libbra [Italian]

In Italy, various units of mass descended from the Roman libra. Currently it often means the imperial or U.S. pound. In the 18th century, about 339.2 grams (about 0.7477 pounds avoirdupois).

Around 1819, a number of Italian standards for the libbra were obtained by English consuls and weighed at the London Mint by highly-qualified persons. They found the libbra of Tuscany weighed 339.542 grams, and that of Rome, 339.1.

In the Middle Ages, most major Italian cities had two libbra: a heavy one, the libbra grossa, and a light one, the libbra sottile. Florence was the exception to this rule. In Venice, for example, the libbra sottile was used in weighing gold, silver, gems, silk, pharmaceuticals, dyestuffs, coffee, tea, sugar, rice and butter. Everything else was weighed with the libbra grossa. The two libbra were also divided differently (sources 3,4). The Venetian libbra grossa = 2 marcs = 12 oncia = 72 saggi = 2304 carati = 9216 grani. The Venetian libbra sottile = 12 oncia = 72 saggi = 1728 carati = 6912 grani. As can be seen from these equivalences, there were also heavy and light versions of the oncia and saggi, but not of the carati or grani. The magnitude of the libbra varied from city to city.

The libbra of Genoa, the libbra genovesca was also used in Pera, Caffa, Azov, and other Levantine cities. (source 2)



Lire 100 da Venetia sotile sono in Fiorenza lire 87 e men. Lire 100 da Venetia grosse sono in Fiorenza lire 177 in 178.

One hundred libbra sottile of Venice make 87½ Florentine libbra. One hundred Venetian libbra grossa make 177 to 178 Florentine libbra.

Girolamo Tagliente.
Opera che insegna a fare ogni ragione de mercantia.
Venice, 1525.
As quoted in Edler.


Libra genovesca cje è saggi 72. Saggio che è carati 24.

The libbra genovesca is 72 saggi. This saggio is 24 carati.

Pegolotti, 1340.


Come responde el peso grosso con el sutile. Lire cento grosse fano al sutile [lbsign?]158. Lire cento sottile fano al grosso 63 e mezo. Lira 1 grossa fa al subtile �1 onze 6 sazi 5 karati 18. Lira 1 subtile fa al grosso onze 7 sazi 2 karati 16.

How the heavy measure corresponds to the lighter. [In Venice,] 100 libbra grossa make 158 libbra sottile. One hundred libbra sottile makes 63½ libbra grossa. One libbra grossa makes in the lighter weight 1 libbra, 6 saze, 18 karati. One libbra sottile makes in the heavy measure 7 oncia, 2 saggi, 16 karati.

Bartolommeo di Pasi.
Tariffa de' pesi e mesure con gratia et privilegio.
Venice, 1503.
As quoted in Edler.


[Regarding the libbra sottile in Venice] Lira 1 sotile fa al sotile onza 12. Onza 1 fa sazi 6. Sazi 1 fa karati 24. Karati 1 fa grani 4.

One libbra sottile is 12 onza sottile. One onza is 6 sazi. One sazi is 24 karati. One karati is 4 grani.

Bartolommeo di Pasi.
Tariffa de' pesi e mesure con gratia et privilegio.
Venice, 1503.
As quoted in Edler.

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