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Tallinn Town Council


Tallinna Linnaarhiiv
Tallinn City Archives
Tallinn, Estonia

Record group

Tallinn Town Council
Tallinna magistraat
Reference code : 230
Period : 1237-1889
Extent : 12764 items


The archives of the Tallinn (Reval) town council comprise a large variety of documents pertaining to various aspects of the town's existence. The materials include privileges, manuscript and printed books, burgher books, real estate records, taxation records, minutes, correspondence of the town council, court records, merchant books, and records on the relations with the guilds, religious institutions of town, etc.

Relevant contents

Period : 1450 - 1800
Countries involved : Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Various countries
Languages : French, High German, Latin, Low German, Russian, Swedish

The collection is described in 13 inventories, most extensive of which is inventory no. 1, including sections of charters (Urkunden), town books (Stadtbücher, A.), and documents (Akten, B.). The volumes of items can vary considerably. Some of them therefore have subdivisions numbered with Roman numerals.

Inventory 1


There are five medieval codices of Lübeck town law, and one town law of Magnus Erikson. Item Cm 17 concerns maritime law of the Wendish towns en dates from 1482.


This sub-section (248 items, dating from 1312-1867), contains burger books, real estate records, books of the town council's decisions, copy books of town privileges, registers of sent letters, minutes of the lower court (Niedergericht), books of receipts of the treasury, etc.

  • 9a: Copies of the decisions of the town council sent to Lübeck, 1458-1505.
  • 10-15: Draft books of outgoing letters, 1481-1599.
  • 15b: Reports of Hanseatic assemblies, 1430-1453.
  • 16: Register of the town council's decisions, 1515-1554 (see Ebel under Publications).
  • 18: Register of sealed letters, 1514-1572.
  • 21: Register of letters to foreign and domestic rulers, 1536-1568.
  • 21b-d: Instructions and relations, 1600-1687.
  • 31: Minutes of the Hanseatic assembly in Lübeck, August 1591.
  • 97a: Protocols of the commercial court (Protocollum Jud. Commercii), 1694-1704.
  • 103d: Protocol (Protocollum commissionale) concerning grain export, 1762.
  • 122: Various court regulations of Lübeck, 1727.
  • 155-224: Books of drafts, 1685-1799.
  • 225: Copies of decisions on trade and jurisdiction, 1664-1682.
  • 233: Pass rotulus, register of passports, 1714-1750.
  • 248: Corpus Privilegiorum civitatis Revaliensis, copies of town privileges.


This sub-section contains 284 items dating from 1526-1799. The earliest volumes, from the sixteenth century, have considerable gaps.


This sub-section consists of 50 items, dating from c. 1300-1830.

  • 2: Statutes from the Novgorod merchant house (see Die Nowgoroder Schra under Publications).
  • 3: Copy book of documents and statutes of the Tallinn Great Guild, 1744.
  • 4: Statutes of the Tallinn Brotherhood of Black Heads, 1654.


This section of the town archives contains the town books pertaining to the town economy. A large number of volumes (15, 26, 32, 39, 40, 46, 52, 62, 64, 66, 67, 69, 72, 84, 90-93, with considerable gaps) comprise account and notebooks of the town's coffers (Kämmerei), which reflect the town economy. Also preserved are a number of records on different branches of urban financing, like minting (22, 34), revenues from landed estates, etc.

  • 25: Revenues from real estate tax, pound tax and tun tax (also containing expenses of the town's delegations), 1460-1514.
  • 33: Lists of exported rye (with names of skippers, merchants and the respective amounts), sixteenth century-1567.
  • 43: List of the tun and beacon taxes, and wine, beer and stone excise, 1530-1552.
  • 44: Book of the excise dues paid by Jasper Kappenberg, 1531.
  • 50, 51: Salt excise, 1549-1566.
  • 55: Book of debts of the town bailiff Ifen von der Högh, 1552-1560.
  • 56: Excise of wines, foreign beer and meat, 1553.
  • 63: Account of the administration of the inheritance of Johann Houwer, 1565-1584.
  • 65: Salt import and excise, 1569-1580.
  • 74: Book of real estate tax of Tallinn, 1634-1656.
  • 79: Accounts of excise of wheat and malt, 1674.
  • 80: Accounts of excise of wheat and malt, 1675.
  • 81: Accounts of excise of wheat and malt, 1678.
  • 82, 83: Accounts of excise, 1676-1677.


