publisher colophon

87. Seal of Nachman Son of Jacob

*[——] [——]Yaakob, Zayin-Lamed

[Nachman Son of] Jacob, May His Memory Be for a Blessing

Dimensions: 33 mm. Impression.

Location: Bavarian Main State Archives, Munich, Regensburg City Doc. 567.

Bibliography: Monumenta Boica, 1912, No. 799.

The left side of this rather large seal, where the Hebrew inscription recites the name of the seal owner, is destroyed, but the document in German tells us the name. The beginning of the inscription is indicated by a six-pointed star. The remaining Hebrew begins at the name of the father, followed by the contraction indicating that he is dead. A large shield fills the center of the field. On it appears a five-pointed star formed by interwoven lines. A pattern of small crescent moons and six-pointed stars fits into the corners created by the large central star; overhead there seems to be a winged hat. This hat, however, is not the Jew’s hat seen on so many Jewish medieval seals. The background of the field, between the outer edge of the shield and the inner heavy beaded line of the inscription, is composed of what appears to be fabric, a bit like similar seals from Überlingen, not far away on the Swiss-German border.

Loan agreement from Erding, January 6, 1338, sealed by Aferlein son of Nachman. Bavarian Main State Archives at Munich, Landshut-Seligenthal, Doc. 146.

Residence affirmation from Regensburg, January 21, 1338, sealed by Nachman son of Jacob (reduced in size). Bavarian Main State Archives at Munich, Regensburg City Doc. 567.

Reverse of aes grave (heavy bronze Latin coin), Italy, ca. 270 B.C.

Ornament at synagogue of Capernaum, Galilee, ca. late 2d century A.D.

The German document illustrated here, begins “I Nachman,” and the formal declaration states, “Sealed with my seal.” The date is January 21, 1338.* By mistake the seal is catalogued at Munich as that of the Jewish community rather than belonging to Nachman personally. The substance of the document is short but signficant. The Jew Nachman promises to become a citizen (Bürger) in Regensburg before Whitsuntide and to bring to an end his differences with the other local Jews. Here we see that by the fourteenth century the Jew in some urban centers was no longer regarded as a chattel but had legally been accepted as a citizen, though with certain restrictions (he could not vote or hold elective office, and his time of residence was limited). In fact, this document indicates that the city fathers were pressing Nachman to become a citizen and that he was reluctant to do so, as he had not yet settled the amount of his municipal assessment with his fellow Jews.

As noted before, the stars of five or six points were not exclusively considered either religious or symbols of specific religions at this point in time despite the more common use of the hexagon by Jews. Illustrated here is a similar large five-pointed star, with the same interwoven pattern, on a coin from central Italy of the third century B.C., and another on a wall at the famous synagogue at Capernaum in Galilee, which dates from the late second century.

*Apparently Nachman signed but did not seal another document this same day (Wiener, Regesten, No. 132).

*Apparently Nachman signed but did not seal another document this same day (Wiener, Regesten, No. 132).

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