Istoria della Casa De Medici

An unpublished manuscript history of the Medici family
written in the time of Cosimo III

History of Tuscany

Medici family history manuscript

History of the Medici family

History of Chianti

Leopold Grand Duke of Tuscany

Bibliography of Tuscany

Medici Manuscript

Although a panegyric to the Medici dynasty, this ms. was written in beautiful early-18th century Italian by someone close to Cosimo III and reveals much "local" detail, especially in the later chapters, together with copies of letters since lost in some cases.

(Before continuing, the reader might like to peruse a summary of the fortunes of the house of Medici.)

At least three publications made use of this manuscript as a reference and it is likely that the two published 18th century books on the Medici rulers also mined it for information.

Until now, I have not been able to determine the author. However, the inclusion of original letters from the Medici family archives strongly suggests that the author was someone who had access to the Medici court during the rule of Cosimo III. Since this manuscript was written during the lifetimes of the last ruling Medici, the chapters on these Medici were based on first-hand accounts of the family, not just historical records. It is also likely that even the information on the earlier Medici family, including decisions on which letters were historically important and the facts about their rule, came from the last ruling Medici themselves. Hence the importance of this narrative as a source for scholars of Tuscany during the 18 C and early 19 C.

This manuscript thus provides a rare opportunity to read one of the few first-hand accounts of one of the greatest ruling families of Europe, the Medici of Florence and Tuscany. For example, there are chapters and letters that cover the story of Bianca Cappello, the mistress of Grand Duke Francesco whose husband, Pietro Bonaventuri, was mysteriously murdered in the streets after their affair began. The Grand Duke then installed Bianca in a palace while his wife was still alive. After the Grand Duke’s wife died and he married Bianca, the Grand Duke’s brother and sister-in-law died of a mysterious illness - it has often been hypothesised that they were poisoned but there is no concrete evidence for this. While I have not yet translated the chapters from this part of the manuscript, the table of contents shows that a great deal of information concerning this affair is included. The second page of the manuscript includes several references to texts about this story.

At the end of the chapter on Cosimo III the author wrote “Finis”. The original thus text ends with Cosimo III. However, in the table of contents, a completely different hand continues and adds the titles of the two additional chapters, one on Gian Gastone (ruler 1723-1737 and the last of the ruling Medici) and a chapter on his brother. It therefore appears that the manuscript was originally completed before Gian Gastone, dating the original composition to the early 1720s. The addition on Gian Gastone could have been made sometime around 1737. 

A note in the back of the book, dated 1742, references a book written Dr. Giuseppe Bianchini di Prato in his book Dei Granduchi di Toscana della Real casa dei Medici, Venezia, 1741). It is likely that this note, like those in the front of the book, refers to a book that used this manuscript as reference. While Bianchini’s published book has chapters different from this manuscript, there are similarities between the two books that would indicate Bianchini used this manuscript as a reference for his book. If Bianchini’s book used this manuscript as a reference, this manuscript had to be written prior to 1740.

Dei Granduchi di Toscana della Real casa dei Medici


Finally, the Italian used in the composition of this text is in the style used in early 18th century Florence. Thus, with the book originally ending with Cosimo III, the style of the Italian, and the first usage of the book being in 1740, we can date this manuscript’s completion to the 1720s.

The manuscript has a list of the authors that have used it as a reference for their own books on the first page. The dates of these references start in 1792. This list includes texts written by some of the greatest writers of Italy at that time. It is therefore interesting to note that even after the 1781 publishing of “Istoria Del Granducato Di Toscana Sotto Il Governo Della Casa Medici”, and the earlier history printed by Bianchini, this manuscript was still viewed as one of the primary references on the Medici family. There is no doubt that this manuscript was written by someone of great importance and it was considered a very valued text.

While the owner of the book from 1792 through the early 1800s was a very meticulous person who kept accurate records of the usage of his manuscript in the form of notations, it would appear that the earlier owner(s) of this manuscript did not notate it when it was used as a reference. Thus, the lack of notes prior to 1792 suggests that the book changed owners in 1792. 

Around 1780, Piero Leopoldo di Asburgo-Lorena (Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine - Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany - see below) is documented as lending an unpublished manuscript on the history of the Medici family to Riguccio Galluzzi to rewrite. Galluzzi did use this manuscript as a starting point, but proceeded to pick through the vast Medici archives and compile his book mostly from research in the Medici archives. This, of course, is the famous “Istoria Del Granducato Di Toscana Sotto Il Governo Della Casa Medici”. The present manuscript certainly existed in the 1780s and the notes in it make clear that it was a definitive text on the history of the Medici family during that time. We therefore hypothesize that the book lent to Galluzzi was likely to be this very manuscript. We can imagine that the many letters that were copied into this manuscript were some of the first documents Galluzzi consulted from the archives in the cases where the originals were still extant, and that where the letters were no longer extant, he relied on the copies in this manuscript. 

