“Ambition sigh’d. She found it vain to trust
The faithless column, and the crumbling bust;
Huge moles whose shadow stretched from shore to shore,
Their ruins perish’d, and their place no more
Convinced, she now contracts her vast design,
And all her triumphs shrink into a coin.
A narrow orb each crowded conquest keeps;
Beneath her palm here sad Judea weeps;
Now scantier limits the proud arch confine,
And scarce are seen the prostrate Nile and Rhine.
A small Euphrates thro’ the piece is rolled,
And little eagles wave their wings in gold.”
The Engraving of this Token is copied from a fine pattern for a Penny in bronze, executed by one of the first artists in London, Mr. William Taylor, whose abilities as a medal engraver require only to be known to be appreciated, and whose talent in executing the various society medals in which he has been engaged, has drawn forth the general approbation of his employers.
The lithographic sketch here given is by no means equal to the original, which may be said to compete in work with a very fine medal executed by the celebrated Hedlinger.
IF high antiquity or illustrious descent be a subject for admiration, the English Silver Denarius or Penny possesses it in an eminent degree.
This coin, now struck merely as an object of curiosity, has, as to its services and uninterrupted succession, the pre-eminence over every other, of whatever grade or material.
We first find it as the Greek Drachma of AEgina, six hundred years previous to the Christian era; then as the Drachma of other parts of the Greek Republic, till four hundred years before Christ, when it was continued by the Grecian Kings previous to the death of Alexander the Great, and by his successors, the Kings of. Macedon, Sicily, and Syria, 1 as well as by the Parthian Kings, or Kings of Persia, called the Arsacidae. The same coin too, under the name of Denarius, was struck by the high Consular families of Rome, and subsequently by the Emperors. It was even carried very far into the Byzantine Empire, and was taken up by the Saxon Heptarchic Sovereigns, after the retirement of the Romans from Britain. Its course continued uninterrupted through the Saxon, Danish, and Norman dynasties, and finally settled in the English series. It was almost the only coin in circulation in Britain, from the first king of Kent, A. D. 797, until the reign of John in 1193, who struck in Ireland its half and quarter. A few half-pence, indeed, as well as Sceattas, (or small silver coins,) were in circulation in the times of the Saxons. The Copper Northumbrian and York Prelatical Stycas were likewise minted by the Saxons, but the Silver Penny was the coin of the highest value. 2
This coin, in its first state, is thick, and very rudely executed, On the obverse a tortoise, and on the reverse an indented square, without inscription. Those of less early date, have the name AIΓINΩN, and weigh the eighth of an ounce. Subsequently the coin in question evinced superior workmanship, and exhibited the heads of the Greek Sovereigns in high relief; and when the Drachma became a Denarius, it was in most instances of very fair execution, and frequently very fine in the Consular and Imperial state of Rome, until the declension of the empire.
The degenerated Denarius was barbarous in the hands of the Saxons, a few instances excepted, and very bad during the English dynasty, until after the reign of Edward VI., when it became progressively superior. After the restoration of Charles II. it was executed by the celebrated Simon, and subsequently by the Roetiers, Croker, Pistrucci, and our present eminent artist, W. Wyon.
If the Denarius claims our respect for its long and extensive utility in society, to the artist, the antiquary, and the man of science, it must be estimable. On the Drachma or Denarius we meet with portraits, not only of the far famed heathen deities fallaciously worshipped, but of the sovereigns ruling in the regal state of Greece. In short, many of these coins are exquisite gems of art, therefore well might Pope exclaim:—
“The Medal, faithful to its charge of fame,
“Through climes and ages bears each form and name;
“In one short view subjected to our eye,
“Gods, Emperors, Heroes, Sages, Beauties lie.”
In the Consular state of Rome, we find history recorded and edifices portrayed, of which we know nothing but through that very medium of transmitting to us their likenesses. On such Denarii too, are depicted the costume of the Roman warriors, priests, and senators; thus also, the Romans give us a view of their triumphs, combats, treaties, naval and military ensigns, together with their shipping and instruments of war, their mode of voting at elections, and even the manner of striking their money.
Amongst the events recorded on the Denarius of Consular Rome, we find one in connexion with the AEmilia family, and although the event is transmitted on a coin very common, it is in itself not the less interesting. I allude to the victory gained by the Roman general, Scaurus, over Aretus King of Arabia. The captive monarch, is represented on his knees, beside a camel, indicative of his country, in which attitude he is humbly tendering the olive branch to his victorious conqueror. On the reverse of the medal, is the triumphant Roman in his Quadriga, haughtily bearing aloft, in his left hand, the thunder of Jove, and in his right, the reins of his chariot. Even the return of Ulysses is depicted, his faithful dog meeting and recognizing him. The fable of the twin founders of Rome being discovered by the king’s shepherd is represented; the wolf is portrayed as turning round with a ferocious growl, and gazing at him, while lie himself, leaning on his staff, appears rapt in wonder at the sight of the infants receiving sustenance from their strange and savage foster mother.
The Roman Denarius has been more honoured, and more debased, than all other coins. It is honoured pre-eminently, inasmuch as it is the coin to whose “image and superscription” Jesus Christ drew the attention of the Jews, when they endeavoured to elicit from him an answer that might be construed into opposition to the Roman government, their question being, “Is it lawful to pay tribute unto Caesar or not?” What this image was, the obverse of the Roman Denarii shows us, as well as the Jews: and, as Jesus taught them to render to the personage thus depicted, what He called, (in the present tense,) “things that are Caesar’s,” we perceive that the Denarius in question was one of Tiberius, the reigning emperor. As there is reason to believe that Judas received his thirty Shekels’ weight of silver in coins current in Judaea then a Roman province, the Denarius might have its share of ignominy on that occasion.
On the Denarius we have a succession of portraits, not only of the Emperors of Rome, but of other personages interesting beyond description to those who have, not mechanically, but intellectually, entered into the merits of the coin in question. We thus meet with the heads of celebrated characters, not to be found elsewhere, such as that of Ancus Marcius, King of Rome; of Juba, King of Mauretania; of Sylla the Consul; of Pompey the Great; of Lepidus; and of Agrippa, the confidential minister, son-in-law, and victorious general of Augustus, not more a general illustrious for the victories he gained, and the confidence he secured, than for his unassuming merit, in refusing the honors with which his imperial master would have loaded him.
Through the same medium also, we can glance through the vista of nearly two thousand years, and behold Mark Anthony is presented to our view, with his Consort, the voluptuous and unfortunate Cleopatra; and, last in estimation, whilst conspicuous in infamy, we meet with the assassin Brutus, the murderer of his friend and reputed father.
The Imperial series is no less prolific in interesting representations. Nay, it far exceeds the earlier series, both in variety of portraits, and in reverses recording remarkable events. The first in rank is the Dictator Caesar with his high laurel crown awarded him by the Senate, and with his long spare neck. Next comes the artful and time serving Augustus, with a countenance so mild, as to lead the beholder to doubt the commission of those atrocities attributed to him in early life; atrocities involving the sacrifice of his best and highly gifted friends to his own interests. With equally faithful accuracy are depicted the libidinous Tiberius, the mild and beneficent Germanicus, the infamous Caligula, Claudius, as weak as his wife was notorious, the cruel and persecuting Nero, the glutton Vitellus, Vespasian and Titus the conquerors of Judea, and the virtuous Antoninus.
By the portraits on the Denarius, we are rendered familiar with the countenance of the philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who had public thanks offered to the gods for providing him with a wife so faithful, so gentle, and of such wonderful simplicity of manners; when, in fact, her amours were as open as the day. He intreated her deification, and the obsequious Senate assented. We then behold the mild and unostentatious Pertinax, and his successor, Didius Julian, who purchased empire, and but a few days rule, with an immense fortune and by a cruel death. Afterwards we contemplate the able but deceptive Severus, who promised but to ensnare, 3 and who terminated his victorious career at York. We behold, likewise, the fratricide Caracalla, who, not content with murdering his brother, (Geta) even in his mother’s arms, to whom he had fled for shelter, but must consecrate in the temple of Serapis, the weapon with which he had accomplished the deed: his guilty soul, however, was incessantly agitated by the supposed phantom of the murdered youth. The Denarius also presents to our view the voluptuous and vicious Elagabalus, whose follies exceed belief; and the amiable Alexander Severus, who, being superior to the prejudices of the heathen world, placed by the side of the acknowledged deities of Rome, the statues of Christ and of Abraham. Again, we see Maximinus, whose stature was that of a giant, and whose daily consumption, according to antient authors, is almost incredible. Next, we behold the effeminate and execrable Gallienus, who could permit the stuffed skin of his father Valerian to be carried as a trophy before Sapor, King of Persia, who had taken the said Valerian prisoner, while he himself revelled in debauchery, thus permitting the imperial majesty of Rome to be in his person disgraced. His punishment came, though late; he was slain by his own troops near Milan. We have the portraits of Diocletian, the reputed persecutor of the Christians, who with his colleague Maximian, (Hercules) magnanimously resigned the command of the best part of the world, and, retiring to a private station, the hand that had wielded a sceptre was subsequently employed in tending his plants; and he boasted that while thus engaged, he found that true happiness which the command of empire was incapable of bestowing. His co-partner, Maximian, 4 was less patient under loss of power, and attempting to regain sovereignty was put to death.
