Author Topic: Weights  (Read 592 times)

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Offline chrisild

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Weights
« on: May 04, 2019, 04:03:27 PM »
Currency history around here is awfully complicated. :) Pippin (Pepin) created a Pfennig/denarius based system in his empire: One pound (327 g) of silver was 240 d. Charlemagne then changed the pound weight to a little more than 400 g and introduced the "LSD" system. But in the 11c the Cologne Mark came, roughly half a pound. And that Mark later (early 16c) became an official coin weight in the Holy Roman Empire. Cologne also minted the Rheinische Gulden (florenus Rheni, gold coin) mostly in the 14c.

The HRE remained a wild mix of various countries and currencies for a long time. Cologne was annexed by France in 1797 - and thus the city went decimal and metric. In 1815 it was annexed by Prussia, and in 1822 the Prussians replaced the decimal money with their non-decimal currency. But in the mid-19c the Mark (about 234 grams) was replaced by the decimal Zollverein pound (500 g) as a coin weight ...

What does that "pass" mention on its UK page? In September 2017 the glorious FC Cologne (ahem, that was a quote) played against FC Arsenal in London. Incidentally I am currently reading Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch", in a new translation with a new introduction. But he still is an Arsenal fan ...

Christian

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2019, 08:09:46 AM »
Currency history around here is awfully complicated. :) Pippin (Pepin) created a Pfennig/denarius based system in his empire: One pound (327 g) of silver was 240 d. Charlemagne then changed the pound weight to a little more than 400 g and introduced the "LSD" system. But in the 11c the Cologne Mark came, roughly half a pound. And that Mark later (early 16c) became an official coin weight in the Holy Roman Empire.

The amusing thing here is that this farrago of half truths all arises from attempts to hide the Brexit of 790 AD. 

What clear evidence do you have that Pepin used a 327g pound, or struck 240 pennies to it?  Why would Charlemagne be introducing LSD - if Pepin already struck 240 pennies to a pound?

I do not think anything is clear until after the Brexit of around 790 – when all cross channel trade was blocked for 2 years.  Alcuin of York was involved in advising both Offa and Charlemagne, and it seems they both solved it by applying a seigniorage/tariff of 1/16th on bullion and probably other goods.  But they set incommensurable pounds.  That during 792-4.

Charlemagne used a pound of 16 Roman ounces (an Attic mina) of c. 437g.  Thus after seigniorage 240 of his pennies weighed 15 Roman ounces thus c. 1.7g

Offa used a pound of 12 Troy ounces.  Thus c. 374g  Thus after seigniorage 240 of his pennies weighed 11.25 Troy ounces (= 12 Tower ounces) thus c. 1.46g

Cologne seems to have been striking pennies to c. 1.46g as far back as at least the 10th century.  And its pound was the same as 16 tower ounces right down to the 19th century

That is a set of best guesses.  More factually, Henry II granted special privileges to Cologne merchants around 1170, so it seems possible that that is the root of Cologne using a version of London weight.  However, Cologne pennies seem to weight to sterling as far back Otto I  (936-73 AD), which argues for something more profound…..

But sheesh - for the purposes of 21st century politics - lets just stick to footie, to save confusion…... ;)

Rob T



Offline chrisild

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Re: Weights
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2019, 11:38:22 AM »
What clear evidence do you have that Pepin used a 327g pound, or struck 240 pennies to it?  Why would Charlemagne be introducing LSD - if Pepin already struck 240 pennies to a pound?

No idea what you would accept as "clear evidence"; Pepin/Pippin coinage was covered in the news here to some extent when the Bundesbank acquired his Trier denar (advertised as the first Pfennig :) ) in an auction ten years ago. Pepin apparently did not strike any solidus coins. You may also want to have a look here; the first one is an archived link, the second one takes you to a PDF file.

Institut für Geschichte: Münzreform Karls des Großen
https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/fr/article/viewFile/44797/38265

(Edited as this is now a separate topic)

Christian
« Last Edit: May 05, 2019, 07:13:33 PM by chrisild »

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2019, 01:04:29 PM »
or simply out of respect for the topic title maybe.