There is another aspect of the manuscript that supports the argument that this was likely to have been Piero Leopoldo di Asburgo-Lorena’s property. Piero Leopoldo di Asburgo-Lorena died in 1792. As stated above, in the year 1792 the manuscript appears to have changed hands, as indicated by the new owner starting make annotations when it was used as a reference. This is consistent with the suggestion that the manuscript was owned by Peter Leopoldo di Asburgo-Lorena and that upon his death in 1792 it changed hands to someone else who kept notes in the book.

Leopold II, Holy Roman emperor, king of Bohemia and Hungary

Leopold II, 1747–92, third son of Maria Theresa, Holy Roman emperor (1790–92), king of Bohemia and Hungary (1790–92), and, as Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1765–90). Succeeding his father, Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, in Tuscany, Leopold reorganised the Tuscan government, abolished torture and the death penalty, equalised taxation and sought to gain control over the church. When Leopold succeeded (1790) his brother Joseph II as emperor and as ruler of the Hapsburg lands, he took over a state on the verge of collapse. To pacify his subjects in the Austrian Netherlands, in Hungary and in Bohemia, he repealed most of Joseph's reforms. Unlike Joseph, he had himself crowned king at Pozsony in Hungary (now Bratislava in Slovakia) and at Prague in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic). He was the last crowned king of Bohemia. Having reached an agreement (1790) with Frederick William II of Prussia, who wished to prevent Austrian expansion in the east and was about to side with the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in its war against Russia and Austria, Leopold abandoned his alliance with the Russian Czarina, Catherine II. He concluded a separate peace treaty at Sistova (1791) with Turkey by which the pre-war borders were substantially restored. Leopold's troops marched into the Austrian Netherlands and suppressed the Belgian insurrection in 1790. Although he hoped to avoid war with revolutionary France, Leopold instigated (1791) the Declaration of Pillnitz, by which the emperor and the king of Prussia stated that if all other European powers would join them, they were prepared to restore Louis XVI to his lawful powers by force. Contrary to his expectations, this declaration was a basic cause of the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars a few weeks after Leopold's death. Leopold was succeeded by his son, Francis II. Leopold II is generally considered a ruler of outstanding diplomatic and administrative abilities.

More about Leopold I


spine manuscript notes Table of Contents
Spine Notes on the first leaf First page of the table of contents

It is likely that by looking into the books that used this manuscript as a reference, one might find a note identifying the author. As soon as I can, I will consult copies of the books in question. One seems to exist only as a single copy in the National Library in Naples.

(A few words could not be transcribed)

Notes on Page 1 Referencing Texts that are used this manuscript

History of the Medici Family

A small passage of this manuscript has been quoted by the Florentine Modesto Rastrelli in the Foreword to his Tragedy " Bianca Capello" printed in London (Florence) in 1792.

It has been also quoted by Moreni in his notes concerning memories about the customs, etc. of Duke Cosimo written by Domenico Mellini ( Florence 1820 p. 112)

This same Rastrelli published in the same year = The Historical Illustration (?) of Palazzo della Signoria, today known as Palazzo Vecchio [L’Illustrazione (?) storica del palazzo della Signoria detto in oggi il Palazzo Vecchio], Florence through Antongiuseppe ?.

The book by Modesto Rastrelli is BIANCA CAPPELLO TRAGEDIA. LONDRA 1792.




In the original Italian:

Un piccolo squarcio di questo manoscritto è citato da Modesto Rastrelli fiorentino nella Prefazione alla sua Tragedia = Bianca Capello = stampata a Londra (Firenze) nel 1792.

È pure citato dal Moreni intorno nella sue note intorno ai ricordi intorno ai Costumi &c. del Duca Cosimo scritti da Domenico Mellini = Firenze 1820 pag. 112 –

Questo Rastrelli pubblicò nello stesso anno = L’Illustrazione (?) storica del palazzo della Signoria detto in oggi il Palazzo Vecchio Firenze per Antongiuseppe ?.

The Second page of notes, appears to someone doing research on Bianca and adding additional references that support the statements in this book (or perhaps, books that used this text as a reference)

About Sforza Almeni also known as “Menni” see Vermiglioni Perugian Biography [Biografia Perugina], 2 vols. p. 124.

About Bianca Cappello see her Memories [Memorie] published by Stefano Ticozzi, Florence 1829 (apocryphal).

