Matteo Calcagni

European University Institute

The Adami-Lami Archive

(Florence, Italy)

Hidden for over a century inside the only neo-Egyptian gallery in Florence, designed in 1802 by Giovanni de Baillou, the Adami-Lami archive was brought back to light in December 2014, after a long restoration of the room where it had been left by the last heirs of the family at the beginning of the twentieth century. At the time of discovery, the papers no longer had a proper order, despite having to hand two late eighteenth-century inventories, and cataloguing took over 13 months under the constant supervision of the Archival Superintendency of Tuscany. Today, the Adami-Lami archive consists of more than 800 archival units, totalling hundreds of thousands of valuable documents, and includes the papers of the Adami family, whose best-known exponent is Senator Anton Filippo Adami, lieutenant of Pontremoli in Lunigiana and first translator of Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man in 1765, the Lami family (who took the surname Adami from 1799) and the Matraini family. The papers that now compose the Adami-Lami archive housed in Florence’s Palazzo Adami were written over three centuries, from 1650 to 1950, and collected between Empoli, Livorno, Florence and the Levant.

The Adami family, originally from the Emilian Apennines, arrived in Empoli in the second half of the sixteenth century and began their business activities by running a tavern on behalf of the Passerini family of Florence. In the seventeenth century, the family activities changed aspect. Through a progressive social rise, based on a scrupulous matrimonial policy, the Adamis began to concentrate on trade, especially in wine, and the occupation of increasingly prestigious public offices. The family became extinct with Senator Alessandro Gaetano Adami (1714–99), director of the Livorno customs authority, who in 1799 left his considerable family patrimony and archives to his distant relative Giovan Lorenzo Lami, a Sienese nobleman who took the surname Adami. He was the patron of the Neo-Egyptian gallery and it was here that he brought together the Adami book collection and the Adami and Lami archives.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the family experienced some financial turbulence, eventually disposing of the book collection, part of Anton Filippo Adami’s documentation (now preserved in the Moreniana library and the State Archive of Florence) and the stunning Taddei picture gallery, which Senator Alessandro Gaetano Adami had purchased from Gaetano Taddei, the last member of the family who patronised Raphael’s artistic activities, in 1789. As a result of this process of disposal of the family assets, the Adami-Lami archives underwent a new division in the late nineteenth century, the largest part of the archive passing to Elisabetta Priora, widow of the last Adami of the cadet branch, while a residual part of the documents ended up in the hands of Alessandro Adami, the last heir of the eldest branch. Upon the death of Elisabetta Priora in 1926, the Adami-Lami archive was reunited in Palazzo Adami on Lungarno Guicciardini in Florence, where it was finally discovered in 2014. 

The oldest documents preserved in the Adami-Lami archive date back to 1650 and refer to the two branches of the family that originated from the brothers Jacopo (1618–76) and Antonio (1626–1709) Adami, who sought to enrich their finances by grasping the opportunities offered by the grand ducal administrative posts along the Livornese coast. Indeed, Jacopo was appointed ‘camerlengo’ (treasurer) of Portoferraio, on the island of Elba, while his younger brother Antonio, after an initial experience as a soldier in the military company La Colonnella in Livorno, where he took over the management of the Chantina del Porticciuolo, the tavern where the soldiers usually ate, later became a wine merchant and salt contractor in the Medicean port.

Jacopo’s son, Giovanni Battista Adami (1671–1739), law graduate from Pisa, was charged with freeing the English merchant and pirate William Plowman after he violated the neutrality of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany during the Nine Years’ War (1688–97) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). He was then appointed commissioner of Monte San Savino, near Arezzo, and left a conspicuous testimony of his political activities.

However, the member of the family to have left the largest amount of documentation is probably notary Pierfilippo (1739), the third-born son of Antonio Adami, bequeathing some 15,000 documents. He was a grand-ducal civil servant active between Livorno and Florence, head of the Gabella del sale office, which meant he was in charge of the civil and criminal jurisdiction of salt taxes. Above all, in 1706 Pierfilippo Adami married Giulia Caterina Matraini, daughter and sole heir of the Lucchese merchant Antonio Matraini, one of Livorno’s leading wine merchants with extensive connections in England. In his business activities, Antonio Matraini had established commercial relations with the main wine producers of the Medicean state. Through this marriage, the social position of the Adamis rose rapidly. Antonio Matraini bought the palazzo in Florence on the Lungarno Guicciardini for his daughter, and left the lands he had bought in San Miniato, in the Pisa countryside, and on the hill of Bellosguardo, close to Florence. In addition, following this marriage, the Matraini family papers, consisting of an important correspondence of about 5,000 letters and numerous registers and economic documents, were united with those of the Adami family.

Most importantly, the Adami-Lami archive is an essential source for investigating Italian economic relations in the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the seventeenth century because it conserves the documentation of Francesco (1654–1702) and Domenico (1655–1715) Adami, two of Antonio Adami’s sons who became first intermediaries and then merchants along the Levantine coast. The Adami brothers are the ones who left the greatest variety of documentation in the archival collection. These 20,000 or so papers attest for the first time to the stable presence of Tuscan merchants in the Levant between the Morean War (1684–99) and the War of the Spanish Succession, as well as the interactions they had with English, French and Arab merchants across the Mediterranean.

