7. Florin, 15th-16th Centuries CE

The folder known as ENA 1066 contains ten folios from the account ledger of an Italian Jewish merchant of Ashkenazi extraction who most likely lived in the fifteenth and/or sixteenth centuries. Further details about this merchant’s identity remain unknown. His (or her) location was probably somewhere in Italy, as the preponderance of names in the entries are Italian. Within Italy, Venice seems the best candidate, as it had a well-established community of Ashkenazi Jews who had strong mercantile ties with Egypt. It is written entirely in Hebrew script in an Ashkenazi hand. The orthography also points to Ashkenazi extraction, such as the use of the Hebrew letter ʿayin for the Italian vowel “e” as in the name Tommaso di Bernardo (טומאזו דבערנרדו) (fol. 9v). The languages include Hebrew, (Judaeo-)Italian, and Yiddish– but there may be additional languages as yet unidentified. The manuscript refers to numerous types of coinage, some written in full and some written in shorthand. They have yet to be adequately deciphered, but some are relatively clear: סולד may mean “solid(i)” and לי may mean “li(brae),” דוק probably denotes “duc(ado),” and פלורין transliterates directly as “florin.”

This manuscript may prove to be related to several other Geniza manuscripts from the 16th century with similar characteristics. By far the closest is T-S Ar.30.232 + T-S NS 83.19, another account ledger written in a mixture of Hebrew, (Judaeo-)Italian, and Yiddish, belonging to the merchant Yiṣḥaq b. Yeḥiel in 1550 CE. The previous year, the same Yiṣḥaq wrote a commercial letter (Moss. IIIa,9) containing the same mixture of languages. Lastly, the Geniza has preserved a famous dossier of Yiddish letters relating to the Zussman family of Prague whose members lived in Jerusalem and Cairo, likewise in the mid-16th century, and who corresponded with a Venetian rabbi named Yaʿaqov Katz (T-S AS 205.53 and T-S Misc.24.187).

"Account Ledger," JTS ENA 1066.7, 15th-16th century CE, Hebrew, Italian, Yiddish.

Images provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary Library (JTSL)

line 5 (right folio, recto): Constantin d[i] Venezia 3 florin... | ...קנסטנטין דויניזיאה ג פלורין

(eds. Matthew Dudley and Alan Elbaum)

Florin from the Princeton Numismatic Collection (Coin: 9361)

Denomination: florin

Metal: Gold

Region: Italy

City: Florence

Date: 1436 to 1449

Obverse Figure Description: Florentine Lily, center

Obverse Legend: FLOR ENTIA

Reverse Legend: SIOHA N NESB

References: Paolucci II 49.556

Size: 22 mm

Die Axis: 12

Weight: 3.52 in grams

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