About Pier Leonio who was suspected of having poisoned Lorenzo, father of Piero dei Medici, see the Distinguished Count Ignazio Cadolini in his Most Erudite Academic Disquisition about Spoleto [Eruditissima Dissertazione Accademica sopra Spoleti] – p. 28. Note 40: Spoleto 1836 and Op. Volg. edition

(+) see also Memories about life ..., etc. of Grand Duke Cosimo the First [Ricordi intorno alla vita … &c. del Gran Duca Cosimo primo], written by Domenico Mellini, published in Florence in the year 1820 by the eminent Canon Moreni – p. 4. Note 10. pp. 89, 90, etc.

About Tommaso Bonaventuri see the Preface to the I? Abbot Collection in the Sacred Classical Library [Prefazione alla Collezione dell’Abate I? nella Biblioteca Classica Sacra] printed in Rome (?) by the son (XIV Century, Vol. XII – Tome 1) and up to (?) death (?)

In the original Italian:

Vedi 308

Di Sforza Almeni o Menni vedi Vermiglioni Biografia Perugina Tomi 2 pag 124. – (+)

Di Bianca Cappello vedi le sue Memorie pubblicate da Stefano Ticozzi Firenze 1829 (apocrife)

Di Pier Leonio che fu sospetto di aver avvelenato Lorenzo padre di Pietro dei Medici, vedi L’ Conte Ignazio Cadolini nella sua Eruditissima Dissertazione Accademica sopra Spoleti – pag.a 28. Nota 40: Spoleti 1836 e ? Op. Volg. del ?

(+) vedi ancora Ricordi intorno alla vita … &c. del Gran Duca Cosimo primo scritti da Domenico Mellini pubblicati a Firenze l’anno 1820 dall’egregio Canonico Moreni – Pag. 4. nota 10. Pag.e 89, 90 &c.

Di Tommaso Bonaventuri vedi la Prefazione alla Collezione dell’Abate I? nella Biblioteca Classica Sacra stampata a Roma (?) dal figlio (Sec. XIV. Vol. XII – Tomo 1) e infino (?) a morte (?)

The first page of the Introduction:

Origin and Descent of the Medici Family

Speech and Introduction to the History

If ancient origin, if men of grandeur, if long unceasing rule and greatness of dominion make a family shine, and important ? repay others, the Medici Family, in all these respects, and thanks to the greatness of its most sublime rank, shining in it, is the most noble, and one of the most important ever known, or at the moment, belonging to Christianity.

For this reason many people thought, and rightly, that it were not only antique, but very antique, and that the period of the Lombard, and their King Desiderio, execrable misdeeds were the cause of its ruin and complete destruction.

In the original Italian:

Origine e descendenza della Casa de Medici

Discorso e Introduzione all’Istoria

Se antichità di origine, se eccellenza d’uomini, se per lungo tempo continuato Dominio e grandezza d’Impero portano alla Famiglia chiarezza, e riguardevoli ? le altre le rendono, la Famiglia de’ Medici per tutti questi rispetti, e per l’altezza delle più sublimi dignità, che risplendono in lei, è chiarissima, ed è una delle principali che avesse mai, o che abbia al presente la Cristianità. Hanno perciò creduto non pochi, e con ragioni, che ella non solamente sia antica, ma antichissima, e che dopo quei tempi, che l’esecrande scelleraggini dei Longobardi, e di Desiderio loro Re, mossero nel sov. [sovrano] (?). il giusto pegno alla rovina e total destruzione.

Table of contents

When I have time, I will add the page numbers as in the ms. The leaves are numbered rather than sides (pages) contrary to modern practice.

About all Descendants of the Medici Family

Speech and Introduction to the History

Giovanni di Averardo also known as “Bicci”

Cosimo son of Giovanni d’Averardo also known as “Bicci”

Lorenzo son of Giovanni d’Averardo di Bicci, brother of Cosimo

Giovanni son of Cosimo d’Averardo also known as “Bicci”

Pietro son of Cosimo il Gottoso [the Gouty] d’Averardo also known as “Bicci”

Giuliano son of Piero son of Cosimo son of Giovanni also known as “Bicci”

Lorenzo son of Piero son of Cosimo dei Medici

Piero son of Lorenzo son of Piero son of Cosimo dei Medici

Giovanni son of Lorenzo made Pope Leone X

Giuliano Duke of Nemuro

Lorenzo son of Piero Duke of Urbino and Prince of the Florentine Republic

Giulio natural son of Giuliano the Magnificent and then Clemente VII Pope and Prince of the Florentine Republic

