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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 4, January 22, 2006, Article 2

OBITUARY: PHILIP GRIERSON 1910-2006

Paul Withers writes: "There is sad news, Professor Philip
Grierson died on Sunday afternoon."  Paul Forwarded the
following note.  Mark Blackburn writes "that Philip suffered
a heart attack while eating his lunch in the dining room at
Cottenham Court, the nursing home where he had being staying,
and probably died instantaneously.  He was taken to Addenbrookes
Hospital by ambulance, and pronounced dead shortly after his
arrival there at 1.40pm.

Although he had been deteriorating physically in recent weeks
(he found it a struggle to walk even along the corridor),
he was reasonably content and peaceful staying in the nursing
home.  The staff, who are extremely friendly, liked him and
he appreciated all they did for him.  He was still hoping to
return to College, but recognised that he needed to gather
more strength.

As his sister Janet (aged 93) said this evening, this is
as he would have wished it, to go before he had to endure
too much pain and suffering.

The last that we saw of him was a few months back, when
he was still bright and sprightly, supervising the latest
volumes of Medieval European Coinage that are in course of
preparation. He was a remarkable man and was working,
undiminished almost to the very end."

The Guardian published an obituary on January 18:
"Professor Philip Grierson, who has died aged 95, was
that very rare combination - a world-class collector and
a world-class scholar of coins. With his death, the
Fitzwilliam Museum has lost one of its leading benefactors
and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, has lost one of
the last surviving ornaments of the great and dying tradition
of the bachelor fellow resident in college."

"From his austere set of rooms overlooking the market
place, into which he moved in the mid-1930s, he produced
an unrivalled flow of numismatic scholarship and entertained
more undergraduates than almost any other member of his
college. Scholars revered him for his learning and research;
colleagues liked him for his encyclopaedic knowledge and
sense of fun; and students, who were in awe of his longevity
and his academic reputation, loved him because he shared their
taste in food, films, music and literature."

"There was much more in his life to intrigue the young. He
had been a communist sympathiser in the 1930s, although he
never joined the party. He had flown to Germany to help
Jewish scholars escape nazism in the 1930s. A great admirer
of the Soviet Union, he refused to visit Spain while Franco
was alive. He had rejected the offer of a CBE because he could
not be bothered to dress up to go the palace. He could fly a
plane but could not drive a car. He possessed a racing bike
on which he swished round Cambridge like a teenager."

"Yet this was the man who formed the finest representative
collection of medieval European coins in the world, some
20,000 specimens, which he has bequeathed to the Fitzwilliam.
Estimates of their value vary but "between £5m and £10m" was
Grierson's own, formed by prudent buying over 60 years,
essentially from his salary as a university teacher."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

A London Times article focused more on his numismatic
bibliomania and scholarship:  "Grierson also collected books
about coins. The books, like the coins, are already mostly
in the Grierson Room in the Fitzwilliam. In 1949 he became
honorary Keeper of Coins at the Fitzwilliam, promoted to
Reader in Numismatics in 1960, and Professor of Numismatics
from 1971 to his retirement in 1978.

In 1958 he also inaugurated the Sylloge of Coins of the
British Isles under the auspices of the British Academy.
He sat on its management committee until his death, by when
more than 50 volumes had been added to his initial publication.

By the 1950s Grierson was sending off articles every six
weeks or so, and his rate of writing diminished only in
the 1980s. In all he wrote well over 250 articles besides
his numerous books. In 1979 he reprinted 51 articles in
Dark Age Numismatics and Later Medieval Numismatics. Soon
afterwards he formulated his grand design to collect his
own work in a single multivolume corpus.

In 1982 he announced his plan of publishing a 14-volume
standard work on medieval European coinage to match his
multivolume work on Byzantine coins. In 1976 he had already
done a preliminary sketch, his 300-page Monnaies du moyen âge
/ Münzen des Mittelalters.

This large series was still in progress at the time of his
death, by which time there was a team of eminent historians
working with him and the plan had expanded to 17 volumes.
Grierson himself wrote the volume on the Low Countries. The
first part goes to press this year and the second early
next year."

To read the complete article, see: Full Story

The Independent published an obituary January 19: Obituary

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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