publisher colophon

MINDEN, LOWER SAXONY

141. Seal of Jesse

[at the left]

[    ] Ben Hay-Het-Resh[    ]Nun-Ayin

[    ] Son of the Sage Master[    ], May His Soul Rest in Eden

[at the right]

S. IESSE.

Seal of Jesse

Dimensions: approximately 34 mm. Impression.

Location: City Archives of Minden, A I No. 201.

Bibliography: Ilgen, 1900, Pl. 260, No. 27.

The seal of Jesse, called Yesse in the German records, has letters so rubbed by time that one must guess at them. It is attached to a document dated February 26, 1403, and illustrated here, from Minden, a small city near Hanover in northwest Germany. The substance of the document is that the Jew Yesse confirms that he and his heirs owe Henken Porzen fifty Rhine gulden. Of itself this is an unusual document, since it is an acknowledgment of a Jewish debt to a Christian rather than vice versa.

The seal appended is unusually large, and it is apparent that there are Hebrew letters to the left, while the name in Roman letters is to the right, both circling around, in a standard manner, between solid lines. Because the document begins, “Ich yesse ye yode,” or “I Yesse the Jew,” one may guess at the Roman letters of the seal. The Hebrew is badly mangled, the seal owner’s first name, as well as that of his father, being completely lost. The last contraction, of course, refers to the fact that Jesse’s father was dead.

Much more interesting is the extraordinary device clearly shown on the seal, a crown on a shield. One would be hard put to find a grouping more alien to medieval Jewish seals. The portrayal of a crown appears nowhere else on any Jewish seal from this period,* and it is difficult to understand how a Jew could have publicly employed such a symbol, which was considered a prerogative of royal authority. The writer has inquired of various archival directors in Germany regarding this matter, with no satisfactory response. Jesse, of course, was the name of the father of King David and symbolized the royal family of Judah, hence the possible meaning of the crown. European coinage of course is studded with this representation (see the fourteenth-century Provençal coin reproduced here), and the taler (the model of our silver dollar), which became a standard coin a little more than a century later, shows a crown and shield—though the crown is almost always above rather than on the shield.

No. 141, seal of Jesse (Tesse), attached to debt acknowledgment from Minden, February 26, 1403 (reduced in size).

Obverse of sol issued at Provence by Louis d’Anjou, 1382–84.

The document to which the seal is appended is located at Minden, but there is nothing in the wording to indicate that Yesse came from Minden, and we can be sure he did not, since the Jews were expelled from Minden in 1350 at the end of the Black Plague and were not permitted to resettle in the city until the sixteenth century.


*Heraldic regulation in England was stricter than on the continent, and the use of a coronet in Germany often indicated little beyond noble birth. In fact, the mauerkrone (mural crown) was often used by towns to adorn their arms.

*Heraldic regulation in England was stricter than on the continent, and the use of a coronet in Germany often indicated little beyond noble birth. In fact, the mauerkrone (mural crown) was often used by towns to adorn their arms.

Much more interesting is the extraordinary device clearly shown on the seal, a crown on a shield. One would be hard put to find a grouping more alien to medieval Jewish seals. The portrayal of a crown appears nowhere else on any Jewish seal from this period,* and it is difficult to understand how a Jew could have publicly employed such a symbol, which was considered a prerogative of royal authority. The writer has inquired of various archival directors in Germany regarding this matter, with no satisfactory response. Jesse, of course, was the name of the father of King David and symbolized the royal family of Judah, hence the possible meaning of the crown. European coinage of course is studded with this representation (see the fourteenth-century Provençal coin reproduced here), and the taler (the model of our silver dollar), which became a standard coin a little more than a century later, shows a crown and shield—though the crown is almost always above rather than on the shield.

Additional Information

ISBN
9780814344859
MARC Record
OCLC
1055142843
Pages
264-265
Launched on MUSE
2018-10-02
Open Access
Yes
Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC-SA
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