publisher colophon

129. Seal of Bonheym Son of Joseph

Dimensions: 12 mm. (of remnant). Impression.

Location: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York City, No. 0506.

Both of these seals, owned by brothers, hang from the same document and will be treated together. In late 1981 Roger Kohn, a scholar from Paris doing research in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America at New York City, uncovered a parchment document which he suspected might have Jewish seals affixed to it. The document, measuring 10.4 × 13 cm., was acquired in 1931 from J. Halle through Mortimer Schiff. Other than the names and dates, the old German was almost indecipherable. Diethard Aschoff of the Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum* of Münster was kind enough to translate the document into modern German and to condense it. The English rendering of his version reads as follows:

Quittance from Brysghe, March 25, 1347, sealed by Anselm and Bonheym, sons of Joseph. The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Doc. No. 0506.

The Jews Bonheym and Anselm of Brysghe, sons of Joseph, give a receipt in the presence of the arbiters of Hoyngen for the Junker Werner von Dadenberg, his wife Denkil, and the Junker Otten von Hoyngen, redeeming a debt taken over, with the knowledge of the brothers, from their father. The two Jews and the arbiters seal the document.

Given in the year 1347 after the birth of Christ, the next Friday after Saint Gertrude’s Day [that is, March 23].

Three parchment strips dangle from the document, as can be seen in the photograph here, to which the seals were attached. As is made clear in the wording, two of the three seals belonged to the Jews; the third was the seal used by the arbiters representing the Junkers. Only two seals remain. Judging from clipping on the parchment slip, one was deliberately removed. The misssing seal was that of the arbiters. During the last century seal-stealing has been common, and a German thief would be more likely to remove a fourteenth-century seal of a Junker, or one representing a Junker, than the seals of two obscure Jews.

The remnants of the other two seals both show a pentagram, the five-pointed star sometimes called the Seal of Solomon. As noted earlier, this symbol appears on other Jewish seals from the medieval period and is often seen in a Jewish context. The larger and better preserved seal, No. 128, still shows the beginning of the inscription. To the right along the rim where the inscription always appears, starting with a large dot (not the usual cross), which matches a similar dot in the center of the pentagram, can be read S’AllS. The Gothic N sometimes appears without a cross slash, so it seems evident that this is S ‘ANS[ELM], that is, the Seal of Anselm, one of the two Jewish sealers. Though the N in question does have a rounded form and thus might be read as an O, under high magnification the tops and bottoms of the two vertical lines do not meet; furthermore, under this same magnification the left part of an E seems to follow ANS, making it still more likely that this is the name ANSELM.

No. 129, which also shows a pentagram, has lost its entire rim and thus its inscription. The discoloration of the wax on the parchment slip indicates that the seal originally was larger, perhaps as large as that of Anselm. The matching device of the five-pointed star, or armes de famille, points to this being the seal of Bonheym, Bunheim in modern spelling, the brother of Anselm. It is tempting to identify this Bunheim with Bunheim Schaif, the most important financier in Cologne between 1375 and 1391. What supports this possibility is the fact that, according to Adolf Kober (1940, p. 362, n. 40), an Anselm of Lahnstein was associated in business matters with Schaif. This document is dated only one year before the outbreak of the Black Death, which led to the murder of most of the Jews of the Rhineland. In the 1370s and 1380s the survivors filtered back to their native towns or areas, which makes the Bunheim Schaif thesis a possibility. However, Schaif’s father was Ephraim, not Joseph, as stated in this document.

A curious feature of this quittance is that the amount of the debt is not stated. Normally, the discharge of a contract would not be legally valid if the amount of the debt between the debtor and lender were not specifically indicated, but apparently this was not the case here. In the helpless position of the Jews in this period of the Black Death, many such quittances represented forced liquidations of debt, barters of life and limb for money, rather than actual repayments of monies borrowed.


*Franz Delitzsche (1813–1890) was a pious Lutheran who mastered post-biblical Jewish writings to such an extent that he was called the “Christian Talmudist.” With a view to converting the Jews, he revived the missionary Institutum Judaicum, which has now become a German center of Judaic studies.

Brysghe and Hoyngen, now called Breisig and Hönningen, according to Aschoff, are some thirty kilometers south of Bonn on the Rhine.

*Franz Delitzsche (1813–1890) was a pious Lutheran who mastered post-biblical Jewish writings to such an extent that he was called the “Christian Talmudist.” With a view to converting the Jews, he revived the missionary Institutum Judaicum, which has now become a German center of Judaic studies.

Brysghe and Hoyngen, now called Breisig and Hönningen, according to Aschoff, are some thirty kilometers south of Bonn on the Rhine.

Both of these seals, owned by brothers, hang from the same document and will be treated together. In late 1981 Roger Kohn, a scholar from Paris doing research in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America at New York City, uncovered a parchment document which he suspected might have Jewish seals affixed to it. The document, measuring 10.4 × 13 cm., was acquired in 1931 from J. Halle through Mortimer Schiff. Other than the names and dates, the old German was almost indecipherable. Diethard Aschoff of the Institutum Judaicum Delitzschianum* of Münster was kind enough to translate the document into modern German and to condense it. The English rendering of his version reads as follows:

The Jews Bonheym and Anselm of Brysghe, sons of Joseph, give a receipt in the presence of the arbiters of Hoyngen for the Junker Werner von Dadenberg, his wife Denkil, and the Junker Otten von Hoyngen, redeeming a debt taken over, with the knowledge of the brothers, from their father. The two Jews and the arbiters seal the document.

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
245-246
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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