Merchant and author Francesco di Balducci Pegolotti was born around 1280 into a well-to-do Florentine family. He worked for the Compagnia dei Bardi, one of the largest mercantile enterprises in Europe which was started by the Bardi family, until their bankruptcy in 1345. From 1317 onward he represented the company in England.
He directed the London office in Lombard Street between 1318 and 1321. In this capacity he exercised a prominent role in the company’s trade through English ports. He also participated in the negotiation of loans to the crown (in 1320). His other responsibilities included transferring money from England to the papal court at Avignon. He left London in December 1321 to take up a new assignment in Cyprus. He spent his final years in Florence. In 1347 he was involved liquidating the assets of the Bardi firm, but nothing is recorded of him thereafter, and it is not known when he died. Pegolotti compiled the merchant’s manual to which he owes his fame in Florence.
The manual survived uniquely in a manuscript of 1472 in the Biblioteca Riccardiana, Florence. Its present title, La pratica della mercatura, was invented for an edition of the work published in 1765/6. An important source for students of medieval international trade, the manual supplies extensive detail about the regions to which Bardi interests extended, from England eastwards to Persia and the Black Sea. His information about Britain includes lists of monastic sources of wool in England and Scotland. His work also provides information about London prices (wool, metals, spices, and silk) and estimates of exchange rates.