Paris - Bibl. Mazarine - ms. 3873, f. 4, "Pauvreté" Guillaume de Lorris et Jean de Meun, Roman de la Rose,14th century

One of the distinctive features of the Marseille collection is that it includes not only inventories of the rich and famous but also those of the poor and obscure. Inventories of the latter kind are not common but they show up often enough to give us a sense of the material profile of the bottom 50 percent of society. The inventory featured this month is from the year 1295, meaning that it is one of the earliest in the DALME collection, since as a rule of thumb we have few lay inventories from the thirteenth century. It concerns the estate of Gauterius Duranti, a resident of a district in Marseille known as the Praepositura, located in the area around the cathedral. The act opens when Gauterius's widow, Beatrix, showed up in court in her capacity as the guardian for her young children, namely, Hugueta, age 11, Guillelmeta, age 9, and Gauterius, age 5. The judge granted her request to compile an inventory of the estate. The estate included a house, which is not unusual, since housing was in general quite affordable. But the only other item listed in the inventory was a bed-set, comprising a bed-frame, mattresses, linens, coverlets, and a pillow. As this suggests, Gauterius died a relatively poor man. The absence of other items can be explained in various ways. It is possible, for example, that he was bankrupt and that all his assets, apart from the bed and the house, had been transferred into the possession of Beatrix to cover her dowry and/or to other creditors. Were it not for the fact that the inventory identifies the house as belonging to him, we might also surmise that he and his family rented a single room in a house and shared the kitchen and dining hall with other renters. Either way, inventories such as this give us insights into the lives of those who were just scraping by.