H O M E  






Ser Costantino's Ledger

The Ledger from Garfagnana

Library of the University of Wisconsin
Fry Collection
MS. E40 1995



UW-Madison Libraries — Special Collections
Jack Fry Italian Collection, MS. E40 1995

Among the manuscripts of the Fry Collection* in the Library of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, there is a ‘Book of Accounts’, or Ledger, written by Ser Costantino from Castelnuovo, the vicarial notary at Camporgiano, in Garfagnana1. Garfagnana , NW Tuscany, under the House of Este Registered in this Book are revenue and expenses of the Vicariates of Garfagnana under the House of Este. The ledger covers more than six years, from the beginning of October 1524 to the end of December 1530, and interests three General Commissaries or Governors2 of the House of Este in Garfagnana: Ludovico Ariosto, Cesare Cattani and Agostino Bellencino. As such the Book is a very important document, not only because it represents a tessera in the mosaic of Garfagnana history under the House of Este, but also and above all because it covers the last eight months of Ariosto's Commissariat.

In the following note I offer a description of the document, discuss a few points relative to Battistino Magnano – perhaps the most elusive of the bandits Ariosto had to deal with – and finally analyze and try to clear up what appears as a computing error in the Conto de' Balestreri book kept by Ludovico Ariosto himsef.

1. The document

Fry Ms. E40 1995 front cover Fry Ms. E40 1995, page 1

Madison, WI. University of Wisconsin, Special Collections, Jack Fry Italian Collection, MS E40 1995.

It is a XVIth century manuscript containing 87 folios, writtenLedger, page 1 on paper, measuring cm. 29 x cm. 22, and bound in original parchment. Pagination (f. 1r-1v etc. = pp. 1-2 etc.) modern, in pencil and written on the right upper margin of the recto and on the left upper margin of the verso. Page 101 is erroneouly numbered as 111, so there are two pages with number 111. Pages 163, 167 and 171 are blank. Page 165-6 is a small fragment of a folio.

The ms. cover is puckered by dryness and it shows all over the wrinkles of its almost 480 years of age. On its back a few numbers can be noted. Also one of the manuscript's three binding straps is broken off in the back near the spine and is now missing. In the front cover there is some writing but, with the exception of “... De le Imp ‹?›...” , all the words are illegible.

The ms. can be divided into two parts. The first part (years 1524-1530) deals with the revenue and expenses of Camporgiano Vicariate during the commissariats of Ludovico Ariosto (only his last eight months), Cesare Cattani and Agostino Bellencino. This part of the ledger is written in Latin by the Vicariate notary whose signature appears at the end of the entries for each quarter as “Ego Constantinus”. The second part is written in Italian by at least two other hands and relates to accounts dealing with seeds given by the landlord to his sharecroppers, the harvest, and the division of cheese moulds. The following two tables will give the reader an idea of the manuscript contents.

Table of pages of the Account Book, and quarters relating to commissaries Ludovico Ariosto, Cesare Cattani e Agostino Bellencino:

Pages Commissary from quarter to quarter
1-18 Ariosto Oct-Nov-Dec. 1524 Jan-Feb-Mar. 1525
18-28 Ariosto and Cattani Apr-May-Jun. 1525 [Ariosto, only two months: Apr-May]
29-100 Cattani Jul-Aug-Sept. 1525 Apr-May-Jun. 1528
101-159 Bellencino Jul-Aug-Sept. 1528 Oct-Nov-Dec. 1530

Pages 160-174 are written in Italian and contain:

Pages Year Content Specific
160-62 1553-1557 Sharecropping accounts wool,cheese, hemp
164 1553 “Seeds for the year 1553” various seeds for various fields
165 1555 “Seeds for the year 1555” [small fragment of a page]
168 1554 “Harvest of the year 1554” wheat, fava beans, vetch, chestnuts
169 1555 “Harvest of the year 1555” wheat, fava beans, vetch
170 1555 “Harvest for the year 1555” wheat, “fava beans, vetch and other things”
172-73 1556 “Things we will harvest in the year 1556” wheat, vetch, fava beans
" "
1557 “Things of the year 1557” wheat, fava beans, vetch
" "
1558 “Things of the year 1557” wheat, fava beans, vetch, spelt and rye (“segala”)
174 1555 division of cheese in moulds


• Page 1 — The first entry is dated 18 December 1524 (Anno millesimo quingestesimo vigesimo quarto, die decimo octavo mensis decembris) and relates to the Vicariate of Camporgiano's income and outlays for the months of October, November and December of the same year. On the very top right of the page is, written in pencil, "#40 ’95". It is a notation indicating the number of the Fry donation and the year this particular ms. (#40) was donated. At the very bottom right of the page there is an oval-shaped stamp bearing the imprint “Fry” – a sign of the manuscript ownership.

