Also arriving in my mail this week was my copy of the Fall 2010 issue of The Conder Token Collector's Journal, a great publication for collectors of these interesting 18th-century British tokens.
Editor Pro Tem Harold Welch has an article in the issue of interest to bibliophiles. He kindly provided me with the text and an image. Excerpts appear below. Thanks!
"A Curmudgeon’s Copy of Conder’s Arrangement"
A couple of years ago, I went to England to do research for The Virtuoso’s Arrangement, my book on the classic literature of the British tokens of the 18th and 19th centuries. One of the outstanding collections of token literature is held by the Guildhall Library in London. While there I ran across a most interesting (and amusing) copy of Conder’s An Arrangement of Provincial coins, Tokens and Medals. Unfortunately, the volume is not signed by the original owner, but there are some clues that might allow the owner to be unmasked. As you will see, David Dykes makes a strong case that the original owner was Samuel Birchall. But what do you think? I would love to hear from you.
1798 edition. Interleaved, in two volumes. Bound in brown quarter leather with raised bands, gilt titles and maroon cloth boards. The binding is quite old. The original owner, apparently a contemporary to Conder and a somewhat contrary fellow has copiously annotated the volumes with neat additions and commentary, but, alas, no bookplate or ownership inscriptions. There is the ink signature of a later owner, “J. H. Burn July 1846” clearly in a different hand. The original owner leaves a clue as to his identity in that he has bound in “An exact List of the Number of my Private Token, with the manner of their disposal.”
The record of distribution isn’t listed past the twentieth piece, but the numbering extends to at least #26, so we know something of the mintage of the private token. We also know that he is not W. Millar, M. Young, Hancock, Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Pye, Mr. Western, Mr. Humphry, Mr. Skidmore, Mr.Chater, Miss Banks or poor Mr. Welch whom our mystery man labels, “a mere fraud”. As the Thomas Welch tokens are my favorite and I have, for no other reason than it pleases me, decided that he is my direct ancestor, this really hurts! Though it is marked over, the first piece seems to say “Bronzed Unique”.
Also bound in is a closely written four-page review of Conder’s work. Our cranky correspondent initially allows, “This, certainly is by far the most compleat publication of the kind published,” but continues, “in some points, I must confefs, I differ from Mr. Conder. In the first place, in arranging the Coins by Edge; which certainly is far from a good plan . . .”
After providing several examples of Conder’s folly he really begins to warm to his subject, “In the next place, when describing a coin of the same device with a few exceptions to the one preceding it, he (Conder) says, “The same as last differently executed.” What guide can this be to a person in collecting without the difference stated? It would have been better to have omitted it altogether, than to give it in so imperfect a manner.”
“Thirdly, I very much differ from him in arranging the pieces according to the Reverse, which certainly is as injudicious as by the edge . . .” Now he takes off the gloves, “. . . repetitions similar to this occur in other instances, merely on the excuse that the imprefsions are on thicker Copper & profefs on the edge to be Penny Tokens . . . Their fabrication is peculiarly contemptible & they are entirely independent of the principles of the Provincial Halfpence. What excuse Mr. C. can find for this insertion, I am at a loss to conjecture, but this I know, if they are arranged with the rest of the Provincials, a disgrace is instantly stamped on the cabinet.”
The invective continues, but you get the idea. Written in the margin on the page that Conder lists the tokens of Thomas Spence is the underlined notation, “The execution of these is so vile, that the mention of them is a disgrace to this work.” The annotator is clearly a knowledgeable numismatist and many of his criticisms, while harsh, are justified. Throughout he has neatly expanded upon Conder’s “Arrangement”, cataloging many pieces either not noticed by Mr. Conder or struck subsequent to the publication of his work.
At the end of his article Harold notes: "I am planning to make a trip this fall to complete my research on the British token literature. I have included a request in the journal’s free ads for some time requesting members who own pre-World War II token literature to contact me so that I might include their volumes in my listings. If you haven’t noticed the ad or just haven’t gotten around to contacting me, PLEASE DO. This work has been drawn out for much too long, but after my trip to England, I hope to put on a big push and finally wrap it up. I really want to be as complete as possible, but I need your help!
Please lend a hand to this great project, folks! Can you help?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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