The inventories in the DALME collection have a lot to tell us about the horizons of material culture. But a number of inventories also contain powerful human stories. This month's inventory records the possessions in the estate of Bertran Paul, a laborator or urban peasant who lived in the city of Marseille and died in March of 1348 during the second plague pandemic. The inventory was compiled more than a year after his death by Alayseta Paule, his daughter and the sole member of the Paul family to survive the plague. At the outset of the act, the notary of the court, Augier Aycart, recorded an extraordinary statement given by Alayseta to explain why her request to record an inventory was overdue. The statement, translated here, is more eloquent than any paraphrase of it could hope to be.
"In the name of Lord God the eternal and of our savior Jesus Christ amen. The year of his incarnation 1349, on the penultimate day of August. By virtue of the present document, let it be known to all present and future that Alayseta Paula, the daughter of the late Bertran Paul of Marseille, living in the suburb of Syon, appeared before the noble lord Guilhem de Montoliu, a licentiate in decretals, judge of the court of Marseille. In his presence, she explained that during the terrible year of plague just past, her father Bertran Paul, during the sickness from which he died, drew up his last will and testament. In this testament, he named Alazays Paula, his wife and Alayseta's mother, as his universal heir, and substituted Alayseta and Johanna, his daughters, as heirs in equal portions after the death of the said Alayseta, his wife and heir. This is fully laid out in the legal instrument of the testament written in the hand of Jacme Aycart, notary of Marseille, in the year of our Lord 1348, on the 15th of the month of March. And then, in the midst of the plague, Alaysita her mother and Johanna Paula her sister both died, and then the husband of the said Alayseta died, leaving Alayseta alone, deprived of all her kin, being pregnant and weakened, continually filled with sorrows and afflictions. And since she had not yet requested to have an inventory of the goods and paternal inheritance compiled, owing to her enfeebled condition and her anguish, she fervently asked the lord judge, humbly and tearfully, that for the love of God and for pity's sake she be judged worthy to be granted permission and his consent to compile the inventory for the preservation of her rights and those of anyone else. The lord judge, considering that hardly anyone could properly carry out his own or anyone's business during that punishing time, granted Alayseta Paula's request, once she has taken an oath on the holy Gospels of God by swearing that she has not put off the making of this inventory up until now out of guile or in fraud or injury to any other person, and also that she has not sold off or alienated any of her father's goods, and has requested the aforesaid without any malice..."