This re-creation of the life of a medieval Italian merchant, Francesco di Marco Datini, draws on an astonishing cache of letters and reveals a shrewd, enterprising, anxious man, as he makes deals, furnishes his sumptuous house, buys silks for his outspoken young wife and broods on his legacy.
It is an unequalled source of knowledge about the texture of daily life in the small, earthy, violent, striving world of fourteenth-century Tuscany.
Reviewed by Daniel Worsley in Slightly Foxed Issue 66.
Nothing but the Best
The Merchant of Prato had initially been rejected by her usual publisher with the comment that it was hard to think of anyone who might be interested other than medieval and Renaissance specialists; but in 1957 it was published in America, Italy and England, and received excellent reviews. Quentin Bell wrote to her describing it as a masterpiece: ‘of late I have been . . . eking it out crumb by crumb in order to stave off the inevitable moment . . . when it was finished’ . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 66, Summer 2020
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