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The Real Merchants of Venice

Image depicting "The Merchant of Venice" at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. (2016) Courtesy of Ellen Terrell

Image illustrating “The Merchant of Venice” at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C. (2016) Courtesy of Ellen Terrell

I am always trying to find interesting ideas for business themed blog posts, so when I saw the banners for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “The Wonder of Will at 400,” I immediately thought of the Merchant of Venice.

Since ours is a science and business blog, this is not going to be an analysis of the play!  The Library’s collections contain a lot related to the real Venice, which has long captured the imagination. There are, of course, many books on the history, art/architecture, and government/politics, but I really wanted to focus on finding those books about commerce. I wasn’t disappointed. There was quite a bit published and befitting a place with a history of international commerce, they were written in many different languages:

Plan de la ville de Venise. Jacques Nicolas Bellin, ca1764. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g6714v.ct003568

Plan de la ville de Venise. Jacques Nicolas Bellin, ca1764. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g6714v.ct003568

One name that came up several times was Frederick C. Lane, a historian specializing in medieval history. He seemed to have a real interest in the city of Venice and wrote a number of books and articles including:

View into the Piazza San Marco from the Grand Canal with the Campanile, column topped by statue of St Theodore, column topped by a statue of the Lion of Venice, the Basilica San Marco, the Doge’s palace (2002). Courtesy of Ellen Terrell

View into the Piazza San Marco from the Grand Canal with the Campanile, column topped by statue of St Theodore, column topped by a statue of the Lion of Venice, the Basilica San Marco, the Doge’s palace (2002). Courtesy of Ellen Terrell

Photos of the Grand Canal, Venice (2002). Courtesy of Ellen Terrell

Photos of the Grand Canal, Venice (2002). Courtesy of Ellen Terrell

To get a fuller picture about Venice’s place in world commerce, titles like Markets and Merchants of the Late Seventeenth Century: the Marescoe-David Letters, 1668-1680 and Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World: Illustrative Documents might be interesting, as would books on Italian banking history – especially those focused on Venice like The Venetian Money Market : Banks, Panics, and the Public Debt, 1200-1500.

If you want to learn about the real Venice, there is so much more to be discovered in the books and other resources at the Library.

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