We likewise meet with the portraits of the British Emperors Carausius 5 and Allectus. Carausius, in despite of his imperial masters, Diocletian and Maximian, not only kept possession of this island, but actually prevailed on them to recognize his usurped sovereignty. His murderer and successor, Allectus, being slain, Britain again fell under the immediate dominion of Rome. On the Denarius we see the crafty Constantine, surnamed the Great, who renounced the religion of his forefathers, certainly one as ridiculous as it was false, to embrace another for which he had no respect, his design being to make it subservient to his own views. He, 6 however, procrastinated his admission into the pale of the church by baptism until the moment of his dissolution was nigh, and he was then baptized, fallaciously calculating that the religious rite would absolve him from any atrocity previously committed. He is figuratively represented on his coins as the Sun, and arrayed in the attributes of that divinity. His almost immediate successor Julian, (called the Apostate,) is seen generally with that beard which rendered him an object of ridicule to his enemies, who designated him by the appellation of the goat. This prince, whose elegant and refined mind was tinctured with cruelties incompatible with his general character, not satisfied with abandoning the new faith, which he doubtless embraced from his uncle’s influence over him, actually recorded his apostacy on a coin, by portraying on it his Egyptian object of worship, the bull (Apis).
In the Byzantine Empire, in continuation, we have the busts of Theodosius, (celebrated for his transcendent abilities,) and of Justinian, with other Sovereigns of less note. We even find on the Aureus, or larger gold coin of this era, the portrait of Christ, with the name and title “Dominus Noster Jesus Christus, Rex Regnantium.” The first I have met with is that of Justinian II., struck A. n. 685. From him it is carried down to almost the last emperor, Constantine Paleologos, who fell bravely, in 1453, in defending the throne of the last of the Caesars against that enemy of the cross, the Turkish Sultan, Mahomet II.
These portraits of the Saviour, when the workmanship is good, are of the utmost interest, and are not unfrequently met with. We observe the same placid countenance that we see in modern portraits of him, a full round for with ringlets hanging down on each side of the face, with the beard parted below at the middle. At a glance, therefore, we perceive that the portraits on the medals just mentioned were, in fact, the originals. Thus a Guido, or a Raphael, has doubtless been indebted to an engraver of the Byzantine Empire, for the models of those exquisite gems of art which they have produced.
To return to the Imperial Denarius, and describe the interest arising from it, would be almost endless. Suffice it to say, that scarcely a remarkable event transpired, without its being directly or indirectly recorded on a medal. Can any man, with a mind one degree above that of an idiot, behold with indifference a Roman Denarius commemorating the subjugation of his own, his native country? (if such a man exists, may I hold no communion with him!) This subjugation of Britain is depicted on a 7 Denarius of Claudius, a triumphal arch, with DE. BRITANN. surmounted with a trophy, and an equestrian figure, recording to distant ages the conquest of a country, in extent in and comparison to his imperial Italy, a mere speck on the ocean, but in the subjugation of which he doubtless prided himself more than in any other conquest. For not satisfied with commemorating this victory on his coins, he even named his only child after the country in which he had been victorious; and Britannicus would have been the imperial master of the best part of the globe, had not Agrippina, and her son Nero, destroyed him by poison in his thirteenth year. A naval crown placed over the palace of the emperor, was also intended to perpetuate his excess of pride and exultation, in conquering this, our own country, Britain. Commodus, with little or no claim to any thing British, added the epithet of Britannicus to his other titles. Severus, .and his two sons Caracalla 8 and Geta, copartners in their expedition against Britain, record on their Denarii their conquests over the hardy Caledonian, and his more southern neighbours. On the reverse of each, is a figure of Victory marching with a trophy, and leading a captive Briton by the hand, the inscription “Victoriae Brit.” with the title of “Britannicus,” added to their respective names.
Among the Roman triumphs, that over Judaea 9 arrests peculiar attention. A Jewess, in unutterable anguish, is represented seated, weeping for the loss of country, of home, and of her splendid and sacred temples, laid in. irretrievable ruin by the hand of the heathen. Her right hand is supporting her head, behind her is a military trophy, and on the exergue is the word “Judaea” 10 This event, so interesting to the Christian world, is more fully portrayed on the large or first brass.
At this point, however, I am losing sight of my main subject, which comprises silver only: and entirely devoted as I am to the study of coins, it should, if I did not check myself be led into details which, however interesting, would be endless. But I must here describe a few of the existing varieties of the Brass coins in question. On one of them you will see the captive Jewess, as already mentioned, seated and beneath a palm tree, the tree of her native country, doomed like herself to destruction. Her conqueror, the Emperor Vespasian, is represented in his military costume. In his right hand is a spear, and in his left the baton of command, while his left foot is raised and trampling on armour. The legend is “Judae,” or “Judea Capta.” On another large brass coin, we meet with a palm tree, to which is attached a shield-like medal, or a shield itself, and before this palm tree we behold a figure of Victory in the attitude of an engraver, inscribing on the medal “Judea Capta.” On the obverse is the head of Vespasian, with his name and titles. Coins of the same description are found of his son and colleague, Titus, but are more rare than those of his father.
The Emperors Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Maximinus, &c., also record their several triumphs. Indeed we meet with them in connexion with the reign of almost every emperor. Those of Trajan on the conquest of Dacia, and of Aurelius on his victories in Germany, are beautiful; and should the reader be desirous of knowing the construction of their triumphal arches, temples, and bridges, he can here meet with them.
The different countries are figuratively represented by appropriate symbols. Thus, Egypt a pears as a female recumbent, with the Sistrum in her right hand, and the Ibis at her feet. 11 Africa is beheld with the Elephant’s proboscis on her head, a Crab in her hand, and a flower pot and plant at her feet. Hispania with the Rabbit, presents to our contemplation, the fecundity of that country. The Nile, as an aged man stretched at his ease, with a cornucopia in his hand, symbolical of the fertility arising from that river. Italia, as mistress of the world, appears seated on a Globe; and last, but not least, we behold our own country, our own island, figured on the first and second brass of Antoninus Pius, on which coins a female figure represents the then subjugated and prostrate Britain. She is seated on a rock, with a spear in her left hand, and in her right is a military ensign, which sometimes is seen supporting her head, apparently in a pensive attitude, as if contemplating her future freedom and numerous Victories.
Again, we behold Hadrian, whose life when he was emperor was a series of journies. In short, to use the words of a celebrated historian, we may say, “as he possessed the various talents of the soldier, the statesman, and the scholar, he gratified his curiosity in the discharge of his duty; careless of the difference of seasons and climates, he marched on foot and bare headed over the snows of Caledonia, and the sultry plains of the Upper Egypt. Nor was there a province of his empire, which in the course of his reign was not honoured with the presence of the monarch.” “If all our historians were lost, medals, inscriptions, and other monuments, would be sufficient to record the travels of Hadrian.”
This sovereign is represented granting immunities to the various provinces he visited. In numerous instances he is seen on his coins receiving a female bending on her right knee, whom he is gracefully raising from that humilitating posture, with the legend “Restitutori Hispaniae,” “Restutori Africae,” “Achaiae,” “Italiae,” “Galliae.” &c. We also observe such wild animals depicted, as were provided by the munificence of the Emperors. The most conspicuous in liberality was Philip, senior, who at one entertainment in honor of the secular games, provided twenty zebras, ten elks, and as many camelopards: “the loftiest and most harmless creatures that wander over the plains of Sarmatia and AEthopia.” To these were added, by way of contrast, three African hyenas and some Indian tigers, both species being the most implacable savages of the torrid zone; and besides these, were the hippopotamus and rhinoceros, as well as many elephants and other beasts. Probus improved on this spectacle, and even ordered large trees to be torn up by their roots, and transplanted into the circus; and into this artificial forest were turned loose fallow deer, ostriches, and wild boars, of each a thousand, which were abandoned to the people of Rome.
Nor can I return to my main subject without noticing one beautiful and conspicuous feature in the imperial Denarius. I allude: to the elegant portraits of the Roman empresses and other illustrious females of Rome. Unfeeling and callous must be that mind that can without admiration look upon such models of female beauty as Julia Titi, and Sabina, the elder and younger Faustina, the latter frequently portrayed with that smile of witchery for which she was so celebrated, and which in a consort less placid than her’s would have excited jealous suspicion. Plautilla and Orbiana may likewise be referred to as noble specimens of feminine elegance. History has recorded the beauty of Cleopatra V., Queen of Egypt, but if her Denarius gives a faithful portrait of her, Augustus has but little merit for his continence. She is there represented as any thing but handsome, unless a masculine face, with strongly marked features, is the standard of beauty.