The sub-section contains 10 items, dating from 1530-1758 (see also section B.t. for inventories of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries).

  • 1: Inheritance inventories, 1530-1534.
  • 2: Inheritance inventories, 1540-1548.
  • 3: Inheritance inventories, 1553-1558.
  • 4: Inventories, 1558-1559, 1563, 1589, 1599-1600, 1607.
  • 5: Inventory and accounts of Kappenberg, 1569.
  • 6: Inheritance inventories, 1578-1584.
  • 7: Inheritance inventories 1603-1605.
  • 8: Inheritance inventories, 1604-1617, and a list of guardians until 1659.
  • 9: Inheritance inventories 1617-1618.
  • 10: Inheritance inventories and the testament of merchant elderman Michael Meyer, 1758.


Most books in this sub-section (179 items, 1399-1810) date from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These books register various commercial transactions of the merchants, including debts. Often, more than one book per merchant has been preserved.


The sub-section Schiffslisten, Portorienbücher (also Ein- und Ausführung, Schuten Journal, etc., 257 items, 1425-1816) registers the taxes paid to the town and therefore focus on commodities. The dates of arrival and departure and skippers' names are registered along with cargo's origins, places of departure and destination and lists of goods grouped by owners, with their amounts and sums of the taxes paid. This sub-section is divided into two parts: a and b.  


  • 1-4: Old ship lists, 1425-1471, 1479-1496 (see Vogelsang under Publications).
  • 5: Ship lists, 1586-1587.


  • 1-6, 7-9, 11-242: Ship lists, 1617-1781 (with small gaps).
  • 243: Account of the port office (Portory Cammer), 1715-1720.
  • 244: Journal of ships, 1718.
  • 245: Journal of ships, 1718-1723, 1723-1724.
  • 246: Journal of the Admiralty about the repairs of ships, 1716-1723.
  • 247, 248: Taxes from the scales and expenses, 1731-1739.
  • 249, 250: Debt books on unpaid freight taxes, 1773, 1797.
  • 251: Ship book of the brigantine Die zwey Freunde von Reval, 1790-1793.

Some of the port tax records are to be found in the following sub-sections:

    * 17: Journal of port office (Portorii diarium), bulwark and port accounts, 1600s.
    * 39: Pile and bridge taxes and port taxes, 1634-1784.
    * 62: List of incoming and outgoing ships with data on paid port taxes (dating from 1672-1673, 1675-1676, 1678, 1680, 1682) and on the part of port taxes debited to the town cash (from the years 1762-1781).
  • B.h. TRADE
    * 10: Port tax, 1671-1690.
    * 41: Minutes of ships' protests, 1747-1783.
    * 53: Lists of ships departed from Tallinn in 1721 with data on cargo and customs dues, and lists of all goods shipped to and from Tallinn in 1793 and to and from Riga in 1788.
    * 66: Port customs dues, 1768, 1780, 1795.
    * 78: List of ships arrived in Tallinn in 1789 indicating the size of the crew and the length of the journey.
    * 39: Book of the salt taxes (Salzwägebuch), 1542-1550.


This sub-section consists of books of announcements and books of the so-called Baltic regency period. They contain various regulations of central authorities from the years 1700-1796.


  • 4: Lübeck town law and maritime law (printed), 1728.
  • 5: Dutch maritime law (Ordinatie angaande de dienst ter Zee, manuscript), eighteenth century.


The sub-section contains loose accounts of the town's coffers, accounts on taxation of the townpeople, head-tax (soul revision) and real estate tax lists of taxed burghers.

