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85. Seal of Jacob of Ful


Dimensions: not recorded. Impression.

Location: House, Court and State Archives, Vienna.

Bibliography: Avneri, 1968, No. 26.

A document dated November 8, 1338, is claimed by Zvi Avneri to be sealed by a Jew. The document does indeed deal with Jewish principals. Drawn up in German, the agreement begins: “I Seld, Jewess of Regensburg, and my husband Yitzhak and my son Jekel.” The woman Seld and her family are arriving at an agreement with the other Jews as to how much they should be taxed by the municipality. When the document comes to the matter of verifications, it states: “We in this letter sealed by Jacob of Ful [perhaps Fuler] hanging a seal.” The seal is reported to show, beside the name, a blurred image in a triangular shield.

Anna Coreth, former director of the Viennese archives, does not believe that Jacob’s seal is that of a Jew. Anna Benna, her successor, thinks that Jacob de Ful was not a principal involved in the document and that the denomination “de Ful” seems to indicate that the sealer was one of the local gentry. She cautiously adds that the question of Jacob de Ful’s Jewishness cannot be settled. The weight of evidence in this case seems to be negative. It would appear that Avneri combined the Jewish subject matter of the document with Jacob, the name of the sealer, and concluded that Jacob was Jewish. This is dubious reasoning. A name like Jacob was commonly used by Christians (and Moslems) in this period. There is nothing within the document or about the seal itself that supports the view Jacob was Jewish, and the proprietorial “de” suggests the contrary view.

This document is of interest because it again shows the economic power of Jewish women in the late medieval period. The wife, Seld, is the principal party, rather than her husband or son. We are familiar with this situation when the husband has died, leaving his wife an heiress, or when a widow remarries and retains her money. Remarriage of the widow might be a possibility here, with her son Jekel, whose interest she was protecting, being a product of the former marriage, but in this case it appears that Seld dominated her husband, possibly on the basis of money inherited from her father.

Dr. Benna is strongly of the opinion that this document comes from Radkersburg in Styria rather than Regensburg in Bavaria, reading the name of the city as “Ragcespurch.” Avneri agrees. The Gothic letters of these old documents are difficult to read, and their indifferent spelling does not help. However, this writer is retaining the document here in the Regensburg section (which, incidentally, is spelled “Regenspurch” in these old records, a spelling almost indistinguishable from “Ragcespurch”) because today Radkersburg is a town so small that it does not even appear in the large atlases which show areas with a population of less than a thousand, and without question its population was even smaller in the fourteenth century. It seems inconceivable that such a village could have supported a Jewish community of a size requiring documentary apportionment for tax collection. On the other hand, in 1338, the year of the document, a tax problem arose at Regensburg, and a compulsory assessment was placed on the Jews. Indeed, the first two documents from the Munich archives, discussed above, are witnesses to this tax assessment. The practical evidence therefore seems to point to the document sealed by Jacob of Ful as coming from Regensburg.

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