In July of 1393, one or more Spanish warships, under the command of Franciscus de Cazalis, captain of the Spanish fleet, lay at anchor in the great bay of Marseille. Provisions were needed, and the captain or his purser (dispensator), Sansonus de Mayzonis, made arrangements with a Marseille butcher, Antonius Stephani, to purchase some meat or mutton. The bill came to at least 193 florins. Lacking cash-on-hand sufficient to pay the entire amount owed, the purser and his captain made alternate arrangements to compensate the butcher. On the 10th of July, the purser came to the house of the butcher, accompanied by a notary, Antonius Lombardi, to draw up an unusual contract. According to the contract, the butcher agreed to accept valuable objects belonging to the captain in lieu of the amount owed.

A goldsmith was asked to provide appraisals of some of the objects. At least two Jews were also asked to provide expert appraisals. As we know from a multitude of records from medieval Provence, Jews were active in the second-hand market and also served as auctioneers. Thanks to the expertise they acquired in this line of work, they were widely acknowledged as especially authoritative appraisers of the value of household goods, clothing, and linens. Curiously, a space was left where the notary had evidently intended to record the names of the Jews, but in the event he neglected to do so, leaving us in the dark about who they were. A reference to Jews in the plural (ebreos) indicates that more than one was involved, and the length of the space (slightly more than half a line) would appear to correspond to at most two names.

The goods exchanged for the meat supplies provide insights into the kinds of things a captain brought with him on a voyage, either for personal use or, more likely, as stores of value should it be necessary to raise money in situations such as this. The list begins with a gilded silver belt whose fittings were probably not dissimilar to those appearing in the images accompanying this essay. Following this, we find six gilded silver goblets and a quite splendid dagger held on a chain of white silver. The dagger had a silver handle decorated with gilded enamel and fitted into a gilded silver sheath (gayna). These precious items included silver weighing 18 marks and 5 ounces in toto. At the going rate of 7 florins for each mark of silver, the total value of the silver came to 130 florins. The act notes that the goldsmith was responsible for appraising the value of these precious goods.

Following this, the list of objects turns to precious fabrics, clothing, and furnishings, the domain where the parties involved undoubtedly called on the expertise of the two Jewish appraisers. The first item was a bedspread or quilt (vanoa), which was appraised at 4 florins despite being deemed “of little value.” Next were three houppelandes. The first of these, in a slate-blue fabric, was long and distinguished by its folds or pleats. The second, made of ruby-red fabric, was shorter, and had a black lining. The third was also of slate-blue fabric though with a brown lining. The three garments were appraised at 20 florins total, which, at contemporary prices, was slightly on the low side for the value of houppelandes. A small silver belt, worth 5 florins, was also included, perhaps because it was composed of such a small quantity of silver that the goldsmith’s skill was not needed. Another garment, a doublet (giponum) made of satin, was appraised at 3 florins. The list closed with a chest (capsalerium) and two cushions collectively valued at 12 florins. Since these items came to 44 florins, the total value of the goods transmitted to the butcher was only 174 florins, 19 short of the amount owed.

A second act appended to the first one indicates that the notary, accompanied by the butcher, then went to the captain’s ship. There, they met with the captain and received his approbation for the arrangements made earlier in the day by the purser. The butcher promised not to sell the objects before Christmas, indicating that they had been left in pledge in the hope or expectation that the captain might be able to redeem them. An interesting passage anticipated a situation where the butcher might in turn find himself short of cash. In that situation, he was granted permissions to use the items as a kind of secondary pledge (in tenezone) up to the amount of their value. Finally, the captain acknowledged the shortfall of 19 florins and promised to pay by Christmas.