16. Real, 16th-17th Centuries CE

The Spanish real is well-known for its centrality within the global silver flows of the early modern period. It was first minted in Spain during the reign of Pedro I of Castile (r. 1350-1369 CE) and began to circulate widely outside the Iberian Peninsula after 1497 when it became the primary unit of silver coinage across the Spanish Empire [1]. The two documents in this display demonstrate a crucial distinction, in that not all references to "ריאליש" or "ריאלים" in Geniza documents are necessarily to Spanish coinage. The first document, is an anonymous Judaeo-Spanish business letter most likely from a mother to her son, that dates to sixteenth- or seventeenth-century Egypt. Across the eighteenth century, it becomes common to find "ריאליש" or "ריאלים" as references to an immaterial unit of account commonly transcribed from Arabic as rīyāl– which existed at a fixed 1:90 ratio with the Ottoman medin/para [2]. This ratio is evident in the second document, an investment partnership circa 1800 CE involving the prolific scribe and rabbinic judge, R. Meʾir Ben-Naʿīm.

[1] Joseph F. O'Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975), 486; Shepard Pond, "The Spanish Dollar: The World's Most Famous Silver Coin," Business History Review 15.1 (1941): 12-16.

[2] Kenneth Cuno, The Pasha's Peasants: Land, Society, and Economy in Lower Egypt, 1740-1858 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 211.

"Business Letter," JTS ENA NS 38.9r, 16th- or 17th-Century CE, Judaeo-Spanish.

Images provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTSL)

1 This [letter] is only to tell you: How is it, my dear son, | קמר[?] אישטה נון שירה די אוטרו שי נון דיזירטי קומו אשטו מיגו דיזיאוזו

2 you are so lazy in writing, knowing that I don't have another [form of] relief | טי אינפיריזאז די אישקריביר שאביינדו קי נון טינגו אוטרו דישקאנ[נשו]

3 that you send me, because every day people come from Cairo to Dim[yāṭ?] | קי מי מאנדאשיני פוש קי קאדה דייאה ויינין גינטי די מצרים אה דמ

4 for writing [correspondence]. Send to me to say whether you have received the ten reales [that] | די אסקריביר אי מאנדאמי דיזיר שי רישיבישטי עשרה ריאליש

5 I sent with the honorable R. Yahūdā the moneychanger, may His Rock keep him and grant him life, and now I send you | מאנדי קון אל כה׳׳ר יהודה קאנבייאדור יצ׳׳ו אי אגורה טי מאנדו

6 what the girls (muchachas) of my husband (lit. master of the house) gave me, may His Rock keep him and grant him life... | ...מי דיירון לאש מוגאגאש די מי בעל הבית יצ׳׳ו

(eds. Matthew Dudley and Alan Elbaum)

"Investment Partnership," JTS ENA 2365.24r, ca. 1800 CE, Hebrew.

Images provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTSL)

1 By [the assistance of] The [Name], | ב׳׳ה

2 before us the undersigned witnesses the respectable, noble, of a good name, Yaʿacov Ḥasūn, may His Rock keep him and grant him life, acknowledged completely, as valid and established, that he is of sound mind | בפעח׳׳מ הודה היקר נבון נשא ונע׳׳ לשט׳׳ו יעקב חסון יצ׳׳ו הודאה גמו׳׳ שרירא וקיימת מעכשיו מדעתו ורצונו

3 and without coercion… and acknowledges before a beit dīn (rabbinic court) that he received from the hand of the respectable, noble, and honorable R. Meʾir Ben-Naʿīm, may His Rock keep him and grant him life, money | הטוב והגמור מבלי זכר שום מין אונס כלל כמודה בפ׳׳ בד׳׳ח שקיבל מיד היקר ונע׳׳ כה׳׳ר מאיר ן׳ נעים יצ׳׳ו ממעות

4 in the amount of forty-five reales which are each worth ninety medin, and he causes him [Yaʿacov Ḥasūn] to do business with them in full, | הזולת שבידו סך חמשה וארבעים ריאליס לערך תשעים מ׳׳ך והגיעו לידו עספ׳׳א להתעס׳ בהם בת׳׳ו עיסקא הנהוגה

5 as is acceptable before the beit dīn, and the aforementioned investment partnership will last henceforth from today for three months... | ...היום עפ׳׳י ב׳׳ד י׳׳ב ותחלת העיסקא הנז׳ מהיום ולמשך ג חדשים

(ed. Matthew Dudley)

Real from the Princeton Numismatic Collection (Coin: 6185)

Notes: Machine made. Probably posthumous (minted by later king).

Denomination: 1 real

Metal: Silver

Region: Spain

Date: 1474 to 1504


Reverse Legend: :LEGIO:ARAG:+REX:ET:REGINA:CASTReverse SymbolA [and shell]

Workshop: Segovia

Coin DescriptionSize: 27 mm

Die Axis: 12

Weight: 3.19 in grams

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