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Charters

A very broad range of various legal actions was recorded in writing in the form of charters, from the 13th century to the end of the Middle Ages. While charters are the only type of written document surviving from the

13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries, they exist in parallel to other sources in the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly official ledgers. However, their present is very inconsistent in the town environment, only a fragment of the original number has evidently survived. With regard to the fact that in most cases this concerned acquisitions between individuals, private persons - residents of the town, the probability of survival of such documents is less than of documents intended for the town as a whole. With regard to preserved lOUs and quittances, most of these are simple. Paper was quickly established as a writing material and printed seals appear alongside appended seals. The form of deed does not contain any decorative formulations as for example the IOU from Jan of Bezdedice for the town of Domazlice dated 1420 (Monasterium).

These deeds could be issued by individuals - debtors, possibly along with their guarantors, and also very frequently by the town council, even if this concerned a loan to the town or if this was affair of an individual burgher (compare the debt of Klatovy burgher Jan owed to the monk of local Dominican monastery dated 1411) (Monasterium).

A fairly common way to obtain a loan in late medieval towns in Bohemia was sale of so-called permanent payments. These payments, usually linked to real property and most often a house, were sold most commonly for ten times their annual value. They were irrevocable. Sometimes they were restricted to a lifetime, but very often they were truly permanent, unlimited. Documents in the form of deeds have also been preserved regarding these business transactions and were often issued by the town council under the town seal, even though this concerned a transaction between two individuals (e.g. Kutna Hora burgheress Merl Schikactmertlin and burgher Ondfej Polner from 1398 (Monasterium). Survival of such documents is quite random, more of them are known from Ceske Budejovice (Simecek 1959), Vodnany (Simecek 1960), and Kutna Hora.

The list of documents must also include testaments. Most - if they survived - have been preserved in testament ledgers in Bohemian towns; however, they also existed in the form of papers. Most of the surviving paper testaments were from Ceske Budejovice and Sobeslav (Hradilova 1992), which did not have testament ledgers. They have a very simple form in both towns - they are written on paper, the seal is additionally printed as usual, the script is more common, and the text does not contain decorative formulations. However, testaments issued under appended seals are also known from late medieval Bohemia. The testament informs, in more or less detail, of the debts and receivables of a deceased person. Written records of wills were not binding in late Bohemian medieval towns, this probably occurred more in cases of complicated inheritance or more complicated division of property by the testator (Testaments 2006). Comprehensiveness cannot therefore be assumed in relation to this matter. On the other hand, testaments often record information about places for which there are no other sources (e.g. surrounding towns where similar written documents did not survive but where the testator had business contacts), and also about rural inhabitants, whose appearance in sources is otherwise sporadic. Deeds from towns and burghers are recorded, with more or less comprehensiveness, in summarising editions of documents (Codex diplomaticus et epistolaris regni Bohemiae 1904; Regesta diplomatica necnon epistolaria Bohemiae et Moraviae 1855; Regesta Bohemiae et Moraviae aetatis Venceslai IV, 1967), municipal chartularies were issued for some more important towns such as in Zatec, Ceske Budejovice, Üsti nad Labem, Krupka, Cesky Krumlov, Plzen, and Most (Schlesinger 1892; Köpl 1901; Hieke-Horcicka 1896; Müller 1929; Schmid-Picha 1908, 1910; Strnad 1891, 1905; Schlesinger 1876). Specialised editions also made the town privileges of Bohemian towns available (Codex iuris municipalis, 1886-1961).

Town ledgers

Official ledgers kept for the needs of the town and its residents - that is town ledgers are more substantial sources from the aspect of preserved data. These have been preserved in Bohemia from a fairly late date - from 1310, whereas only five of them from the period up to 1350 (Pätkovä 2016b) have survived. The number of surviving ledgers increased to 51 from the period between 1350 and 1400, and 232 volumes dating up to 1500 have survived (according to Novy 1963, passim). The analogical type of written document was commonly widespread in surrounding German lands, where traces of their existence appear at the end of the 12th century (Köln am Rhine), they appear in other towns by the end of the 13th century, and also survive from towns belonging to the lands of the Bohemian crown earlier than in Bohemia itself (Görlitz, Wroclaw) (for information regarding the situation in Germany see the project of records of town ledgers Index libr-orum civitatum). Nevertheless, town ledgers became widespread in Bohemia and became a very important source for the modern historian. However, their survival is random as a result of fires in Middle Ages such as the fire of the town hall in Prague Old Town in 1399 resulted in only four ledgers from the 14th century surviving in Prague Old Town or fires of the royal towns of Domazlice and Cäslav caused that nearly the entire medieval archives were lost. Also subsequent and modern losses as well as disasters such as destruction of part of the archive of the town of Prague in May 1945, and the tendency to throw away ‘old and unneeded’ papers, particularly at the end of the 18th and sometimes even in the 19th century, had a destructive impact and was something that affected the archives of the royal towns such as Hradec Krälove (Vojtiskovä & Sebesta 2013) or Zatec, the best-preserved type of sources of town provenience.

During the 14th and 15th centuries, these ledgers developed into fairly diverse materials. Modern Czech diplomatic therefore created several classification systems according to which these ledgers are classified into several groups depending on their content or the town body that kept them (Novy 1963, pp. 21-7; Pâtkovâ 2016a, pp. 135-6, comment 225; Carek & Luzek 1968). From the aspect of keeping ledgers, this concerns the fact that judicial ledgers, kept by the municipal court, and council ledgers, kept by the town council, can be distinguished in Czech towns. Both these groups can overlap from the aspect of content, it depended on the competence of the court of law and the council in the specific town and the specific period.

Classification by content is fundamental for research of financial obligations, debts, and loans. The most commonly classified groups are: I. Town administration ledgers in the narrower sense of the word - this includes ledgers of privileges and statutes (libri privilegiorum et statutorum)-, various office ledgers - forms, copy ledgers (formularium, liber copiarum), etc., and also a large group of financial ledgers, kept for administration of the town’s economic management. II. Town judicial ledgers - these contain disputable and indisputable civil matters, criminal justice matters. III. Ledgers for the transmitted public competence of the town - orphan ledgers (libri orphanorum), hospital ledgers, and church expense ledgers.

If we proceed in order along the individual groups, we must state that the ledgers of statutes and privileges did not contain much data. These are essentially cases when a provision concerned matters of debts. Several provisions from the 14th century concerning debts and lien were published on the basis of the town ledgers of the Old Town (Archiv hlavm'ho rnesta Prahy, ms. 986; ms. 993) and other sources by Emil Franz Rössler in the 1840s (Rössler 1845, passim, and pp. LXIII-LXIV). This group of ledgers is similar to legal ledgers, of the towns we can mention the legal ledger of Kamenice nad Lipou, a smaller subject town in South Bohemia established in the 1460s (Krcilovâ, Martmek & Martinkova 2004). With regard to the specific homogeneity of town law, these provisions are usually of a similar content. With regard to the separate chapter devoted to the legal framework of the debt administration, there is no need to pursue this matter further.

 
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