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Prato's riveting Renaissance past

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7 May 2012

Margherita Datini
Margherita Datini

Monash University’s Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the Bill Kent Foundation Fund will celebrate 10 years of operations in Prato this month.

To mark the occasion, an evening of entertainment featuring fourteenth-century music by Acord and readings from the letters of Prato’s famous late-medieval couple, Margherita and Francesco Datini, will take place this Friday at the Village Roadshow Theatrette, State Library of Victoria.

Margherita Datini and her husband, wealthy Prato merchant Francesco Datini, lived just a short walk from the site of the Monash Centre. Their splendid residence, Palazzo Datini, can still be visited by both scholars and tourists, since the upper level of the house is now occupied by the State Archive of Prato.

It was within this building that over 160,000 documents, which now constitute the most important collection of documents for the study of European economic history, were discovered in the nineteenth century.

The couple’s letters to each other were found among this vast business archive.

Dr Carolyn James, Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SOPHIS) and co-author of the first translation into English of the letters between Margherita and Francesco, said that the letters are the earliest extensive collection of correspondence by a woman in a European vernacular.

“The letters reveal a fascinating dynamic between the merchant of Prato and his Florentine wife - historians have described them as 'virtually impossible to put down',” Dr James said.

The translation will be launched in the evening by the Australian National University’s Professor Ian Donaldson, with the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Rae Frances, welcoming guests and introducing the program.

‘Voices and Music of Renaissance Prato’ will take place at 6pm on Friday 11 May at the Village Roadshow Theatrette, State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Please RSVP for catering purposes by Monday 7 May.

Further information about the event can be found on the Monash University events page.

Margherita Datini, Letters to Francesca Datini, translated by Carolyn James and Antonio Pagliaro, will be available for purchase at the event.

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