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Black Death and the Venice Mint

Black Death in Venice

All my talk about Black Death and Medieval coinage in recent Blog postings has stirred up some memories in friend and fellow Blogger, George Cuhaj. This morning George mentioned to me that he had read a book which touched on both those subjects directly; Zecca - The Mint of Venice in the Middle Ages, meticulously researched by Alan M. Stahl, currently Curator of Numismatics, Manuscripts, Rare Books and Special Collections Department at Princeton University, and published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in association with The American Numismatic Society in 2000. Geroge remembered that Stahl's book talked about the effect of Black Death on the workings of the mint in Venice. Some of the mintmasters terms were of very short duration, due to their early demises. Specifically, Stahl mentions that heavy rains in 1345 and 1346 lead to crop failures, grain shortages and famine in 1347, which in turn prompted importation of grain and also brought Black Death to the region by 1348. Records show that nearly half the population died in the summer of 1348. Using records from the Venetian archives Stahl recreates an accurate picture of turnover at the mint during the years following the arrival of Black Death.

But of course this is only one aspect of Stahl's book. From the collectors point of view, this text reads like a novel, while imparting vast amounts of information and giving the reader an excellent view of Medieval mint opperations in a mint which grew from a small operation to a major business during this time. Venice became a center of trade during this period and the mint developed into a controler of bullion exchange and in so doing established methods for profiting from coinage production.