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Financial ledgers

In the broadest sense of the word these are ledgers used to administer the town’s finances. Several types of these ledgers can be distinguished. (Novy 1960; Beer 1915) Ledgers used during collection of various taxes and allowances, whether these were intended for the territorial lord or nobility, or whether these were for the needs of the town - tax ledgers and registers, etc. Debt matters only essentially appear here in limited numbers - this mainly concerned arrears of various allowances. A specific register of arrears dating from 1486-1487 survived in Kutnâ Hora and there were undoubtedly more similar written documents (Archiv rnesta Kutnâ Hora, ms. I D 4). Another large group of data is town quantities, usually recording income and expenditure chronologically according to the official terms of office of individual burgomasters. A ledger recording the debts of resigning town councillors owed to new town councillors has also exceptionally survived (Ceske Budejovice, 1390s; Archiv mesta Ceske Budejovice, ms. D 8). A list of townspeople owing the town for municipal real estate dating from 1511 to 1514 from Kutna Hora is also unique (Archiv mesta Kutna Hora, ms. I D 8). The financial ledgers of auxiliary municipal authorities recording specialised administration (trade in wine in Ceske Budejovice; the office of the Prague Bridge in Prague Old Town, etc.) have survived in some towns. Ledgers originating directly in relation to a loan that the town provided to the monarch and in which its residents participated are of greater significance. Such a ledger survived in Ceske Budejovice and dates from 1394 (Archiv mesta Ceske Budejovice). From the aspect of form, these ledgers or registers are very simple, they have the form of a notebook or file, are written on paper, and record the names of specific persons and the relevant amounts.

As for the group of municipal justice ledgers, four types in particular are of interest in relation to debt administration: ledgers for debts or books of obligations, which, as the name implies, are especially kept for this type of administration, ledgers of pledges and also market ledgers, and, finally, testament ledgers.

In regard to the first type, it must be mentioned that very few of these specialised ledgers have survived, we can chiefly mention several ledgers from Prague. Specialised ledgers were created at Prague Old Town in the 1370s at the latest. A justice ledger for minor debts from 1370 to 1371 has been preserved from this period (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 988). This is followed in order by a ledger of minor debts dating from 1400 to 1499 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 998) and a ledger of major debts from 1400 to 1483 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 997). The boundary between a major and minor debt was the amount of 10 stacks of 60 Prague grosses (about ledgers Kremlickova 1952).

Prague Old Town also has so-called registration ledgers where debt obligations form part of the administration. These have survived from 1471 to 1518 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 94), 1518 to 1535 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, 2098), and 1518 to 1538 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 99). The ledger of town rights, marriage contracts, and quittances from 1518 to 1552 comes from the very end of the monitored period (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 534), and quittances are recorded in a separate section of the ledger. Debt administration also appears in ledgers with mixed contents, the so-called white ledgers of registration, contracts, and other entries from 1452 to 1535 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 2141). The second Prague town, Prague New Town, has a similar series of ledgers for debts of less than ten stacks of 60 grosses from 1377 to 1417 (Archiv hlavm'ho mesta Prahy, ms. 2070,2073,2077,2078). These ledgers are essentially kept chronologically on the basis of the dates when the municipal court went into session. Such notably specialised ledgers do not appear in other Bohemian towns. They were probably not kept in smaller towns and they may have existed in larger towns but probably disappeared over time. This is evidenced by the fact that larger towns in Moravia (Brno, Olomouc, Znojmo) and in Eger have similar ledgers (Novy 1963, pp. 39-49, 128-34, 190-200, 69-81). Ledgers of pledges recorded notification of claims before the town court or council. A specialised ledger of pledges regarding debts from Kutna Hora from 1514 has survived (Archiv mesta Kutna Hora, ms. E b/10), and this category can also include some ledgers from the Prague towns - the ledger of contracts, pledges, and levies of Prague Old Town from 1518 to 1558 can also be classified with these fairly late ledgers (Archiv hlavniho mesta Prahy, ms. 2155), along with two ledgers from Prague New Town, these being - from the 16th century - the ledger of pledges, quittances, and town rights from 1518 to 1538 (Archiv hlavniho mesta Prahy, ms. 554), and, finally, the ledger of pledges from 1490 to 1518 (Archiv hlavniho mesta Prahy, ms. 2097).

The majority of the surviving books are therefore not specialised in this manner, records concerning debts are mixed among other administrative items. This is also the case of Prague Old Town, where a judicial ledger from 1351 has survived (Archiv hlavniho mesta Prahy, ms. 987); records concerning debts are mixed in among other entries of various content. The ledger is basically kept chronologically according to the sessions of the town court (Trikac 1996).

The aforementioned market ledgers are a very frequent type where one can often find entries about sale of the so-called permanent payments among entries about sale of real estate. Permanent payments were very common in Bohemian late medieval towns. This system was abolished during the Hussite Revolution period but, with regard to the fact that there was no substitute for it in economic life, it very quickly reappeared. Records in Prague market ledgers provided most of the information on this phenomenon for a basic study by B. Mendl (Mendl 1932) which is also important because some of the used ledgers were destroyed during the fighting in Prague in May 1945. A specific debt usually originated during sale of real estate; payment of the entire price at once was not a common occurrence in late medieval Bohemian towns. It was much more common to pay part of the price and gradually pay off the remainder at specified intervals. Records of payments can sometimes be found as additional entries next to the original entry. Payment of the entire amount and therefore settlement of the obligation is usually graphically expressed by crossing out the entry so that the original text remains visible. Commemorative ledgers which contain mixed entries of various content, which is related simply by the need to record this information in writing for future memory or books that can be called civil justice ledgers in modern terminology, are much less specialised. The abovementioned types of ledgers are generally widespread and have survived from even very small locations, for instance Host'ka in North Bohemia (Novy 1963, p. 68) or Kaplice in the southern part of the country (Novy 1963, p. 93).

With regard to testament ledgers as stated above, testaments have survived in some towns in the form of papers. However, most of them are preserved in the form of ledgers. The testament ledgers themselves have survived quite inconsistently, testaments are sometimes also mixed in among other entries of a different nature. When working with a testament one must remember that most deceased people did not create a testament; this usually originated in relation to more complicated inheritance or property relations which meant that written records of acquisition were necessary. Testaments are a very generous source from the aspect of research of debt administration. They record the receivables and debts of the deceased, and also record the method these were handled in. Receivables were specifically the subject of bequests and donation, whether to specific people or church institutions, however, these did not receive cash and the question is to what degree they were able to utilise these receivables. A very common type, though a fairly complicated from the research aspect, is ledgers identified as commemorative ledgers (liber memorabilium, memorialist These are very common particularly in smaller towns where the administration of town authorities was not very extensive and so specialised ledgers were not created like they were in bigger towns. These ledgers have a mixed content and they can contain various entries which needed to be recorded in writing for more permanent preservation. In these, debt administration is mixed among other types of records and there are often long intervals between entries, especially in the ledgers of small towns, which complicates evaluation of the evidential value of these ledgers and the comprehensiveness of the entries. An example of such a book is the commemorative ledger of the town of Celâkovice in Central Bohemia, with records from 1366-1557 kept chronologically according to the session of the town court (Archiv mësta Celâkovice, 12).

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