Mercantile Letters

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This essay begins the collection’s consideration of letters, which form the second largest broad category of documentary Geniza materials. Although the epistolary form had many uses in the Islamic world of the period, the great majority of these letters are real single-sheet missives and bear physical evidence of having been sent from author to addressee. In this essay, I argue that mercantile letters form an identifiable subgenre within the broader corpus, identifiable by a combination of diplomatic, linguistic, and compositional norms that generally distinguish them from other kinds of correspondence. The most striking of these features are briefly discussed, followed by an edition and a translation of a sample letter. The sample letter is one of over three hundred sent to the same man, Nahray b Nissīm. His papers are both the largest extant archive of mercantile materials and the only mercantile corpus for which there is good evidence that it was kept as a part of a personal archive before finding its way to the Cairo Geniza.

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Correspondence to Jessica L. Goldberg.

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Goldberg, J.L. Mercantile Letters. JEW HIST 32, 397–410 (2019).

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  • Letters
  • Epistolography
  • Diplomatics
  • Merchants
  • Commerce