Gian Rinaldo Carli
Prominent Istrians

Italiano (different text)

iovanni Rinaldo, count of Carli, also called Gian Rinaldo Carli and Gian Carli Rubbi, from the surname of his first wife, the Venetian noblewoman Paolina Rubbi, was born in Capodistria on April 11, 1720, to  Cecilia Imberti and count Rinaldo Carli who was from an ancient noble family.

economist, historian, archeologist and sociologist

born in Capodistria

After receiving his earlier education at home, where he applied himself with incredible diligence and success to the study of classical literature and science, he removed to Flambro, in the Friuli, where he had for his instructor the learned abbé Bini. Here he studied natural philosophy and geometry, and at the age of eighteen published a paper on the aurora borealis.

He then moved to Padua, where he also studied Hebrew. At age twenty he was elected a member of the academy of the Ricovrati, of which he afterwards became president; at twenty one he was appointed professor of astronomy and navigation at Padua, and at twenty-four he was appointed by a decree of the senate of Venice, who wished to improve their marine, professor of a new chair of astronomy and navigation established at Padua.

Tratto da Des durchlauchtigsten kronprinzen erzherzog Rudolf, Rudolf (Crown Prince of Austria), Vol. 10 (Wien, 1891).

In 1743, he sent to his fellow townsman Giuseppe Tartini (with whom he would cultivate an intense literary correspondence) a manuscript entitled Osservazioni sulla musica antica e moderna.

Before this time his taste for the study of the monuments of the middle ages had already led him to acquire sufficient knowledge of that subject to enable him to engage in discussions with Fontanini and Muratori, the results of which he published, together with some able translations and some learned treatises on the antiquities of Greece. He was soon involved in a troublesome controversy with the abbé Tartarotti on the now exploded subject of magic, and exposed the tricks and devices by which the professors of that art had practiced upon the credulity of the people in ancient and more recent times.

The freedom of his remarks caused him to be accused of heresy by his antagonist, who found more numerous abettors than Carli; the latter, however, was supported by the marquis Maffei, who, after the contest had raged for ten years, silenced it at last by his La Magia Annichilati. In 1747 Carli addressed to the marquis an able treatise on the subject of bullion, in which he discovered that acute penetration respecting the nature of metallic currency, which he afterwards more fully exhibited in an elaborate work. He also published his Andropologia, or Della Società.

In 1747, Carli married Paolina Rubbi, a Venetian noblewoman, with whom he had one son, Agostino. On August 12, 1949, Paolina succombed to the tuberculosis that had afflicted most of her family. She was only 25, leaving a vast fortune and an infant son for Carli to raise alone.

(Click to enlarge))

Carli 1791: sketch of the external wall of the Arena di Pola. In 1791 Carli proposed the reconstruction of the canvas roof over the Arena of Pola.
Left: design of the plaque on the eastern side of the bastions in Pola.
Above (right): marble receptacle for the fountain of a house, decorated with aquatic motifs. (The original is on exhibit in the Temple of Augustus, Pola).

After his wife's death, Carli resigned his professorship at Padua that he had held for seven years to return to lstria to attend to the management of his private affairs. Afflicted by with sorrow for his beloved wife's premature death, in 1750 he commissioned Bartolomeo Nazzari to paint a portrait of himself (see below) in demonstration of his grief. He also wrote a book about her, Private disavventure d'una donna di vero spirito o sia vita della signora Paolina Rubbi Contessa Carli-Rubbi, which he never published and which single copy has been preserved in Lucca. Two and one half centuries later, Istrian author Fulvio Tomizza was inspired by Carli's book to write one of his own about Paolina Rubbi entitled L’ereditiera veneziana (published in 2000).

During this period, Carli visited the antiquities of Pola, which he afterwards described at length in his work on Italian antiquities. His companion in these researches was the naturalist Vitaliano Donati, whose work on the natural history of the Adriatic Carli edited after the author's death: Saggio della Storia Naturale Marina dell'Adriatico, 4vo, Venezia, 1750. In 1754 Carli published the first volume of his great work, Delle Monete e della Istituzione delle Zecche d'Italia (On the History of the Coins and Currency and on the Institution of the Mints of Italy). The second volume appeared in 1757, and the third and fourth in 1760. (On the History of the Coins and Currency and on the Institution of the Mints of Italy).

