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Francesco di Marco Datini, the 14th-century Tuscan merchant who forms the subject of Iris Origo's study, has now probably become the most intimately accessible figure of the later Middle Ages. In 1870 the whole astonishing cache, containing some 150,000 letters and great numbers of business documents, came to light. Iris Origo drew on this material to paint, in detail, a picture of Italian domestic life on the eve of the Renaissance. The book is rightly celebrated as one of the most engrossing of all modern books on Italian life and history.