A Brief and Precise Description of the Administration and Conditions in the Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mines in the Year of Christ 1518
A Brief and Precise Description of the Administration and Conditions in the Wieliczka and Bochnia Salt Mines in the Year of Christ 1518 is a document drawn up by Stanisław Tarnowski of Nieszawa, a clerk at the Wieliczka salt mine. It was instigated by Jan Boner, the steward of the Jagiellonian treasury and administrator of such major enterprises as the Royal Mint, the tithes paid to the Crown for the right to exploit the ore mines in Olkusz and the salt mines in Wieliczka and Bochnia. In the second half of the sixteenth century, a duplicate of the document was made and, given that the original has not survived, it is now the oldest extant copy. It consists of eighty-one sheets and is devoted to a precise description of the internal structure and operation of a centralised royal enterprise which was one of the largest in Europe at the time. The source contains an enumeration and account of the nature of the offices and the categories of employees, their duties and remuneration, the system for calculating the amounts due for work and goods and the means by which the mines were supplied with essential commodities. It also includes a discussion on the types of salt, their prices and the methods employed for their sale. This description of the Krakow salt mines is a unique document with no equivalent in European economic literature.
The original document has not survived. As regards the duplicate made in the second half of the sixteenth century, nothing is known of its fate prior to the moment in the mid nineteenth century when it made its way into the hands of one Izaak Himmelblau, a remarkable antiquarian bookseller of Krakow. He offered the manuscript to the Krakow Learned Society in 1866. The Society made the purchase for a relatively modest sum and the historical item became its property and thus, in turn, that of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Photos: Jakub Chojnacki