Diamonds and Coral: Anglo-Dutch Jews and Eighteenth-Century Trade

By Gedalia Yogev | Go to book overview

Chapter 10

The firm and its business

During the closing years of the eighteenth century there was tried before the Court of Chancery in London a case concerning the estate of Israel Levin Salomons, known among Jews as Yehiel Prager. 1 In the course of the trial many thousands of documents were submitted to the Court: a considerable part of the archives of the firm of Israel Levin Salomons and successors, consisting of documents written in Yiddish, English, Dutch, French, Italian, and Hebrew, were handed into the safeguarding of the Court. There they remained until they were transferred to the Public Record Office, where they are kept in 18 boxes, many of them still bound together in the original bundles arranged by Yehiel Prager and members of his family between 1760 and 1800. The letters are sorted according to years, language and place of origin and marked in the handwriting of Yehiel Prager or Leib Prager. There are separate bundles for letters written in Yiddish and those written in other languages, and again for letters received from England and for correspondence with foreign countries.

Of special interest is the internal correspondence of the firm, about 1,300 Yiddish letters sent by the Amsterdam branch to the house in London. The firm was a partnership between Jacob and David Prager of Amsterdam and their younger brother Yehiel in London, dealing mainly in the export of colonial goods from England to Holland — one of the most important links in the international trade of that time. Their joint business was conducted by means of this correspondence. The majority of the Amsterdam letters were written by Jacob Prager, up to his death in 1787. Thereafter the Amsterdam letters were written first by David Prager — up to 1793 — and from 1793 to 1795 by David's son Isaac. A letter was sent regularly twice a week — on Tuesdays and Fridays - but if a Jewish holiday occurred on one of these days, the letter was written on the preceding day. Letters were written on the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays only when necessary, and by a gentile clerk. 2 The day of the week was always given at the head of the letter, as well as the Hebrew and the Gregorian

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