True…….but well……..I tried a few times to post on weight standards, but got near zich interest – whereas these seems to loads of interest in anti-Brexit jokes, even very weak ones

Afraid I did not see anything much in the way of useful evidence in your links – the longer one merely seemed to wish to prove

“Pippin's decision to coin has nothing to do with the Council of Ver on 11 July 755 and was at least a short time, if not a few years before this meeting.”

Which is hardly relevant or even all that interesting.

We know of two Early English Anglo Saxon shillings – the Mercian of 4 pence and the West Saxon of five pence.  Later on Offa for the first 12 pence shilling - would be my best guess, following people like Skinner.  The Viking ora meanwhile was 16 pence.  Pepin’s shilling?  I still have no idea

Rob T

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Weights
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2019, 03:05:40 PM »
I do not think anything is clear until after the Brexit of around 790 – when all cross channel trade was blocked for 2 years.  Alcuin of York was involved in advising both Offa and Charlemagne, and it seems they both solved it by applying a seigniorage/tariff of 1/16th on bullion and probably other goods.  But they set incommensurable pounds.  That during 792-4.

Charlemagne used a pound of 16 Roman ounces (an Attic mina) of c. 437g.  Thus after seigniorage 240 of his pennies weighed 15 Roman ounces thus c. 1.7g

Offa used a pound of 12 Troy ounces.  Thus c. 374g  Thus after seigniorage 240 of his pennies weighed 11.25 Troy ounces (= 12 Tower ounces) thus c. 1.46g

Cologne seems to have been striking pennies to c. 1.46g as far back as at least the 10th century.  And its pound was the same as 16 tower ounces right down to the 19th century

That is a set of best guesses.

And it's also EWC at his best. I find the above highly interesting. Can't add to it, but I enjoy it because it throws a different light on what you usually hear and the Alcuin of York remark is fascinating. I'd never heard of this type and here he is doing economic diplomacy some 12 centuries ago. There just was no need to package this little gem in snide remarks, complaints and acerbic comments. Remember we are here for fun and relaxation.

More factually, Henry II granted special privileges to Cologne merchants around 1170, so it seems possible that that is the root of Cologne using a version of London weight.  However, Cologne pennies seem to weight to sterling as far back Otto I  (936-73 AD), which argues for something more profound…..

How about politics? I have noticed a certain ... uhh ... independence in the bishops. They were very important players in medieval imperial politics, but, there's always competition and in their case, I guess it was Aachen, the city of the emperor, close by, looming large. Wouldn't a different weight standard be a good declaration of might plus a fine way to frustrate the Aacheners?

Can't say if it is relevant, but something akin to that happened much later, in the 100 years war. The rulers who supported the English king (e.g. the counts of Flanders, but also many small lords) issued sterling. This would drive the French king wild, as they were better quality than his own coins, so they were preferred even by his own subjects and allies. Or the other way around: when the Habsburgs found it impossible to hold on to their "Flemish inheritance", they issued large silver of inferior quality in the Southern Netherlands so they could at least invade the North that way. The point is, you can do politics with weight standards.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline chrisild

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Re: Weights
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2019, 07:35:44 PM »
The (arch)bishop was the only issuer of Cologne coins between the mid-11c (bishop Anno, 1056-75) and 1474. But keep in mind that since 1288 the bishop had only had limited rights in "his" city, and later had to reside outside (Brühl, Bonn). Starting in the 13th century, the city of Cologne already had a certain degree of influence on that coinage: The bishops had to provide of few samples to the city council. And yet the "episcopal Cologne denar" lost some value over the years.

So in 1474/75, as a consequence of the siege of Neuss, the city of Cologne did not only become a Free City but also got the right to issue its own coins. They started with Groschen and half Groschen coins; 1 Cologne Mark of silver (about 234 g) was used for 68 or 136 pieces (11/12 silver content). Later the city also issued Goldgulden, Weißpfennig (Albus), Heller and other coins, and (as from the 16c) silver taler pieces ...

