Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1478 German Indenture

1478 German Indenture
Of course I love medieval manuscripts, and I am always happy to find a new one I can buy. This week, the mailman brought me this little gem (only about 9" long, on the longer dimension). It's a small German charter, dated 1478, and this one can legitimately be called an indenture.

The jagged cuts or 'teeth' at the top of this little charter, of course, are what gives the word 'indenture' its basic meaning, and while many, many indentures never had the jagged teeth (theoretically designed to allow one indenture to be mated up to the matching copy cut from the same sheet), as this example shows, they could have them at least late into the fifteenth century. 

The language on this example is German (except for the final dating clause "anno Milessimo quadragentesimo septuagesimo octavo") and it seems to take the form of a list of some sort, though my medieval German isn't any better than my Modern German, which I usually describe as "rudimentary." Even so, it appears that it may relate to some rights or access to the woods and water around Habkirchen (here showing up as "Haupkirchen") on the Mandelbach waterway. 

I am not always perfectly certain about what sort of animal any particular piece of vellum comes from: I suspect this piece may be on pig-skin: certainly the hair side is as brown and pebbly in feel as any piece of vellum I've ever handled. It's also a nice example for showing two contemporary scripts, plus the later German script on the reverse side:

Of course, one of the reasons I love charters, legal documents, and indentures is that they were always single sheets, rarely part of larger books or codices, and there is far less to worry about in regard to the destruction of old books. A charter is usually complete in itself, and always interesting.

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