JEWISH BANKERS IN ROME

Capitoli, & nova riforma delli Banchieri Hebrei di Roma.

[Rome, Antonio Blado, 1563.]

£2,750

FIRST EDITION. Folio. 2 unnumbered, unsigned leaves. Elegant Italic letter. Woodcut arms of Rome, Pope Pius IV and Cardinal Guido Ascanio Sforza to upper margin of first, decorated initials. Minimal mainly marginal spotting. A fine copy in modern wrappers.

A fine copy of this very scarce edict by Pope Pius IV (1559-65)—a remarkable ephemeral survival—regulating Jewish bankers in Rome. Copies of this document were distributed to be attached to the ‘banchi’ or inside the bankers’ stores, so that all Christians could read them carefully. On the one hand, Pius IV relaxed regulations in Rome, revoking some of the harsher provisions and imposing controls on rents charged to the Jews in the ghetto; on the other hand, unlike his predecessor, he enforced tougher financial regulations for the Jewish ‘banchi’ (Poliakov, ‘Jewish Bankers’, 181, 190). This edict forbad money-lending at an interest greater than 24 per cent instead of the customary 30, demanding interest on interest, reckoning as one month any shorter span than 30 days or selling what was pawned by Christians before the passing of 18 months. Jewish bankers should also ensure that any Christian borrowing money or pawning belongings signed a paper written ‘in the Italian vernacular’—as required of all documents in bankers’ books—specifying his name, address, the amount borrowed or pawned, and the time span for restitution, according to the practice of the Monte di Pietà. First established in Italian cities in the 1460s, the Monti di Pietà were the result of Franciscan preaching against Jewish money-lending and were meant to ‘put an end to the “iniquitous usury” of the Jews by replacing them in the small loans sector’, without interest, in order to assist the poorer population (Toaff, ‘Jews’, 239). The Monti notwithstanding, Jewish bankers continued to operate their business unofficially or through new agreements with the authorities, as well as thanks to the support of wealthier borrowers. This edict also provided regulations on ‘house-keeping’ including the regular cleaning of clothes, to avoid the presence of moth, and the compulsory keeping of cats to chase away mice, so as to prevent pest damage to pawned objects. A very fine copy of this very scarce document for Jewish and economic history in Italy.

No copies recorded in the US.

Fumagalli 305; USTC 852964; EDIT16 25104. Not in Kress or Goldsmith. L. Poliakov, Jewish Bankers and the Holy See (London, 1965); A. Toaff, ‘Jews, Franciscans, and the First Monti di Pietà in Italy (1462-1500), in The Friars and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. S.E. Myers et al. (Leiden, 2004), 239-54.

L3199

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