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Official Seals

6. Seal of the Jewish Exchequer

Dimensions: unknown.

Location: unknown.

Bibliography: Jenkinson, 1929; Loewe, 1932, p. 130; Lipman, 1967, p. 75.

Herbert Loewe, in his Starrs and Jewish Charters, begins with a quotation from C. H. Jenkinson. In 1277, Jenkinson wrote, a seal

with the impression of a crowned head like a king was found by Hamo Hauteyn in a scrutiny of the York Chest* made by him, placed upon a pyx, in which pyx was found a King’s writ . . . and suspicion touching the impression of that seal arose for that in some part of it it was conformed to the true seal of the head of the Exchequer of the Jews and in the greatest part not.

As Loewe goes on to point out, we are given two useful pieces of information here: first, that the Jewish Exchequer possessed its own seal, and second, that this seal seemed to have engraved on it the crowned head of a king. Elsewhere (1: 148) Jenkinson further substantiates the existence of this seal, saying that certain documents were transmitted to the Exeter Chest under the seal of “Sir Robert de Fuleham, for that the seal of the Exchequer of the Jews was stolen during the broils” (the “broils” were probably some civil commotion in which Jewish records were looted to prevent repayment of debt).

Thus it is apparent that an official seal validating Jewish documents was employed at some time rather than personal seals. Such an official seal was not a Jewish seal but was one used in connection with Jewish documents by Christian officials. This is relevant to a rather cryptic statement made by Cecil Roth (1951, p. 37): “It is known that the Jewish community of Northampton had its own seal; probably that of Oxford did as well.” A York Chest and an Exeter Chest have been referred to; Roth seems to say that there were others as well, such as for Northampton and and Oxford. Further evidence for such seals is indicated by V. D. Lipman. In a study of the Exchequer and the Archae, a royal order dated January 15, 1268, directed the prior of Norwich and the sheriff “to close and seal the archa, and to report the action taken.”

These comments would indicate that seals for the Jewish Exchequer, the equivalent of the royal seals employed for Jewish fiscal documents in France in the early thirteenth century after personal French seals were prohibited, were engraved separately for various locations. We know of such seals used at Paris, Pontoise, and Provins, the device being the same with variations in the legend to indicate the place involved. There are no documents extant in England sealed with these seals, probably for the same reason that they are so rare in France, namely, that the documents involving Jewish debt were destroyed either by mob action or official government policy.


*The chests, sometimes called arks or coffers (in Latin, archa, pl. archae) were the official repositories of the indentures of Jews, guarded from theft by an extraordinary system of keys.

*The chests, sometimes called arks or coffers (in Latin, archa, pl. archae) were the official repositories of the indentures of Jews, guarded from theft by an extraordinary system of keys.

with the impression of a crowned head like a king was found by Hamo Hauteyn in a scrutiny of the York Chest* made by him, placed upon a pyx, in which pyx was found a King’s writ . . . and suspicion touching the impression of that seal arose for that in some part of it it was conformed to the true seal of the head of the Exchequer of the Jews and in the greatest part not.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
52-53
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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