Rent book recording annual payments
for land rental made by farmers in Malaga between 1612 and 1616
Handing over: Esther Cruces, Carolyn Garmendias,
Mary Wright and Martinez Corrcher, from the Cultural Office of
the Spanish Embassy
One of the few records of how private farmers
worked in the XVII Century in Spain
Amnesty International Book Shop
139b King Street
020 8746 3172
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accumulate stuff in their lofts and storage rooms; sometimes things
left by their parents, grandparents or who knows whose family's
past generations. Then there is that cleaning day when everything
goes to a charity shop. The last season clothes, old house ware,
maybe that peace of furniture forgotten in some corner of the house…
All useless stuff, one might think. But among those "meaningless"
books left at the Amnesty International Book Shop in Hammersmith
not so long ago, there was a 17th Century Spanish manuscript.
"It is an important peace of our history", said Esther
Cruces, director of the Malaga Historical Archive, who came from
Spain last Friday specially to receive the book from Mary Wright,
AI Book Shop co-ordinator. It is much more than a 400 year-old handwritten
book, according to Mrs Cruces.
By the end of the XV Century, the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel and
Fernando, completed the Christian Reconquest by taking Granada from
the last Muslim domain in Spain. After that, Muslims and Jews were
expelled and life in South of Spain went through several changes.
The book found is a record of how private properties and farmers
worked in South of Spain after the Reconquest (718-1492). The Malaga
Historical Archive itself holds only a few of its kind and this
manuscript will now help on the research about that moment of transition
in the Spanish history.
No wonder why volunteers at the AI Shop found the book unusual when
they saw it: a rent book recording annual payments for land rental
made by farmers in Malaga to an unknown landlord between 1612 and
1616; 150 pages long, bound in parchment with leather hinges and
in a very good condition. Carolyn Garmendias, a Spanish archivist,
was called in to check it out.
Mrs Garmendias was impressed with its content. For example, payments
were made not in cash, but in "fanegas" of wheat (and
believe it or not, this type of measurement still survives in parts
of Spain). Most payments were between 7 to 20 fanegas, but the highest
is 45, which must have been for a very substantial farmland. One
farmer also paid rental for an ox to pull his plough.
It was time for this antiquarian rarity made a virtual travel through
an archivist forum on the Internet and within days the Malaga Historical
Archive claimed ownership. Back in real time, Mrs Wright keeps wondering
who left the manuscript at the AI Book Shop and would like to hear
from him or her, although no compensation is been offered, not even
in fanegas of wheat.