This is the page on which Ariosto's name appears for the first time in the document. It is a record of the Vicariate of Camporgiano's contribution (L. 55 + L. 23.10) towards the total salary paid quarterly by all the Vicariates of Garfagnana “To the magificient and generous master Ludovico Ariosto ...”


• Page 12 — On february 21, 1525, Duke Alfonso nominated Lanfranco del Gesso from Lugo as Captain of Camporgiano to replace Lorenzo del Vescovo3. On page 12 of the Ledger Ser Constantino wrote: “To the magnificient and famous hon. doctor Lanfranco from Lugo, ducal Captain of the Camporgiano Vicariate for salary; from the day of taking office thereon and following the assent of Lorenzo substituted by the very illustrius Prince as notary of the State Court” [striken]. (Magnifico et clarissimo H. Doctore Domino Lanfranco de Lugo, ducali Capitano Vicarie Camporgiani pro salario: a die introitus sui offitii citra et ab inde subscriptione Laurentii substituto ab Illumo principe ut notario Curie Status [striken]). This is immediately followed by the only entry in Italian found in the first part of the ms.:
“To the Captain of Camporgiano etc., for the time he served” [striken]. (Al Capitano di Camporgiano etc. per il tempo ‹che› è stato [striken]). And to the right is posted the normal salary amount of L. 56 B. 6.

OnLedger, page 12 the left margin, at the same level of the first sriken part, is written, in Italian and probably by the vicarial Burser's hand: “Note permission granted by the Eight ‹Presidents› dated 14 March 1525” (Si ricorda de licentia de li Otto adi 14 de marzo 1525).

The notation by this hand is probably due to the fact that the meaning of Ser Costantino's sentence regarding the incoming of Lanfranco and the outgoing of Lorenzo as Captains of Camporgiano is far from being comprehensible. To be sure, Ser Costantino wording does not help the person, i.e. the Burser, who must calculate the proportion of the allotted quarter salary that goes to each of the two captains. The hand that writes in Italian is also the hand that strikes out Ser Costantino's words. Of course, he does this in order to clarify the problem. It must also be said that the Italian wording written in the ledger's body (“Al Capitano di Camporgiano etc., per il tempo ‹che› è stato”) is an attempt to distinguish between the two captains. The entry in Latin written by Ser Costantino refers to Lanfranco del Gesso from Lugo, while the one written in Italian is meant to refer to Lorenzo del Vescovo from Ferrara. But this attempt is without merit because the total salary amount remains undivided. I believe that it is precisely because of this that the Burser strikes out the useless wording and writes the lateral note, in Italian, specifying an exact date to be used for the apportionment of the salary that each captain is to receive.

• Page 105 — Contains a note of November 16, 1528, written and signed by Ser Costantino. It is a record of an extraordinary meeting of the Eight who decided to issue a decree imposing a tax on the “fuochi”, or families, of the Vicariate of Terre Nove . Incidentally, the Eight are but six because during the semester July-December of that year only six members were serving as Presidents.

• Page 133 — Contains a note of January 30, 1530, written by Ser Costantino. It is a record of an extraordinary meeting of the Eight to decide the reversal and reimbursement of an accounting overcharge made in the previous quarter. Because with January 1530 a new group of Presidents was elected for the coming semester, for the extraordinary meeting of January 30 were called the Eight in charge during the semester July-December 1529 — but only four could attend. However, two of the missing were substituted, thus at this meeting the deciding Presidents were six – the legal number for the quorum.

• Pointers — Marginal pen drawings showing a small hand (“la manina”) pointing to a specific entry or entries appear on several pages of the Ledger. There are some twenty, are by two different hands, and all – except one – appear in the the first 100 pages of the document.

