Bastardello di Giovanni Ser Ludovico 1348-1401, ibis c. 99-100r. Image Credit: Archivio Storico del Comune di Stroncone (TR)

The inventory of Guilglelmo (or modern, Guglielmo) di Rinbalduccio is, by and large, unexceptional. Since the decedent presumably had no children to inherit his goods (none were listed in his will), the bulk of his worldly assets—all very typical items found in most other Florentine households—were passed on to his wife Bartola and her unnamed sister. However, one of Guglielmo’s items does stand out in the list of common household goods. Among the objects found in what the notary records as “the first room of the ground floor of the house where the said Guglielmo lived (prima nel terreno della casa del detto habitatore di guilglermo),” was “a book, or a bastardèllo.” This second term for the object, bastardèllo, is understood to be a scratch pad or informal, portable notebook, often used by notaries when they traveled from one place to another to take down the specifics of what was to be documented. Once the details of a transaction were captured, the notary would then take the notebook back to his place of business and copy down the information into the larger registers normally kept there. An image of the register now archived as Magistrato dei Pupilli avanti il Principato 1 from the Archivio di Stato of Florence illustrates how difficult it would have been to transport the large form registers from one place to the next, and certainly how necessary a bastardèllo must have been to any notary’s work. Considering the number of notaries whose names appear in the records of the Magistrati dei Pupilli (recognizable by the inclusion of the title “Ser”), the bastardèllo must not have been an uncommon item in the Florentine households that were inventoried. However no other bastardèllo is found in the rest of the MPAP 4 register where Guglielmo’s inventory is documented. This absence is susceptible to a variety of explanations, of course, but the infrequent mention of the bastardèllo and its inclusion in this otherwise very ordinary example of an inventory strongly suggest one of two possibilities: either the bastardèllo was of such little value that it rarely made it into the other lists of household goods, or the first hesitation we see in the notary’s description, which notes a book or a bastardèllo, may reflect the notary’s uncertainty about what he had found. In other words, the notary’s classification of this particular book as a tool of his own trade may have been an easy way for him to describe an object whose use was otherwise unknown to him.