52. Letter of Francesco di Marco Datini and company to Francesco di Marco Datini, from Florence to Prato.

Archivio di Stato di Prato: Datini
busta 329, inserto 5, cod. 5199
ADDRESSEE: Francesco di Marco Datini
GENERAL INFORMATION: Two leaves, with attachment. Dated 19 April 1390.

Merchant’s letters had a specific functional format for handling correspondence. The letters were mainly written along the shortest side of mezzanine format paper sheets and divided into four sections or blocks, separated by blank spaces. The first section consisted of an invocation to God and the date. The second section included the main body of the text, with large initials opening each paragraph. The letters could consist of one or more sheets, concluding with a formula of blessing or protection, preceded by formulas of recommendation, or greetings to common acquaintances. The third section contained the sender’s signature, the greeting formula and the indication of the date, which could be followed by formulaic well-wishing. Letters could carry practical attachments to convey further brief pieces of information that complemented their contents, or specific information on related subjects (e.g., the nature of the ship’s cargo or the value of the goods involved). The letters were then folded to a format of approximately 9 x 8 cm, which left some blank space on the outer side of the paper for the addressee’s details (soprascritta). Here, besides the name of the addressee, the sender indicated other information such as titles, the place of destination and the merchant’s mark; the addressee would then add the place of origin and date of arrival of the letter.

(Chiara Marcheschi)