Cardinal Ippolito dei Medici

Alessandro dei Medici first Duke of Florence 000
Letter written by Lorenzo dei Medici in Florence addressed to Francesco di Raffaello dei Medici from the town of Venice

Apology of Lorenzo dei Medici against those who wanted the Tyranny, and blamed him for having killed Duke Alessandro

Death of Lorenzo

Who was Madam Margherita d’Austria

Lorenzo Brother of Cosimo Padre della Patria [Father of the Homeland]

Pier Francesco son of Lorenzo

Giovanni son of Pier Francesco also known as “il Bello” [“the Handsome”]

Giovanni also known as “the Brave”

Cosimo the First

Francesco Maria

How Bianca Cappello became wife of Pietro Bonaventuri and then spouse of Grand Duke Francesco

Part of the letter written by Antonio Bombelli to Mr Abbot in which is narrated the death of Bonaventuri
How Bianca became Grand Duchess of Florence and who she was

Privilege of the Seigniory of Venice to Mrs Bianca Cappello

Letter written to the same

Letter by Mr Giovanni Vittorio Sederini written to Mr Silvio Piccolomini Sienese concerning the Grand Duke Francesco dei Medici amorous disease

Letter by Nicolò de Ponte written to the Grand Duke Francesco

Various news concerning Mrs Bianca Cappello nuptials

Ferdinando the First Grand Duke

Cosimo the Second

Ferdinando the Second

Cosimo the Third

Giovanni Castano the seventh Grand Duke of Tuscany

Life and death of Grand Prince Ferdinando firstborn of Grand Duke Cosimo the Third dei Medici

In the Original Italian:


Di tutti i Descendenti di Casa Medici

Discorso e Introduzione all’Istoria

Giovanni di Averardo per soprannome Bicci

Cosimo di Gio: d'Averardo detto Bicci

Lorenzo di Gio: d'Averardo di Bicci fratello di Cosimo

Gio: di Cosimo d’Averardo d.tto Bicci

Pietro di Cosimo il Gottoso d'Averardo detto Bicci

Giuliano di Piero di Cosimo di Giovanni d.tto Bicci

Lorenzo di Piero di Cosimo dei Medici

Piero di Lorenzo di Piero di Cosimo dei Medici

Gio: di Lorenzo fatto pontefice detto Leone X

Giuliano Duca di Nemuro

Lorenzo di Piero Duca d’Urbino e Principe della Fiorentina Repubblica

Giulio figlio naturale del Giuliano e poi Clemente VII Papa e Principe della Fiorentina Repubblica
Ippolito cardinale dei Medici

Alessandro dei Medici primo Duca di Firenze

Lettera scritta da Lorenzo dei Medici a Firenze a Francesco di Raffaello dei Medici dalla città di Venezia

Apologia di Lorenzo dei Medici contro coloro che volevano la Tirannide, lo biasimavano dell’avere ammazzato Alessandro Duca

Morte di Lorenzo

Chi fosse Madama Margherita d’Austria

Lorenzo Fratello di Cosimo Padre della Patria

Pier Francesco di Lorenzo

Gio: di Pier detto il Bello

Gio: detto il Valoroso

Cosimo Primo

Francesco Maria

Come la Sig.ra Bianca Cappello fosse moglie di Piero Bonaventuri e poi del Granduca Francesco

Parte di lettera scritta da Antonio Rombelli al Sig. Ab.e nella quale narra la morte del Bonaventuri

Come la Bianca pervenisse Gran Duchessa di Firenze e chi fosse

Privilegio della Sig.ria di Venezia alla Sig.ra Bianca Cappello

Lettera scritta alla

Lettera del Sig.r Gio: Vittorio Soderini scritta al Sig.r Silvio Piccolomini Senese, in ragguaglio della malattia amorosa del Gran Duca Francesco dei Medici

Lettera di Nicolò de Ponte al Gran Duca Francesco

Notizie diverse sopra gli sponsali della Sig.ra Bianca Cappello

Ferdinando Primo Gran Duca

Cosimo Secondo

Ferdinando Secondo

Cosimo Terzo

Giovanni Castano settimo Gran Duca di Toscana

Vita e morte del Gran Principe Ferdinando primogenito del Gran Duca Cosimo Terzo dei Medici

The condition of the volume is still very good. All of the pages are in excellent condition. There is one section of the book where the author used an ink that is visible through the paper on the other side, making it slightly more difficult to read the text, but all of the text is still completely legible. The whole volume has been expertly restored in 2015.

History of Tuscany

Medici family history manuscript

History of the Medici family

History of Chianti

Leopold Grand Duke of Tuscany

Bibliography of Tuscany

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