Formatting Knowledge of a Wider World: Merchants’ Manuals from Late Medieval Italy
During the late Middle Ages, Italian merchants and seafarers maintained a transport and trade network that centred around the Mediterranean, but stretched from China and sub-Saharan Africa to northern Europe. For processing relevant information merchants created new different types of multigraphic manuscripts, including manuals and portolan charts.
This project focuses on a corpus of around twenty of such manuals produced in late medieval Italy (13th–15th centuries CE). It will investigate the ways in which knowledge about trade, commodities, geography, mathematics etc. has been formatted in such written artefacts, and how these were stored and used. Inscriptions on portolan charts are subject of present and future research as well, which together with multigraphic manuscripts rise questions about practices of archiving such knowledge. With this interest, this project also closely cooperates with the Cluster’s research field E Archiving Artefacts, while necessary material analysis of the portolan charts – such as of sea salt traces on their surface for detecting evidences of their use – connects to the research focus of A Artefact Profiling. Material analysis will also include the paper and inks of outstanding merchants’ manuals in order to reconstruct the genesis of written texts and graphic elements. Thus, the materiality of these manuscripts will be analysed for the first time systematically in order to interpret them as testimonies for the history of pragmatic knowledge in medieval Europe.