  • 9: Accounts of the beacon tax (used for financing the building of the Kõpu beacon in Hiiumaa/Dagö), 1527-1529.
  • 16: Tax revenues from town scales (Puntkammer), i.e. customs duties, 1585-1653.
  • 17: Accounts from town scales, and accounts of the port construction, 1498-1704.
  • 23: Excise accounts, 1609-1710.
  • 24: Excise on imported wine and beer, 1524-1563.
  • 35: Accounts of the town coffers, 1559-1660.
  • 36: Accounts of the town coffers, 1672-1720.
  • 39: Pile and bridge taxes, 1635-1768.
  • 40: Letters and regulations concerning excise duties, 1618-1787.
  • 45: Accounts of the excise, 1625-1724, 1775-1810.
  • 48: Heinrich Baaden's accounts on the building of bulwarks, 1687-1707.
  • 55: D. Reimer's credit for port expenses, 1688-1700, and papers concerning the repair of the merchant harbour and raising port taxes, 1788.
  • 70: Privileges of the town to raise taxes and customs duties, 1248-1853.


This sub-section (10 items, dating from 1365-1811) consists of books and papers concerning minting in Tallinn (the first of which has been published, see Revaler Münzbücher under Publications).


This sub-section contains mainly regulations concerning the relations between the guilds and town government. Files concerning trade are following:

  • 3: Complaints of the guilds against the commander of the Teutonic Order in Pärnu (Pernau) because of the restrictions on trade.
  • 46: Complaints of the Great Guild about the trade of needlemaker J.J.Ch. Stein, 1788.
  • 57: Pilots, 1698-1726.
  • 70: Complaints of the Great Guild raised in the commercial court about trade disruptions, 1774.
  • 96: Complaints of the Guild of St. Canute, among other matters about trade restrictions, 1534-1697.


This sub-section comprises 85 items, many of which have subdivisions. It contains loose documentation on trade. There are rich collections of correspondence of merchants as well as their account books, dating from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries (mainly sixteenth and seventeenth). Besides, the section contains various regulations of central authorities, Swedish royal (nos. 8, 9, 27) and Russian imperial (nos. 33, 43, 80) trade regulations. Some items contain material on disagreements of Tallinn with other Estonian towns (most notably Narva, nos. 28, 29, 62, 63) on trade rights, trading outside the towns (nos. 32, 34) and foreign merchants (nos. 26, 44, 46, 58, 73).

  • 1-III: Hansa accounts from Novgorod, fifteenth century.
  • 1-V: Account book of taxes, 1524.
  • 2: Copies of the merchants' privileges, 1277-1547.
  • 6: Wine accounts, 1631-1696.
  • 7: Laments on the fall of the Tallinn trade in the Swedish period, 1676, 1692 (?).
  • 11: Letters about fairs, 1681, 1787-1803.
  • 13: Regulation on the maritime court procedures (See-Gerichts Processus) of Lübeck, 1655, and regulation of customs taxes (Lizent-ordnung) in Livonian towns, 1662.
  • 14: Regulation of port duties (Portorii ordonance), 1648-1652, 1670.
  • 24-I: Customs (Puntkammer) documents, 1606-1668.
  • 24-II: Commerce documents on ship cargoes and shipping, 1529, 1546-1697.
  • 30, 31: Letters on customs, 1622-1629.
  • 36: Price lists of rye, 1558-1559.
  • 41: Protocols of ships protests, 1747-1783, 1797.
  • 42: Regulations of customs and port matters, 1553-1783.
  • 49: Exchange law of Riga, 1766.
  • 50: Drafts of testimonies on ships' parts of Tallinn burghers, 1694-1709.
  • 56: Regulation of trade with Russians, sixteenth century.
  • 57: Complaints of German and English merchants in Pskov (Pleskau).
  • 60: Papers concerning the customs office, 1674-1703. 
  • 61: Privileges and resolutions on the staple rights of Riga and Tallinn.
  • 64: Papers concerning grain exported by Tallinn merchant companies, 1791-1799, grain brought to Tallinn, 1742-1764, accounts of import and export of St. Petersburg (printed), import and export of Tallinn, 1788-1798, export of Arkhangelsk, 1795, 1797, and a report on import of Tallinn merchants, 1792.
  • 65: Report on merchants at Tallinn, and their capital and property, 1787.
  • 74: Ban on French goods, 1793.
  • 77: List of Tallinn merchants owning prohibited French goods, 1793.
  • 80-II: Letters about Russian trade in the countryside, 1724-1771.
  • 80-III: Announcements of the Tallinn customs office (Lizentkontor) to the town council, 1726-1782.