Additional notes:

• Page 56 — In Italian, a four line note concerning a certain quantity of cheese moulds.
• Page 134 — In Italian, a 1551 note relating to loans made by a certain Battista from Camporgiano.


2. Brigandage

It is clear that in accepting the position of Commissary General of Este's Garfagnana Ludovico Ariosto moved to Castelnuovo di Garfagnana with a precise intention of eradicating the scourge of banditism which had been infesting the region for some time4. As a matter of fact, only seven days after taking office in Castelnuovo,

Click image to enlarge
Castelnuovo, Rocca ariostesca
Castelnuovo di Garfagnana
Rocca Ariostesca

on February 27, 1522, Ariosto issued his first proclamation establishing pecuniary and corporal punishments both against those who offered refuge to bandits as well as against those who refused to collaborate with justice in helping catch them 5.


3. Battistino Magnano

The names of the Garfagnana bandits were not many (the Commissary would write to the Duke saying: “... your Excellency can understand how frightened this country is by a gang of six or ten bandits that are here”)6, but their names are repeated time and time again in Ariosto's letters – and Battistino Magnano is first and foremost amongst them. Battistino's name already appears in Ariosto's first extant letter of his Garfagnana period. It is a letter written to the mayor of Barga, Paolo Fortini, dated March 2, 15227 . Battistino Magnano is the “criminal” (delinquente) who will take most of Ariosto's time and energy during the forty months of his commissariat in Garfagnana. Battistino's name appears some thirty times in the Commissary's letters, and particularly in letters written to Duke Alfonso. His name, together with other names of “public bandits and assassins”, appears also in Ariosto's last extant letter written to the Duke from Camporgiano on August 2, 1524, as well as in a letter written three days after to the Elders of Lucca. In this letter Ariosto asks the Elders “to do your best to catch Battistino Mgnano from Castelnuovo with his companion Margutte from Camporeggiano and turn them over to me ... ” (di porre qualche industria di far pigliare e darmi nelle mani Baptistino Magnano di Castelvo e Margutte da Camporeggiano suo compagno ...). And “if you do me a favor of this kind, you can rest assured that what you now have from me in great a part, then you will have it totally. You can be sure that I, this entire province and my very Illustrious Duke will be at your disposal for any just cause” (quando V. S. mi faccino un piacere di questa sorte, stiano sicure che quello c'hanno di me in maggior parte al presente haveranno poi in tutto, sì che non meno potranno disporre di me e di questa provincia in cosa di iustitia che possa lo Illmo Sor mio)8.

At the end of his mandate on May 31, 1525, Ariosto must have left Castelnuovo with a certain amount of bitterness knowing that Battistino Magnano, whom he had been trying to catch for more than three years, was still at large and free. Why was he still at large? Ariosto thought that Battistino was an “untouchable”, and had been suspicious that the bandit was protected by important people, perhaps with the complicity of some highly located persons in Ferrara. This is apparent from several of letters written by Ariosto to Ferrara. Among these letters there is one dated November 23, 1523, in which the Commissary complains to the Duke by saying “... I believe that also Battistino Magnano who, after Bernadetto, is the major murderer who ever lived in this province, is there [in Ferrara] at the service of Your Excellency. And if he is not there at the present, it was a bad decision to let him go ...” ( ... credo che ancho quel Battistino Magnano, che appresso a Bernardetto è il maggior assassino che havesse questo paese, si trovi al soldo di V. Extia, e se non v'è al presente è stato male a lasciarlo partire, ché pur intesi che v'era)9. Some more details about this will be given below. Ariosto's assertion and insinuation may seem quite strong, but they were based on solid background. In 1520 Pope Leo the Xth had taken most of Garfagnana from the House of Este, with the exception of Verrucole.

