Reader Scott Matthias recently got in touch having bought a document signed by Samuel Pepys. It appears to be the “bill of exchange” mentioned by Pepys in his entry for 31 July 1667:

At noon dined at home, and then to the office, where busy again till the evening, when Major Halsey and Kinaston to adjust matters about Mrs. Rumbald’s bill of exchange…

Scott was kind enough to let us reproduce the document here (click/tap the image for a larger version):

Scott’s best guess at interpreting the handwriting is:

Registered according to the last wishis mouroned the eighth day of July 1667 and to be paid in sourse noet after £20600 th
RobLong

July 31 1667
I doe hereby assign and transfer all my right Title & interest in this Order unto Mrs Mary Rumbald the ministratrix to Wm Rumbald Esq Deceased.
Registered
SPepys

If you have any better guesses as to some of the ambiguous words, do post in the comments!


3 Comments

Kate  •  Link

Registred according to the Act within menc[i]oned the xiiith day of July 1667 And to be paid in course next after 520 600 li

Rob Long

July 31 1667
I doe hereby assigne & transferr all my right Title & interest in this Order unto Mrs Mary Rumbald Administratrix to Wm Rumbald Esqr Deceased.

Registred
S Pepys.

xiiith = 13th
li = £

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Interesting information about the early international trade finance system, in which Bills of Exchange were essential, is in an AEON article about anti-semitism:
https://aeon.co/essays/what-is-the-link-between-m…

Many of the bankers were Jewish, but they were only recently allowed to live in London, and they were asking to live other places to get away from Spain and the Inquisition. Troubled times!

Bills of Exchange are, of course, paper. And this paper way of settling accounts existed centuries before banks, bankers, and paper money.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Wikipedia on the history of Bills of Exchange:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negotiable_instrume…

A bill of exchange is essentially an order made by one person to another to pay money to a third person.

When you pay your rent by check, the third party is your bank. This is a non-negotiable check, unless your landlord assigns your check over to the gas company, in which case your check is being treated as a negotiable instrument in paying your landlord's debt. Your payment will go from your bank to the gas company.

Negotiable documents are mostly used today in international trade, using Letters of Credit. They can be written many ways: the importer may not be the payer, the exporter may not be the payee, and everyone involved may be in different countries.
Before the internet, credit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin, negotiable Letters of Credit made imports and exports go around the world for millennia.

Or authorized Generals and their secretary's pay for services they did not perform. https://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1660/01/04/

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