© Victoria and Albert Museum, M.65-1921, England, 15th century

Item ii culherios argenti qui non sunt marcati

In August of 1419, a notary of Marseille recorded a very unusual act. Using the form of a comenda contract or business investment partnership, Johan Pico and his wife, Leoneta, transmitted a substantial set of items to the vice-jailer of the city of Marseille. The inventory lists a strange assortment of objects; among them we find thirty bed sheets, five mattresses, five sets of bed curtains, six chairs, three torches, and twelve hammers of different kinds. It is possible that the couple were in the business of provisioning institutions with necessary articles, though in this scenario, it would be difficult to explain why the inventory included picks, saws, and a plowshare. Another scenario is that they had been arrested and imprisoned on some charge and had left the contents of their living quarters in the power of the vice-jailer to ensure that they would remain safe, or perhaps as a security for their victuals or for a fine that they anticipated.

Among the items were "two silver spoons, which are not marked." These were the only utensils listed in the inventory. The fact that they were made of silver is out-of-keeping with the pedestrian nature of the rest of the items, suggesting that we may be viewing the inventory of a pawnshop. Silver spoons are uncommon in the DALME collection; it is more common to find spoons made of wood or iron or sometimes copper-alloy. The phrase about the two spoons not being marked is especially interesting, for this would appear to refer to the marks that silversmiths placed on wares in order to authenticate the origin and fineness of the silver. The fact that they were not marked suggests that the spoons were in some sense "illegal."