Cliccare per ingrandire
ortezza delle Verrucole
Fortezza delle Verrucole

An anonimous chronicle states that “... Valeriano from Verrucole ..., having put together a group of bandits – and he, too, was a bandit – occupied the fortress [of Verrucole] and kept it very firmly for the Duke. Because of the faithful work done, Valeriano and the others in the group, among whom was Battistino Magnano of Lavello, were graced of all previous crimes and proclamations issued against them” (... Valeriano dalle Verrucole..., messa insieme una schiera di banditi com'era anch'egli, entrò in quella fortezza , e la mantenne costantissimamente al Duca, dal quale poi della fedele opera sua, egli e gli altri, fra i quali fu Battistino Magnani da Lavello, ottennero grazia benignissima di ogni delitto e bando)10.
Something similar would happen in the late summer of 1523. The most feared bandits of Garfagnana had gone to Ferrara. In the letter of November 23, mentioned above (letter 126:7), Ariosto stated that the Duke should have taken “that wonderful occasion to purge the province of those bad seeds” (la bella occasione di purgare il paese di queste male herbe). Instead Alfonso conclude a “universal peace” with the bandits, and once again assured them pardon of all crimes committed. As mentioned above, Battistino Magnano was among them.


4.Change of guard

On July 2, 1525, Ser Costantino enters in his Book the incoming and outgoing amounts relative to the second quarter of that year. As usual, soon after the list of the names of the Eight Presidents, the first entry deals with the amounts set aside for the Commissary of Garfagnana. During this quarter thereLedger, page 19 is a change of guard. Ludovico Ariosto mandate expires on May 31, and the following day Cesare Cattani of Ferrara takes over as Commissary General, for the next three years. As one can observe on the page to the right, Ser Costantino registered in the Book the amount of the salary and the amounts of other established allotments without distintion, and posted the total sum of L. 55 for the salary, plus L. 22.10 for firewood and horses fodder for both Commissaries. Ser Costantino added that in the sum there was an unspecified amount that went to Ariosto, “for the remainder of the Magnificient Lord Ludovico Ariosto's salary ...” (residuo salarii Magci Dni Ludovici Ariosto ...). Here the situation is not as complicated for the Burser as the one we encountered above. In this last quarter Ariosto served April and May, therefore he is entitled to two thirds of the total amount. Of course, this is not the Commissary's total quarterly salary. It is only the trimestral proportional amounts to be contributed by the Camporgiano Vicariate. The other three vicariates of Garfagnana will also contribute proportionally towards the Commissary's salary11.


5. Battistino Magnano's capture

When Ariosto was appointed as Garfagnana's Commissary at the beginning of 1522, John Navarra, “the Spaniard”, was the ducal captain in charge of the Archers there. In fact, when Ariosto took office on february 20 of that year, Captain Navarra had left the fortress of the Verrucole just five days before, on February 15. He had been guarding the fortress for five months. Navarra's salary had not been paid for all that time. So one of the first official business of the new commissary was that of recording in the Archers' Account Book (the Conto de' balestrieri), which he was personally keeping, the five month salary due to Navarra – for “... the time he [Navarra] stayed in the Verucole” ( ... il tempo che lui è stato in le Verucule)12 .

But the new Commissary was not very happy with Navarra's job, and must have complained openly about him in a letter to the Duke. Unfortunately we do not have Ariosto's letter, but we do have the Duke's answer. In the letter Alfonso promises Ludovico that he would send him “... a captain who, as we believe, will serve you better that the one who has been there till now” (...uno capitano del quale pensamo che sarete meglio servito che non ha fatto quel che vi è stato sino a mo’). In fact on August 15 John Navarra will be substituted by Francesco Stocco. Afterwards Stocco himself will be substituted by Antonio da Cento who will be in charge as Captain until the end of Ariosto's term.

However, after Ariosto completed his mandate as Commissary, Navarra's name resurfaced, once again as Captain of the Archers, and in quite an important operation that would have certainly pleased Ludovico Ariosto.

In Ser Costantinos Book, precisely on the pages entered on September 15, 1525, covering the quarter of July, August and September, on page 33 shown here is written: “To John Navarra the Spaniard, Captain of theLedger, page 33 Archers from the ducal treasury L. 35. This sum however [striken] for the capture of Battistino Magnano. This sum however must not be paid by the Burser without the express permission of the Eight” (Johanni Navarra Spagnolo, Cap° balistariorum ex remissione Ducali L 35. quas tamen [striken] pro captura Baptistini Magnani. Quas tamen Camerarius exbursare non debeat sine expressa licentia D. Octo, L 35 B – ). This procedure is correct. In fact it is the responsibility of the Eight Presidents “... to see and examine every quarter all expenses and revenue for the period ... and ... to impose debts and contributions ... ” (... spectat, & pertinet singulis tribus mensibus ... videre, & examinare omnes sumptus, & introitus occurrentes ... & ... ponere debitum, seu collectam ... )13. In other words, it is up to the ducal treasury to grant the reward, or bounty14, for the capture of Battistino Magnano, but the money must come from the Vicariate through an imposition decreed by the Eight. It is well known that the Eight were elected for only a six month period and that could not be re-elected. From Ser Costantino's Book we know that a new group of Eight had been elected at the beginning of the semester. We also know their names and the cities they come from15.

