The April 22, 2013 edition of Coin World included Joel Orosz' Numismatic Bookie column, which focused this time on the perseverance of Sylvester Sage Crosby, author of The Early Coins of America .
Sylvester Sage Crosby’s timeless classic, The Early Coins of America, was the brainchild of Charles Chaplin, vice president of the New England Numismatic and Archeological Society.
Chaplin (not the silent movie star), named Crosby to chair a six-person Publications Committee in 1872 to write the definitive reference on American Colonial coins.
When the Publications Committee members realized the magnitude of the topic, five — including Chaplin — resigned.
Crosby was left alone to do six men’s work. Most people would have quit, but Sylvester came from strong stock. His father, Rev. Jazaniah Crosby, at age 18, walked 80 miles to start theological training at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Late in 1872, Sylvester began visiting archives, studying laws authorizing coinage, and corresponding with numerous collectors and scholars. He planned to write 10 sections of 32 pages each, to be published, as each was completed, in The American Journal of Numismatics. Ultimately, he required a dozen sections of 32 pages, for a total of 384.
Each section was priced at $1, and in 1875, when all were completed, the unbound set of 12 could be purchased for $12. This was a hefty price for the era, but The Early Coins of America was a hefty book, and impressively, it was illustrated by 12 photographic plates.
Crosby’s plates featured superb images of coins borrowed from famous collections, all produced by the new heliotype process. Only 350 sets of the 12 sections were printed, and today they are found in a bewildering variety of bindings. A total of 160 individuals and institutions subscribed to the project; their copies are bound according to their individual tastes.
Today, 1875 originals sell for at least $1,000. Crosby got the last laugh on the Publications Committee quitters. When the American Numismatic Society erected its new headquarters building in 1931, they engraved the names of six great numismatists into its entablature.
The only American name was “Crosby.”
To read the complete article, see:
Wayne Homren, Editor
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