This sub-section (204 items, fifteenth to seventeenth centuries) contains court files on various lawsuits, sorted by the names of opposite parties. The majority of the files concerns disputed inheritances.


The sub-section (62 items) consists mainly of papers on Tallinn's relations with Livonian estates (such as minutes of the Diets, etc). The main issues are disagreements of the town with the nobility on jurisdiction and peasants. A few items specifically touch upon trade issues:

  • 18: Complaints about the prohibited trade in land (pre-emption), 1574, 1705, 1547-1800.
  • 38: Conflicts between the town and the nobility on trade at small ports on the coast, 1651-1699.
  • 40: Demands of the nobility to participate in the grain trade.


  • 6: Trade regulations, 1527-1688, 1750, 1756.
  • 21: Old port regulations, 1685, 1789.
  • 25: Vocations of brokers, 1663-1715.
  • 26: Scales regulations, 1652, documents on the town scales, 1573-1762, supplications on the rent of the towns scales, 1752, 1791.
  • 49: Papers concerning inspectors of goods, sixteenth-nineteenth centuries.

In addition, some other items may also contain trade regulations.


  • 1-5: Inventories, arranged chronologically, sixteenth century.
  • 7-14: Inventories, arranged chronologically, seventeenth century.
  • 15-18: Inventories, arranged alphabetically, eighteenth century (for inventories of merchants from the eighteenth century, see Pullat under Publications).


This sub-section consists of 18 items (fifteenth to eighteenth centuries), most of them containing many subdivisions. The papers occasionally include minutes of the town council.


This sub-section consists of 75 items (fourteenth to eighteenth centuries) with many subdivisions, containing letters to the town council from both foreign and domestic rulers, institutions and private persons.

  • 7, 9-12: Letters from private persons to the town council sorted alphabetically, sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.
  • 13: Letters of private persons to private persons, seenteenth to eighteenth centuries.
  • 15: Promissory notes, sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.
  • 19: Obligations, testimonies and credentials, sorted alphabetically 1486-1600.
  • 20, 21: Obligations, testimonies and credentials, sorted alphabetically, seventeenth century.
  • 26: Complains and petitions to the Tallinn town council, 1521-1532.
  • 38, 39, 41, 42: Letters from German towns, from the fourteenth century on.
  • 40: Letters from Lübeck, 1375-1793.
  • 43: Letters from Scandinavian and Dutch towns, fifteenth to eighteenth century.
  • 44-46: Obligations of private persons and the town council, seventeenth to eighteenth centuries.
  • 48: Letters from private persons to other private persons and the town council, sorted alphabetically, fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.
  • 64, 65: Letters of private persons to other private persons, certificates and testimonies, eighteenth century.
  • 74: Papers concerning foreign and regional towns.
  • 75: Varia.


This sub-section (19 items, fourteenth to nineteenth centuries) contains correspondence of Tallinn with Estonian and Latvian towns.