Christian
« Last Edit: May 05, 2019, 08:15:58 PM by chrisild »

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2019, 09:21:02 AM »
How about politics?

The crucial point - and the crucial problem.

It seems to me kings (and Archbishops) would need to politically negotiate a lot of their income with the major trade guilds.  And what did the medieval trade guilds call themselves?  “Mysteries”.   (even today, its often interesting to look at who funds chairs in the study of economic history…...)

We know very little for certain prior to the late 13th century – and by then most of the fundamental decisions had been made. 

Getting to the key facts, as I see them.  There is no agreement about the etymology of the word sterling – the three suggestions I came across are

1)  Nobody knows

2)  Its from “East” and an English name for an old Germanic/Saxon weight standard

3)  Its from “East” and a European name for the Islamic standard (adopted by Offa, but widely known).

On the basis of the physical evidence the coins and weights it seems to me 3) is probably correct.

As I recall Spufford notes that Venice documents began to mention sterling even before the emergence of the Continental “esterlings” Peter mentioned.  Spuf. argued that the root to that was the big ransom paid for Richard the Lionheart which gave English pennies a lot of circulation as far away as Venice.  But I have seen no hoard evidence what so ever for that. 

I think Venice was actually talking about an Islamic “Kayl” money pound – 12 ounces of 10 dirhems of 2.92g.  Thus 350g.  Exactly the same as 12 ounces of 20 sterling pennies of 1.46g.  Note that the Cologne mark is exactly in line - with 8 ounces of 20 Cologne pennies also of 1.46g.  And Cologne 16oz retained that ounce standard down to 1800  (16oz of 10 dirhems of 2.92g = 467g – as Christian said).

English sterling got continental currency for a while because England more or less retained the full weight penny for longer than elsewhere.  But it was not for a lot longer.  Edward III debased in his halfpenny in 1335, then reduced the weight of the “sterling” penny in 1351.

As I see it there was most likely two coalitions in bankers at that time.  People in England, Cologne, Venice and elsewhere adopting a Baghdad/Egypt standard of international trade.  Contra Florence, Byzantium and Charlemagne all holding to versions of the old Roman standard. 

But ultimately, its all guess work. 

Rob T

PS  The Persian Shahi and the Indian rupee seem to be locked in a 5:2 relationship for several centuries, despite dynastic change.  Again – suggests to me deep political forces in play there that left almost no trace except the coins themselves.  Mysteries.






Offline Figleaf

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Re: Weights
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2019, 11:04:18 AM »
I'll try to react on your different points one by one. First, the origin of the word sterling.

In defence of your suggestion 3, in Dutch, East is oost. This can be combined with the suffix -ling to form oosterling, a person from Asia. I note a similar combination in Saxon, where (in the BBC series "The last Kingdom") the word arse (small, backward) is combined with -ling to form arseling (youngster). Compare shilling and farthing. However, why would a stressed first syllable be dropped?

I favour a suggestion 4: not East-ling but star-ling (Saxon: steorra), referring to the star on some early small silver coins.

Peter

« Last Edit: May 06, 2019, 11:24:03 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Weights
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2019, 11:19:38 AM »
I take your point on the guilds, though I would see the interested members as long distance merchants (irrespective of what they traded in), rather than guild members, e.g. artists, bakers and butchers would not be too interested, while bankers, wood and textile merchants would be.

The interest of the emerging merchant class would be a solid, stable and convertible currency and sufficient supply. The interest of the first and second estate would be taxation, or rather wringing as much income as possible out the money supply and financing special situations, like war. The interests of the two parties align in the area of market share (but are opposed in the area of fineness.)

I can see how different parties would want to choose a different weight standard for political reasons, as you describe. At the same time, I could see how the merchants would want to connect the different weight systems, preferably at the higher levels, to facilitate large payments and prevent re-melting, as you describe up-thread for the continental and English pounds.