In his Book Ser Costantino corrects and specifies, “... for the capture of Battistino Magnano”. Thus the long period relative to this bandit is brought to a close – a bandit in whose persuit Ariosto had spent so much time and energy.

6. The Archers Account Book

The ‘Archers Account Book’ (Conto de' balestreri), autograph of Ariosto, was published for the first time by E. Bresciani, with a comprehensive introduction on the Commissary's ability as an accountant, and with a description of Ariosto's relationship with the Archers of Garfagnana16. The Conto is a double entry book on which Ariosto entered, in debit and credit format, the monthly salary established for the archers of Garfagnana, including their captain. The archers were paid each calendar month, on the 15th of the month. Together the captain and bailiff were given L. 26, and the archers each received L. 12. Normally there were 12 archers, including the captain and the bailiff. Thus the total monthly salary would amount to L. 146. Ariosto's Conto de' balestreri spans from February 15, 1522 to May 15, 1525.

Now, if one takes even a coursory look at the Conto, one notices that, now and then, the amount of L. 146 diminishes either because one or two archers may be missing in a particular month, or because one or more of them had served for only two weeks, etc. Ariosto is very accurate in his entries and clearly explains the reason or reasons when there might be a variation in the sum, both in the credit side as well as in the debit side of the account.

However, in the entry of March 15, 1525, there seems to be something awkward and illogical both in the description and in the amounts posted in the debit and in the credit sides.

One of the archers, Santo Jacomello, spent a period of time vacationing in his native Ferrara. While there Santo must have paid a visit to the Duke because on his return to Garfagnana, in July of 1524, he was carrying in his pocket a ducal nomination as Castellan of Camporgiano. Ariosto, as instructed by his Duke, nominates Santo Castellan on the 1st of August 1524 with a “tenure” beginning about the middle of the month17. However, after only six and a half months, on March 1st of the following year, Santo decided to resume the position of archer, substituting Bertoldo de la Massa18.

In the Conto credit side Ariosto specifies that Bertoldo had been substituted by “... Santo Jacomello on the first of March, thus he [Bertoldo] on the 15th of the month received only six lire, the difference remains in the vicariates fund” (... Santo Jacomello adì primo di marzo, sicché [Bertoldo] tirò alli XV lire sei solo, gli altri restano alle vicarie). So that the total credit is not L. 146, as usual, but only 140, as entered in the book by Ariosto.

If we look at the opposite page, the debit page, we read: “Ducal treasury must have on the 15th of March 1525 lire one hundred forty; the vicariates didn't pay the full amount because they only paid Santo Jacomello for the time he served, namely one half pay” (Camera duc.le debbe havere adì XV di marzo 1525 lire centoquaranta che le vicarie non pagaro di tutto perché non pagaro Santo Jacomello se non quanto aveva servito, cioè per meza paga)19. Again Ariosto enters the amount of L. 140.

Impeccable accounting, to be sure. But if Bertoldo receives one half of the pay and Santo also one half, the two together make a full pay. Therefore the total amount should be L. 146 and not 140. In other words, if is is true that Santo Jacomello was paid for one half of the pay, what has happened to the 6 Lire? And, on the other side, why should “... the difference [i.e. six lire] remain in the vicariates fund”? And if Santo was not paid from the Archers’ fund, what fund was he paid with? Unfortunately here, in the debit side, Ariosto did not express himself as he should have, thus the confusion. However, all this can be cleared up if we turn to the Book of Ser Costantino.

