions on 2 September, and the one Signoria elected under the new rules of the Ciompi in August/September from three Borse representing different sets of guilds: Arti Maggiori, Arti Minori, and "Popolo di Dio" (the unorganized trades). One also notices the unusually frequent mortality and substitution among the Gonfalonieri di Compagnia in 1378.

The distribution of offices ("distributio") among the major and minor guilds. Not only were offices strictly distributed among the different districts of the city, office holders were also chosen from different purses with names of members of the major and minor guilds. This tension was apparent during the 1340s and at the time of the Ciompi, and details of the distribution further developed in the two decades following the Ciompi revolt. In relation to political considerations of the electoral system, the guilds had also changed in organization, and had come to represent not so much individual economically distinct trades as political coalitions of trades (among the Arti Maggiori the Medici and Speziali [doctors and apothecaries]; among the Arti Minori the Oliandoli and Pizzicagnoli [oil dealers and sausage-and-cheese sellers]).

From the end of the 1340s the office of prior was distributed so that two of the eight priors at each election came from the Arti Minori; the rest were from the Arti Maggiori. Selection of the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia rotated by quarter in successive elections and the quarter of the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia determined the quarter from which the two priors from the Arti Minori were selected. This distinction is clear from the occupations reported for priors, and where the Giornali of the Tratte or Priorists from which we recorded names did not make the distinction we have added it between 1350 and the election of priors in April 1378 (TPURS ‘99’ meaning Arti Maggiori or "unknown" and ‘03’ meaning Arti Minori). The distinction of purses is clearly indicated in the Giornali of the Tratte for 1378. However, in the two decades after 1378 (until the Giornali again began to note the distinction in 1399) the system continued to develop and it is not always certain from which purse individuals were drawn, so we did not edit the TPURS coding. Users of the data file might be able to deduce the guild association of individuals for this period from occupations, when these were reported. We have edited lapses in the TPURS coding in the Signoria for the Arti Minori from 1399 to the end of the series.

As well, in lasting form from about 1382, distinctions were made for the Buonuomini and Gonfalonieri di Compagnia. This involved a more complex system of rotation, which was not, however, noted in the Giornali of the Tratte until September 1406 for the Buonuomini, and December 1406 for the Gonfalonieri di Compagnia. We have not added missing purse distinctions for the Buonuomini and Gonfalonieri di Compagnia before 1406, but thereafter we filled in obvious lapses. In the system of rotation one quarter of the men chosen at each election came from the Arti Minori. For the Buonuomini this meant three out of the twelve individuals at each election (one for each of three quarters), the only predictable element being that at each election there was no one from the Arti Minori in one quarter (for the December election S. Maria Novella, in March of the next year S. Giovanni, in June S. Spirito, and in September S. Croce). For the Gonfalonieri di Compagnia the system was still more complex: at each election four men from the Arti Minori were chosen by rotation among the four "gonfaloni" of each quarter (in S. Maria Novella, Vipera [code 31] for one election, followed by Unicorno [32] in the next, Leon Rosso [33] in the next, Leon Bianco [34] in the next, then again Vipera, and so on).

Electoral controls. A further problem in the system of drawings by lot, beyond an equitable distribution of offices by district of the city and by group among the guilds, was to secure effective office holders, or at least men loyal to the group in power. Already in the 1340s "accoppiatori" were used in some instances to preselect candidates in the drawings. Another means was also adopted to achieve this end, the selection of half the priors accorded to the Arte Maggiori from a special "Borsellino" of true Guelf guildsmen thought loyal to the group in power--"quelli cittadini li quali paresse loro [the Signoria in 1387] che fossero molto confidenti allo Stato loro" as one chronicler (Buoninsegni) wrote. The use of the Borsellino appears to have begun about 1387 but it is not noted in the Giornali of the Tratte until December 1404. An indication that the men in the Borsellino were pre-selected is that in the extractions for office fewer men from the Borsellino (code 02) had to be "seen" before one was "seated" than from general purse of major guildsmen (code 01); clearly there was little point in pre-selecting men who would later prove to be ineligible through the Divieti. The Borsellino was used through the fifteenth century until the suspension of the Tratte by the Consiglio Maggiore in 1495, although it was less frequently noted in the Giornali of the Tratte after the 1440s. It was not noted in the Giornali of the Tratte after the Medici restoration of 1512.

