© 2011-2013 by Julia Smith. All rights reserved.
Version 1.2, updated 26 January 2013
In the 1292 Paris census, there are few indications of names of places or people that could be derived from inn-signs or similar signs. This had been taken by some as an indication that unlike England, where bynames derived from inn-signs are common, inn-signs and bynames derived from them were uncommon in France. However, this is mistaken. Inn-signs, or to be more precise, heraldry-like signs used to identify a house or business, were just somewhat slower to begin in Paris. By the 15th century, there are many buildings identified by these sorts of names in Paris, though it is clear that many of these buildings are not inns or taverns in our sense.
This article discusses house names found in the 1457 Comptes du Domaine de la Ville de Paris, the tax records of the city of Paris (edited by Jacques Monicat). By this time, dozens of houses around town are identified by the signs they posted, and people are beginning to be identified in terms of a sign of the house in which they live or with which they are associated. I am not doing a frequency count of the names of houses, as some houses are mentioned multiple times while others are mentioned only once. This makes it impossible to determine if a "Rose" sign mentioned in one account is the same "Rose" mentioned in another.
However, we can usefully talk about the terms used to describe the buildings, as the same building may be described in multiple ways. In the 1457 accounts, there are 194 mentions of house sign names. Most mentions use either ensigne de 'sign of' or hostel de 'house of,' but maison de 'house of' or uisserie de 'door of,' and no designator at all are also found. In some cases, the preposition 'of' is omitted.
(l')ensigne de 92 'sign' hostel/l'ostel de 84 'hotel' (la) maison de 10 'house' l'uis(serie) de 2 'door' No designator 16
The content of the inn signs basically falls into two groups: saint's images and heraldic devices. While saint's images are rather rare in English sign names, they are quite common in Paris. There are also a few literary references that would create clear visual images. In addition to inn-signs, houses are named after their owners, sometimes using a surname or title and other times using the owner's full name.
La Magdelaine (Mary Magdalene)
Nostre Dame (Our Lady, the Virgin Mary)
Saint Christophle (Christopher)
Saint Esprit (Holy Spirit)
Saint Fiacre (Irish Fiachra)
Saint Jehan Baptiste (John the Baptist)|
l'uis l'Image Saint Jehan Baptiste
Saint Jehan (maybe John the Evangelist?)
Head of Saint
l'enseigne de l'Ange
Besteil (domestic animal, probably cow)
Corne de cerf (deer's antler)
Cornet (horn, hunting horn or trumpet)
maison de la Couronne
l'enseigne de la Couronne
Maillez (mail shirt, or maybe another sort of mesh)
[enseigne] la Marguerite
l'enseigne de la Marguerite
Mouton (ram, sheep)
Nasse (fishing net)
Porc espy (porcupine)
Barbe d'Or (gold beard)
Croix d'Or (gold cross)
Lion d'Or (gold lion)
Mortier d'Or (gold mortar -- and pestle?)
Pennier Vert (green basket)
Chappeau Rouge (red hat)
Lion d'Argent (white lion)
(ermine will be found under Brittany, below)
Le Coq et la Pie (cock and the foot)
Flag of France|
[l'enseigne de] la Chausse de France
l'enseigne de la Bannierre de France
l'enseigne de la Chausse de France
l'ensigne de la Chausse de France
Flag of Flanders
Shield of Brittany|
l'Escu de Bretaigne
hostel de l'Escu de Bretaigne
l'enseigne de l'Escu de Bretaigne
maison de l'Escu de Bretaigne
enseigne l'Escu de Bretaigne
Shield of Burgundy
Shield of France|
l'ostel de l'Escu de France
Shield of Saint George
Other Heraldic Depictions
Coeur percée (pierced heart)
Petit Cygne (little swan)
Plat d'estain (tin plate)
Pot d'estain (tin pot)
Chevalier au cigne (Swan Knight)
Quatre fils Hemon (Four Sons of Aymon)
Houses Named after their Owners: Surnamehostel d'Alegre
Houses Named after their Owners: Full Namemaison Jehan le Nogines
maison Oudinet Haille, serrurier
la maison Eudeline de Macer
le maison feu Jacques Vivien
l'ostel Guiot Petit
l'ostel Jehan Coignart
l'ostel Me Jehan Luillier
l'ostel de Y. Gregoys
Houses Named after their Owners: Titlel'ostel de l'evesque d'Evreux
l'ostel de Reins
l'ostel de Clugny
l'ostel de Harcourt
Houses Named after Locations
l'ostel des Veaulx de Cernay
Houses with Complex Namel'enseigne de la Housse Gillet
l'enseigne du Chasteau de Marly
la maison de Parlouer aux Bourgeois ("Parliament of the citizens [of Paris]")
Unknownl'enseigne du Petail
l'oste[l] del a Gervoise
Camille, Michael, 2000, Signs of the City: Place, Power, and Public Fantasy in Medieval Paris. In Medieval Practices of Space (Barbara Hanawalt and Michal Kobialka, eds.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Cox, Barrie, 1994, English Inn and Tavern Names. English Place-Name Society.
The Middle English Dictionary. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/
Nicot, Jean, 1606, Thresor de la langue française (ARTFL Project, eds.). Electronic document, http://artfl-project.uchicago.edu/node/17
Reaney, P.H. and R.M. Wilson, 1995, A Dictionary of English Surnames. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
HTML editing by Mari ingen Briain meic Donnchada.
Medieval Scotland | Medieval Names Archive | Inn Signs and House Names in 15th Century Paris
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