Image: Bas van Hout/Public domain

The archives of Florence have preserved a sizable body of inventories, perhaps many thousands in all. A substantial number can be found in the notarile, along with short entries that “correct” an inventory previously made. All of the sources in this collection come from the Court of Wards, or the Magistrato dei Pupilli avanti il Principato (MPAP), to whom family members or executors sometimes entrusted the management of the estates of underaged children. These estate-management dossiers often include the decedent’s testament and post-mortem inventory which give a fuller picture of the decedents' lives, kin, interests, and priorities. There are several hundred registers in the MPAP series from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and each register typically contains several dozen inventories.

The Region

Inventories from north Italian cities have been a major focus of research for more than a century, originating in antiquarian or early archaeological studies from the early twentieth century. More recently, inventories have featured in the work of Maria Serena Mazzi and Sergio Raveggi on poor Tuscan households, and also in the many studies of Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli. DALME is current preparing inventory sets from Perugia and Bologna. Further south, the important studies of Geneviève Bresc-Bautier and Henri Bresc have made available numerous inventories from Sicily.

The Sample

The inventories in the Florentine Wards collection, at present and to come, derive from the Court of Wards, that is to say the Magistrato dei Pupilli avanti il Principato, and date from the late-fourteenth to early-fifteenth centuries. Currently featured is a one register from the years around 1390, and a second from the first quarter of the fifteenth century.

Goals and Prospects

The DALME team has filmed four other registers from the MPAP series and will soon be adding those inventories to the collection. A major goal is to prepare a systematic sampling, decade-by-decade, of the records of the MPAP.


The current set includes records from several households of varying levels of wealth. These might document assets from one or several houses, shops, farms, or smaller abodes, with multiple rooms, storage spaces and out buildings surveyed. The fabric trade looms large in these inventories; a rich vocabulary of cloth types, qualities, and products can be found within. More quotidian objects are also in evidence, including tools used in food preparation and storage. Luxury items, such as books, jewelry, and fine clothes also appear with great frequency.


The institution of the MPAP has been studied by Caroline Fisher, but we know of no systematic study of the MPAP inventories from the perspective of material culture.

Collection Notes

Editorial Notes

Because language norms were not yet fixed in the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Florentine documents in this collection, we have opted to privilege original orthography and word spacing when possible. However, we have adopted the following norms to aid in comprehension and ease of use.

  • In cases of elision where an article is followed by a vowel (eg. original reads dargento, modern Italian d'argento) we have reproduced the elision without adding punctuation (eg. dargento).
  • In cases of elision where an article is followed by a consonant (eg. original reads dafanciulla, modern Italian da fanciulla) we have added word spacing (eg. da fanciulla).
  • Standard abbreviations (eg. braccia, ser, libbre, soldi, denari) have been expanded silently.
  • Both Roman and Arabic numerals are included in the inventory and have been reproduced as written.
  • In cases of non-standard glyphs, we have added symbols to approximate what is found in the original.

Owner and Contributors

The owner of this collection is Laura K. Morreale, and the collection may be cited as Laura K. Morreale, ed., Florentine Wards, a collection of the Documentary Archaeology of Late Medieval Europe. A number of the images were filmed by Daniel Lord Smail, and the transcriptions have been checked by Sama Mammadova.