The use of accoppiatori was an important element of the electoral system in the fifteenth century under the Medici dominance, although not in all years, and it went well beyond selecting some priors through the Borsellino. For the October election in 1403 and again for the October elections of 1433 and 1434 (after the banishment and then just after the return of Cosimo de’ Medici) the names of the Signoria are missing from the Giornali of the Tratte; we supplied them from the Priorista di Palazzo. There is the notation: "hic deficit prioratus". This might indicate that the offices were filled a mano (that is, in effect, by appointment). (The system of electoral controls under the Medici is very thoroughly discussed in Niccolai Rubinstein, The Government of Florence under the Medici (1434-1494). [Second edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997].)

Birth registrations. (Series 10). Due to the increasing tendency of fathers to enter their under-aged sons in scrutinies, and the age reqirements for office holding (age 40 for the office of Gonfaloniere di Guistizia and age 30 for other offices), individuals born after 1381 were required in 1429 to submit a declaration of their date of birth to the Conservatori di Legge. There was further legislation in this matter in 1457. The "approvazioni di età" of the Conservatori di Legge no longer exist; the registers in the Tratte archive from which we derived "birth dates" for Series 10 are largely alphabetical compilations made from them for internal use of the Tratte at the time of drawings. After 1457 the date when the birth was registered was also noted. Some individuals stated their age at the time of registration rather than an exact birth date, and some birth dates were declared retrospectively back into the 1380s. After 1457 the birth dates of about half of young men were declared before they reached age 20; three quarters before they reached age 30. Declarations were most numerous in years of scrutinies. To be sure, many individuals whose birth dates were registered never held office.

1434 -- Beginning of the Medici dominance. In September 1433 Cosimo di Giovanni de’ Medici, an opponent of the group in power headed by Rinaldo di Maso degli Albizzi, was arrested and banished from Florence. This produced a political crisis. The Signoria elected in August of 1434, which entered office on 1 September, summoned a general assembly of citizens, a "Parlamento", that approved creation of a Balia. This met on 28 September, recalled Cosimo on 29 September, and then exiled Rinaldo degli Albizzi and some of his followers. There was subsequently a new scrutiny of office holders and new purses were created. The Medici exercised their dominance and leadership of Florence without holding office very often, as can be easily ascertained from the Tratte data file. Cosimo de’ Medici (Pater Patriae) was succeeded as head of the family on his death in on 1 August 1464 by his son Piero (Il Gottoso) who died on 3 December 1469. He was followed by Piero’s famous son Lorenzo (Il Magnifico) who in turn died on 8 April 1492. Lorenzo’s son Piero was expelled from Florence in November 1494 partly because of diplomatic errors he had made in the foreign crisis provoked by the invasion of Italy by King Charles VIII of France, who entered Florence briefly in that month.

1478 -- The Pazzi conspiracy. A group of conspirators attempted to assassinate Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano in the Duomo on 26 April 1478. Lorenzo escaped; Giuliano died. Iacopo di Andrea de’ Pazzi was arrested and hanged; his body was desecrated. The election of new Gonfalonieri di Compagnia of 28 April was delayed until 8 May. The Pazzi conspiracy probably influenced creation of the Council of Seventy in 1480, which assumed some powers of the Signoria, a decline in influence of the Tre Maggiori that developed further under the Consiglio Maggiore of 1494.

