By: Joseph Jacobs
A piece of wood on which is written a deed of indebtedness, the sum due being indicated by notches along the edge. The stick is then cut in two in such a manner that each piece thereof contains a part of every notch. One part is then given to the debtor, and the other to the creditor. This was, in the medieval ages, the ordinary way of giving receipts to Jews and others. A certain number of these tallies have been discovered at Westminster, each containing the record of a debt due to a Jew before the Expulsion. The object of the device was to prevent fraud. When a Jew claimed a certain amount as his debt, the two parts of the tallies were brought together, and if there was any discrepancy in the joining of the notches, the sum indicated in the tally kept in the archa by the chirographer for the debtor was held to be decisive. Tallies were used also for general receipts by the British exchequer, and it is stated that when the British Houses of Parliament were burned down in 1832 the fire was the result of carelessness in burning the stock of tallies. The same means of checking fraud was used in American cities; for example, Philadelphia, within the last thirty years.
- Proceedings of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1905, v.