Notarial deeds of Varsis and Smeritis
The main source for my study is a set of notarial deeds produced in Tana by the Venetian notaries Nicolo de Varsis and Benedetto Smeritis. These sources have not been published previously and have never been the subject of intensive study. Researchers have long regarded Venetian notarial acts as one of the most important sources of the economic, social, political, ethnic, and legal history of the Italian trading stations. The documents drawn up by the Italian notaries in the Levant, in the trading stations of the Eastern Mediterranean, and on the Black Sea coast have attracted the attention of the scholars from different fields, being a relevant source for reconstructing the history of the Italian republics, Eastern Europe, and the region at the edge of the Caucasus.
Italian notarial documents are quite numerous because the trading stations’ commerce and political relations with the Byzantine Empire, Russian principalities, the Golden Horde, and the states of the East were intensive and this produced plenty of documentary material. Undoubtedly, a large part of the archives of the trading stations perished during the Ottoman conquest. Nevertheless, the republics retained copies of many original documents and books of accounts, which they sent to the metropolis and attached to the reports of officers. According to the legislation of the republic of Venice, notarial deeds passed from one notary to his successor and then came to the archives. Currently, 1194 Venetian deeds are extant, drawn up in Tana by some thirty-four well-known notaries. Later acts, in contrast to earlier, survived, as a rule, not as instrumentae (original papers), but as imbreviaturae (copies left by the notaries).