When is an item considered an item, and thus merit a label in an inventory? Does each spoon in a collection of silverware deserve its own entry? What about each shoe, stirrup, sleeve, or glove in a pair? Surely many questions like these confronted Florentine notaries as they grouped, itemized, then recorded the common objects of household life in fourteenth-century Florence.
The neat classification systems to which notaries may have hoped to adhere became problematic especially in the case of the pairs, bits, and pieces of things that surround us in our everyday lives, and that eventually found their way into the documents. The inventory of Gian Berniche di Giangberuc, for example, consecutively yet individually lists a basin (bacino) and basin stand (piedistallo da bacino), even though the basin and stand were certainly used together (MPAP 4, f. 58r). Similarly, mortars and pestles were regularly grouped as one item, as “1 mortar and pestle” (1 mortaio e pestello), occupying one line of Antonio Balducci’s household inventory (MPAP 4, f. 262v). Elsewhere, a mortar and pestle were individuated as “1 mortar and 1 pestle” (1 mortaio e 1 pestrello, MPAP 4, f. 72v), and at times were written on separate though adjacent lines in the inventory.
Pairs of things -- items that always appear in tandem --are found frequently in the inventories as a set. A pair of boots (1 paio di stivali), gloves (1 paio di guanti) leg protectors (1 paio d'arnesi di gamba) and bracelets or cuffs (1 paio di bracciali) were all kept, for instance, in Filippo Quarttucci’s ground floor storage space, perhaps so he could have easy access to his armor. At other times, components of composite items are listed separately, though identified in relation to the original article from which the piece came. Spinning wheel parts, including a foot (1 pie d'arcolaio, 242r), base (ceppi d'arcolaio, 125 r), or spokes (ferri d’arcolaio, 362v) are found in several different places in late the fourteenth-century Florentine households that were recorded in the register (MPAP 4) kept by notary Giovanni di Pagno.
Despite his careful approach, there are times when Ser Giovanni clearly gave up on naming every household item he came upon, and instead lumped these bits and pieces together under one tag; many inventories include the term bazzichature, which means, simply, small things of little value. Bazzichature are frequently listed among the items in the cucina, which suggests that even 14th-century Florentines kept a junk drawer in their kitchens!