Wednesday, 23 November 2016

(Jewish) OTD: 23 November


After a brief divergence, we’re now back to my favourite document type: acknowledgements of debt. I think this document in particular illustrates some of the challenges of working on these documents. On the one hand, it is pretty well preserved, and was produced in a clear scribal hand. On the other hand, parts of the text have been rubbed off and are now illegible. I do wonder, however, it might be possible to use ultra violet light to recover the text. As a result of this, combined with my poor photography, I have had to use the catalogue entry for this item to support my reading.[1] The name of the debtor, Richard of Tinnewinneshell, is particularly difficult to decipher in the original record. Richard was acknowledging a debt of 10 marks to be repaid at Midsummer. The debt was owed to Manasser son of Aaron a Jew of London. This is interesting for two reasons. First, the debtor is identified as being of Bedford and was completing this transaction with a London Jew. Consequently, it would seem that the former had to make the trip to the latter – not least upon the basis of the handwriting. Second, Manasser was a prominent member of the London community, who had previously served as chirographer until his business activities had meant that he did not have enough time for that office. The document goes on to say that the debt was to be repaid on the nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Here is one of the reasons that I loathe the catalogue entries: this date was recorded as “Midsummer” there. In some ways this is a moot point given that both occur on 24 June, but it’s the principal of the matter. The debt then goes on to include the conventional details of a penalty clause and date of repayment. On the reverse is the comment that Richard also owed two quarters of corn at the same time.

TNA E 210/276

[1] Catalogue of Ancient Deeds Contained: Volume 3, ed. H. C. Maxwell-Lyte (London, 1900), available online at accessed on 22 Nov. 2016.

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