In viewing the Denarius as a coin, we find it taken up by the Saxon kings of Kent, A. D. 750, and also by the kings of Mercia, of the East Angles, of the West Saxons, and of Northumberland, as well as by the prelates of Canterbury, under Offa and Coenwulf. At York, Lincoln, and St. Edmund’s Bury, Pennies were struck to the honor of the following Saints—St. Peter, St. Martin, and St. Edmund. From Ecgbeorht, (or Egbert) the first sole monarch of England, the Silver Penny may be traced through the Saxon and Danish dynasties to the Norman conquest in 1066.
If beauty is wanting in the series under consideration, such defect is supplied by the delight with which we contemplate even a rude representation of our Saxon monarchs, particularly when we recognize an Alfred or a Harold. For usurper as the latter may be termed, his claims were paramount to those of an illegitimate Norman free-booter. These Pennies of the Saxons are generally very badly executed, though they are of higher relief and better defined than the Pennies of the period immediately succeeding that of the two Williams. But even among Saxon coins, there are not wanting instances of fine work. Offa had visited Rome, and like the British king Cunobeline, (who had been in high favour with Augustus 12) he had the good taste not to return without an Italian artist to improve his coinage. Alfred, our inimitable Alfred, turned his attention to the currency, after taking his Danish opponent (Guthram) prisoner, whom, by the bye, he had baptized by the name of Ethelstan, and generously made king of the East Angles. We have his bust clothed in armour, with the head laureated; and his Pennies, of fine work, generally bear the monogram of his metropolis (London) on the reverse. 13 The Pennies struck in the early part of his reign are inferior in material, and of extremely rude execution. Those struck by some of the other sovereigns are more and more inferior in workmanship, until we behold a head so extreme in ugliness as not to be compared to any thing ever yet produced in nature.
We also meet with buildings on some of the Saxon Pennies; and though these buildings are presumed to be cathedrals, yet on one Penny is an evident imitation of such a representation on a Roman Denarius as was never intended for any edifice in this country. Ecclesiastical or prelatical coins of Canterbury are also found with portraits. Wulfred and Ceolnoth, archbishops, appear to have been the most ambitious of bequeathing their likenesses to posterity.
Contemporary with the coins struck by the Saxon monarchs, are those found in Ireland, having for a legend straight strokes, instead of letters. A very considerable number of these coins have recently been discovered, and the major part of them brought to London: being all of one type. Presenting on the obverse, a very rude head with a crosier; and on the reverse, a cross—see the plate. They are evidently prelatical, and though heretofore known, are still unpublished. Pennies of the kings of Dublin are also found, with the superscribed title and the name added. We meet with those of Sithric, Dymnroe, Inidfrid, Stired, &c. Our Saxon kings, Eadgar, Ethelred, Edred, and Anlaf, struck Pennies in Ireland; the first of these monarchs having conquered that country. The Pennies, as before stated, were the chief coins circulated by the aforesaid sovereigns and prelates: the sees of Canterbury and of York having the privilege of striking them. Coins, also of the Penny size, are sometimes seen bearing what indicates neither an English or Irish origin, while their locality identifies them with the British isles; and it is presumed that these coins are either Danish, or were struck by sovereigns whose sway extended to the Isle of Man, being frequently found there. They bear on the obverse, a rude head; reverse, a cross, &c. very similar to our early English Pennies at the commencement of the twelfth century.
William, the usurper and conqueror of England, A. D. 1066, fearing the consequences of too frequently reminding his new subjects of their degradation and fallen state, took especial care to strike his Penny on the model of that of his predecessor, Harold II. The Conqueror’s portrait, however, as far as the inferior work can perpetuate it, is faithfully delineated, being that of a merciless and rapacious tyrant. On some of his coins he appears in profile, and on others full faced, with and without a sceptre, or a cross ornamented.
The Pennies of the Conqueror are all rare, if we except the Pax type, which from being extremely scarce, have now become very common, from the circumstance of an abundance of them being found at Beaworth, near Winchester. This discovery has furnished us with a new type before unknown; that of having the portrait in profile to the left, instead of full faced, as heretofore, with Pax on the reverse, (see the plate). The canopy type of the sovereign still continues very scarce.
Of William II., A. D. 1087, we have but one type; the face being longer than that of his father, and of very different work. On the reverse are two crosses, one terminating at the point of the branches with a dot, and on each side of the head is a star. 14 There is another Penny which likewise has two stars on the obverse. On the reverse is an ornamented cross, with a square also ornamented with dots.15 This variety, as well as the former one, has been assigned to Rufus, but from a recent circumstance, it has been proved to be a coin of the Conqueror; for amongst a great number of the Pennies of William I. lately discovered at Beaworth, not one of the former variety was found, but several of the other type. The Pennies of Rufus are very scarce.
Henry I., A. D. 1100, is represented both three-quarter and full faced, and sometimes in profile, either with or without the sceptre, occasionally accompanied with one or more stars or pellets. On the reverse are crosses, variously and profusely ornamented. The Pennies of this monarch are all rare, more particularly those with stars beside the head, or that variety having a double legend on the reverse. Those of good work are very desirable. 16
Stephen, A. D. 1135. His Penny in one instance bears his head three-quarter faced; but in general he is represented in profile, with sceptre, a banner, or a battle axe. On the reverse are crosses, ornamented. His Pennies are all rare, particularly those on which he is represented with a flag, or mace.
Stephen and Prince Henry. We likewise meet with a curious and extremely rare coin, bearing two portraits at full length, with a long cross between them. One figure representing Stephen, the other Prince Henry, son of the Empress Maud. This coin, therefore, is presumed to have been struck A. D. 1154, when those princes entered into a treaty relative to the succession to the crown. The reverse presents us with a highly ornamented cross, with small roses, or ornaments, instead of an inscription.
Eustace, the eldest surviving son of Stephen. Of this prince we meet with two very curious and rare Pennies, one having his portrait nearly at full length, accompanied by a drawn sword, on his head a helmet in the shape of a cone, and his body clothed in armour in connexion with which is his name. On the reverse is a cross, to which is added “Eboraci,” the place of mintage. Another coin of this prince, has on the obverse a leopard, under which are two shackle bolts with a cross and his name. On the reverse are two ornamented crosses, with small devices in lieu of an inscription. 17
Henry, the brother of Stephen, the powerful Bishop of Winchester, struck Pennies, with a portrait and a crosier encircled by his name. On the head is a regal crown, like that of his brother Stephen: reverse, a cross on a cross fleuri with his brother’s name and title. They are of extreme rarity.
We find a Penny also of Robert Earl of Gloucester, 18 (natural son of Henry I.) Chief Captain and Counsellor of the Empress Maud, his half-sister. He was one of the most potent barons and generals of his day. On his coin he is represented on horseback, with a drawn sword and with helmet, both sword and helmet are of the peculiar shapes distinguishing those on the Penny of Eustace. On the reverse is an ornamented cross, encircled with small devices in lieu of an inscription. This Penny is of the first degree of rarity.
Authors state that the rebellious Barons in Stephen’s reign struck coins. Amongst a lot of Pennies of Stephen found at Wallsop, were two bearing a full-faced portrait, and with name: the reverse of one of them being very similar to that of Henry in plate I., No. 24, of Snelling. Rogers Ruding has engraved them as belonging to Rufus. 19 From the company in which they were found, and from their similitude to the coin just mentioned, I have no hesitation in assigning them, either to the Barons, or to William, the third son of Stephen, which William in right of his wife, was Earl of Surry, and in his own, Earl of Normandy. 20 Another circumstance would induce me not to assign them to a sovereign. The portraits are ornamented with a double row of pearls, instead of a regal diadem. Another coin found with those discovered near Salisbury, Ruding has engraved as Baronial, inasmuch as it bears a portrait in armour, with a drawn sword and a helmet similar to those of Eustace and Earl Robert. The helmet, indeed, is rather broader, but it is evidently of the same fashion, and is accompanied by the title “Comes;” the reverse corresponds to one of Henry I. He suspects it to be Danish, but I cannot say on what grounds. These coins are all very rare.
Of Matilda, although crowned Queen of England, A. D. 1141, 21 we have no coins.
Henry II., A. D. 1154, is represented with a three quarter face looking to the dexter side, and accompanied with a sceptre. On the reverse is a long cross, with a small one between each limb. He likewise struck the Denier (a headless Billon coin) in Aquitaine. His Pennies are not scarce. The Denier is rare.
