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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 30, July 29, 2007, Article 10

BURN'S CATALOGUE OF THE LONDON TRADERS, TAVERN, AND COFFEE-HOUSE TOKENS

When I noted that I'd purchased a copy of Burn's 1853 work on London
tokens, David Gladfelter wrote: "Have you gotten to pages lxxix-lxxx?
No fair skipping ahead."

Well, I resisted temptation and didn't skip ahead.  On my previous
flight home to the U.S. I took the book along and did some reading.
Here are a few notes.

My copy is a spineless reading copy that coincidentally, had been
discarded by the coin room of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
The full title is "A Descriptive Catalogue of the London Traders,
Tavern, and Coffee-House Tokens Current in the Seventeenth Century;
Presented to the Corporation Library by Henry Benjamin Hanbury
Beaufoy, Citizen and Distiller, Fellow of the Royal and Linnaean
Societies, and Corresponding Member of Numerous Continental Literary
and Scientific Associations.

The book makes marvelous reading; no mere catalogue, it provides
an extensive overview of the history and use of tokens in the period,
highlighted with many interesting anecdotes.  I'll publish a few from
the extensive preface here.

(page iv) "In 1279, King Edward the First determined on a reformation
of the coin, and the Jews being found delinquents as clippers, two
hundred and sixty-seven of them, declared guilty of that offence,
where executed."

(page v) "Leaden tokens are noticed early in the reign of King Henry
the Fourth ... at the beginning of the fifteenth century.  In 1402,
the extreme scarcity of small coins among the poorer people induced
the Commons to petition King Henry the Fourth in parliament, for
some remedy for the pressing mischief amongst the poor people,
occasioned by the want of half-pennies and farthings of silver..."

(page xvii) "... the mint-house, well stored, was locked up until
his returne.  The sickness being then in London, and poore people
wanting their coine, some knave or other, in the night, clapped a
redde crosse upon the dore, and underwritt it thus - 'Lord have
mercy upon us, for this house is full of tokens.'"

"The mint-house, or office for the issue and change of these
farthings, was on the north side of Lothbury; hence the name yet
retained of Tokenhouse yard."   [The name Tokenhouse Yard lives on
today - the small street, just off Lothbury Street, is in the
financial district of London. Page 192 of Burn lists a token struck
for a merchant in Tokenhouse Yard. -Editor]

(page xix) "... to suppresse these farthing tokens that so they may
advance their owne tokens, stamps, seals, names, signes, and
superscriptions, if not images, as now appears, though they be
far inferior to Caesar's."

(page xxi) "... every tavern and tipling-house, in the days of
late anarchy among us, presumed to stamp and utter for immediate
exchange, as they were passable thorough the neighbourhood, which,
though seldom reaching farther than the next street or two, may
happily, in after times, come to exercise and busie the learned
critic what they should signifie."

So what about pages lxxix-lxxx?  In my copy, the preface stops
at page lxvii.  Itís the 1853 first edition.  I wrote to David,
who responded: "I have the second edition of 1855. I came across
a reference to it doing a literature search for an article on the
Carolina Elephant token and others linked to it, for the Colonial
Newsletter some years ago. That was prompted by having acquired a
flip-over double strike specimen. Burn discusses these tokens on
the pages cited and concludes that 'nothing has yet been
discovered to afford any elucidation' of them. That's still
true today, by the way."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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