Francesco Adami was the eldest son of Antonio Adami, and in 1674 he trained in Francesco Terriesi’s bank in London. However, his real experience as an economic emigrant began in 1686, when he left Livorno for Venice. Here he met Bartolomeo Morelli, the most influential merchant on the Venetian market, whom Adami had met during his stay in England 12 years earlier. Then, through an opportunity offered by his father’s contacts, the Sologni company in Venice, Adami sailed for Cyprus to work for Philippe Touche in Larnaca. From 1689, Francesco Adami worked for the Levant Company as a warehouseman and factor in the shadow of ‘Turkey merchants’ Paul Priaulx and the Vernon brothers, between Tripoli of Syria, Aleppo and Acre in Palestine. Here he founded his firm Adami & Gras, a small trading house, the only one run by an Italian and a Franco-Palestinian merchant in a port completely in the hands of the Commerce de Marseilles. It was also here that Adami, who was even appointed first vice-consul of the English nation in Palestine by Consul Henry Hastings in 1699, died of the plague in 1702.

Domenico Adami, the younger brother, had a different working experience from his elder brother. He completed his traineeship in a trading firm in Livorno, then joined his brother in Palestine in 1698 to seek his fortune. His quest for business led him to work for Jean Chaloub, an Arab merchant in Rameh, to learn Arabic and methods for negotiating with local merchants. Then, Domenico moved to Aleppo to work for the English company DesBouverie & Harley, which he left in 1706 to found his own company Adami & Niccodemi together with Livornese merchant Pietro Niccodemi. At the end of the partnership, Domenico continued to serve as a broker in Aleppo, until a privateer plundered the ship on which he had loaded many of his valuable goods. Domenico then moved to France for four years to follow the trial which resulted from this piratical action. Finally, he returned to Aleppo, where he ended his life in 1715.

The Adami’s experience in Ottoman Syria is evidenced by a vast and multifarious collection, ranging from scrapbooks, letter-books, ship registers and warehouse inventories to, among others, economic documents such as insurance policies, bills of lading, invoices, price lists of goods and, above all, 

incoming and outgoing letters. The correspondence of the Adami brothers consists of approximately 6,000 letters in at least five idioms, written by more than 230 correspondents from various commercial and political centres such as Aleppo, Livorno, Sidon, Paris, Lebanon Tripoli, Jerusalem, Venice and Marseilles. This substantial correspondence is obviously centred on the subject of trade, so in the Adami letters one can find requests and offers of goods, prices of goods to be agreed upon, terms of delivery, means of transport and insurance, and navigational risk estimation that they or their commercial partners required in order to send goods to their respective trading posts. In addition, the correspondence consists of an informative overview of the events in a specific harbour and the political news of a specific country. In particular, the Adami brothers and their interlocutors informed each other about the risks of navigation caused by piracy and wars in the Mediterranean at the end of the seventeenth century. The Adami correspondence provides the names of major English, French, Jewish and Arab traders, as well as information on the development of the textile market and the circulation of Peruvian silver currency in the Levant. These are useful pieces of information that bounced from port to port via seafarers, tradesmen or commercial firms, as news quickly spread outside trade centres via boats, caravans or couriers. A letter could take about 32 days from Livorno to Aleppo, 21 from Larnaca in Cyprus to Acre, and 18 from Aleppo to Acre. These letters, like those kept in the Datini and Ruiz archives, contain not only commercial information, typical of this type of missive, but also all kinds of news, ranging from religious and political events, with a particular focus on the Arab revolts and the value of goods purchased with Spanish silver, to comments on the weather conditions in Palestine affecting the cotton harvest.

Also discovered in the Adami-Lami archive were 52 documents written primarily in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew and Armenian. This selection of ‘Levantine’ documents effectively reveals the interactions that the Adami

brothers had with the local population during their stay in the Levant, allowing us to reconsider the connections between foreign and local trading communities in Ottoman Syria at the turn of the eighteenth century. These Levantine documents include 22 receipts, 14 teschiere (deeds or bonds reimbursable with customs duties), 6 letters, 3 promises of payment, 2 house and shop rental contracts in Aleppo, 1 fatwa from the mufti of Aleppo, an Italian-Syrian glossary written by Pietro Niccodemi, and finally a document of the qadi of Aleppo. This last document, dated June 1700, is extremely important because it testifies to the legal recognition by the Ottoman administration of the appointment of Francesco Adami as the first vice-consul of the English Nation in Palestine. In 1699, the English consul Henry Hastings had appointed Francesco Adami as his representative in southern Syria but this was perceived by the local French trading community as a hostile action, a sort of English commercial expansion strategy in Palestine. Hence, they did not accept the appointment, opening a diplomatic crisis that was resolved by this document of the qadi of Aleppo.

The Adami brothers represent a rare case, both because of the completeness of the sources, consisting of economic documents and a substantial amount of mercantile correspondence, and because it allows us to understand the daily dimension of Mediterranean trade. Their case opens up a number of potential historiographical questions, such as the relationship between Livorno, as essential port for maritime traffic, and Levantine trade, and hence leads to a 

reconsideration of the economic encounters in the early modern Mediterranean. Indeed, in the first half of the seventeenth century, over 3,000 vessels arrived in Livorno from the ports of the Levant. The Adami brothers, like other small Italian economic operators, had emigrated to the Ottoman Empire in the hope of becoming privileged interlocutors for the merchants based in the great ports of the Western Mediterranean.