The book treats of the monetary history of Italy from the fall of the western empire until the 17th century, and is profusely illustrated with representations of coins, national and foreign, circulating in Italy during the various ages, and their value as compared with the price of provisions at different periods is also calculated.

Portrait of Gianrinaldo Carli-Rubbi by Bartolomeo Nazzari, 1749. Executed the same year that his wife, Paolina Rubbi, died. Carli points to the hieroglyphs to his right to allude to his painful premature loss. [Ca' Rezzonico]



Carli employed nine years in the compilation of this work, during which he inspected the cabinets of medals and the archives of Milan, Turin, Tuscany, &c. A new edition, with corrections and additions by the author, was published at Milan in 1785, in 7 vols, 4vo. Carli begins the monetary history of Italy with the mint of Odoacer at Ravenna, after the fall of the western empire, and comes down as far as the seventeenth century, describing and profusely illustrating the numerous coins, national and foreign, which were current in Italy during the intervening ages; their weight, title, legends, and relative value, and also their value compared with the price of provisions at different epochs. He treats also of the commerce of bullion, and of the frequent alterations and deteriorations which took place in the weight and intrinsic value of the currency. He demonstrates, among other things, that the quantity of the precious metals in Italy was considerably greater in the fifteenth century, before the discovery of America, than in the eighteenth, and that the real price of provisions was proportionably higher; an assertion which appeared quite novel at the time.

In the fifteenth century every petty state of Italy had its mint at work; the mint of Venice alone, under the doge Mocenigo, coined yearly 1,000,000 of gold sequins, besides 2,000,000 sequins in silver coins. All this is explained by the fact, that Italy was then the most commercial country in Europe; and it serves to confirm the accounts of the prodigious wealth of Italy previous to the French and Spanish invasions in the beginning of the sixteenth century, of which wealth the innumerable palaces, churches, paintings, and other monuments of splendour and luxury still remaining in that country, are sufficient evidence.

His merits as a financier were not overlooked. In his Ragionamento sopra i bilanci economici delle nazioni, Carli asserted, against the then received opinion of the economists, that the balance of trade between nation and nation proved little or nothing as to the real prosperity of each. He was also at variance with the economists in his dissertation Sul libero commercio dei grani, addressed to Pompeo Nero in 1771, in which he combated the general application of the principle of the freedom of the corn trade under all circumstances. He considered it as a question more of administration than of commerce. He quoted the example of Poland, Hungary, Sicily, Apulia, Egypt, &c, which countries produce and export enormous quantities of corn, and yet always remain poor.

Another interesting work of Carli is his Relazione sul censimento dello stato di Milano. The censimento, or catasto, was a survey and valuation of all the lands of Lombardy, effected under Maria Theresa, and completed in 1759, for the purpose of equalizing the land-tax and other public burthens. The plan was afterwards imitated in Prussia under Frederic II., in France under Napoleon, and in other countries.

Carli was appointed president of the new council of commerce and pubic economy established at Milan, as well us of the board of public studies. In these capacities he repaired to Vienna in 1765, to confer with the minister Kaunitz, and was received at court with great distinction. When Joseph II. went to Milan in 1769, he appointed Carli his privy counsellor, ana it was at Carli's suggestion that the emperor finally abolished the tribunal of the Inquisition, which had existed at Milan for centuries.

He was made president of the council of commerce and public economy at Milan, and in 1771 president of the new council of finances, into which branch of administration he introduced many admirable reforms. The inhabitants were also indebted to his influence for the abolition of the inquisitions, tribunal. He also wrote some valuable works on Istrian and other antiquities; dissertations on classical subjects; against sorcery; against Rousseau's theory of natural religion, etc.

His labours having seriously impaired his health, he resigned the presidency of the council of commerce, and devoted his time chiefly to complete his Antichità Italiche, which appeared in 1788, 5 vols, 4vo. Carli being now old and infirm, the emperor Leopold II. restored to him the whole of the pension, amounting to 20,000 francs, which he had enjoyed when in the full exercise of his office.

Carli's epistolary correspondence, spread over a period of fifty years, was very extensive, was carried on with the most enlightened men of his age, and was upon the most interesting subjects. He published many other works, among which are, Lettere Americane, in which he investigates the antiquities of America, and refutes Pauw's assertions in disparagement of the natives. In his L'Uomo libero, ossia ragionamento sulla libertà naturale e civile dell'uomo, he ably combats Rousseau's theory, put forward by that ensnaring sophist in the Contrat Social. He wrote also many dissertations on classical subjects, on the triremes, on the Argonauts, on Hesiod's Theogony, on the geography of the ancients, &c. Exclusive of his Italian Antiquities, Carli's works were published in 19 vols, 8vo, Milan, 1784-94.

