Money, Banking and Credit in Mediaeval Bruges - Italian Merchant Bankers, Lombards and Money Changers - A Study in the Origins of Banking
MONEY, BANKING AND CREDIT IN MEDIAEVAL BRUGES Italian Merchant-Bankers Lombards and Money-C hangers A Study in the Origins of Banking by RAYMOND DE ROOVER, Ph. D. Associate Professor of Economics Wells College THE MEDIAEVAL ACADEMY OF AMERICA CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS 1948 was dc possible by grants of funds to the from the Carnegie Corporation of New Yor and the Business History Foundation f Inc. COPYRIGHT BY THE MEDIAEVAL ACADEMY OF AMERICA 1948 PRINTED IN U. S. A. A MONSIEUR REMI A. PARMENTIER CONSERVATEUR DES ARCHIVES COMMUNALES DE BRUGES qui, pendant pres de vmgt ans, na cesse dc suwrc ct dencourager cc travail sur Vhistoire de la banque a Bruges Preface THIS book is the outcome of my finding a casual reference to the existence of several account books of mediaeval merchants in the Bruges Municipal Archives. For some time I had been interested in the history of accounting and I had delved in the archives of Antwerp, my native city. Antwerp is rich in business records of the sixteenth and later centuries but I had seen no earlier ac count books. Upon learning of their existence in Bruges I immediately wrote a letter of inquiry to the Curator of the Bruges Archives. The reply was courteous but not encouraging. Yes, there were some mediaeval account books in the Bruges Archives, but the script was nearly illegible and the interpretation of those documents, I was tactfully given to understand, would require the combined talents of a palaeographer, a bookkeeper, and a financier. At that time I knew some bookkeeping and I had worked in a bank, but I could qualify neither as a financier nor as a palaeographer. Nevertheless, undaunted by the difficulties, I made arrangements with theArchivist, Monsieur Remi A. Parmentier, to visit the Bruges Archives and to examine those mysterious and alluring account books. The first visit took place in May 1929. It was followed by many others because Monsieur Parmentier had not exaggerated the difficulties. Several of my short vacations I was then working in a business office were spent bending over the huge ledgers of Collard de Marke and Guillaume Ruyelle in the salle du public, where only the carillon interrupted from time to time the archival silence. As the years passed my acquaintance with Monsieur Parmentier grew into a warm and enduring friendship. Not only did he grant me unusual privileges and facilities for research but he introduced me to Professor Egide Strubbe and thus enabled me to publish the preliminary results of my investigation in the Annales de la Societe dEmulation de Bruges. My last visit to the Bruges Archives was in 1938. By that time I had completed my research and had conceived the general scheme of this book. Its completion was prevented for a long time by other duties and when it was finally completed publication was delayed by the War. During all these years Monsieur Parmentier never lost hope. It is only fitting that this book for which he has waited so long be dedicated to him. Before leaving Bruges, I must also thank Monsieur Albert Schouteet, the Assistant Archivist. He has helped me in many ways by answering repeated queries and by sending me transcripts of various documents. He was also generous enough to communicate to me the text of a hitherto unknown document, which he had discovered, and which established beyond doubt that Guillaume Ruyelle, one of the two money-changers whose accountbooks are preserved in Bruges, VII viii Preface actually failed in 1370. This bit of evidence, which confirmed my suspicions, was particularly welcome to me, and due credit should, therefore, be given to the finder. This work would have been impossible without the financial aid of the Belgian Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique which enabled me to spend a sum mer in Italy and to photograph a great many mediaeval business papers in the Datini Archives, Prato Tuscany...
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