In a famous passage from Giovanni Villani’s Florentine Cronica [1823: VI, 184f] we read concerning the year 1338 that

we find from the priest who baptized the children (since, for keeping track of their number, for each boy that was baptized in San Giovanni a black bean was put aside, and for each girl a white bean) that they numbered every year by then 5500 to 6000, the boys exceeding the girls by three to five hundred per year. We find that the boys and girls that were learning to read numbered from eight to ten thousand. The boys that were learning the abbacus and the algorism in six schools, from 1000 to 1200. And those who were learning grammar and logic in four higher schools, from 550 to 600.[58] — all for a town population which Villani estimates to be around 90000.


Arabic Numeral Black Bean Loan Contract Composite Fraction Common Fund 
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© Birkhäuser Verlag AG 2007

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