Giovanni Ciappelli è professore associato di Storia moderna presso il Dipartimento di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università di Trento. Si occupa di storia della famiglia, della società e della cultura nel Rinascimento e nell’età moderna.
Il libro di famiglia, una sorta di diario scritto dalla famiglia sulle proprie vicende e per i suoi diversi membri, è stato codificato come genere letterario dagli studiosi negli anni Ottanta. Considerato all’inizio come un genere soprattutto italiano, in realtà suoi esempi si trovano anche in altre parti d’Europa. In ogni caso è Firenze il luogo in cui i libri di famiglia furono prodotti più precocemente e in maggiore quantità. Una tale abbondanza deriva dalla struttura sociale della città, dove questo tipo di testi era fondamentale per consentire alle famiglie fiorentine di gettare e coltivare le basi della propria promozione sociale. Questo libro presenta una ricostruzione dell’evoluzione e della persistenza nel tempo dei libri di famiglia toscani, insieme a vari altri aspetti della storia sociale di quel contesto, fra cui le letture e le biblioteche private, la devozione domestica e la memoria degli eventi storici. Iniziata con il Rinascimento, la ricerca si allarga al XVII e XVIII secolo e prende in considerazione altre forme di memoria, come i diari privati e le autobiografie. Una sezione finale è dedicata al tema della memoria negli egodocumenti europei dell’età moderna.
The family book has been defined as a genre in Italy in the 1980s, a sort of diary which has been written by, about, and for the family.
Whereas at that time scholars were seeing it mainly as an Italian genre, now it can be said that such a pattern can be found in different forms in several parts of Europe. In any case Florence can be considered the “cradle”: the place where such documents were produced earlier and more lavishly. Florentine ricordanze begin as early as the end of the 13th century, are produced in hundreds in the 14th–15th, and start a writing tradition which – in lessened but still substantial numbers – crosses the whole early modern period. Such abundance is not only a matter of archival preservation (other places in Italy possess just dozens, not hundreds, of family books), but has to do with the very nature of the social structure of the city. Besides the importance of family books in strengthening collective identity, during the Republican period (until 1530) social mobility makes such writings desirable and necessary for a family in order to establish and cultivate the basis of its social promotion. During the Grand Duchy family books will be abandoned by the now noble families for other, more functional, forms of family memory, but will still be cultivated by families which are still trying to improve their status.
The book – whose author is also the editor of several sources of this kind and is currently still dealing with a research project about family memory and individual memory in Italy in the early modern period – deals with both a reconstruction of ways and reasons of the genre’s evolution and persistency, and the several aspects of social history which can be enlightened through such a source: reading and private libraries, domestic devotion, the memory of historical events. Progressing in time, the investigation broadens to the 17th–18th centuries and their different forms of memory, related to both the family and the individual: private diaries and autobiographies. Special attention is dedicated to two prominent families of Renaissance Florence: the antimedicean Castellani, and the Medici themselves; and to two families of the grand-ducal period, the Pelli and the Gianni (Giuseppe Pelli is author in the 18th century of a “monstre” zibaldone in 80 volumes; while Francesco Maria Gianni, minister in the government of the Enlightened Grand Duke Pietro
Leopoldo, will write no family book but will start a peculiar autobiography).
A final section is dedicated to the edition of Tuscan sources for family history, and to the issue of memory in the egodocuments (a newly defined genre which comprises all the kinds of memory writings here mentioned so far) of early modern Europe.
I have decided to publish this book in English because, even though memory has been a topic I have dealt with since the beginning of my research, I do not have the feeling that my ideas on it have circulated much outside the Italian-speaking academic world. Furthermore, since I have dealt with a rather long span of time during my academic career (in my youth I was a late medievalist, and am now an early modernist, due to my original vocation of Renaissance historian), my essays have probably been considered as individually linked to either one period or the other. On the contrary, they originate from the same source, all together they go beyond chronological conventions, and I have been writing many of them as different installments of one single long essay, based on the interest for the triad of “Memory, family, and self” mentioned in the title.
“Of course,” the focus is on Florence: not only because I am (unimportantly) a Florentine, and (more significantly) a “Florentinist” (if the neologism can be used with some meaning in the historical field); but because, as I have said and it will be shown, Florence is at the very core of many of the assumptions which refer to the writing of family memory, and therefore to the origins of family books, which in their turn are an important step in the development of more individual ways of thinking (and writing) of memory.
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