Richard I., A. D. 1189. We now come to a break in the English series. Of this monarch we obtain no English coins. Richard Coeur de Lion was only eight months in Britain during his reign. To this circumstance probably we may attribute the want of his coinage. Snelling, an admirable writer on English coins, but unfortunately for his credit as a judge of medals, has engraved two as being found with others near Leeds in Yorkshire. But he was deceived. A person of his day 22 fabricated them, and thereby gained a disgraceful notoriety by his trickery. Folkes and Ruding have perpetuated this blunder, by likewise engraving them. The latter indeed is excused, as he not only alludes to them as being false, but was obliged to publish them, having the loan of the original plates of Folkes in order to embellish his own work. Rapin gives a Penny of Edward the Confessor, struck at York, as one of this sovereign, and by some unaccountable mistake has made it read “RICARD” instead of EADPARD. Another Penny, assigned by the same author to Richard I. and engraved in page 258, is not of this king. Speed has made the same b1under, 23 by assigning the same coins to Richard.
That the heavy sum paid by his subjects for his ransom (to the eternal disgrace of the Emperor Henry VI.), should have taken all his coins out of the country, had there been any, is a truly ridiculous supposition. For had the monarch in question issued even but a few coins, no human power could have so traced them, as to leave none in the kingdom for future discovery. And there are those in every age whose curiosity nothing can repress. I will therefore fearlessly assert, that the absence of all English coins of a sovereign so much beloved as Richard Coeur de Lion, can only be attributed to one cause, namely, their primitive non-existence. Nor was his ransom paid in coin, but with one hundred and fifty thousand marks, in weight, of fine silver. If therefore the reader is desirous of possessing a coin of Richard I., he must procure one struck in that monarch’s paternal dominions of Acquitaine and Poictou, a coin nearly the size of the English Penny, but of base silver and without portrait. Such coins are termed Anglo-Gallic: 24 they are extremely rare.
John, A. D. 1199, struck no coins in England, (at least none have been discovered.) This circumstance is the more singular, as according to the records, we find he had various places of mintage in this country. He struck his Pennies and other coins in Ireland; the former alone I allude to. His portrait on the obverse is full faced within a triangle surrounded by his name and title, and in his right hand is a sceptre. On the reverse is a similar triangle enclosing a crescent and a star. The Pennies of this king are rather scarce.
Henry III., A. D. 1216, presents us with a Penny of the rudest description. His portrait is full faced, and sometimes even a bust to the head is wanting, in which case the face is long with an ornamented beard, or a beard composed of dots from each side of the head to a point below. The invariable reverse of the Penny in question is either a long or short cross, between the limbs of which are pellets, like those on his father’s Penny. He also struck Pennies in Ireland, with his head enclosed in a triangle very similar to those of his father. This king’s Pennies are extremely common, if we except those which read “Rex Terci” and “Rex Ang.” these are scarce. His Irish Pennies are rather scarce.
Edward I., A. D. 1272 and Edward II., A. D. 1307. The coins of these kings are a little better, for though they exhibit no likeness of a real personage, yet they make some advance towards a sensibly improved series. It is, however, useless for me to attempt that which men of ability have failed in, the distinguishing with certainty between the Pennies of the first two Edwards. Those which read EDW are supposed to be of Edward I., and the others which bear EDWA—EDWAR or EDWARD are assigned to Edward II.; in both cases the portraits 25 are full faced (as, indeed, are all after this time until the reign of Henry VII.) The Pennies of the first two Edwards bear on their reverse 26 a cross with pellets. These sovereigns struck the same coins in Ireland, adopting the triangle, &c. 27 as their predecessors had done, and at Bourdeaux they struck the billon Denier without a head. The Pennies of these sovereigns are extremely common, those excepted struck at Kingston, Cestrie and Exonie, and they are rare. The Reading Penny is very scarce, and their Anglo-Gallic coins are all rare. 28
About this time we meet with coins of the Penny size much calculated to puzzle those not versed in them. I allude to those pieces called counterfeit sterlings, they being made in direct imitation of the English sterling Penny, and like them, bearing on their obverse, a head with a name and title, while on the reverse is a cross with pellets. The bust and coronet are made to resemble those of Edward I., being in some instances a facsimile of them. They are to be detected, however, not by the difference of the name and title, but by the place of mintage given on the reverse, and in some eases the head is without a diadem. They are in general rather lighter than the real Penny, though the exceptions are not very uncommon. These imitation coins are of the Dukes of Brabant, of the Counts of Hainault and of Ligny, Loos, Flanders and of Namur, as well as of the Lords of Harstel and Porcein, &c. They were struck in Flanders and Hainault, and are by no means uncommon.
On turning our attention to the north of our island, we find the Scottish kings likewise issuing the Penny. Commencing with David I. A. D. 1124, a Penny of this sovereign, of extreme rarity, is in the possession of a highly distinguished collector, it is very similar to those of his contemporary Stephen. Cardonnel commences the Scotch series with William the Lion, A. D. 1165. Snelling engraves two coins as given by another author, 29 to Alexander I., and one to David I., at the same time states his opinion that, in reality they belong to David II., and William the Lion. The above authors had doubtless never seen the real Penny of David to which I allude in the first instance.
William the Lion commenced his reign A. D. 1165. On his Penny he is represented with a rude head (commonly turned to the right) adorned with a circle or diadem of pearls, surmounted by a cross formed likewise of pearls, and with a sceptre. Reverse a double cross with a star between each limb. Another variety, very different, exhibits the Sovereign with a coronet formed of fleur de lis, the sceptre surmounted with a Maltese cross, or one composed of pearls, and behind the head a small crescent with a pellet. The Reverse, a long cross with a small crescent with pellet and the place of mintage. There are some with the head turned to the left; these are very rare. Stow gives these coins to William I. of England, but doubtless erroneously, as on them we find various places of mintage, and all in Scotland. These Pennies were formerly considered rare; they have recently become rather common.
Alexander II., A. D. 1214. He is likewise represented with head regarding the right, with a coronet of five points, the centre surmounted by a cross of pearls, and before the bust a sceptre. Reverse, a long double cross, with stars in the quarters, and the place of mintage. I have seen two Pennies of this king with the head turned to the left; they must have been unknown both to Snelling and Cardonnel, by neither of whom are they engraved. 30 Tyssen possessed one of the first variety, which was without the sceptre, and had on the reverse a short cross. These coins are not common.
Alexander III., A. D. 1249. His Penny is very similar to that of his father’s. His head the same way, with a sceptre. Reverse, a long single cross, with a star as before, but with the title “Rex Scotorum,” instead of the place of mintage; one variety reads “Escossie Rex.” The Pennies of this king are extremely common; this variety excepted, which is very rare.
John Baliol, A. D. 1292. Head with sceptre as before, with the reverse very similar to that of his immediate predecessor, either with title or place of mintage. His coins are rare.
Robert Bruce, A. D. 1306. The obverse and reverse very like the coins of John Baliol; on the former the word “Villa” is used, instead of “Civitas.” In some instances, the bust is found fuller, and with a larger head than those portrayed on the Pennies of Baliol. They are not very common.
David II. A. D. 1329. His Pennies are very similar to those of his father; with title or place of mintage on the reverse, and the cross and stars as usual. They are rather more common than those of his predecessors, Alexander III. excepted.
Robert II. A. D. 1371. The type very similar to those of David Bruce; on the reverse is a cross, as usual, with the place of mintage. The Penny of this monarch differs from that of Robert I. in being of a less weight; it is not rare.
Robert III. A. D. 1390. On the Penny of this king, he is represented full faced, and without a sceptre. Reverse, a long cross, within the limbs of which are three pellets, similar to the English Penny, to which is added the place of mintage. This Penny is not very rare.
James I., A. D. 1405. Of this prince I have seen no Penny.
James II., A. D. 1437. Snelling gives no Silver Penny to this king, Cardonnel engraved one full faced, and without a sceptre. On the reverse, a cross; between each limb, a coronet of fleurs de lis. One of these coins is in the possession of a gentleman at Edinburgh. It is extremely rare.
James III., A. D. 1460. Cardonnel gives no Penny of James III. Snelling presents us with one full faced. Reverse, a long cross, with a star and three pellets between its limbs, and the place of mintage. This Penny is rare.
James IV., A. D. 1488. There is a very neat Penny, which I believe to be of this sovereign: it bears on the obverse a full faced portrait, and on the reverse a star in two quarters, and in the others three pellets; the legend differs a little from the former ones. With this king ends the series of Scotch Silver Pennies, unless we take in those issued by the English monarchs subsequent to the Union.
