Karl pound

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The Karl pounds ( lat. Pondus Caroli)   is from the time of Charlemagne derived weight unit . It served as both a trade and a coin weight . One Carolingian pound corresponds to a mass of about 408 g. The Karl pound was introduced in connection with King Karl's coin reform around 793/94. It was stipulated that 240 denarii (= pfennigs) should be minted from a Karl pound of silver.

Via the Carolingian coin system and via units for the masses that were later derived from the Karl pound , the Karl pound was of great importance for large parts of Europe. The Carolingian coin system based on the Karl pound continued in its main features in England until 1971. The Karl pound was initially valid everywhere in the Carolingian Empire and, with a downward trend, also among the subsequent Liudolfingers . Among the Salians , who ruled from 1024, the Cologne mark was introduced as (576 thousandths) of the Karl pound and became the dominant coin weight. Similar modifications were made to the commercial weights at the same time.

Derivation of the Karl pound

The Karlspund is attested for the first time by a contemporary manuscript, as well as in reports on the Synod of Frankfurt 794 . It says there that new coins, new denarii are to be minted in the empire. The denarii were later also called pfennigs or pennies . The exact derivation of the target weight of the Karl pound itself has not yet been clarified.

The initial weight of the Karl pound can now be determined primarily by weighing the Carolingian coins that have been preserved from the early period, although there is a spread of several percent . In the literature, the Karl pound is often given as 408.25  grams or approximately 408 g. The latter corresponds to exactly 1.7 g of a denarius .

Derivatives of the Karl Pound

French derivatives

Since the middle of the 12th century, different variants of the Karl pound developed in France, which were legally valid at different times.

  • The Paris pound (Libra parisi) at just under 460 g has been attested since Louis VI the fat and is nine eighths of the Karl pound .
  • At the beginning of the 13th century, the livre tournois , the pound of the city of Tours, was valid in France . This was the same time in Troyes applicable, early Livre de Troyes identical.
    The ratio of the livre tournois is exactly 9:10 in relation to the Karl pound.
  • At the same time, a new system emerged in Troyes, later known as the Livre de Troyes . This was valid in all of France since 1266 at the latest, until August 1, 1793.
    It is officially and unequivocally also called "the pound of poids-de-marc" (pound of pounds of pound weight ). Its ratio with regard to the Karl pound is 12:10.

The British pound values, which were taken over very early and directly from France, show that a slightly lower value for the Karl pound was certainly also in effect for a long time in France.

The value of the pound of the poids-de-marc also corresponds very precisely to one seventieth of the water mass of a French cubic foot . So it seems reasonable to conclude that this is precisely why there was a slight increase in weight in France. This identified “French weight comma ” is around 3136: 3125, i.e. only + 0.35%.

lb Ratio smooth values 3136: 3125 empirically
Livre de Troyes 6: 5 487.71072 g ≈ 489.43 g approx. 489.5 g
Libra parisi 9: 8 457.22880 g ≈ 458.84 g approx. 459.0 g
Charlemagne 1: 1 406.42560 g ≈ 407.86 g approx. 408.0 g
Livre tournois 9:10 365.78304 g ≈ 367.07 g approx. 367.0 g

The Livre de Troyes , so the pounds of poids-de-marc , was at his replacement by the decimal late 18th century about 489.50585 (exactly: 9216 / 18.82715) g. Both terms, both that of the “Livre de Troyes” and that of the “Livre tournois”, are often used synonymously with the “pound of poids-de-marc”.

English derivatives

The English weight system ( Troy weights )   was adopted from France. The old values ​​of the Livre de Troyes , d. H. twelve tenths of a Karl pound.
This also makes it easy to specify the different ratios for the Karl pound directly:

lb Ratio smooth values official (1958)
  London 225: 196 466.5600 g (466.55215200 g)
Avoirdupois 125: 112 453.6000 g (453.59237000 g)
Merchant 625: 448 437.4000 g (437.39264250 g)
Karl pound 001: 1 406.4256 g (406.41876352 g)
Troy 045: 49 373.2480 g (373.24172160 g)
Tower 675: 784 349.9200 g (349.91411400 g)

The metrologically smooth values ​​differ from the official values ​​(1958) by only about 0.0017%. The former correspond to an English grain of exactly 64.8 mg.

Derivations in the German Empire

Many important weights in the German Empire, such as the Vienna pound , the Cologne mark and the Nuremberg pharmacist pound , are derived from the Karl pound . For example, the ratio of the Cologne mark to the Karl pound is exactly 576: 1000.

Weight Ratio smooth values empirically deviation
Viennese pound 864: 625 561.84274944 g (561.288 0 g) (−0.099%)
Cologne pound 144: 125 468.20229120 g (467.6246 g) (−0.123%)
Karl pound 001: 1 406.42560000 g (408.0 000 g) (+0.387%)
Pharmacist pound 216: 245 358.31808000 g (357.84 00 g) (−0.133%)
Viennese mark 432: 625 280.92137472 g (280.644 0 g) (−0.099%)
Dutch mark 378: 625 245.80620288 g (246.0839 g) (+ 0.113%)
Cologne mark 072: 125 234.10114560 g (233.8123 g) (−0.123%)
The Karl pound weighs 500 goldgrän , or 8000 graingrän.

