Records of the Medici Family of Florence

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises documents from the archives of the younger branch of the Florentine family of Medici, formerly in the possession of the Marquis Cosimo and the Marquis Averardo de' Medici. They include a grant from Pietro di Pietro Petroni to the church and monastery of St Barnabas of Gamungno, Faenza, in 1085 (MDC/1); a papal bull of Pope Pius II to the Archdeacon of Florence concerning the foundation of a canonry in the church of San Lorenzo, 1462 (MDC/18); confirmation of a lease by Pope Leo X, signed by Pietro Bembo, 1517 (MDC/22); a letter from Pope Leo X to Zanobi de' Medici, signed by Pietro Bembo, 1521 (MDC/23); credentials of Francesco de' Medici as envoy of Pope Clement VII to Charles de Bourbon, Count of Saint Pol, 1529 (MDC/24); six letters from Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, to Raffaello de' Medici, 1575-1577 (MDC/45-50); letters from Ferdinando I, Duke of Florence, to the Marquis Biagio Capizucchi in Avignon and others, 1589-1608 (MDC/58-91); and numerous medieval and post-medieval grants, letters patent, court orders, records of judgements, agreements, correspondence and accounts.

Administrative / Biographical History

The House of Medici was an Italian banking family, political dynasty and later a royal house, which rose to prominence in Florence during the first half of the fifteenth century, under Cosimo the Elder. The family had originated in the agricultural Mugello region of Tuscany, but its wealth derived from the Medici Bank, which grew to become the largest in Europe during the fifteenth century. This provided the wealth to support the Medicis' quest for political power in Florence.

Although Cosimo the Elder, his son Piero and grandson Lorenzo officially remained citizens rather than monarchs, they effectively ruled Florence, and through their enlightened patronage of the arts they transformed the city-state into the centre of the Renaissance. In 1531 the family became hereditary Dukes of Florence. In 1569 the Duchy was elevated to a Grand Duchy after territorial expansion. The Medici ruled the Grand Duchy of Tuscany from its inception until 1737, with the death of Gian Gastone de' Medici.

The Medici produced three Popes - Leo X (1513-21), Clement VII (1523-34), and Leo XI (1605) - and two regent queens of France: Catherine de' Medici (1547-59) and Marie de' Medici (1600-10).

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Many items in the collection were purchased by the John Rylands Library at auction at Christie's on 26-28 May 1919, via Bernard Quaritch Ltd. The total purchase price was £72.

MDC/52 (accession no. R48226) and MDC/53-189 (accession no. R48225) were purchased by the John Rylands Library from the bookseller Percy Mordaunt Barnard of Royal Tunbridge Wells on 3 September 1920, for 19s and £3 12s respectively (catalogue 122, items 368-9). It has not been possible to identify these items in the catalogue of the Christie's sale in May 1919, and they are thus presumed not to have derived from the sale.

Other Finding Aids

The hand-list of the Medici Records was orginally published in Robert Fawtier, Hand-list of charters, deeds and similar documents in the possession of the John Rylands Library, I: documents of which the provenance has been ascertained (Manchester, 1925).

Separated Material

The retail magnate H. Gordon Selfridge (1858-1947) purchased the largest portion of the Medici Records sold at Christie's in May 1919, including the letters of Lorenzo de' Medici and a collection of ledgers, account books and memoranda of the Medici as bankers. In 1927 Selfridge deposited these items in the Baker Library at Harvard Business School. They constitute the largest collection of Renaissance Florentine account books outside Italy. They are described in outline at http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/000603012/catalog.

Custodial History

Many of the documents in this collection derive from the archives of the younger branch of the Florentine family of the Medici and belonged until the early twentieth century to the Marquis Cosimo and the Marquis Averardo de' Medici. The whole of these archives was intended to be sold at Christie's in London in February 1918. However, the Italian Government exercised its right of preemption and 174 lots were withdrawn and transferred to the Italian state archives. The original sale was cancelled, and the remaining lots were eventually put up for sale at Christie's on 26-28 May 1919. The John Rylands Library purchased lots 1, 8-14, 26-28, 41-42, 49-52, 58-61, 72, 75, 530-534, 560-562, 607 and 609.

The previous provenance of MDC/52 and MDC/53-189, which were purchased from the bookseller P. M. Barnard in 1920, is unknown.

The John Rylands Library's accession number (R-----) and, where relevant, the lot number in the Christie's sale of May 1919 are recorded at the end of the Scope and Content note for each item.

Bibliography

Christie, Manson & Woods, Catalogue of the Medici Archives: Consisting of Rare Autograph Letters, Records and Documents, 1084-1770, Including Seventy-Eight Holograph Letters of Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Property of the Marquis Cosimo de' Medici and the Marquis Averardo de' Medici (London: Christie, Manson & Woods, 1919).

Gertrude Randolph Bramlette Richards (ed.), Florentine Merchants in the Age of the Medici: Letters and Documents from the Selfridge Collection of Medici Manuscripts (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1932).

Richard A. Goldthwaite, 'The Return of a Lost Ledger to the Selfridge Collection of Medici Manuscripts at Baker Library', The Business History Review, vol. 83, no. 1 (2009), pp. 165-71: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40538577.

Corporate Names

Geographical Names