Surviving the Black Death: The Digital Reconstruction of a Medieval Merchant’s Diary

Surviving the Black Death: The Digital Reconstruction of a Medieval Merchant’s Diary

How did the Black Death impact people’s daily lives? Between 1340 and 1380, Pepo Albizi kept a ledger and memorial book, recording business affairs, accounts of events, personal and family matters, including details of his three weddings, a list of his legitimate and illegitimate children, and a register of family members who died in the black death of 1348. One of the most powerful families of premodern Florence, the Albizi were active members of the wool guild, most prosperous between 1200 and 1550. Pepo’s diary (1340-1380 ca.), now at the Newberry Library in Chicago, provides an unprecedented glimpse into the life of a medieval merchant during the time of a pandemic and tells us a story of survival and of overcoming a tragic personal and public event. This talk, by Isabella Magni, will present the initial stages of building a digital edition of the Albizi Memorial book and will discuss issues of digital philology and digital editing, conceptualizing a digital-born edition and more.

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Isabella Magni is Postdoctoral Associate in Italian and Digital Humanities at Rutgers University. She is editor of two major digital humanities projects: the Petrarchive (Magni, Storey, Walsh), a digital edition of Petrarch’s songbook Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (canzoniere), and Italian Paleography (Magni, Markey, Signorini), a new digital resource to teach, learn and practice how to read and contextualize primary sources from the 14th to the 18th century. 

Isabella has published articles on editorial issues in the digital domain, text encoding and digital philology, Petrarch’s vernacular production and teaching Dante through manuscripts. She recently edited a special issue on digital paleography for the Early Modern Digital Review journal (upcoming in Fall 2020) and an edited volume on Interpretation and Visual Poetics in Early Modern Texts (upcoming with Brill Publications). Isabella also serves as digital editor for Textual Cultures (the journal of the Society for Textual Scholarship). 

Isabella is currently working on a digital edition of Pepo degli Albizi’s memorial book and on a monograph on forms and textualities of Medieval memorial books.