1494-1512 -- The Consiglio Maggiore. In the anti-Medici reaction of November 1494, a new Parlamento and Balia created the Consiglio Maggiore on 24 December, an unwieldy council with more than 3,000 members (anyone who themselves or in their immediate family had been drawn earlier for the Tre Maggiori was able to sit in it). The great assembly room of the Palazzo della Signoria was hastily built for its meetings. The room was initially to have been frescoed by Michelangelo and by Leonardo Da Vinci; the present decorations were commissioned by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici from Giorgio Vasari in the 1560s, when the ceiling of the hall was also raised. In response to the uncertainty of the times new accoppiatori were named, and the number of Gonfalonieri di Compagnia was tripled in the December election of 1494. The charismatic preaching of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, a Domenican Friar from Ferrara become Prior of the convent of San Marco in 1490, also influenced the political situation. He was eventually arrested, excommunicated, tried, hanged, and burned at the stake in the Piazza della Signoria on 23 May 1498. The political situation in Florence was further complicated (up into the 1530s) by the intervention of France and Spain in the wars of Italy. Out of the turbulence of this period arose the intense political discussion reflected in the works of Niccolò di Bernardo Machiavelli (who was never drawn for the Tre Maggiori) and of Francesco di Piero Guicciardini (who served as prior once).

The Consiglio Maggiore suspended the selection of office holders through the Tratte and substituted a system of selection by the Consiglio through Electors (who were themselves ineligible to hold office). The elections began in May 1495. With suspension of the Tratte the Giornali of the Tratte also soon ceased; we have filled in the names of office holders from other sources. Only the names of men "seated" in office are thus available between 1497 (when the Giornali ended) and the Medici restoration of September 1512, and not all details are available for many of these.

1502 -- Piero Soderini "gonfaloniere a vita". In an effort to stabilize the politics of the Consiglio Maggiore, Piero di Tommaso Soderini was elected "Gonfaloniere di Giustizia a vita" (for life) in September 1502. Thus, from his election, there are no further names of Gonfalonieri di Giustizia until the elections of October 1512, after the Medici restoration.

1512 -- The Medici restoration. With a Spanish army encamped at Prato, Piero Soderini fled into exile at the end of August 1512. The remaining members of the Signoria repudiated him. A new Parlamento (limited to Medici supporters) and Balia restored the Medici in the person, in effect, of Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici (the second son of Lorenzo Il Magnifico) who was then head of the family. He had been made a cardinal in 1489 and was elected pope as Leo X in March 1513. He died in 1521. The Medici party aimed to restore the political system to what it had been under Lorenzo, with the Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, the Priors, and the two Collegi again chosen through the Tratte, although elections were now controlled by the Medici party. The first elections through the Tratte were those of October 1512. The Consiglio Maggiore was replaced by a Senate of 70 and a Council of 100. (A succinct and detailed account of the last period of the republic is J.N. Stephens, The Fall of the Florentine Republic, 1512-1530. [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983].)

1527-1530 -- The "Last Republic". After the sack of Rome by mercenary troops of Emperor Charles V in May 1527, and the flight to Orvieto of Pope Clement VII (Giulio de’ Medici), the anti-Medici groups in Florence seized power. Giulio de’ Medici was a son of Lorenzo’s murdered brother Giuliano, and as a cardinal he had supervised the regime in Florence; he was elected pope in 1523. In Florence, a new Balia prepared to restore the Consiglio Maggiore of 1494. Substitute office holders for the Signoria and Collegi were chosen on May 31st, and the names of those subsequently chosen by the Consiglio Maggiore were recorded in the Giornali of the Tratte. The Gonfaloniere di Giustizia was again elected for a longer term: Niccolò di Piero Capponi (May 1527), Francesco di Niccolò Carducci (April 1529), Raffaello di Francesco Girolami (January 1530).

Following reconciliation between Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V, Florence was besieged by Imperial troops under the Prince of Orange from the autumn of 1529 until the surrender of the city on August 12th 1530, after the final battle of Gravinana.

1530-32 -- The Duchy. The Medici were restored in April 1531 by Charles V in the person of Alessandro de’ Medici who was made Lord of Florence. Alessandro was an illegitimate son of Lorenzo de’ Medici the Duke of Urbino, and thus a grandson of Piero, and great-grandson of Lorenzo Il Magnifico. A year later, in April 1532, twelve Riformatori from the Medici faction of the Florentine elite changed the constitution. The reform of 1532 recognized Alessandro de’ Medici as Duke, abolished the Signoria and Collegi, and established a new tightly controlled Magistrato Supremo under the Duke, which stood above a Senate of 48 and Council of 200. The last Gonfalonieri di Compagnia were selected in April 1531, the last Gonfaloniere di Giustizia, Notaio and Priors in February 1532, and the last Buonuomini in March.