In the last quarter of 1524 Ser Costantino writes in his Book that a certain amount has been paid “to Santo .............. [blank space] from Ferrara, Castellan of Camporgiano' s fortress, for his salary L. 18 B. – ” ( Santo ................. [blank space] de Ferraria Castellano arcis Camporgiani pro salario L. 18 B.–)20. Ser Costantino must have left that ample blank space after Santo's name because at the time he didn't remember the family name, hoping to be able to insert it later. Santo was also known as 'Santo from Ferrara', and also as 'Barba Santo' or 'Santo Jacomello', but this is secondary. With the beginning of the new year Santo continues to be Castellan. So what is important for us to know is that during the first quarter of 1525 Santo has already received the sum of L. 18. And this is the amount entered by Ser Costantino on page 12 of his Book on March 19, 1525. As such Santo has been paid till March 31 of that year. He has already received his budgeted March salary for his service as Castellan, and has no right to any additional pay.

It is clear that Ariosto, in the debit side of his Conto de' balestreri, and in regards to Santo Jacomello, decided not to enter into the particulars relative to the month of March 1525. We tend to agree with him – even if at the expense of accurate accounting practice!


7. Conclusion

This note will be brought to conclusion by offering a few brief observations.

Reitereting what has already been said at the beginning of this paper, Ser Costantino's “Book of Accounts” is an important document from several view points, and it should be closely studied in its entirety.

As mentioned above, the scope of this paper was that of introducing Ser Costantino's Ledger, and delineating a few aspects of its first pages which were written during Ariosto's tenure as Commissary. However, in those few pages there is much more to be observed, as, for instance, the number of people sent to Ferrara or other places for various reasons; the many manual contributions of individual people and of local governments for various works performed at the Verrucole fortress, and the material necessary for the work (wooden boards, sand, cement, etc.); the military expenses sustained by the communes for horses, soldiers, firearms and powder; the many escorts provided to the archers, to the Eight Presidents; to Camporgiano's captains; and so on.

Of course, in a book of accounting, all the above is quantified in ciphers – numbers and amounts that in themselves appear arid, even though these are quite important from historic and economic points of view. But the written reasons that precede and justify the numbers and amounts can open a window for us, useful for comprehending that historical period and its various costumes and practices as, for instance, the giving of gifts to influential people. Thus from Ser Costantino's Book we not only come to know the price of wine by the cask and the barrel21 , or the cost of lambs, but also that the latter were given to Commissary General Ariosto, as it was done, at least, during the Easter period of 152522.

And there are all the other gifts carried by Giovanni Jacopo Pagani when he went to Ferrara and Reggio during the last quarter of 1524. The many expenses incurred during this voyage are detailed by Ser Costantino and take up almost an entire page of his Book. It must be underlined that the main reason of Pagani's trip, as given by Ser Costantino, is in itself a document of extraordinary importance for the historians of Camporgiano's statutes. Giovanni Jacopo Pagani goes to Ferrara and Reggio “... to obtain the statutes of the Vicariate from the heirs of Master Battista Gambassi from Reggio, and the relative expositions made by the Captain of Camporgiano for Pope Leo” (... pro redimendo statuta Vicarie ab heredibus Domini Baptiste Gambasii de Regio et eas expositiones quas fecit Capitanus Camporgiani pro Papa Leone)23 .

We mentioned above Pagani's presents intended for some important people of Ferrara and Reggio. Among these gifts, in addition to boxes filled with confections and to cheese moulds, there are two pairs of capons – one pair for the Captain of Reggio, the other for the ducal bailiff. And there is also a pair of barndoor fowls which will be given as a gift to Opizo, the secretary of the Duke!23

This was a custom, observed from the north to the south of the Italian peninsula until the XX century – and in some places it is still observed. The custom, as it is well known, was immortalized in the Nineteenth century by Manzoni's The betrothed with the four famous capons carried by Renzo Tramaglino24.

© Gino Casagrande
5 April 2004



* The Fry Collection contains about 37,000 documents on Italian history donated to the Library of the University of Wisconsin at Madison by Professor William (Jack) Fry. The collection includes diverse material ranging from a family archive of the late Middle Ages to political pamphlets of the post-World War II period. Of considerable importance is the Fascist Collection of more then 15,000 documents. During the months of July and September of 1998 the Memorial Library Department of Special Collections prepared a rich exhibit of only a part of the Fascist corpus of the Collection. It is on the Internet and can be viewed under the title Italian Life under Fascism.. Many of the documents of the entire collections are still wating to be catalogued, but a desccriptive finding aid is available.

