Dear Readers,

As you may have seen elsewhere, in mid February my wife and I suffered the loss of our home in a fire, in the hills of central Massachusetts. The good news is that we got out safely and had no animals in our care at the time. The fire crews were able to contain the fire from spreading, in what turned into a 3-alarm, 5-hour-long ordeal in subzero temperatures; they did amazing work, and no one was injured. The bad news is that all of my physical historical materials and research of 30 years have gone up in smoke. As a result I have decided to suspend this blog for the time being. It will remain online as a resource for those interested in the history of glass and glassmaking in the seventeenth century and beyond. I do intend to resume writing when I can, but for now my time and energy are required in getting us back on our feet.

Friends are providing temporary shelter for us nearby and our intention is to rebuild as soon as possible. To those who have reached out with a steady hand, to those who have opened their wallets, and offered advice in our time of need, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. In what are already difficult times for all of us, you have made a huge difference in our lives.

Paul Engle
6 March, 2021

Friday, August 9, 2013


The day of Antonio's birth was leap year day, 29 February 1576, although his baptistery records indicate 1575. According to the old Tuscan calendar, the New Year would not be celebrated for another month, on 25 March, around the equinox. The Florentine calendar was aligned with the beginning of the planting season; swallows returning from Africa would sweep in the New Year, swirling over the city squares and proclaiming the impending arrival of spring. Soon enough the fragrant air would set farmers busy in the fields.

However, Antonio was born to a Florence still very much in the grip of February. He came into the world on a Thursday evening at 9:25 pm, (recorded as 3 and 5/12 hours past sunset). Of all the days to be born, 29 February was considered among the least auspicious. A dire Northern Italian folk proverb states "An bisesti, o la mama o 'l bambi", predicting that when a child is born on this day, by the end of the year either the infant or its mother will die. Indeed, the Italian word naming the day, bisestile, had become a synonym for misfortune or calamity, as is still the case for the French cognate bissêtre.  Whatever stock the family put into ancient superstitions, happily this prophesy did not come true for Dianora or her fourth child Antonio.

The baptistery record for Antonio Neri reads:
Thursday, 1 March 1575:  Antonio Lodovico was born to Mr. Neri Jacopo and Dianora di Francesco Parenti, residents of San Pier Maggiore parish. The time of birth was 29 February, at 3 hours 25 minutes past sunset. The godparents are Francesco di Girolamo Lenzoni, and Ginevra di Federigo Sassetti.

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