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17-07-2015, 20:01

The Commenda Partnership Among Venetian Merchants

New institutions and business practices to raise capital for conducting long-distance trade facilitated the expansion of Mediterranean trade in the eleventh century. One new practice was the commenda, a form of partnership in which one partner provides investment capital and the other partner acts as business agent. Byzantine and Jewish merchants in the Mediterranean developed similar partnerships, but the precise model for the commenda was the Muslim qirad contract, which appeared in Islamic law codes by the eighth century. The following commenda contract drawn up in Venice is the earliest known example from Latin Christendom.

In the year. . . 1073, in the month of August. . . I, Giovanni Lissado of Luprio, together with my heirs, have received in partnership from you, Sevasto Orefice, son of Ser Trudimondo, and from your heirs, the amount of ?200 [Venetian]. And I myself have invested ?100 in it. And with this capital we have acquired two shares in the ship of which Gosmiro da Molino is captain. And I am under obligation to bring all of this with me on a commercial voyage to Thebes [in Greece] in the ship in which the aforesaid Molino sails as captain. Indeed, by this agreement and understanding of ours I promise to put to work this entire sum and to strive the best way I can. Then, if the capital is preserved, we are to divide whatever profit the Lord may grant us from it by exact halves, without fraud and evil device. And whatever I can gain with those goods from any source,

I am under obligation to invest all of it in the partnership. And if all these goods are lost because of the sea or of people [pirates], and this is proved—may this be averted — neither party ought to ask any of them from the other. If, however, some of them remain, in proportion as we invested so shall we share. Let this partnership exist between us so long as our wills are fully agreed.

But if I do not observe everything just as is stated above, I together with my heirs then promise to give and to return to you and your heirs everything in the double, both capital and profit, out of my land and my house or out of anything that I am known to have in this world. [signed by Lissado, two witnesses, the ship captain, and the clergyman who acted as notary]

Source: Robert S. Lopez and Irving W. Raymond, eds., Medieval Trade in the Mediterranean World: Illustrative Documents (Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press, 1955), 176-177.