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In this chapter I outline very summarily the long history of the text known as the Llibre del Consolat de mar [Consulate of the Sea] (in Italian, Libro del Consolato del mare), from its very origins in the time of the Aragonese Crown through to its fortunes in the sixteenth century across Europe, especially in the Mediterranean area. Italy will be a crucial focus of analysis: indeed, if we examine the extant manuscripts and printed copies of the Llibre, Italy seems to be the most important area of the text's circulation at the end of the Middle Ages. One of the seven manuscripts of the Llibre dating from before the editio princeps (1484) is preserved at the Biblioteca Universitaria of Cagliari, while another library, in Palermo, has an early manuscript translation into Italian, dating back to 1479. The Llibre was printed in eight different Catalan editions, in Barcelona, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; during the same period the text appeared in nine Italian editions, in Rome and Venice. Of these latter, in 1519 an edition was printed in Rome but with a dedicatory prologue referring to the Florentine merchant community, and this was the first printed translation of the Llibre from Catalan. Even the later French edition (1577) depended on an Italian translation. As a consequence, the use and fortune of the Llibre del Consolat is, above all, part of the history of economic, political and cultural relations between Italy and the Iberian world,5 within the general evolution of the western Mediterranean
Research into new ways of interpreting late medieval political change has modified the attitude of historians towards Tuscany: traditional topics such as ‘Renaissance Florence’ have been overtaken by an approach ‘beyond Florence’, aiming to focus on different models of state-building. This new perspective allows historians to analyse the Florentine model in closer comparison with the experiences of the surrounding city-states, the Tuscan republics of Siena and Lucca.
Following these new approaches, I shall focus on the social and institutional evolution of Florence and Siena at the end of the Middle Ages, comparing them to Lucca in the final part of the chapter: the purpose will be to identify some features of the Tuscan political systems and to underline their contribution to the development of the Italian Renaissance state.
Florence: from commune to respublica
Robert Davidsohn took his fundamental Geschichte von Florenz up to 1328: even if his decision was partially due to the difficulty of extending such comprehensive research to the far too richly documented fourteenth century, Davidsohn’s choice provides a useful starting point. The emperor’s absence from the Italian political scene and the displacement of the papal court to Avignon in fact gave the most important city-states in central Italy new chances to fulfil their ambitions.
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