Tuesday, 1 November 2016

(Jewish) OTD: 2 November, part 1


As most people know, I am a little bit obsessed by acknowledgements of debt. Consequently, it is fitting that the very first OTD entry for this new blog feature is, you guessed it an acknowledgement of debt. From 1194 until the Expulsion (1290) it was a legal requirement that any moneylending transaction between a Christian and a Jew be recorded on the instrument of a chirograph. Whilst the format varied, this was a consistent feature which appears to have been adhered to. This particular acknowledgment was produced on 2 November 1245 to record that John Osgood acknowledged a debt of 30s (£1 10s) to Aaron son of Abraham (a name you will become very familiar with). The acknowledgement also includes the date of repayment – Michaelmas in the same regnal year (29 September 1246) – a standard penalty clause, and the date it was produced. This was a pretty standard sum, and there is nothing remarkable about the agreement. The chirograph itself, however, is fascinating. I shan’t bore you with all of the codicological features, mainly because I have written an entire article on the topic. I shall, however, remark on the most important of these features. That is, that this chirographs seal tag is composed of another chirograph. I’ve just noticed on the photograph that I took of this document that you can quite clearly see the phrase sciant universi quod ego.* Consequently, if anybody at the National Archives feels like letting me remove the seal (which resembles a piece of chewed toffee) and the seal tag in order to decipher the acknowledgement I would be elated. Before somebody writes in saying that that would be anathema, there is a precedence for this – in 1967, the seal tag of TNA E 210/42 was removed because it was a chirograph and is now TNA E 210/11325.

* Just to cover myself, this is discussed in Dean A. Irwin, 'The Materiality of Debt to Jews in Medieval England, 1194-1275: New Perspectives', under consideration at Jewish Historical Studies.

TNA E 210/368.

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