Mary, A. D. 1544. Of this queen we find a billon Penny, with head full faced. Reverse, a long cross, with a coronet and another ornament between each limb, with a legend. Another, with out head, bears on the obverse a thistle, with her initials, M. R. Reverse, a St. Andrew’s cross, with a coronet in the centre, and a legend. These billon Pennies are very rare. 31
In returning to the English series, we find that on the Pennies of Edward III., A. D. 1326, his bust is represented differently from those of his two immediate predecessors. It is broader, and without drapery; although in other respects a great similarity is preserved, and on the reverse the cross remains unaltered. Edward III. also struck coins in Aquitaine and Bordeaux; those of the former place bearing a fine portrait, and those of the latter a lion. The portrait is represented with a three-quarter face, and in execution infinitely superior to the English Penny. On the breast of the King is portrayed a lion passant. The Pennies of Edward III., although not so common as those of his two immediate predecessors, are by no means rare, whilst the Penny struck at Calais is extremely scarce. 32
Edward the Black Prince, son of Edward III., and father of Richard II., struck coins of the Penny size, with portrait, both in profile and full-faced; the said coins being struck in Aquitaine and named Sterling, and at Poitiers and called the Hardet or Hardie. The full-faced coins represent the figure of the Prince, either armed cap-a-pied, and bareheaded, with a sword in his right hand, or else clothed in his robes of state. His right hand, as in the other case, grasps an elevated sword, and his left is raised with his finger very significantly, pointing to it as his defence. His head is either decorated with a diadem, or encircled by a chaplet of roses, the inscription being an abbreviation of “Edwardus Primogenitus Regis Angliae.” On the Reverse, is a cross, within the limbs of which are lions and a Fleur de Lis, with his title, “Princeps Aquitaniae” likewise abbreviated. Those coins having a profile, exhibit the Prince with robes and a sword as before, his head being decorated with the Chaplet, while the reverse shews a plain cross with pellets in conjunction with the Prince’s title. These coins are rare, more particularly those with the portrait in profile.
John of Ghent, who was commonly called, “John of Gaunt,” (from his birth place) was the fourth son of Edward III., Duke of Lancaster and Aquitaine, and also King of Castile and Leon. Of this personage we have a very curious coin, called a Denier, the obverse of which presents his bust in profile directed to the right. The hair is long and flowing, and on his head is a crown composed of Fleurs de Lis, and ornamented with roses. Round the shoulder is a collar formed of roses with his name and title “Joann. Rex.” On the reverse is a cathedral or castle (more probably the latter) that being the symbol since used on the coins of Castile. The legend is “Castelle E. Legionis.” This highly interesting coin is presumed to be unique. 33
Richard II. A. D. 1377, struck his Pennies 34 at London and York; those of the metropolis being very similar to the Penny of his grandfather, and those of York are of extremely rude work and badly defined. The London Pennies bear a cross on the reverse, plain as usual; those struck at York have an open compartment in the centre of the cross. In his Norman Dominions, Richard II. also struck the Hardit similar to his Father’s. The Pennies of this Sovereign both of London and York are scarce. I have found the latter to occur most frequently. His Anglo-Gallic coins are all rare.
Henry IV., A. D. 1399, his son, the victorious Henry V., A. D. 1413, and the unfortunate Henry VI., A. D. 1425, struck Pennies, but it is impossible with any degree of certainty to appropriate them. Those with the eyelet-hole on each side of the head are generally ascribed to Henry V., but that distinction may be erroneous. Other Pennies have a star in the same place, and on the reverse a plain cross or an open compartment.
These Princes likewise struck Anglo-Gallic coins of Billon. Their English Pennies cannot be considered scarce, neither are they so common as those of Henry III., or the two first Edwards.
Edward IV., A. D. 1460. In this Sovereign’s Pennies, his bust appears thinner than that of Edward III., and the coins themselves are not so heavy as those of that Monarch. The obverse is generally ornamented with a small cross, a rose or a star on each side of the head, the work being different from that exhibited on the coins of his predecessors, and existing specimens generally very much clipped. On the reverse are the cross and pellets as before described. This Prince likewise struck coins in Ireland with and without a portrait. On the obverse are the Royal Arms, and on the reverse three Crowns; or a rose is seen on the observe, and on the reverse a Sun, his favourite badge. To the similarity of this device to that of his opponent, the Earl of Warwick, which was a star with rays, is attributed his victory over the Lancastrians at Barnet, enabling him from its being so decisive to lead captive his former Sovereign, the meek and unfortunate Henry, both to prison and to death. 35 The rose likewise from the same cause is often seen on his money. His Pennies are rather scarcer than those of the Henries last named.
Edward V., A. D. 1483. Of this infant Monarch we have no coins.
Richard III., A. D. 1483. The Pennies 36 of this King are almost invariably much clipped, (a fine round one of him or his brother Edward, would be a great desideratum.) The letter S is found on the breast of this sovereign, being the initial of the Bishop (John Sherwood), 37 in whose diocese it was struck. That coin engraved in Snelling and Ruding, as a Penny of Richard III., is in reality a Penny of Richard II. in an altered state. These coins bear the usual cross and pellets on the reverse. This King’s Penny is extremely rare.
Henry VII., A. D. 1485. The victorious Earl of Richmond is represented in a chair of state, and from that circumstance his Penny is called the Sovereign Penny; 38 the crown with which he is decorated differs from those of his predecessors in being arched. On the reverse are the royal arms with a cross, and with keys, or two initials. The Pennies of Henry VII. are not uncommon, except those of his first and second coinage, with front face, which are extremely rare. The keys discover them to be of the Archbishop’s coinage.
Henry VIII., A. D. 1509. This burly sensualist is exhibited both three-quarter and full-faced, on base silver. The sovereign type of his father was likewise retained, and sometimes coins of this description were struck by the Prelates of Canterbury and York, namely, by Cranmer, Bainbridge, and Wolsey, their own initials being added. Indeed, on one coin struck by the ambitious Church man last-named, we behold his Cardinal’s hat also, which was one of the charges that would have been brought forward against this haughty but munificent minister, had not death released him from the tyrant’s grasp. The Pennies of the sovereign type are of good silver; there is likewise a great difference in the quality of the metal of which the others are composed. The Sovereign Pennies of this monarch are very common; those with his bust rather scarce
Edward VI., A. D. 1547. Of this Prince we have a Penny with his head in profile, as well likewise as another of base silver without his head, having on one side a rose, and on the other the royal arms and place of mintage. We obtain also his Penny in fine silver of the sovereign type, very similar to that on his father’s coin. His Sovereign Penny is of extreme rarity, as is likewise the side-faced base Penny; those as well of base silver with a rose on the obverse, and on the reverse the royal arms, are rare. 39
Mary, A. D. 1553. Issued her base Penny with rose and coat of arms, struck both before and after her marriage with Philip. The only difference in these coins and those minted by Edward VI. is in the initial of the name. She likewise issued a Penny of fine silver with her head, struck previous and subsequent to her marriage, and on the reverse are the arms of England.
The Pennies of Mary with her portrait, both in her single and married state, are of extreme rarity; her base Penny likewise very similar to her brother’s (the difference being in the initial) with rose and arms of England, is rare, but I meet with it more frequently than that of Edward VI.
Elizabeth, A. D. 1558. This Queen struck her Penny both hammered and milled. On the obverse her bust, with the arms of England on the reverse. Her hammered Pennies are very common, but her milled Penny, so termed, extremely rare. 40
James I., A. D. 1603. This Prince issued Pennies with and without his head. Those of the former description bearing the profile (as a Herald would blazon) to the sinister, and behind the head the numeral. On the reverse the royal arms surmounted with a Fleur-de-lis. The Penny with out the monarch’s head, has on the obverse a rose, and on the reverse a thistle-head, in allusion to the union of the two crowns of England and Scotland. His Pennies with the rose on the obverse, and on the reverse a thistle-head, are extremely common; those with his head are not so.
Charles I., A. D. 1625. Of the unfortunate Charles I., we meet with a variety of types, some of the portraits being by Briot, and very fine after the original pictures of Vandyke. 41 Other portraits are very rude, though uniformly agreeing as to likeness. Some of this Sovereign’s Pennies bear no portrait, but have a rose both on the obverse and on the reverse: others are seen with the Prince’s plume, a full blown rose, or an inscription of three lines across the centre of the coin, with date below on their reverses. These are of the country mints, such as of Aberistwith, Exeter, and Oxford. The Pennies of Charles I., struck in London, are very common; those with a head, but with a rose on the obverse and reverse, are more scarce. His Pennies of the country mints are (of Aberistwith and Exeter) much rarer, but the Penny struck at Oxford is one of the scarcest coins in the English series. 42
Commonwealth, A. D. 1649. In proceeding to the Commonwealth, it may be observed that the fanatic Republicans issued their Penny, bearing on one side the cross of St. George, in a shield encircled by two branches (of laurel and olive) and on the other side the shields of England and Ireland conjoined with the above numeral. On their larger pieces they had the presumption to add, “God with us.”
