Margarina of Oxford

Referred to in records as: “Margarina”, “Margarina judea Oxon’”, “Margarina of Oxford”, “Margarina Oxonie”, “Margarine”.

Brief biography

Margarina was a book trader in the university town of Oxford. Like a pawnbroker, she held books in pledge and might sell them if clients did not repay their loans. In this, she may be considered alongside Belaset (wife of Solomon of Alcester) and Hittecote of Oxford, sisters who converted to Christianity in 1281 with nine Latin books in their possession. Their collection, which went to the Domus Conversorum (House of Converts) in London, similarly indicates Jewish women’s participation in the Oxford book market. The single record of Margarina’s life tells of three Latin books she held from Oxford Carmelites. In 1278, at the same time the Carmelites were expanding their land holdings in Oxford, she was sued by the brothers of the convent for (they claimed) unlawfully retaining possession of these books: a glossed copy of St Paul’s letters, a glossed copy of the Gospel of St Matthew, and a copy of Peter Lombard’s Sentences. Henry of Wimpole, the brother representing the convent, assessed the value of at almost £3. Margarina came to Westminster to deny the charges but later admitted that she had indeed received the books and afterwards, because of passage of time, had sold them. A jury was to be convened to assess their true value. Nothing further is known of Margarina.
Further reading
  • Williams Boyarin, Adrienne, The Christian Jew and the Unmarked Jewess: The Polemics of Sameness in Medieval English Anti-Judaism. The Middle Ages Series. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2021.
  • Friaries: The house of White Friars, in A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1907), pp.137–143, accessible at British History Online
  • Parkes, Malcolm, The Provision of Books, in The History of the University of Oxford, vol. 2, Late Medieval Oxford, ed. J.I. Catto and T.A.R. Evans (Oxford: Clarendon, 1992), pp.407–483.
  • Sirat, Colette, Looking at Latin Books, Understanding Latin Texts: Different Attitudes in Different Jewish Communities, in Hebrew to Latin, Latin to Hebrew: The Mirroring of the Two Cultures in the Age of Humanism, ed. Giulio Busi (Berlin: Institut für Judaistik, Freie Universität Berlin, 2004), pp.7–22.

Dates mentioned in records






Putative social network for Margarina of Oxford (experimental feature)
Putative family tree for Margarina of Oxford (experimental feature)