Letter: BL OR 5566D.6

Letter BL OR 5566D.6


Input date

In PGP since 2017


Letter from Nahray b. ʿAllān in ʿAydhāb to his son ʿAllān b. Nahray in Alexandria concerning shipments. Based on a letter from another India trader (ENA 4020.8) and the fact that the date on the letter is for the 8th of Sivan, the letter was probably written on May 16, 1141 CE. Nahray is frequently mentioned as a contemporary and associate of Maḍmūn, the merchant representative in Aden, and Abū Zikrī Kohen, the equivalent in Fusṭāṭ. Nahray writes that he is traveling with both Muslim and Jewish on the boat of al-Dībājī ("the brocade dealer"). In ʿAydhāb , the merchants sold part of their goods and otherwise traded them for products from eastern markets. He describes that they were nearing the time when they needed to set sail, and so the merchants broke up into two groups to cover more ground, with the Muslim traders making purchases at the pepper and brazilwood bazaars and the Jewish traders at the lac bazaar and otherwise selling off some of their goods for cash. Nahray purchased 330 pounds of lac (resin from the lac insect used in varnish, wax, and red dye), paid two dinars needed to arrange packing, canvas, and ropes, and made a few other purchases, including a sari that was to be a gift; all of this ultimately left him without cash for further shipments. Additionally, he paid Abu ʾl-Faḍl b. Abu ʾl-Faraj al-Dimyātī ("from the Egyptian seaport of Damietta") a dinar for expenses for the lac. al-Dimyātī was to deliver the lac, a copy of the account, and the distribution list to Abū Zikrī Yehuda, the Kohen, who will sell the shipment and distribute his portion to his partners before delivering the remaining balance and the account to ʿAllān. Nahray also mentions that Yaḥyā b. Sar Shalom ("Prince of Peace") was carrying a second shipment consisting of two bales of brazilwood weighing two bahārs (equivalent to 600 pounds) and 70 pounds, two bales of cowrie shells measuring one mudd (likely the Jerusalem mudd or similar, which was equivalent to 100 liters), five manā (equivalent to about two pounds) of ashbāh wood, and half a manā of old camphor. There were also ten Qaṣṣī robes that would be sold to cover customs dues and other related expenses. Yaḥyā was to write an account, deduct customs and other expenses, and then to sell as much as seemed appropriate, but then inform ʿAllān , who was to instruct as to whether they would sell the entire shipment or only part of it; he mentions, for example, that they might sell the cowrie shells in Spain. Nahray sends regards to ʿAllān, his grandsons, his own wife, ʿAllān's wife, his brother, and his nephews, and urges ʿAllān to take care of the family. He tellsʿAllān to hold onto letters that he had left behind, as they contained accounts. Nahray concludes by saying that he didn't expect the voyage to produce much profit; he ultimately sent 100 dinars to Maḍmūn with the hopes that it might more successfully return gains. He instructs ʿAllān to set aside 15 dinars for when he returns, and then to take a tenth of profit from the above shipments and use it to make further profits. (Information partially from Goitein's index card and partially from Goitein's Letters of Medieval Jewish Traders)