Venice, 1572.

Tariffa Perpetua. Con le ragion fatte per scontro di qualunque Mercadante si voglia, che dimostra quanto monta ogni quantita de cadauna mercantia ad ogni precio, si a peso come numero. Buona per ogniuno in Venetia, Dalmatia, & altri luoghi;.

Folio, 279 ff, (20) ff, [lacking final blank]. Folio 13 misbound after folio 23; second woodcut title page on folio 157. Both title pages with Mannerist woodcut architectural borders; nearly full-page illustration of measuring instruments on folio 6v; woodcut printer’s device on final leaf; and full-page woodcut of the Virgin and Child on verso of final leaf. Bound in contemporary limp vellum (recased), with manuscript title on spine. Light dog-earing to scattered leaves, otherwise a very good copy, pages mainly clean and fresh.

Very rare later edition of this guide for traveling merchants, “adapted to meet the needs of Northern Italy” (Smith, Rara Arithmetica). As noted in the title, the work allowed the user to convert between currencies as far afield as Dalmatia (Croatia), as well as converting eg. lengths of cloth into local equivalents in Tripoli, Constantipole, and Corfu.

Flanked by allegorical figures of Arithmetic and Mensuration, the title page advertises the guide’s utility for merchants operating in Venice, Dalmatia, and the Levant, but who are carrying the currencies of Venice, Brescia, Bergamo, Milan, Cremona, Mantua, etc. The preface notes the difficulties for the traveling merchant of keeping track of these different rates of exchange; a primitive system of symbols is even explained and employed by Mariani to represent different currencies (much like our $, £, ¥), whose rates of exchange are thus speedily referenced on various tables.

The standard prices of various commodities in various quantities are also given at the rear of the volume – of oil, wheat, wine, and even different types of biscotti (naval, French, etc.). An extra measure of complexity is added, however, when the author turns to bolts of cloth, which necessitate converting different local units of length as well as currency. A remarkable list of some 33 cities in the Eastern Mediterranean and their relative systems of measurement is given, indicating trade with such Ottoman strongholds as Alexandria, Nicoisia, Lepanto, and Beirut.

The present work is not to be confused with a similar title by Mariani (Tariffa de tutti li ori che correno per il mondo). Both works, evidently intended for traveling merchants, were frequently reprinted between 1535 and the early 17th century but have enjoyed a very poor survival rate. We note the following US holdings of 16th century editions:

1553: Minnesota

1559: St. Johns (NY)

1564: Columbia, UCLA, Folger

1569: Michigan

1572: Columbia, Yale, Michigan

1580: Harvard, Tufts, Columbia, Yale, KS

* OCLC 54268167; Riccardi IV, 204 (1591 ed.); cf also Smith, Rare Arithmetica, pp. 180-81 (1580 ed.)


See all items in Rare Books
See all items by