William (Jack) Fry, who taught at the University of Wisconsin for almost fifty years, is an internationally recognized high energy experimental physicist.. He has taught and given lectures at various institutions abroad, including universities in Italy. He is also an expert on the physical characteristics of the great violins, such as those built by Antonio Stradivari. He has lectured extensively on the subject and has performed some 350 experiments to prove his theory. Some twenty years ago, in the Fall of 1981, he wrote and produced a very successful Nova program by the title The Great Violin Mystery to demonstrate that “the great secret” lies locked inside those master violins created in the 17th and 18th centuries.. Among his hobbies, in addition of collecting manuscripts, are the collection of old books and first editions, as well as the collection of fountain pens – he has more than 500! Professor Fry is very well known in Italian scientific circles, and very recently has been named member (Socio Corrispondente) of the Accademia Galileiana of Padua, Italy.

I take this opportunity to thank Jack, my good friend and colleague, for the valuable advise and help he gave me on the writing of this article.

1. Unfortunately, in the Summer 2003 issue of On Wisconsin, the magazine of the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association, Ser Costantino’s Ledger was mistakenly attribuited to Ludovico Ariosto and described as a “480-year old, pigskin-bound Ariosto journal”. Cf. Collection - Renaissance Man, in On Wisconsin: Arts & Culture.

2. Although the titles ‘commissary’ and ‘governor’ may be somewhat similar in meaning, in this paper I use commissary since up to and including Agostino Bellencino the representative of the Duke was actually called commissario. Only afterwards the title was changed and the ducal representative in Garfagnana was called governatore that is governor.

3.  See Giuseppe Trenti, I funzionari estensi in Garfagnana nel secoli XV-XVI (Rilevamenti d'archivio), in La Garfagnana dall'avvento degli estensi alla devoluzione di Ferrara (= La Garfagnana...), (Atti del Convegno tenuto a Castelnuovo Garfagnana, Rocca ariostesca, 11-17 settembre 1999), Aedes Muratoriana, Modena 2000, p. 53. But also cf. the letter of february 12, 1525, in which Duke Alfonso I informs Ludovico Ariosto that he has nominated Lanfranco del Gesso of Lugo as Captain of Camporgiano (Sforza, Documenti, CLXXXVII).

4. See. Gian Carlo Montanari, Storie di banditi fra Modena e la Garfagnana nei secoli XV-XVI, in La Garfagnana ... , cit., pp. 273-281. For a synthesis of brigandism and of the names of the principal brigands in the Garfagnana under the House of Este and during the time spent by Ariosto there, see Chris Wickham, The Mountains and the City: The Tuscan Appennines in the early Middle Ages, Claredon Press, Oxford; Oxford University Press, New York, 1988, pp. 366-380.

5. Ludovico Ariosto issued eight proclamations during the time he served in Garfagnana. As it was mentioned above, this was his first proclamation.
Cf. Grida fatte pubblicare da Ludovico Ariosto ducale commissario generale in Garfagnana. Grida I: Contro i ricettatori de' banditi. In L. Ariosto, Tutte le opere (= Opere), ed. by Cesare Segre, Mondadori, Milano 1984, vol. III, Appendice I, pp. 497-498. The text of the proclamations can also be read on the Internet on the site of the University of Pisa. It may be useful to recall that some forty years earlier, on January 12, 1480, Duke Ercole I had issued a proclamation against the Garfagnana bandits. As a matter of fact, it seems clear that in writing his proclamation Ariosto had in front of him precisely that written by Duke Ercole in 1480.(cf. “Decreto fatto da Sua Eccellenza contro li banditi, e fautori di essi”, in Statuta Vicariæ Camporgiani, Typis Bartholomæi Soliani Impress. Ducalis, Mutinæ 1721, pp. 155-156).

6. L Ariosto, Lettere, a cura di Angelo Stella, in L. Ariosto, Opere, vol. III, cit. Cf. Letter 36:21 (p. 143). See also Letter 158:1-4 in which Ariosto tells the Duke that to clean up Garfagnana it would be enough to send to the gallows "four or five ... in this province ...: and these are Battistino Magnano, Donatello and some of their friends ... all bandits and murderers" (L. Ariosto, Opere, vol. III, cit., p. 409).

