Source: Slave Sale Contracts from Genoa
These contracts for the sale of slaves come from the registers of several notaries working Genoa over the course of several centuries. Notaries were legal professionals paid to draw up legal documents of various kinds correctly. For each document that they created, they made a copy (often heavily abbreviated) in their registers as a reference in case of later disputes.
Documents 1-3 come from the twelfth-century register of Guglielmo Cassinese, one of the earliest surviving notarial registers from Genoa. Documents 1 and 2 are typical sales, but Document 2 shows how the more sophisticated aspects of Genoese financial and commercial practice affected slave ownership. In Document 2, ownership of two slaves was divided into twenty-one shares, grouped as three lots of seven shares each. This type of ownership structure was common for ships but unusual for slaves. The twenty-one shares were owned by sixteen different people as described in the document. Raimundus Baltigarius already owned two shares, but in this document he purchased the remaining nineteen shares to gain full ownership of the slaves.
Document 4 comes from the register of Bartolomeo Gatto, a prolific notary of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries from whom we have many surviving slave sales. This document, though phrased as a sale and using the legal formulas typical of a sale, is a rental in practical terms since it expires after three years. Document 5 comes from the register of Battista Crosa in the fifteenth century.
Document 1: Redulfus sells Allius and Adelle
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Published in Guglielmo Cassinese (1190-1192), ed. Margaret Hall, Hilmar Krueger, and Robert Reynolds (Genoa: R. deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria, 1938), 99, doc. 243. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
February 25, 1191
For Rubaldus de Modo.
Redulfus de Oniberto de Sagnes sells to Rubaldus de Modo two Saracens, Allius and Adelle, as slaves [servis] neither stolen nor snatched away, for a price of four libri of Genoese money, and he proclaims himself satisfied. And he confesses that he handed over possession with mastery, so that he shall do concerning the rest whatever he may wish in his own right. He promises to defend [the sale] from every other person, under penalty of double, in his goods. Witnesses Wido Bergognonus, Rubaldus Medicus de Cartagenia. Under the vault of the bakers, the fourth day from the end of February.
 Probably ʿAlī and ʿĀdil in Arabic.
 I.e. these slaves had not been stolen by the seller. They were his property and he had the right to sell them.
 A doctor from Cartagena in present-day Spain.
Document 2: Raimundus Baltigarius buys Iusta and Vereta
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Guglielmo Cassinese (1190-1192), ed. Margaret Hall, Hilmar Krueger, and Robert Reynolds (Genoa: R. deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria, 1938), 293-294, doc. 739. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
June 17, 1191
For Raimundus Baltigarius.
Martinus de Trex, Iohannes de Rivalta, Rubaldus brother of the archpresbyter, Donumdeus de Sori, Iohannes de Colonato, for a third of 21 shares; Vasallus de Sexto for 2 shares, Oliverius de Sexto, Calvus, Obertus Buzea, Vasallus Maxiritus de Sexto, Petrus de Vulturi for another third; Hugo de Prato, Obertus the jeweler, Albertus de Romano for 2 shares, Hugo de Prato for 2 shares, and Anfussus de Sexto for another third: they sell to Raimundus Baltigarius one Sard, Iusta by name, and her daughter Vereta, as slaves [ancillis] neither stolen nor snatched away, for a price of 7 libri minus 5 soldi, computing above it the two shares of the third in which Martinus is, for a reckoning of 21 shares, which Sards belonged to all communally as above. And they confess that they handed over possession and mastery to him, so that he shall do concerning the rest whatever he may wish in his own right. They promise to defend and authorize [the sale] from every other person, under penalty of double. Under the portico of the late heirs of Ugulinus de Volta, 17th day of June. Witnesses Iohannes Fenarolius, Belardus Fenarolius.
 A person from Sardinia.
Document 3: BonusSegnorus sells Marzucus
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Guglielmo Cassinese (1190-1192), edited by Margaret Hall, Hilmar Krueger, and Robert Reynolds (Genoa: R. deputazione di storia patria per la Liguria, 1938), 72, doc. 174. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
For Opizone de Clavari.