The Commonwealth Pennies are not scarce.
Charles II., A. D. 1660. The first Pennies struck by Charles II. were hammered and executed by the celebrated Thomas Simon. Of these there are three or four varieties. On the obverse is the bust of the King, the head regarding the right and crowned. Reverse, the royal arms. One variety has neither the inner circle nor value behind the head: another the value, without the inner circle; the third difference have both the inner circle and value. The portrait of Charles II. is very good, and that variety having the value without the inner circle, is, if well preserved, a very fine specimen of engraving; the other specimens are not only of inferior work, but are very frequently badly struck, such coins being any thing but a credit to the Mint from which they issued. With the hammered money of this King, we take leave of the Mint-marks on our coins; they are not found on any of our subsequently milled money, nor do we again meet with the head crowned.
Charles II., however, not satisfied with the highly gifted Simon, must needs introduce Foreigners to supersede an Englishman! Two Dutchmen of the name of Roettier, were made the chief engravers at the Royal Mint, while the native artist was compelled by his Sovereign to fill an inferior situation. Nor was that splendid specimen of medallic engraving, called his Trial piece, and presented to his Royal Master, sufficient to raise in the breast of that voluptuous Prince, one single benevolent feeling towards his discarded servant.
I may be digressing in expressing my poor opinion on such subjects, but I am induced to speak my mind from the repeated remarks and complaints I have heard, respecting the fact of our own country men being so far superseded as for a Foreigner to be ever authorized to be chief engraver. Surely native talent was never at so low an ebb, that we could not find an Englishman equal to the task! Nay, even presuming this to be the case, and I know it was not, every true Briton would prefer seeing one of his own nation at the head of the engraving department. I hope for the credit of my country, I shall never see another Foreigner’s name, and least of all, at full length, under the head of a British King, and that head, as to likeness, completely erroneous. Surely that very clever and distintinguished artist, 43 must have been shackled with an execrable model to work from: he never could have seen George III. It excites our risibility to notice the first half-crown of this monarch, exhibiting our respected old King with a neck like unto a Gladiator. This it appears did not please; another was executed; the fault, if any, was mended, and still no likeness; unworthy the Mint from which it emanated, and a disgrace to the heads of that department who permitted it to be issued.
If the head on the crown piece was a likeness, why not then have engraved the half-crowns from the same model? They present different portraits altogether; surely this must be very absurd—what can be more ridiculous than to see three coins representing the same person issued at one and the same time, all bearing different countenances? Why not have taken the copper two-penny piece, engraved at Soho, (near Birmingham,) by Kutchler as a copy? this is like the Sovereign, probably one of the best likenesses extant; or, if at a loss, many fine medals by the same artist or the Wyons, convey a faithful resemblance of George III. 44 Having studied the countenance of that monarch from a child, and with a veneration I can scarcely describe, I flatter myself I have a perfect remembrance of almost every lineament of his face, and the impression thereof made on my mind will never be effaced.
In continuation. The subsequent coinage of Charles II. was executed by the Roettiers, and performed with the mill and collar, 45 thence termed milled money. In the Penny we find on the obverse the King’s head laureated, regarding the left, being in the opposite direction from that on the hammered Pennies. It should be distinctly under stood, that when a medallist states, the portrait is regarding or looking to the right or left, that he presumes the portrait so described is facing him, consequently that what would be to the left hand, or to use an heraldic phrase, the sinister side of the head, would be to the right of the observer.
Medallic writers differ on this subject as to which is most proper; whether to follow this plan, or on the contrary, describe the head in its position as it appears most commonly to those unacquainted with numismatics. I here follow the best authorities by adhering to the method first stated.
On the reverse of this Penny is the initial of the Sovereign, surmounted with a crown and a legend.
The hammered Pennies of this King are not rare, and the milled ones extremely common.
James II., A. D. 1685. His coins were likewise executed by the Roettiers. On the obverse the King’s head is laureated and the bust without drapery; the reverse presents the numeral surmounted with a crown and with legend. These Pennies are scarcer than those of his brother Charles II.
William and Mary, A. D. 1689. Their Penny presents us with two heads, both facing to the left the busts without drapery, with the usual reverse, the numeral as before surmounted with a crown. The Pennies of William and Mary are not very common.
William III. A. D. 1694. After the death of Mary, William struck coins with his head alone, better executed and struck than those preceding, the bust clothed with drapery. These Pennies are the rarest of all the Sovereigns subsequent to the scarce milled Penny of Elizabeth.
Anne, A. D. 1702. This Queen employed Croker, the same artist who executed for her those beautiful farthings, of which so much has been said, and of which so little, generally speaking, is understood.
The Penny of Anne bears an elegant bust of the Queen with drapery, probably equal to any portrait we meet with, either of Greek or Roman workmanship. On the reverse the numeral and crown as before. These Pennies are not very common.
George I., A. D. 1714. The same artist executed this Sovereign’s coins. The Penny has on the obverse the laureated head of the monarch, the bust clothed with drapery. The reverse the same as the last. These coins are common.
George II. A. D. 1727. His Penny presents his head laureated,—it is what is termed the young head. The larger pieces struck towards the end of his reign give us a very different portrait, for distinction sake called the old head, but on the Penny we meet with the former only. There is no variety, the reverse the same as the preceeding Sovereign. These Pennies of George II. are extremely common.
George III., A. D. 1760. In this King’s Pennies we find four distinct varieties, which I shall designate under the following titles. The first coinage with the young head; the wire money, so termed from the numeral being extremely fine, and which is more conspicuous in the other small pieces of higher value; the robe money, from the bust being richly clad with drapery; and the broad head money, being of his last coinage from 1816 to 1820. The first coinage represents the bust naked; the second and third with drapery; the two latter are similar, except in the numeral and crown on their reverses. The last coinage has a fair, bold head of the monarch, without drapery on the bust. These pieces, with the exception of the wire money, are very common. The wire money is of only one date, 1792, and this mintage is rare.
George IV., A. D. 1820. We now come to a splendid little gem, 46 executed by Pistrucci the same artist who engraved the crown of George III. Whatever mistake there might have been in that coin, here he has amply redeemed his character as an engraver. This exquisite and beautiful minute specimen of medallic engraving represents the King with his head laureated, inclined to the right. On the reverse the numeral, surmounted with a crown and with the date, the whole within two branches of oak. These Pennies are common.
William IV., A. D. 1830. Of our present deservedly popular Monarch we have a beautiful Penny by Wyon. But we meet with nothing extra: we have the King and nothing but the King, as like as it is possible to convey a portrait on a medal; no laurel crown, but the head engraved from a bust from nature, alike creditable to the Sovereign’s taste, and the artist’s ability. The reverse very similar to that of George IV. His Pennies are common.
The Roman Denarius in the Consular state weighed on an average from 2 dwts. 10 grs. to 2 dwts. 13 grs., and in the early Imperial from 2 dwts. 6 grs. to 2 dwts. 9 grs. of good silver. In the time of Trajan or Hadrian its weight was barely 2 dwts. 2 grs. Afterwards, and in the reign of Severus this coin was much debased, and in the Byzantine Empire it was brought down very low in weight, one of Magnus Maximus being 1 dwt. 6 grs., others of Valens and Valentinian 1 dwt. 3 grs. Others may be quoted still lower, being reduced to the Saxon and early English standard, namely a Pennyweight, so named from the coin.
The Saxon Pennies were from twenty-two grains to a Pennyweight. Indeed, I have one of the Confessor’s which weighs above 1 dwt. 1 gr. There is truly something relative to the coins of the last named Sovereign not to be understood. Our best judges cannot satisfy me on this head. I refer to his very small type. A great number were discovered some time since, many of them of the same type and size, being almost five-eighths of an inch in diameter, while there was a considerable diversity in their weight. I have them as low as 11½ grains, (the proper weight of the halfpenny, allowing for wear), and I have them also up to the Pennyweight in almost regular progression, some being 13 grains, some 15, and others 18 grains, still of the same diameter, but varying in thickness. Thus a difficulty presents itself which I must leave to a head better than mine to solve.
The Conqueror’s Pennies weigh from 20 to 22 grains, and those of Henry I. to Edward I. 21 to 22½ grains. Richard II. reduced the Penny to 18 grains; Edward IV. to 15 grains; Richard III. to 12 grains; Henry VIII. to 10 grains; and Elizabeth to 8 grains, and such has been nearly the weight of the Penny ever since; the Penny of our present Sovereign being 7 grains.
