IT is stated in Yule’s Marco Polo (1903, 3rd ed., II., 186), that in the great city of Kinsay there were twelve guilds of the different crafts. “The document aforesaid [description of the great city of Kinsay] also went on to state that there were in this city twelve guilds of the different crafts, and that each guild had 12,000 houses in the occupation of its workmen. Each of these houses contains at least twelve men, whilst some contain 20 and some 40—not that all these are masters, but inclusive of the journeymen who work under the masters. And yet all these craftsmen had full occupation, for many other cities of the kingdom are supplied from this city with what they require.

“The document aforesaid also stated that the number and wealth of the merchants, and the amount of goods that passed through their hands, was so enormous that no man could form a just estimate thereof. And I should have told you with regard to those masters of the different crafts who are at the head of such houses as I have mentioned, that neither they nor their wives ever touch a piece of work with their own hands, but live as nicely and delicately as if they were kings and queens. The wives, indeed, are most dainty and angelical creatures! Moreover, it was an ordinance laid down by the king that every man should follow his father’s business, and no other, no matter if he possessed 100,000 beyants.” It is also recorded that there were “officers appointed by the king to decide differences arising between merchants or other inhabitants of the quarter.”

It is interesting to remark the following extract from Marco Polo’s will: “I also bequeath ... four lire to every guild or fraternity of which I am a member.”

Yule’s1 note on this is as follows:—

“The word rendered Guilds is ‘Scholarium.’ The crafts at Venice were united in corporations called Fragliae, or Scholae, each of which had its statutes, its head, called the gastald, and its place of meeting, under the patronage of some saint. These acted as societies of mutual aid, gave dowries to poor girls, caused masses to be celebrated for deceased members, joined in public religious processions, etc., nor could any craft be exercised except by members of such a guild.” [Roman, I, 370.]

  • 1. Yule’s Marco Polo, ed. 3, p. 72.