The relatively large deviation of the empirical Karl pound of just under 0.4% - which, however, is also within the coefficient of variation that can be determined for old weights - relates to the later French, slightly larger Karl pound.

The so-called Zollvereinsmark was set at 233.8555 g in 1838, i.e. only about 0.105% less than the straight value. Cologne and Vienna marks maintain the ratio 10: 12. Thus, the authoritative metrologists of the Holy Roman Empire have preserved the Carolingian pound in their derivatives with outstanding precision for over a thousand years.

Carolingian Penny Weight

Main articles:  Carolingian coin system , as well as:  Coins of the Middle Ages .

The Schilling (lat. Solidus ) was after the Carolingian monetary reform as nichtgemünztes gold equivalent for 12 Silberdenare (Denar = penny) only bill coin . Mathematically, one shilling was equivalent to 1/20 of the Carolingian pound in silver. At 12 pfennigs per shilling, 240 Carolingian silver pfennigs were actually minted from one pound of silver .

In the case of historical lengths , the coefficient of variation is generally with an accuracy of ± 0.2%. For ancient and medieval weight measures, a fluctuation range of around (1.002 3 −1) = 3/500 must be assumed. The last decimal point that meets higher metrological precision requirements is the ratio 126: 125 and its reciprocal value for medieval weights.

It should be noted that the coefficients of variation become considerably smaller from around the Renaissance period . In addition, a distinction must be made between the actual and known values ​​of the dimensions themselves and the tolerances that inevitably occur in "mass production". At that time, for purely technical reasons, no better than: Denarii from 1.6 to 1.8 g.

Pound weight comma Penny weight Qualification of the coin weight "Water foot"
409.6770048 g 126: 125 1.70698752 g overweight Carolingian penny ≈ 297.1 mm
somewhat heavy Carolingian penny
408.2400000 g 225: 224 1.70100000 g ≈ 296.7 mm
weighted Carolingian penny
406.4256000 g 001: 1 1.69344000 g 296.3 mm
404.6192540 g 224: 225 1.68591360 g ≈ 295.9 mm
a little light Carolingian penny  
403.2000000 g 125: 126 1.68000000 g ≈ 295.5 mm
underweight Carolingian penny
This denier weighs only 1.19 grams. Obviously minted in the later French denier weight ( 1.275 g), i.e. no longer in the earlier Carolingian denier weight.

In fact, there are some overweighted as well as underweighted specimens among the Carolingian silver pennies that have been preserved, if only because silver coins are not calibrated pieces of weight for a precision balance . Although the Karl pound remained stable, known and preserved as a weight, it soon came to a decrease in the actual coin weight due to lighter forms to increase the strike treasure. That means, in order to weigh one Karl pound on the scales, soon more than the theoretical 240 denarii had to be put into the other pan (cf. inflation ) . Later, the pennies were often only three quarters of the target weight.

Simplified value of the Karl pound

  • The best simplified value of the Karl pound is probably only 406 ½ grams. The only disadvantage of this value is that the denarius with 1.69375 g in value then arithmetically results in a five-digit decimal number.
  • The value 405 g, also 7-smooth, means right-hand four-digit for the denarius. As a result, the English weight system is based on this Karl pound value.
  • The value 406 would give a period value for the denarius. However, this value is supported by the Zollverein mark.
  • The value 408 g is certainly not wrong, albeit a bit high. In practice, it is also ten-twelfth of the old French pound. In addition, this value is the only one with only a single-digit decimal number for the denarius and thus remains acceptable.
  • The value (240 × 1.701 =) 408.24 g is also a 7-smooth value. It is sometimes rounded to the nearest 408.25 g.
  • The arbitrary definition value of 406.4256 grams is not a decimally simplified value, but 7-smooth. As a mean value, it represents a modern over-all rounding of all weights, including those later derived from the Karl pound. 7-smooth values ​​do not claim, however, that the Carolingian metrologists could have determined their pound value to a tenth of a microgram precision, nor that science today could determine the historical value with just this precision.


  1. Capitulare episcoporum, CCVI. dated spring 793
  2. R. Leng, Universitat Würzburg:  Denarius of Charlemagne ( Memento of the original from December 3, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.   5. Weight pound and arithmetic pound"A Carolingian pound possessed approx. 408 gr." @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.geschichte.uni-wuerzburg.de
  3. French Ministry of Industry: 2.4 The definitive standards     :   "One kilogram weighs 18,827.15 grän of the market weight."  (The old pound was 9216 grän.)
  4. Since the BSI (British Standards Institution)   has become purely commercial, here the identical, US-American NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) values.
  5. a b c d e As . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 1, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, pp. 896–897.