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ZILBERTI, FRANCESCO: - [OTTOMAN TRADE OF ALUM IN THE 15TH CENTURY]. [Two autograph letters signed to Marco Bembo in Constantinople, concerning Venetian trading of Turkish alum mined at Foša in Anatolia]. Pera & Foša, March 1480.

. Two hand-written letters (22 x 30 cm) written in Italian (mercantesca), ink on paper. The first is dated Pera, March 1480 (duplicating letter sent from [Foša February 29, 1480 ?]) comprising one and a quarter pages. The second is dated Foša March 5, 1480 comprising one page. Both on single sheets with manuscript address panels penned on verso, old folds, well preserved. Both letters were sent to Constantinople addressed to Marco Bembo, a Venetian nobleman and merchant who at the time was based in Pera, by his business partner Francesco Zilberti. The letters were written at Foša (close to today's Izmir) on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Zilberti reports about the negotiations for purchasing a cargo of alum, a valuable commodity used as a mordant for textile dyes which for centuries had been imported into Europe from the Byzantine Empire. After the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, alum became more difficult to acquire. A decade later large quantities of alum were found in the vicinity of Tolfa, a small town not far from Rome. The mines were owned by the Papacy which was determined to ensure maximum profits from this source. The Papacy formed cartels of miners, bankers, refiners, and traders, and thereby tried to create a monopoly on alum in Europe. However, the Venetians, having signed a peace treaty with Mehmet II in 1479, continued to trade in Turkish alum, ignoring threats of deportation. In the first letter Zilberti explains that a dispatch of a cargo of alum has been delayed because the local pasha is away observing a local religious holiday bayram. Zilberti describes in detail the negotiations concerning his differences of opinion with the pasha and various notaries on the weighing of the cargo, noting the variations between the Turkish, Venetian and Genoese cantara (a unit of weight). Further he informs Bembo about the qualities of sacks best suited for transporting alum, observing that those they brought with them were considered unsuitable, smaller half-size sacks of tight-woven cotton being better to prevent leakage through the cloth. He writes about the locusts having ruined the cotton crop in the three previous years, barter is being possible in the village below as there is no currency in circulation, etc. In the second letter Zilberti reports about the difficulties with delivering the required documentation to Gallipoli, with some further details about the cargo of alum, and that he has sold some scarlet yarn from Padua to the pilot of the ship, Nochin, who used it for the purpose of ransoming a local slave, etc. The papers provide a good insight into Venetian trade communication during the late 15th century, especially with regard to Ottoman alum imported from Anatolia.
EUR 5000.00 [Appr.: US$ 6064.92 | £UK 4445 | JPą 629153] Book number 120705

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