Carli died on February 22, 1795.

Palazzo Carli, Koper (Capidistria), 17th cent.

Principal works:

Relating to political currency -

  • Delle monete e delle istituzioni delle zecche d'Italia - Pubblicata tra il 1754 e il 1760 in quattro grossi tomi, l’opera si compone di otto dissertazioni su una materia che a quel tempo era giustamente ritenuta una delle più ardue. Tratta dell’origine del commercio della moneta con osservazioni sulle conseguenze di arbitrarie alterazioni della stessa; riferisce su minuziose ricerche intorno all’istituzione delle zecche in Italia e dà i risultati di molte relazioni avute in proposito con i maggiori esperti del tempo.

    Parla poi delle monete in uso in Italia, del rapporto tra il loro valore reale e quello nominale, del confronto tra i valori diversi assunti dalle monete italiane in varie epoche ed infine ragiona sulla giusta riduzione delle monete antiche con quelle correnti al suo tempo nelle principali città d’Italia.

    L’opera nacque dal risveglio d’interesse per l’economia e le scienze esatte nel XVIII sec.

    Ancora oggi, a due secoli di distanza, i volumi del Carli possono ritenersi fondamentali.

    L’opera ebbe grande risonanza e fece il giro dell’Europa in numerose edizioni. Le corti di Milano, Torino e molte altre ne adottarono i principi e trassero numerosi spunti per le loro riforme.

  • Osservazioni preventive al piano intorno alle monete di Milano
Relating to his archeological activities and classical studies -
  • Delle antichità italiche - Da un quadro completo di quello che fu l’Italia nella politica, nel pensiero, nell’arte prima di Roma fino al secolo XIV. Le Antichità pongono il Carli tra i risvegliatori delle memorie nazionali. L’opera fu in due anni esaurita ed ebbe lunghissima diffusione in tutta Europa.
  • La spedizione degli Argonauti
  • Indole del teatro tragico, antico e moderno
  • Sopra un antico bassorilievo rappresentante la Medea d'Euripide
Relating to his sociological commitments -
  • Lettere americane
  • Della disuguaglianza fisica, morale e civile degli uomini
Historical and cultural themes -
  • Osservazioni della musica antica e moderna - Indirizzate al comprovinciale Giuseppe Tartini. Il Carli sostiene che lo sfoggio di lavoro contrappuntistico è da biasimare, poiché limita i sentimenti. A modello viene elevata la musica greca perché sicuramente sentimentale ed melodiosa. Tale constatazione la porta a considerare la presenza o meno del contrappunto anche nell’antica musica ellenica.
  • Delle Triremi
  • Notizie compendiose intorno Pietro Paolo Vergerio vescovo di Capodistria condannato da papa Paolo III quale apostata ed eretico

Carli published some writings in Pietro Verri's publication Il Caffèi. In 1785, he wrote for this publication his article entitled "Della patria degli italiani", in fiercely Italian sentiment.

A commemmorative postage stamp was issued on March 24, 2003 in honor of Carli and the elementary school in Pazin (Pisino) that was dedicated in his honor. The school was established in 1898 and destroyed by German bombs in 1943. [See: Postage Stamps 2003.]


  • A New General Biographical Dictionary, Projected and partly arranged by the late Rev. Hugh James, Rose, B.D., Principal of King's College, London. In Twelve Volumes (London, 1853), Vol VI. Cap-Cze, p. 47-48 written by Elogio Bossi, Storico di Gian Rinaldo Carli Library of Universal Knowledge: A Reprint of the Last (1880) Edinburgh and London Edition of Chambers' Encyclopaedia, with Copious Additions by American Editors, 15 vols., American Book Exchange (1880), Vol. III, p.464.
  • Portrait & text -
  • Library of Universal Knowledge, Being a reprint of the last (1879) Edinburgh and London edition of Chamber's Encyclopedia, a Dictionary for Universal Knowledge for the People, in Twenty Volumes, Vol. 3. American Book Exchange (New York, 1879),  p. 774.

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Created: Friday, August 01, 2008. Updated Monday August 03, 2015
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