chapter  4
22 Pages

Shaping the streetscape: institutions as landlords in early modern Florence


If we look at Florence from the high perspective provided by Stefano Buonsignori’s 1584 etching, its people are invisible. From above, we cannot divide the city into the parishes and neighbourhoods that were sensible to its inhabitants. On the other hand, when we increase magnification too much, the engraving’s rich detail becomes overwhelming and distorted: separate buildings flow into one another, rooflines are jagged and meet at odd angles, and our view is cluttered with shrubs, chimneys, and hatched shading. The manuscripts of the 1561 Decima present similar flaws to the modern investigator. The summary statistics derived from them fall short of depicting the actual shape of the city’s residential property market, but the document’s level of detail becomes both baffling and irregular if one draws closer and reads from entry to entry. Using the DECIMA interface effectively as a research tool means navigating the shortcomings of these two sources, and one solution to oversaturation is to narrow the range of visible data, in this case to examine only certain sections of the city, types of properties, or kinds of residents and owners.