The Medieval Account Books of the Mercers of London: An Edition and Translation
By Lisa Jefferson
Ashgate Publishing, 2009
As the premier livery company, the Mercers Company in medieval England enjoyed a prominent role in London’s governance and exercised much influence over England’s overseas trade and political interests. This substantial two-volume set provides a comprehensive edition of the surviving Mercers’ accounts from 1347 to 1464, and opens a unique window into the day-to-day workings of one of England’s most powerful institutions at the height of its influence.
The accounts list income, derived from fees for apprentices and entry fees, from fines (whose cause is usually given, sometimes with many details), from gifts and bequests, from property rents, and from other sources, and then list expenditures: on salaries to priests and chaplains, to the beadle, the rent-collector, and to scribes and scriveners; on alms payments; on quit-rents due on their properties; on repairs to properties; and on a whole host of other costs, differing from year to year, and including court cases, special furnishings for the chapel or Hall, negotiations over trade with Burgundy, transport costs, funeral costs or those for attendance at state occasions, etc. Included also in some years are ordinances, deeds and other material of which they wanted to ensure a record was kept. Beginning with an early account for 1347-48, and the company’s ordinances of that year, the accounts preserved form an entire block from 1390 until 1464.
The material is arranged in facing-page format, with an accurate edition of the original text mirrored by a translation into modern English. A substantial introduction describes the manuscripts in full detail and explains the accounting system used by the Mercers and the financial vocabulary associated with it. Exhaustive name and subject indexes ensure that the material is easily accessible and this edition will become an essential tool for all studying the social, cultural or economic developments of late-medieval England.