Davanzati, Bernardo (1529-1606), born in Florence. This name will always be famous in the history of Italian literature, because, writing in prose, he attained to the same vigour and precision that Dante displayed in poetry. The writings of Davanzati are still models of style. He undertook to translate Tacitus and to surpass him in conciseness, and asserts that, on an average, a hundred Italian words were required where Tacitus needs a hundred and eight Latin ones, and a French translation a hundred and sixty. Besides his translation of Tacitus, a history of the Reformation in England under Henry VIII, and minor academic essays, two economic writings, for which he merits here a mention, are extant, These are his Lezione delle monnete, 1582, and his Notizia dei cambj, published in 1588, and included in Custodi's Scrittori Classici. To judge him correctly it must be considered that he was a contemporary of Scaruffi (1582), of Jean Bodin (1578) and of William Stafford (1581), men who wrote their books half a century before Petty and Locke were born (Petty, 1623-1687); Locke, 1632-1704). Davanzati begins by showing how "barter is a necessary complement of division of labour amongst men and amongst nations"; he then passes on to show how there is easily a "want of coincidence in barter," which calls for a "medium of exchange"; and this must be capable of "subdivision," and be a "store of value." He then goes off upon a historical digression on currencies, and on returning from thence recognizes in money "a common measure of value." This leads him to a dissertation on the causes of value in general, in which respect his remarks are also worth mentioning, because he has clearly shown that utility and value are "accidents of things" and function of the "quantity in which they exist." Proceeding to examples, he remarks "that one single egg was more worth to Count Ugolino in his tower than all the gold of the world," but that on the other hand, "ten thousand grains of corn are only worth one of gold in the market," and that "water, however necessary for life, is worth nothing, because superabundant." In the siege of Casilino "a rat was sold for 200 florins, and the price could not be called exaggerated, because next day the man who sold it was starved and the man who bought it was still alive." Returning to his argument, he says all the money in a country is worth all the goods, because the one exchanges for the other and nobody wants money for its own sake. Davanzati does not know anything about the rapidity of circulation of money, and only says every country needs a different quantity of money, as different human frames need different quantities of blood. The rest of his treatise is directed against artificial deterioration of money. The mint ought to coin money gratuitously for everybody; and the fear that, if the coins are too good, they should be exported is simply illusory, because they must have been paid for by the exporter. Davanzati insists particularly on the injury the defrauding government is the first to experience when it tampers with the coin. In his essay on exchanges Davanzati goes minutely into the mechanism of exchanges, but he evidently does not suspect the causes of the phenomenon nor its limits. Davanzati was by profession a merchant, and lived a part of his life in France.
[For a criticism of Davanzati, see Travers Twiss, View of the Progress of Pol. Econ., 1847, lecture i]