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Guilds and brotherhoods

Town corporations - guilds and religious brotherhoods - were also involved in loan administration. They were able to loan their members money from their resources. The existence of guilds and brotherhoods is documented in Bohemian towns from the first half of the 14th century. Written documentation kept by these corporations - mostly ledgers demonstrating guild management - would certainly be a suitable source but they have only been preserved very sporadically. Only several of these ledgers and their fragments from medieval Bohemia have survived, yet thousands of them must have existed (Pâtkovâ 2006). The archive documents of the guild of artists of Prague Old Town, including ledgers, are exceptionally well-preserved (Patkova 1996; Benatska 2011; Chytil 1906). The oldest artistic guild ledger contains records from 1348 to 1527, including accounts, but does not allow systematic monitoring of loans within the terms of the guild environment (Patkova 1996).

Accounting records were also kept by individuals in late medieval towns. The so-called merchant’s ledgers must be mentioned at this point. Only several fragments, the records of two merchants selling cloth and one selling spices dating from the 14th century, are known from Bohemia (Graus 1956), the recently identified specialised records of a Prague merchant (Musflek 2016) which means we cannot assume their extensive use. However, future findings of unknown material cannot be precluded. A ledger kept from 1455 (Tresti'k 1956) has survived in a neighbouring land - from the town of Eger. Of course not only merchants kept such records. References to a ‘register’ which individual burghers kept and in which they kept detailed records of their debts, receivables, and possibly other similar administration appear in various sources. Similar mentions can also be found in testaments, where these ‘registers’ are commonly referred to for detailed records of the testator’s property. Thousands of similar documents must have existed but practically nothing has survived. The merchant’s ledger of the Runtingers from the relatively close Bavarian town of Regensburg (Graus 1956, p. 644; Bastian 1935-1944) mentions the Bohemian territory only very marginally.

Other institutions active in the town

After this summary of sources concerning the town, its residents, and originating as a result of the activities of the lord of the town, the town itself, and its residents, we must also briefly mention the activities of other - essentially out-of-town - institutions, active in the town.

Town residents were naturally able to enter into financial relations with these institutions. Church institutions - monasteries, chapters and churches - are particularly important in this aspect. Sources regarding financial transactions between them and burghers may be stored in their archives. They may be in the form of the abovementioned papers or may be bound in a ledger. So-called expenditure ledgers are important in this field. These contained records of the management of churches (Zilynska 1998; Kurka 2010). Their survival is fairly random; the accounts of the Parish Church of Saint Nicholas in Prague Old Town from the 15th century have survived in Prague, with its great number of churches (Opatrny 1957); these ledgers have not been preserved in most towns. Surviving materials include ledgers from Kutna Hora, Usti nad Labem, Kaplice, and the ledger from Jici'n (Francek 1981), and also the ledger from Tabor from the beginning of the 16th century (Vandrovcova 2010).


This study was supported by the programme Progres Q07 implemented at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University.

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