The sub-section (fourteenth to seventeenth centuries) contains 28 items with subdivisions. It includes reports (Recesse, published in the series of Hanserecesse) of Hanseatic negotiations (nos. 3-12, 17, 18), accounts of the costs of Tallinn's delegations (no. 1) and correspondence with Hanseatic assemblies (nos 13, 15, 19, 20).
  • 14-I: Letters from the Kontor (trading post) of Hansa merchants in Novgorod, 1346-1521.
  • 14-II: Letters from the Kontor of Hansa merchants in Bruges, 1402-1561.
  • 14-III: Letters from the Hanseatic League, 1407-1496.
  • 14-IV: Letters from Hansa merchants in Antwerp, Narva, Deventer and Lübeck, 1405-1576.
  • 14-V to VIII: Hansa correspondence, 1344-1601.
  • 16: Peace negotiations between the kings of Sweden and Denmark and Lübeck, 1570-1571.
  • 21: Propositions for the preservation of the Hanseatic League, sixteenth century.
  • 22: Prussian replies to Wendish towns, 1576.
  • 24: Positions of the Tallinn town council, 1515.
  • 26: Complaints of the German merchants in Bruges about their privileges, 1525, 1585.
  • 27: Short description of the Hansa trade in Livonia and Russia, 1570.
  • 28: Articles about Hansa privileges, 1662.


The sub-section contains various documents on relations with Sweden (Suecica), mostly on delegations to and correspondence with the kings of Sweden, governors and headsmen, as well as royal trade regulations, and letters of courts of justice from Riga, Stockholm and Tartu (Dorpat).

  • 2: Old Suecica, 1365-1542.
  • 14: Private appellations to Sweden and Swedish appellations to Tallinn, 1564-1599.
  • 26: Political correspondence containing letters on the trade in Narva, 1582, 1591-1597.
  • 31-36: Court files, seventeenth century.
  • 41 I: Letters on the trade in Narva, 1596-1608.
  • 56: Letters of Gustav Adolph, 1620-1625, containing a lament about the decline of trade, 1624-1625.
  • 57 I: Letters of Gustav Adolph, 1626-1632, containing an instruction on salt trade, 1628.
  • 73: Drafts of letters to the king of Sweden, including a letter on salt and grain trade, 1663.
  • 75: Swedish royal resolutions, some of them pertaining to trade and related issues.
  • 108: Negotiations in Karlskrona about the ship De Boer, which sailed from Holland to Tallinn with military goods, and was captured by the Swedes, 1789.


The sub-section contains political correspondence, treaties, documents pertaining to Muscovite wars, orders of Russian rulers and correspondence with Russian towns.

  • 4: Correspondence of the Tallinn burgher Jakob Steenwycke from Russia to Tallinn, 1542-1556, 1563.
  • 11: Papers concerning relations of Tallinn with Russia and Russian trade, 1418-1636. 
  • 12: Rossica, 1603-1688.
  • 13: Documents on Russian trade, 1545-1731.
  • 16: Documents relating to the privileges of Tartu (Dorpat) in trade with Russians 1647.
  • 30: 156 old Russian documents, 1392-1689 (see under Publications).
  • 31: Petitions of Tallinn burghers to the Russian empress Anna, and disagreements with Russian merchants in Tallinn, 1764-1765.
  • 33: Imperial orders containing a regulation of the sale of Siberian goods, 1736.


This sub-section (8 items) contains transcripts of privileges granted by the Danish kings, correspondence with the kings (sixteenth century), treaties and letters from Danish towns. Items 7 I-II comprise private cases from Denmark, dating from 1437-1498, 1786-1806.


The sub-section (41 items) contains various lists of real estate owners in town as well as of people having taken an oath of allegiance. There are also lists of Russian merchants and of foreigners. Items 26, 27 comprise data on grain deposits and grain prices, dating from the eighteenth century.


The sub-section (21 items, fourteenth to eighteenth centuries) contains various documents, such as reports of the negotiations and costs accounts of the town's delegations sent mostly to Sweden or Russia.


The sub-section contains mostly loose materials on rerchants reporting losses, but also letters of pirates as well as documentation on the military activities of Tallinn against pirates.