Before the Reader of this dry subject takes his nap over it, I must be permitted to pass an eulogium on the beauty and production of those small pieces termed Maundy money. 47 They are finely executed and well struck up. Indeed, in some instances they are like proofs, and why should not our other coinage be the same? It is truly lamentable to see the infamous state in which some of the gold and, silver coins are issued from the Mint. Look at the half-crowns, shillings, and sixpences, issued since the year 1821; the shillings in particular of 1825, and the present half-crown and half-sovereign of William IV. Observe the centre of their reverses, even if new from the die, they appear as if beaten with a hammer. The Romans had no steam engines, or other appliances, which in the present age we boast of, and still their coins are not thus imperfect. The very early coinage of George III. is well struck up. Notice his first shillings and the old guinea. Those coins are not like our present gold and silver. The coins of 1821 are likewise beautiful in design, in execution, and in production. Those also of the present day in fine work preserve a correctness of portraiture which cannot be surpassed. Why should they not be struck up both on the obverse and the reverse? I am told that, from the immensity of the numbers which are now coined, it would be impossible to issue them as perfect as formerly; then let them strike fewer; better this, than disgrace the country. I cannot, I do not pretend to say where the fault lies, but the fact itself no one can dispute; and for our own reputation it should be corrected. We should not permit the small German States 48 to outvie us, and leave us to discover the imperfections of our currency by contrast. If the parties employed cannot afford, as they are now paid, to use that force and occupy the time which is required to perfect a coin, let them be better remunerated. No Englishman (and I judge from my own feelings) will cavil or reluctantly contribute to the removal of every impediment to the perfection of our coinage, which at present is no credit to the country, and must tend to lessen us in the estimation of other nations.
I notice one peculiarity in Roman gold and silver coins; a radiation appears in some of those which are well preserved, particularly in the Aureus; it emanates from the centre, and diffuses itself over the whole field of the coin: (this is scarcely to be seen on those coins badly preserved.) I can account for this as follows: the metal of which the coin was formed, in the first instance, was cast in a mould, and turned out a complete ball, and then placed in the die; the force of the blow it received caused this appearance, and the irregularity likewise of its edges.
To this, as well, we may attribute the fine and deep impressions which we obtain in the Greek and Roman series (so far superior to those of our own improved coinage of the nineteenth century), and which could not from the simple blow of a hammer be obtained, had not the shape of the metal assisted the maker of the coin. That in striking the hammer alone was used is evident; observe that coin of the Carisia family struck in the Consular State of Rome, 49 bearing on the obverse a female head, with the word “Moneta,” and on the reverse the two dies, a pair of pincers and the hammer, with the name of the family, and the whole encircled with a wreath. That coins, issuing from the Roman mint, were never cast, I feel assured of, although others may differ with me on this point; from the thousands which I have seen, not one could I select, unless it was a modern forgery, that would bear the appearance of being formed in a mould.
READER, if you have followed me thus far from the commencement of this dull, and I fear faulty essay (written, I can assure you, piecemeal), I give you credit for your patience. The only return I can make you for accompanying me will be to offer, in the most unreserved manner, my assistance to you in this study; that is, if the little knowledge I have gained from actual practice will be worth your acceptance. Should this be the case, I will impart it freely, without hope of fee or reward.” I am too much of an enthusiast in Numismatics, not to take a pride in communicating that information to others, which, from experience and friendship with some of the first medallists of the age, I have obtained; at the same time, before we part, let me recommend to your notice those books on coins which will be worth your reading, and which you should possess.
We will commence with the Greek. Eckhel may be considered the most valuable of Numismatic writers; his works have been the source from whence our modern authors have enriched their own publications. We will not quarrel with this, as the works of this celebrated writer are scarce and expensive, while those of Mionnet are more easily obtained.
Eckhel’s “Doctrina Numorum Veterum” on Greek and Roman Coins, 4 volumes each, is therefore very desirable.
Combes’ “Hunterian Collection of Greek Civic Coins,” 1 volume, 1782.
Pellerin’s “Recueil de Médailles des Peuples et des Villes,” 1763.
Mionnet’s Greek Cities and Kings, with the different degrees of rarity, &c.
Paruta on Sicilian Coins.
The Prince Torremuzza’s “Sicilia Vet. Num. Antiquae.”
Mr. Payne Knight’s Catalogue of Greek Civic and Regal Coins, bequeathed by him to the British Museum, and which is to be obtained at that establishment.
Gesner appears to be the only author who has given plates of all the Greek and Roman coins then known. He wrote in 1738; they are indifferently executed. This is a very rare work to procure in a complete state.
The above enumerated authors I should recommend to the collectors of Greek coins, to which may be added Rasche’s Universal Lexicon of Greek and Roman Coins, which will be found of the greatest service.
Greek Imperial, or Coins struck by the Roman Emperors in Greece, will be best consulted in Vaillant’s account of them, in 1 volume, printed at Amsterdam, in 1700.
The Roman Consular will be found finely explained and most exquisitely engraved in Morell’s “Thesaurus,” 2 volumes, folio; Amsterdam, 1734. This book I recommend above any other on the Roman Family Coins; no collector should be without it; or, in lieu of this, Vaillant’s “Nummi Familiarum Romanarum,” in 2 volumes.
For the Imperial Roman, procure Vaillant’s “Numismata Imperatorum Romanorum,” in either two or three volumes, quarto. The latter is the best edition, printed at Rome in 1743, and dedicated to the Pope Benedict XIV. In this copy will be seen the Roman medallions, that is, pieces of larger denominations than the coins intended for currency, which are not contained in the other editions. The plates are splendidly engraved. This work commences with Julius Caesar, and carries you down to the reign of Constantine the Great.
You should then procure Banduri’s “Numismata à Trajano Decio ad Paleologos, 2 volumes, folio. This work, as the title expresses, commences with Trajanus Decius, A. D. 249, and is continued down to the last Emperor, Constantine Paleologus, A. D. 1453. Both Vaillant and Banduri give plates of the coins. So that, in fact, in possessing Morel, Vaillant, and Banduri, you commence with the earliest period of Consular Rome, and conclude with the extinction of the Byzantine Empire in the 29th year of our Henry VI. The Byzantine coins themselves towards the last will be found, with but a few exemptions, not worth collecting.
Eckhel (as before stated), on Roman coins, is very desirable, but very scarce; instead of which purchase Mionnet’s “De la Rareté et du Prix des M Romaines,” 2 volumes, quarto; Paris, 1815. This author, in his very excellent work, has closely followed Eckhel; coupled with this as Custodier of the King’s collection of Medals at Paris, he has been enabled to produce a book of infinite utility: the prices in numerous instances are not to be depended upon, as many of the coins which are most rare, both in the Greek and Latin series, are valued too low, and in those which are more common this is still more apparent. As a dealer, I should myself be happy to give double the sum for many coins at which he estimates them.
As the reader may prefer a work, very similar to the last named, in an English dress, I would advise him to apply for a publication by J. Yonge Akerman, F. S. A., entitled “A descriptive Catalogue of rare and inedited Roman Coins,” in 2 volumes, quarto; Effingham Wilson, Junr. London, 1834. This work gives the degree of rarity, but not the price. The said gentleman has likewise published at the same place, in 1836, a small octavo volume on Roman coins, struck in and relating to Britain. As an Englishman it should be in your library; it is entitled “Coins of the Romans relating to Britain.”
Cooke’s Medallic History of Rome is worth possessing; it relates to coins of peculiar interest, and describes them in two volumes, folio. It is thought but little of by the higher grade of collectors, still I beg leave to recommend it. This book I find rather scarce.
There are many other works on Greek and Roman coins, which, for want of space, I am prevented naming; but Occo’s Imperial Roman, in one volume, folio, is a very desirable work, particularly the edition of 1730.
Last in the train comes John Pinkerton, with his useful (although, in some instances, faulty) Essay on Medals, cutting right and left at the very authors preceding him, from whom he had stolen (from Jobert in particular). This was very unfair; but his book, indeed, was made to sell. He was paid a certain sum for his compilation; and although an old and highly respected friend of mine, Mr. Richard Miles, 50 offered to correct the copy for him, and divest it of its errors, his reply was, “I have agreed to do it for a stipulated amount, and I shall take no further trouble with it.”
So much for an author writing on a subject of which he knew little or nothing, merely for the sake of a trifling consideration. Such was the case with Pinkerton. It has been the fashion to censure this work, indeed much more than it deserves; at any rate it has been a serviceable compilation, and the standard by which our country collectors have been guided for the last forty years.
A catalogue likewise of Roman large brass has been published by Captain W. Henry Smyth, R. N., Knt. St. F. & M., F. R. S., &c. &c., 51 describing these coins, commencing with Julius Caesar, and concluding with Gailienus, when this series terminates.
This descriptive catalogue furnishes the English collector (who may not possess a classical education), with great facility in appropriating, as well as in appreciating the interest arising from the reverses of these medals, as the author, although himself a classic scholar, still in mercy to those who are not thus gifted, has given the description in plain English—indeed, in some instances, in “regular” nautical phrases, and it is by far the best familiar account yet published. The coins themselves were collected without respect to expense, and with a liberality but seldom equalled. A copy of this work is open to the medallist who may favour me with a call; it is a private publication and not intended for sale, if private it can be said to be, after its generous author has, with that kindness peculiar to himself been so unsparing in his gifts of it to collectors of Roman coins.