In the court of Gontardus on the same day [February 2, 1191]. Witnesses Wido Bergognonus, Martinus de Venderzo, Florentinus the retail seller. BonusSegnorus de Finar who lives in Noli sells to Opizone de Clavari one black male Saracen, Marzucus by name, as a slave [servo] neither stolen nor snatched away, for a price of 100 soldi of Genoese money, and and he proclaims himself satisfied. And he confesses that he handed over possession with mastery to him, so that he shall do concerning the rest whatever he may wish in his own right. He promises to defend and authorize [the sale] from every other person, under penalty of double. And he obligates all his goods to be pledged to him stipulating for double in eviction and for penalty and fate, just as he will be valued at the time.
 Finale, a small port west of Genoa.
 Chiavari, another small port east of Genoa.
 In case the act of sale was later declared invalid.
Document 4: Iohannes de Bozollo sells Margarita
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Genoa, Archivio di Stato di Genova, Notai Antichi, b.397, fol. 90v. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
April 18, 1376
In the name of God, amen. Iohannes de Bozollo, notary, citizen of Genoa, sells, gives, cedes, and hands over to Lodisius de Domoculta, candlemaker, citizen of Genoa, present and stipulating, a certain slave of the said Iohannes called Margarita of the race of the Tatars, about 25 years old, white, healthy and clean at present of any vices or flaws, hidden or manifest, until today, and which slave the said seller gives and consigns to the said buyer above as the said buyer confesses. To have, hold, possess, enjoy, use, sell, alienate, and for the said buyer above, both having and about to have her, to do whatever he pleases concerning the rest from this slave, concerning her, and for her, from now until the upcoming the three years. For the price and the finished price of 30 libri of Genoese money, which the said seller confesses to have had and received from the said buyer and concerning which he calls himself well content and paid by him.
Done in Genoa in front of the benches at the corner of the house of the late Antonio Cigno. 18th day of April, a little after vespers. Witnesses Antonio de Oliva [son of] the late Triacho, Iacobus de Trivixio baker in Fossarelo.
 Although this document appears to be a sale, the later clauses reveal it to be a rental.
Document 5: Angelus Imperiallis sells Anexia
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Genoa, Archivio di Stato di Genova, Notai Antichi 645, doc. 19. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
October 25, 1430
In the name of God, amen. Angelus Imperiallis son of the late Luca, citizen of Genoa, in every mode, right, way and form in which he is better able sells, cedes, hands over and sends to Benedict de Bargallio son of the late Dominicus, present and receiving in the name of and on behalf of Guirus his brother and allowed as security by myself, the notary written below, as receiver of the price paid in the name of and on behalf of the said absent Guirus, one slave of Angelus himself called Anexia of the race of the Circassians about 20 years old, healthy and clean of all flaws hidden and manifest according to the custom of the city of Genoa, and she was the slave of the late Teodora wife of Angelus himself, she sold and handed over and consigned her to Gurius himself on the 21st day of July in the present year, with broker Carolo Borli mediating. For a price and the finished price of 120 clean libri of Genoa, and the said Angelus thus that the said Gurius is held to pay all expenses made on the occasion of the said sale, concerning which the said Angelus confessed that he had and received from the said Benedict and Gurius 114 libr, 10 soldi, 4 denari and the rest will be paid by Cataneo de Vivaldis.
Done in Genoa, Thursday the 25th of October. Witnesses Iohanninus de Muzasana, butcher, and Lucha de Rapallo, citizen of Genoa, called and asked.
- Reread these contracts carefully. What is the function of each clause? Under what circumstances might each clause become a matter of dispute? What kinds of claims or lawsuits is each clause intended to prevent? Can you find any loopholes?
- Compare these contracts to each other. Which clauses appear in more or less the same form in every contract? Which clauses are unique to one contract?
- Which clauses do you think are distinctive to the sale of slaves? Which clauses would you expect to see in sale contracts for other kinds of commodities?
- What else do you want to know about these transactions that are not explained in the contracts? How might you find out?
Related Primary Sources
- Acts of Child Sale in the Black Sea
- A Deed of Sale of Yumn, a Young Slave Woman, in Third/Ninth-Century Egypt
- The Florentine Register of Slaves
- Little, Donald. “Six Fourteenth Century Purchase Deeds for Slaves from al-Ḥaram aš-Šarīf.” Zeitschrift der deutschen Morganländischen Gesellschaft 131 (1981): 297-337.
- Slave Labor and Free Service in Genoa
- A Slave Sale Contract from Venice