The DALME environment contains dozens of Jewish household inventories from Provence, Germany, Catalonia, and northern France. The inventories from Provence include many from Aix-en-Provence and several from Marseille. The collection also includes inventories from Regensburg and one inventory from Paris. Jewish inventories are extraordinarily rare. The ones collected here survive due to the records produced by tax seizures, criminal inquests, and notarial services.
Aix-en-Provence was home to one of the region's largest Jewish populations. Based on a census in 1341, Édouard Baratier estimated that 1,205 Jews lived in Aix (about 10% of the city's population). On January 29, 1295, the seneschal of Provence ordered two notaries to seize the goods of a group of Jews who had refused to pay the Jewish tax that year. The 22 inventories survive in a royal administrative document from that tax seizure. A number of other Jewish inventories from Aix also survive from the fifteenth century. These contain lists of goods belonging to very wealthy and powerful men who were well-assimilated socially and politically.
In the mid-fifteenth century, the municipal government and imperial administration both claimed jurisdiction over the Jews of Regensburg. When the city wanted to expel the Jews, the emperor intervened by claiming that the Jews were his property. Even though the city could not expel the Jews, they could arrest them on criminal charges. So, in March 1476, the town council investigated and arrested 17 Jewish men in Regensburg on the charge of ritual murder. Immediately after their arrest, the town council cordoned off the Jewish quarter, locked the homes of the arrested Jews, and dispatched notaries to draw up inventories of the goods. The one inventory from Paris from 1298 was also drawn up as part of a criminal inquest.
The six inventories of Jewish households from Marseille have completely different origins from those of Aix-en-Provence and Regensburg. Whereas the latter resulted from coercive interactions, the inventories from Marseille are mostly post-mortem and were compiled by Jewish guardians and executors, typically members of the family. About 4 percent of the records in the Marseille collection consist of inventories of Jewish households. Since Jews may have constituted as much as 7-10 percent of the city's population, the figures considered together suggest that Jews compiled inventories in Christian courts at about half the rate of their Christian counterparts. Even so, the legal habit of compiling estate inventories was not an unusual practice among the city's Jewish residents.
The two inventories from València in this collection have been edited by Juan-Vicente Garcia Marsilla of the Universitat de València in his forthcoming article "Familia, crédito y Talmud. La vida en el seno de la aljama judía de Valencia a través de dos documentos notariales del siglo XIV."
The collection includes 22 inventories from Aix-en-Provence in 1295, 25 from Regensburg in 1476, 7 from Marseille in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and 1 from Paris in 1298. One of the most striking features of the records from both Aix-en-Provence and Regensburg is the diversity of the individuals sampled. Men and women of all socio-economic backgrounds appear in these inventories, allowing for a fascinating glimpse into the livelihoods of medieval Jews. Given the paucity of extant Jewish household inventories, the sample is mostly determined by luck of survival.
We are currently identifying other collections of Jewish inventories, both those that arose from extraordinary events and from notarial registers. A major goal is to expand the geographical range to include inventories from Iberia, England, northern France, and other parts of Germany.
Throughout the entire collection, books in Hebrew and legal instruments in Latin are ubiquitous. Many of the Jewish inventories (of the goods of both men and women) contain references to chests that held libri judayci and trunks and bags full of documents. The inventories from Aix-en-Provence include one of an extremely wealthy woman, Regina, who owned cloaks and hats of various colors, a shield, and a leather sack full of legal documents, among many other fantastic possessions. The Regensburg inventories include a number of households that rented rooms to other Jews, whose possessions are also listed. In addition, the Regensburg inventories contain dozens and dozens of rosaries and other Christian paraphernalia, probably collected as pawns.
Although the study of Jewish material culture in the Middle Ages has become an active research area in recent years, little work has been done to date with Jewish inventories. For Provence, Juliette Sibon has studied Jewish inventories from Marseille, and Noël Coulet has studied later, fifteenth-century inventories from Aix-en-Provence. For Regensburg, Wilhelm Volkert edited the Jewish inventories in the DALME collection. The Jewish inventories from Marseille were discussed briefly by Smail in his paper, "Jews, Christians, and the Materiality of Money in Later Medieval Provence," in the conference Money Matters: Jews, Christians and the Medieval Market, held at the Hebrew University in December of 2019.
The owner of this collection is Ryan Nakano Low. Low is also the editor for the subset from Aix-en-Provence. The inventories from Marseille were transcribed by Juliette Sibon or Daniel Lord Smail, as indicated in the individual records. The inventories from Regensburg were transcribed and published by Wilhelm Volkert, and the inventory from Paris was transcribed and published by Le Roux de Lincy.