When Alessandro de’ Medici was assassinated in January 1537 (by his kinsman Lorenzino de’ Medici--called "Lorenzaccio") the Florentine elite secured recognition of Cosimo de’ Medici as Duke. Cosimo was the son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, a distant cousin of the fifteenth century Cosimo Pater Patriae. Under Duke Cosimo I (he was made Grand Duke in 1570) the more bureaucratic institutions of the Medici Grand Duchy developed.

Guild elections. (Series 06). It is often said that the Florentine republic emerged initially out of the guilds, since guild membership was a basic requirement of office holding. The number of recognized guilds was fixed at 21 in the early years of the priorate: seven "major guilds" and fourteen "minor guilds".

The seven "major guilds" were the Arte dei Giudici e Notai (Lawyers and Notaries); the Calimala [or Mercatanti] (Great merchants); the Arte del Cambio (Money changers); the Arte della Lana (Wool masters); the Arte della Seta [or Por S. Maria] (Silk masters), the Arte dei Medici e Speziali (Doctors and Apothecaries); and the Arte dei Vaiai e Pellicciai (Furriers and Leather masters).

The fourteen "minor guilds" were the Arte dei Beccai (Butchers); the Arte dei Calzolai (Shoemakers); the Arte dei Fabbri (Blacksmiths); the Arte dei Linaiuoli e Rigattieri (Linen drapers and used clothes dealers); the Arte dei Maestri di Pietra e Legname (Builders); the Arte dei Vinattieri (Wine sellers); the Arte di Albergatori (Innkeepers); the Arte di Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli (Oil dealers and Sausage and Cheese sellers); the Arte dei Cuoiai e Galigai (minor Leather masters); the Arte dei Corazzai e Spadai (Armorers); the Arte dei Coreggiai (Belt makers); the Arte dei Chiavaioli (Locksmiths); the Arte dei Legnaioli (Carpenters); and the Arte dei Fornai (Bakers). Although the guilds existed earlier (Giovanni Villani traced the seven major guilds to 1266), the later guild statutes dated generally from the 1290s to 1320s.

Florence, where a limited number of "official" guilds were embedded in the constitution, differed from other Italian communes where a larger spectrum of trades were formally organized. Florentine practice was to associate additional trades within existing guilds (thus the Giudici e Notai, the Medici e Speziali, the Vaiai e Pellicciai, the Linaiuoli e Rigattieri, the Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli, the Cuoiai e Galigai, and the Corazzai e Spadai--all associated trades grouped together). For instance, the Tintori (dyers) struggled to obtain independent organization in the fourteenth century, but succeeded only briefly, in 1378-82, at the time of the Ciompi revolt. The few individuals identified by occupation as ‘Tintori" in fifteenth-century guild elections were members of the Arte della Lana or the Arte dei Linaiuoli e Rigattieri. Further sub-groups can be noted in the fifteenth century: Goldsmiths (Orafi) were mostly associated with the Arte della Seta; Perfumers (Aromatari) and Barbers (Barbieri) with the Medici e Speziali; Fishmongers (Pesciaiuoli) with the Beccai, Cutlers (Coltellinai) with the Fabbri, Tailors (Sarti) with the Linaiuoli e Rigattieri; Sculptors (for instance the Della Robbia family) with the Maestri di Pietra e Legname; Grain or Fodder Dealers (Biadaiuoli) with the Oliandoli and Pizzicagnoli; Furniture makers (Cassettai) with the Legnaiuoli. Trade distinctions were also made in the composition of the different Borse from which guild consuls were drawn. Consuls of the Arte della Lana were drawn from four Borse representing different districts of the city (called "conventi"): S. Pancrazio (the western part of the city), Oltrarno (the southern part), S. Martino (the northern part), and S. Piero Scheraggio (the eastern part). Consuls of the Arte della Seta were drawn from three Borse: Setaiuoli (silk masters), Ritagliatori (cloth finishers), and Fondaci (warehouse keepers--including goldsmiths). Consuls of the Arte dei Linaiuoli e Rigattieri were drawn from two Borse: Linaiuoli (Linen drapers) and Rigattieri (Clothes dealers).

