Mantua, October 1401
Concerning Mantua, without meaning to draw even a remote comparison with the largest Italian industrial center of wool production, I believe that a clear proof was to find on the date of 26 October 1401 a proclamation in which was established the modality of the creation of a fondaco [chamber] for the sale of wool cloths […]
Such a fondaco had to serve producers of wool to sell their cloth directly, eliminating the retail vendors; it had a specific structure which made it quasi a public institution, since its employees had to be designated by the Prince and it was they who fixed the price of cloths with each producer, taking into account the production costs and spreading proportionately across various selling prices the overhead cost of the fondaco itself. After the mention in the proclamation, all traces of the scheme vanish; we cannot say what importance it achieved and if it truly corresponded to the purpose for which it was created (Michielotto 269-70).
From the proposals of Francischus de Abbatibus to Marquis Francesco Gonzaga, 1401:
Item, to subsidize the art of wool Your Highness has to lend money to people who need it and want to engage in the said art.
Item, that a fontego [chamber] is made, to lend against cloth so that people do not cease labouring for want of money if they don’t have space to store their cloths.
Item that a scavezzaria [shop] is made, which is furnished with these pledged cloths and which will be sold a scavezo [retail], for the price for which they are sold wholesale, adding the sales tax, [the rent for] the site of the arcade and the salary of the clerks, and no more; by doing this, there will be such a good textile market in Mantua as nowhere else in the vicinity, and in this way, as people of Brescia, Cremona, Parma and Resana go to Verona to buy beautiful clothes, in such manner they will come to Mantua because they will have a better market and even our citizens of Mantua and countryside won’t have reason to go elsewhere, if they have what they want at home, and this will be a great increase in the art [of making cloth] and very useful to the sales tax on cloth and all of your taxes.
Item it will be necessary for the augmentation of the said art that there will be an official of this fontego in Venice to whom from time to time we will send the pledged cloths that we cannot completely sell here, so that they can be sold and he will send the money to Mantua so that the official of the said fontego here can make his accounts to everyone from time to time.
Item for the good of the said art because of the great scarcity existing here regarding the dyeing of cloths, it would be necessary to make a dye-works which should colour the cloths deducting all expenses and that the said official of the fontego causes the pledged cloths to be dyed, either by selling retail or wholesale; and finding here a quantity of well-coloured cloths, the people from Romagna or Marche who now go to Verona to buy will come to Mantua instead, because they will find a better market.
All the above reasons will furnish the occasion to develop the art of wool and to increase the number of people living on the land and give greatest utility to all your taxes (Michielotto 270-71).
Translated by Roxana Preda and Massimo Bacigalupo, March 2019.
Michielotto, Alfonso. “Istituti di diritto commerciale nella legislazione mantovana.” Rivista del Diritto Commerciale, 29.1 (1931): 263-77. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma. Biblioteca Digitale. The Cantos Project.
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