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The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 11, March 12, 2000, Article 8


Dick Johnson, who has for some time been researching American engravers and diesinkers, writes:

"This is what I learned about Forrer's work from everyone's recent E-Sylum contributions:

  • (1) Accuracy of the data is of the greatest importance.
  • (2) Indexing [and organizing the material] is also important.
  • (3) A need for data on American artists exists. (George Fuld).
  • (4) A book such as this is frequently referenced.
  • (5) Users like it.
  • (6) The data it contains has great longevity [it is still useful and necessary a century and three major reprintings later].
  • (7) Buyers have to be talked into purchasing it [reminiscent of the days of the encyclopedia salesman!].
  • (8) Types of binding are really not that important but must be suitable for a lot of hard use. (George Kolbe).

What writers didn't say also gives intelligence:
  • (9) The arrangement of the data can be left up to the compiler.
  • (10) The same can be said for the content.

"My analysis of Forrer is the very disconcerting need to search through four alphabets to make sure you have every entry on an artist. Listings of numismatic items are given in run-on text; how much better it would have been if these had been tabular."

"Forrer's style was eclectic, he copied a lot of other material verbatim, cut and paste style, occasionally in another language, mostly French. He did include some nonexistent artists, like a J. Beach that should have been J. Boyle, but these errors came from his contributors. He's more accurate on items that passed through the offices of Spink & Son that he could physically examine."

"Perhaps his greatest sin, however, was listing material from sales literature, like attributing items to Robert Sneider that he sold rather than engraved [Sneider had purchased and restruck a lot of Lovett's dies, but did not identify these as Lovett's, leaving the impression they were his creations, which Forrer perpetuated]. Also Forrer had an idiosyncrasy of calling every artist in the Western hemisphere 'American'."

If you would like to comment further on Forrer's Biographical Dictionary, send your comments to your editor here for print, or directly to Dick Johnson at .

Wayne Homren, Editor

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Content presented in The E-Sylum is not necessarily researched or independently fact-checked, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.

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