This may also explain the constant standard of the shahi and rupee, of interest to rulers who had arguments to claim the other lands, as well of interest to the merchant class.

Peter

PS Don't worry about speculating here. It's fun and we don't pretend to be scientific and it may well provide new insight or at least food for thought.
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2019, 10:48:01 AM »
I'll try to react on your different points one by one. First, the origin of the word sterling…...
In defence of your suggestion 3, in Dutch, East is oost. This can be combined with the suffix -ling to form oosterling, a person from Asia…….I favour a suggestion 4: not East-ling but star-ling (Saxon: steorra), referring to the star on some early small silver coins.

Thanks.  In haste today, so I reply from memory.  I think the earliest form is “Esterlin”, and used in monastic documents from Normandy, around 1100 or so.  Will check that if needed.  Anyhow – I would expect roots from French or Scandinavian language – I do not think we have much idea about the speech of the Norman elite – but have only very hazy opinions myself on all this.

The suggestions about “star” and regarding the first syllable I think both come via OED from a paper by Grierson?  I have it somewhere and will try dig it out, maybe tomorrow.

It was never very clear to me what “star” coins were being discussed.  And I note also almost the entire (post-Viking) population of Yorkshire drops all its stressed first “H’s”.  And finally – everyone in Britain uses the word “gypsy” which I take to derive from “Egyptian” - which I would have thought has a stressed first syllable?

My real objection to the Grierson paper however is since c. 1730 (Hooper and Arbuthnot) it has been argued that the coins and weights point to an Islamic origin for sterling.  Around 1800 Ruding ignored that and postulated an Ancient Saxon origin for sterling.  But as I recall, Grieson just ignored all that evidence.  As I say, its a while since I read this so I will check.

Note that the Venetian grosso/matapan seems to weigh exactly 2:3 to the English/Cologne sterling.  I suspect that was because the original sterling was a pound, not a penny.  That merchants in all three places used the same pound

Rob T

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2019, 10:59:44 AM »
I take your point on the guilds, though I would see the interested members as long distance merchants (irrespective of what they traded in), rather than guild members, e.g. artists, bakers and butchers would not be too interested, while bankers, wood and textile merchants would be.

Again in haste.  I think these people are more linked than you allow for.  In England  we seem to see (developing over several centuries):

Pepperers guild =>  Grocers guild => Banking

also

Pepperers guild => Grocers Guild => East India Co.

That is to say, these guilds were hierarchical organisations and the guys at the top always had fingers in lots of pies.

And if you are willing to look before the Pepperers guild you seem to end up with the account of world trade from the Abbasid spy master, Ibn Khurdadhbah.  See pages 154 and 155 here

(PDF) Coin Weight & Historical Metrology | Robert Tye - Academia.edu

Rob T

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Weights
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2019, 12:32:53 PM »
Thanks.  In haste today, so I reply from memory.  I think the earliest form is “Esterlin”, and used in monastic documents from Normandy, around 1100 or so.  Will check that if needed.  Anyhow – I would expect roots from French or Scandinavian language – I do not think we have much idea about the speech of the Norman elite – but have only very hazy opinions myself on all this.

The suggestions about “star” and regarding the first syllable I think both come via OED from a paper by Grierson?  I have it somewhere and will try dig it out, maybe tomorrow.

It was never very clear to me what “star” coins were being discussed.  And I note also almost the entire (post-Viking) population of Yorkshire drops all its stressed first “H’s”.  And finally – everyone in Britain uses the word “gypsy” which I take to derive from “Egyptian” - which I would have thought has a stressed first syllable?


Grierson was opposed to the "star" hypothesis for more or less the reason you give - what star coins? Apparently there were some, but they were only issued for a few years in William I's reign and seem a rather weak basis for the theory. More info here.

