Appendix IV: Miscellaneous 1607

Pages 534-535

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1900.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


Miscellaneous 1607

Note on the phrase “a million of gold.”—The Venetian Ambassadors, when reporting the value of the Spanish treasure fleets, almost invariably give it in “millions of gold.” What was the denomination; what does “a million of gold” represent in current English money? Del Mar (fn. 1) reckons that for the ten years 1590-1600, the average import of treasure was at the rate of 3¼ millions sterling, or £32,500,000 for the ten years.
Jacob (fn. 2) estimates the average annual import at 2¼ millions sterling, or £22,500,000 for the ten years.
The Venetian Ambassadors reckon the total value of imported treasure, for the ten years, at 69 “millions of gold,” or 6,900,000 of gold per annum. In what coinage were they reckoning?
If they were reckoning in the coinage of the country, as is probable from the despatch of Francesco Vendramin, 28th August, 1593, where the value is given in “ Castilian ducats of eleven reals each,” then by the following table we get:—
1 Castilian ducat = 11 reals.
1 real = 34 maravedis. (fn. 3)
∴ 1 Castilian ducat (11 x 34) = 374 maravedis.
374 maravedis = 1 Ducato di Cambio.
1 Ducato di Cambio = 5.5792 lire italiane.
5.5792 lire italiane = 4 shillings, 6 pennies.
∴ “A million of gold” = £ stg. 225,000.
Upon this reckoning the sixty-nine millions of gold given by the Venetian Ambassadors as the value of the treasure fleets for the years 1590-1600 would amount to £ stg. 16,525,000, or a little over 1½ millions per annum, which is far below the estimates of del Mar and Jacob.
If, however, the Venetian Ambassadors were reckoning in the Ducato or Zecchino effetivo, (fn. 4) weighing 153½ carats, and of the standard value of lire 6 soldi 4, which is probably the Venetian ducat which Arber (“An English Garner”) takes at 5s. 6d., the sum is considerably increased; while if the Ambassadors were reckoning in the Venetian gold ducat, which Arber takes at 8s. (“An English Garner,” III. p. 184), but which was probably nearer 9s. 5d., their calculation of 69,000,000 “of gold” as the value of the treasure between 1590 and 1600 would work out to almost absolute coincidence with del Mar's estimate of £ stg. 32,500,000. This coincidence receives further support from the despatch of June 6, 1594, where Vendramin reports that the fleet will bring about seven “millions of gold.” Taking that to mean at the denomination of the Venetian gold ducat valued at 9s. 5d., we should get £3,290,750, or a very close approximation to del Mar's average of 3¼ millions sterling per annum.
Thus del Mar and the Venetians support one another if we suppose the Venetians to be reporting in terms of Venetian ducats of 9s. 5d., but there remains the fact that on one occasion they report in terms of Castilian ducats or the Ducato di Cambio, and in any case both are at wide variance from Jacob.
P.S.—After writing the above Mr. M. Oppenheim has most kindly furnished me with the following note.” Gerard Malynes (Lex Mercatoria, Lond. 1622, p. 266) defines a million of gold' as £300,000 in describing the cargo of the 1587 Flota. This gives the ducat at 6/ and shows that the Venetian Ambassadors meant that coin in their despatches.” In my own further researches in the Archives I found the following passage in a despatch from Madrid, Nov. 8, 1607. “Un million d'oro all'anno, cioè seicento milla scudi”; as the Venetian Ambassadors in England always give the scudo as worth 5/ this would bring “a million of gold” out as £150,000, or just half Gerard Malynes' estimate. Fynes Moryson “An Itinerary,” London, 1617, part 1. p. 291, says “an Italian silver crowne given for seven lires of Venice, and is worth almost five English shillings.”


  • 1. History of the Precious Metals.
  • 2. Historical Inquiry into the Production and Consumption of the Precious Metals.
  • 3. Martin, Manuale di Metrologia, Torino, 1883.
  • 4. Gallicciolli, Delle Memorie Venete, Tom. II. cap. XII., §2.