  • 1: Papers concerning the years 1395-1586.
  • 2: Papers concerning the seventeenth century.
  • 3: Papers concerning Sören Norby, 1523, 1526-1530.
  • 4: Court file of Melchior von dem Berge contra Johann Schmedemann, 1559-1563.
  • 5: Court file of Heine Becker contra Jürgen Honerjäger, 1570.
  • 6: Account of Jochim Belholt about a ship seized by Admiral Hans Larsson from a skipper Matys Bertelson, 1567.
  • 7: Papers concerning piracy of Otto Weidenstrauch, 1574, 1580.
  • 8: Case of ships seized from Sibrandt Ockes, 1667, 1678, and a Swedish ship from Bordeaux seized by the British, 1704.


These testaments of Tallinn burghers and inhabitants date from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries and are arranged in alphabetical order.


This sub-section consists of 25 items.

  • 13 VII: Letter on a good bulwark master, 1595.
  • 13 VIII: Plan of the Tallinn harbour, seventeenth century.
  • 17: Explanation and exercise of book-keeping, eighteenth century, fragment of an account book.


The sub-section (50 items, 1719-1800) comprises letters of the commanders of the port of Tallinn. It contains Promemoria to the Tallinn town council in Russian, occasionally with German translations, treating different cases and regulations between the town and the Russian Navy (provisions, housing etc.). Besides, the files concern customs matters.


This sub-section (5 items, 1720-1806) contains letters on different court cases as well as reports on the import of salt.

Inventory 1-I

Described here are charters and parchment letters (1155 items, 1237-1835). The materials consist mostly of various privileges, granted to the town by overlords or their confirmations. The series also contains some private letters, testimonies, etc.

Inventory 1-II

Listed here are parchment letters (303 items, 1466-1577), sorted according to the town of provenance.

Inventory 1-IIIa

Described here are birth testimonies and certificates (51 items, 1525-1821). Summary descriptions (Regesten) have been published by R. Seeberg-Elverfeldt.

Inventory 1-IIIb

Listed here are testaments (96 items from 1369-1560). Summary descriptions (Regesten) have been published by R. Seeberg-Elverfeldt.

Inventory 2

This inventroy covers court cases on debts and bankruptcies (300 items, 1604-1818, with the bulk dating from the eighteenth century).

Inventory 3

This inventory lists various court files (2781 items, 1656-1799).

Inventory 4-I & II

These inventories cover civil court files (1167 items, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries).

Inventory 6

This inventory lists minutes (439 items, 1680-1889). Items 349-353 contain minutes of exchange protests, 1680-1801.


 13 inventories, in German.

Katalog des Revaler Stadtarchivs von Stadtarchivar D. Hansen, Zweite umgearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage, ed. O. Greiffenhagen (Tallinn, 1926).

A new electronic database is under construction and will be made available online at: http://ais.ra.ee/ais.

Record creator / provenance

Tallinn developed in the course of German-Scandinavian crusade in the first decades of the thirteenth century. In 1248 the use of the Lübeck town law, as well as the existence of a council, is mentioned for the first time. Since the 1280s Tallinn belonged to the Hanseatic league, and became an important staple on the way from the west to Novgorod. In 1346, Tallinn became part the Teutonic Order. The lucrative east-west trade experienced many drawbacks; most decisive of them was the war with Muscovites starting in 1558. In 1561 the town subjected itself to the King of Sweden. In the seventeenth century, commerce in Tallinn revived but never reached its pre-war volume. During the Great Nordic War in 1710, Tallinn surrendered to the Russian Czar Peter I.

The town council, the supreme governing body in the town, exercised executive, administrative and judicial functions. It appointed and dismissed town officials, granted burghership, approved the charters (rules) of guilds, regulated prices, trade and commerce, administered judicial, religious and educational affairs, supervised lower courts, town properties and schools, and was in charge of collecting taxes and accommodating troops. The town council as a governing body ceased to exist in 1878 and was dissolved as a judicial organ in 1889.

Custodial history

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