He also hypothesises an origin from "ster", which he says means "strong" or "stout", and therefore analogous to "solidus" in the Latin-speaking lands. I'm not clear from the summary on Wikipedia in what language "ster" means those things or when, but it is undoubtedly the case that "stor(e)" means "large, great" in modern Scandinavian and is/was used to suggest greatness of deed as well as physical size. Alexander the Great is Alexander den Store in Swedish, and likewise the monarch known as Canute to the English is Knut den Store in Swedish.

Scandinavian influences on English at that period come from two sources. Most significant were the descendants of the Viking raiders and settlers in eastern England. These, however, were part of the conquered population in 1066 and probably did not have much chance to influence the language of government in the short to medium term. But as you point out, the Normans were themselves of Scandinavian origin and Norman French is tinged with a Scandinavian substrate. It would seem entirely possible that they adopted a word of Scandinavian origins and then "Frenchified" it (e.g. by adding the initial "e" on esterlin - compare école (earlier escole) with the Latin schola, English school, German Schule etc.).

As to "Egyptian", the stressed syllable is the second, so losing the first to give "gypsy" is entirely in keeping with common linguistic developments. Losing a stressed syllable, as we are presuming in the "easterling" hypothesis, seems much less likely. I would therefore tend to favour a hypothesis that doesn't involve "east" at all to one that presumed for various unspecified reasons that the word underwent a non-standard linguistic change.

Offline EWC

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Re: Weights
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2019, 04:22:28 PM »
the Normans were themselves of Scandinavian origin and Norman French is tinged with a Scandinavian substrate. It would seem entirely possible that they adopted a word of Scandinavian origins and then "Frenchified" it (e.g. by adding the initial "e" on esterlin - compare école (earlier escole) with the Latin schola, English school, German Schule etc.).

Yes - that is the sort of thing Grierson argues for.  He notes the one time use of "ster" meaning strong in the North of England, and then he goes on about Indo-Germanic roots citing for instance the German word “starr” (= stiff) and the English"stare" (look fixedly).  Oddly, unless I missed something, he does not seem to mention Scandinavia/Vikings.

I am still not completely happy with this.  There is clear evidence that people were already reading sterling as meaning “Eastern” as in "Easterling" as early as about 1270.  And the first usage in text (maybe 1079 or so) is “Sterilensis”, but it was perhaps used in the form "Esterlin" in Normandy already by 1085.  Presumably it was some kind of verbal slang term before its formal adoption by the Anglo-Normans? 

And lets face it, “strong silver” in Sweden had surely to mean Islamic silver coin in the 10th century – since there was literally tons of it there.  Looking at the metal supplies it would be kind of weird if 9th/10th century Swedes did not call pure (= strong) silver “eastern”

Anyhow.  My argument for the sterling weight standard coming from the East is based upon coins and weights – not etymology – I just find it odd that Grierson did not even consider that line of thought.

As to "Egyptian", the stressed syllable is the second, so losing the first to give "gypsy" is entirely in keeping with common linguistic developments. Losing a stressed syllable, as we are presuming in the "easterling" hypothesis, 

Puzzling.  Maybe we pronounce "Egyptian" differently?

Rob T

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Weights
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2019, 06:08:41 PM »
It's always possible that the modern word stems from two (or more) influences. Hypothetically, there could have been two words, each derived from different sources (in this case, "ster" and something involving "east") which after being bashed around by everyday use came to be pronounced similarly and mean similar things, and then combining when an official term became necessary, at which point it became more set in stone.

Sorry to bang on about the Egyptians, but I'm puzzled and curious. I pronounce the name of the country "EE-jipt" with the stress on the first syllable. But the adjective I pronounce "i-JIP-shun" with the stress on the second. I can't recall hearing any other pronunciation; I'd never considered it to be one of those words over which there is (IMO pointless) controversy, like, um, "controversy".

Offline chrisild

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Re: Weights
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2019, 10:08:33 PM »
But the adjective I pronounce "i-JIP-shun" with the stress on the second.

Guess that most do. Then again, if you listen to the four samples here, "enfield" (UK) sounds a little different. And of course the Bangles put the stress on the last syllable when it came to walking like one. ;D

Christian