The guilds enforced the prescribed modes of production, matriculation, scrutinies, and internal disputes. Each was governed by a magistracy of "Consuls" drawn by lot among eligible guild masters--subordinate workers in trades ("sottoposti") were ineligible. The Consuls served for four-month terms, entering office in January, May, and September. The Arte della Lana had eight consuls, the Seta, Medici e Speziali, Beccai, Calzolai and Fabbri had six, the Calimala (Mercatanti), Cambio, Vaiai e Pellicciai, Linaiuoli e Rigattieri, Maestri di Pietra e Legname, Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli, Coreggai, Chiavaioli, Legnaioli, and Fornai had four, and the Vinattieri, Albergatori, Cuoiai e Galigai, and Corazzai e Spadai had three. Scrutinies of eligible candidates were carried out within each guild. The drawings by lot and divieti from the final seating operated in a manner similar to that for the Tre Maggiori.

There has been little study of the Florentine guilds over the past generation. One might assume that a particular family would be associated mostly with one guild (as was sometimes the case), however there was clearly a flexibility in guild membership. Some families (for instance the Medici) found it to their economic and political advantage to be associated with several guilds. Surnames, of course, are a poor predictor of family cohesion, and one notes that many surnames (concealing branches of families) were distributed widely among different guilds, and even between major and minor guilds.

The Mercanzia. The Mercanzia (from 1308-- the Universitas mercatorum, or in the fifteenth century the Sei di mercanzia) was the high commercial court. Its magistracy (that served for three-month terms in the early fifteenth century) consisted initially of one member from each of the five more commercial guilds: the Mercatanti, Cambio, Lana, Seta and Medici e Speziali. A sixth member of the court was added from the minor guilds in 1372 (and at the time of the Ciompi there were five members from the minor guilds, which returned to one in 1387). The members from the major guilds were drawn from Borse composed by each of the five guilds represented; the sixth member of the court was drawn from one combined Borsa composed for the Arte dei Vaiai e Pellicciai and the fourteen minor guilds. The court also employed a foreign jurist (whose names do not appear in the data file).

The Mercanzia was a quite important magistracy in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century. Its members sat ex-officio in the Consiglio del Popolo, and they also participated in the drawings for the Tre Maggiori. The court dealt with serious matters such as bankruptcy, fraud and commercial dealings with foreign states. Progressively in the fourteenth century it assumed executive authority in carrying out sentences pronounced by the consuls of the guilds. Gradually (and particularly in the period after the Ciompi revolt) the Tre Maggiori and other higher magistracies encroached on the independence of the guilds, subordinating them to the state, and the Mercanzia had a role in this process. In 1393 it assumed a supervisory role in the elections of guild consuls, thus giving rise to a series of archival registers (Tratte di tutti i consolati delle arti) that recorded the drawings for office for the Mercanzia itself, and for twenty of the twenty-one guilds (the Arte dei Giudici e Notai was excepted). The Mercanzia declined somewhat in significance in the late fifteenth century through a series of measures introduced under Lorenzo de’ Medici in the 1470s (and in 1477 the terms of magistrates of the Mercanzia were reduced from four to three annually).

The Mercanzia registers of guild elections are very similar to the Giornali of the Tratte for drawings for the Tre Maggiori, and they are the source for the names in Series 06 of the data file. The registers contain the names and dates of drawing for all "veduti" and "seduti", indicating the result of the drawing for each, the office and the date of purse. Unfortunately, not all of these registers have survived. Names exist in continuous series from the elections of December 1393 to August 1421, from August 1429 to December 1443, from August 1465 to April 1474, and from April 1480 to December 1497. David Herlihy had coded the registers up through 1497. The volumes continue into the 1530s after another gap between 1498 and 1507. We were not able to complete the series after 1497, although we did fill in names in 1433-34 that were missing from Mercanzia 83. It would undoubtedly be possible to find further names of individuals drawn for office in the missing years (especially for the Mercanzia itself), but it is doubtful that the full spectrum of guild elections could be reconstructed. Nonetheless, the surviving registers provide a good basis for assessing the participation of individuals and families in different guilds for most of the fifteenth century.