Roman Colonial. For these coins Vaillant again presents you with another work, in 2 volumes, folio, printed at Amsterdam in 1700.
Imperial Egyptian; that is, coins struck by the Romans in Egypt, while under the dominion of the Emperors, and subsequently to the era of the Ptolemies, will be found to be correctly described by Zoegas, in one volume, quarto; Rome, 1787.
Ancient Persian, and other Oriental Medals, are elaborately described by Marsden, in his “Numismata Orientalia Illustrata;” 2 volumes; London, 1825.
British and Saxon will be found in Ruding’s “Annals of the Coinage of Great Britain,” in 5 volumes, quarto; London, 1819; with a volume of plates.
I understand that a new edition of this work is now in the press, and will be presented to the public some time in the course of the present year. Considerable additions will be made to it, and many plates of coins hitherto unpublished will be furnished, from types existing in the cabinets of our chief collectors, who have kindly promised to afford their important assistance in the prosecution of the undertaking. The price of the work, I am informed, will be much under that of the original publication. 52
In the same work the English coins, and those of the British Colonies, are engraved and described as well as Anglo-Gallic. The English coins are brought down to 1818, and the plates to this work, of English gold and silver, from the Conquest to the reign of George II., A. D. 1745, and 1747, are the same as those which were published by Martin Folkes, in his two Volumes of English coins.
I would strongly recommend to your perusal, and for the study of English gold and silver, Snelling’s “View of the Gold and Silver Coinage of England; published originally in 1763, and written from actual practice, in parts; each part whereof I can procure separately, or otherwise, from my esteemed friend, Mr. M. Young, he having purchased the plates and copyright of that excellent work. Snelling gives you the degrees of rarity of those coins which he treats of, and to do which no one was more capable, he being himself a dealer; and this is borne out by his correctness as to the respective degrees he gives. Of course, since his time various discoveries having been made, the degrees of rarity he has mentioned must, in some instances, be altered. His work is brought down to 1745, in the silver series, and in the gold to 1762.
He has also produced a very thin folio volume on the copper currency of England up to his time, as well as another on Scotch coins, from the earliest period down to the Union in the reign of Queen Anne, intitled “A View of the Silver Coin and Coinage of Scotland,” &c.; to which are added four plates of gold, billon, and copper coins of the same kingdom.
The same author treats on pattern pieces, early counters, counterfeit sterlings, abbey pieces, or more properly Nuremberg tokens, early trades men’s tokens, and Anglo-Gallic. These, as before stated, are generally to be procured in parts.
Cardonnel likewise presents you with a work on Scotch coins, in one volume, folio, 1786, named “Numismata Scotiae;” being a series of the Scottish coinage from the reign of William the Lion, to the Union. This author gives plates of gold and silver coins, many of them execrably executed, very inferior to those in Snelling. For this he had no excuse, although, in many instances, he was compelled to copy from bad work; yet, in others, he not only had good, but even fine work; witness the money of Charles I. by Briot. And hear how this man, of infinite modesty, censures his predecessor and superior, Snelling, in his Preface to the “Numismata Scotiae,” as an attempt at an apology for publishing it: “>Snelling on Scottish money is very defective; many of his plates are so badly executed, that they scarcely bear any resemblance to the pieces they mean to represent.”
Cardonnel certainly must have possessed some assurance after this remark, to have sent forth such a plate as No. 12 in his book. Look at the horrible face which he has there given to the unfortunate Charles I. His head, after decapitation, and while being handed round the scaffold, could not to his rebellious subjects have presented a more distorted, rueful, or outrageous countenance, than is there given to it, and Cardonnel himself appears to have been the engraver. He might have possessed the confidence, but certainly not the talent of many of his highly gifted countrymen of the present day.
Irish coins are treated of in an admirable work, intitled “Simon’s Essay on Irish Coins,” in one volume; Dublin, 1810. We here meet with plates of the early Kings of Dublin, with those of our Saxon Monarchs, who struck coins in that city, and continued down to the time of Charles I. in the silver, with the copper money to the reign of George I.; accompanied by a supplement, and an additional plate by that indefatigable author, Snelling. Collectors of Irish coins will find this a great desideratum, and very easy to be procured.
Anglo-Gallic, or coins struck by the early Princes of the Plantaganet Line, in their paternal dominions of Normandy and Aquitaine, as well as others, struck subsequently to the time of our latter Henries, will be found in a work by Ducarel, named, “A Series of above Two Hundred Anglo-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitaine Coins of the Antient Kings of England,” &c., with sixteen plates, finely engraved; one volume; London, 1757.
For Obsidional coins, commonly called Seige Pieces, or Distressed Money, you must procure Duby’s “Recueil Général des Pieces Obsidionales et de Necessité Paris, 1786.
Tradesmen’s Tokens (modern) are treated of by Pye, as well as in Conder’s “Arrangement of Provincial Coins, Tokens, and Medalets,” in one volume; Ipswich, 1798.
But the most desirable catalogue of provincial tokens is that admirable work by Thomas Sharp, Esq. in one volume, folio; London, 1834; taken from the splendid collection of Sir George Chetwynd, Bart., of Grendon Hall, Warwickshire. This publication presents you with a description of almost every variety known. On the title page is portrayed a fine token, engraved by Benjamin Wyon, for the Baronet. On the obverse is a very good bust of Sir George, and a great likeness, with the exception, however, of the countenance being much too stern for the original. On the reverse is seen Grendon Hall, a fine old English mansion, well worthy of its distinguished and patriotic occupier. These tokens are very rare, and none but his family, and those whom he has been pleased peculiarly to honour, have been presented with them. My private cabinet does not as yet contain one, but I possess a beautiful copy, splendidly bound, of the work alluded to. It was most liberally presented to me by Sir George Chetwynd himself, accompanied with a very handsome and flattering communication, and I feel highly honoured in its possession.
This book being strictly private cannot be purchased.
Dollars and other coins of various States are published in Maidai, four volumes, 1765; and in Bonneville’s “Traité des Monnaies d’Or et d’Argent,” being gold and silver coins of all countries.
We are but indifferently off for works on our English medals. I was in hopes that, ere this, we should have had one from a certain quarter, the party possessing an infinite variety of them, and no one, probably, more competent to this herculean task. Government would no doubt afford facility (and give assistance if required) to this national undertaking. At present the best is the “Medallic History of England,” 1 volume, London, 1802; in this are engraved forty plates of medals. The medals of the Kings of England by Dassier are introduced; likewise a small Counter of Edward III.; after which those of the time of Henry VIII. and down to the reign of James II.
Snelling also gives us a volume, with plates of medals, but without letter-press, he having died before it was completed.
Those of the reign of William III. are published in 1 volume by N. Chevalier; Amsterdam, 1692.
The medals, pattern pieces, and coins executed by Thomas Simon, with the Great Seals of England, are beautifully engraved by George Vertue, in 1 volume; London, 1780. Mudie likewise caused his forty medals of the English Commanders, termed the “National Medals,” to be engraved and published in 1 volume, London.
Foreign medals of the Low Countries are engraved in a work by Van Mieris, in 8 volumes. After this comes “Van Loon’s Medallic History of Holland, in 5 volumes, folio, 1732. This Work gives a full description of each medal, amongst which many English are introduced, and the engravings of the whole are very fine.
French medals of Louis XIV. are published in 1 volume, with description, &c. The medals of the French Revolution are treated of by Millin, in 1 volume, and continued by Millengen in the “Medallic History of Napoleon,” from 1796 to 1815, with Supplement. But the best work on this subject is by Hennins, published in 1826.
Medals of the celebrated Hedlinger are published and engraved in 1 volume, Basle, 1776, by Chrétien de Mechel, and dedicated to Gustavus III. of Sweden. If any work of art can approximate to the splendid productions of Hedlinger, it must be the engravings of them in this publication.
It is proper also to mention that a quarterly publication, entitled the “Numismatic Journal,” has recently appeared. It contains a series of papers on numismatic subjects, contributed by literary collectors, and is likely to prove of interest and utility in the study of coins and medals of all descriptions.
Be it understood that the foregoing list of Numismatic Works are only a part or parcel of what might have been given, had this little publication space sufficient, but they will be found as much as can be required for the general use of almost any collector.
If this trifle which I now send forth to the world, not so much for immediate profit as for a card of my business, be not too severely censured, I intend in a future publication to extend the list of Numismatic Writers; in the mean time, offering to the service of the public the use of any of the works I have named, as well as the inspection of a series of English Pennies here alluded to, one of each sovereign, intended to illustrate this essay.
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