7. It is a letter of courtesy in which Ariosto informs the mayor of the Florentine territory of Barga that he has been named to govern that part of Garfagnana under the House of Este. In this letter the Commissary asks for the collaboration of the mayor to establish good neighborly relations between the Florentine subjects and those under the House of Este. But the occasion for writing the letter was really due to the fact that that Battistino Magnano from Camporgiano, “the criminal”, while in Castelnuovo, had wounded a citizen of Barga.

8. Cf. L. Ariosto, Opere , vol. III, cit., letter 163 (pp. 419-423), and letter 164 (pp. 424-425).

9. Cf. L. Ariosto, Opere, III, cit., letter 126:7 (p. 354).

10. Cited by Giuliano Nesi, I banditi dell'Ariosto e la politica ducale di assimilazione della provincia di Garfagnana al sistema estense, in La Garfagnana..., cit., p. 261.

11. It may be useful to mention that the contributes of the Vicariates toward the Commissary General salary were paid quarterly, not monthly – as Angelo Stella believes (see his Notes to the Letters, Letter 103:5, in Opere, III, cit., p. 691). As indicated by Stella, the Vicariate of Camporgiano was contributing “eightytwo liras” (or, to be more precise, L. 82.10 — L. 60 for salary and L. 22.10 for straw and firewood), but only every three months. Then L. 5 were withheld so that the Commissary received only L. 55 for his salary plus L. 22.10 for the rest. These are the exact amounts registered in Ser Costantino's Ledger.
For the amount that each of the four Vicariates had to contribute to to the ducal Commissary General quarterly salary, see “Salario, che deve avere il Commissario di Garfagnana”, in Statuta Vicariæ Camporgiani, cit., pp. 196-98.

12. Cfr. E. Bresciani, Il «Libro» dei conti dei balestrieri di Messer Ludovico Ariosto, Commissario ducale in Garfagnana, nell'Archivio Statale di Modena, in Convegno Internazionale Ludovico Ariosto (Atti dei Convegni Lincei, 6), Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma 1975, p. 200.

13. Cfr. Statuta Vicariæ Camporgiani, cit., p. 7.

14. It may be useful to recall that at the very end of Ariosto's service, on May 28, 1525, the Duke wrote to him saying that he did appreciate the advise given by the Commissary on “the eradication of murderers and bandits from that territory”, and especially for Ariosto's suggestion of a bounty. It is in this letter that Alfonso asks Ludovico to talk about this suggestion with his successor Cesare Cattani and to tell Cesare that he, the Duke, will follow up with the appropriate instructions about the matter (cfr. Sforza, 209).

15. For the names of the Eight Presidents, see Ser Costantino's Book of Accounts, on p. 29.

16. See above note 12. Bresciani's introduction is on pp. 175-190, while Ariosto's text can be found on pp. 199-225. Today the text can also be read in L. Ariosto, Opere, III, cit., Appendice II, pp. 502-540. In addition, it is also available on the Internet on the site of the University of Pisa.

17. “... I received a letter from your excellence dated ‹July› 25th in which you command me [to induct] Santo Iacomello as Castellan of Camporgiano's fortress. I will do so and will go there monday morning to place him in tenure ...(... anderò luni matina a porlo in tenuta...).”. See Letter 161, dated July 31st, 1524, in L. Ariosto, Opere, cit., p. 417. Santo's tenure must have become effective on August 15th since on this date he received L. 6 for serving the first half of August as Archer (cf. E. Bresciani, Il «Libro» dei conti ... , cit., p. 210).

18. Cf. E. Bresciani, Il «Libro» dei conti... cit., p. 186.

19. Cf. E. Bresciani, Il «Libro» dei conti... cit., pp. 222 e 223 respectively.

20.  See Ser Costantino's Ledger, page 2.

21. The “barrel of Castelnuovo”, as a measure for wine, was equivalent to Liters 39.1750. This measure was not used throughout Garfagnana, but it was used in Camporgiano, Careggine, Fosciandora, Giuncugnano, Piazza, Sillano, San Romano, Trassilico, Vergemoli, Vagli di Sotto and Collemandina.

22. All this can be deduced by the account of Ser Costantino for March 19, 1525. See here page 16.

23. See here page 3

24. See A. Manzoni, The betrothed, Chapter 3. 

Gino Casagrande
5 April 2004