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The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 37, September 10, 2000, Article 10


Asylum editor E. Tomlinson Fort writes:

"I recently purchased a copy of The Numismatic Chronicle for 1901. As some may know this issue is unique in the history of that esteemed journal in that the entire volume (some 515 pages) consists a single work: Joseph Andrews, "Numismatic History of the Reign of Henry I, 1100-1135." Making a long story short, Andrews' principal argument was that during Henry's reign the English mints were controlled by the earls, all of whom held lands and titles in Normandy, and that the mints only produced coins when the earls were in England. Thus, the mint at Gloucester only struck coins when the Earl of Gloucester was in England, and when he was in Normandy the mint ceased production.

The next volume of The Numismatic Chronicle contained a five-page review of Andrews' work by two clerks at the Public Record Office in London [C.G. Crump and C. Johnson, "Notes on 'A Numismatic History of the Reign of Henry I," NC 1902, pp.372-7]. In this review the authors completely and utterly demolished the arguments which Andrews spent 500 pages building. The rancor caused by this was one of the principle reasons for a group leaving the Royal Numismatic Society and forming the British Numismatic Society in 1904.

More recently, there is the case of Karl F. Morrison and Henry Grunthal's "Carolingian Coinage" (New York, 1967). This 465 page tome was published by no less an august body than the American Numismatic Society. In his review (in the Numismatic Chronicle, 1969, pp.346-350), the British scholar Philip Grierson at least tried to find a few good things to say (he did like the plates). However, the French numismatist does not suffer fools lightly and he "nuked" the book in his review [Revue Numismatique 1967, pp.291-5]. In fact these reviews were so bad (as is the book) and the book so riddled with errors that I am told it cost Morrison tenure at the university where he was lecturing. [To the uninitiated wishing to learn about the Carolingian series, if you pay $90 for this work you should receive $95 in change]

The fate of Morrison's monograph is rather sad, since before it he published several articles on the Carolingian series which are quite good. [I particularly recommend his "Numismatics and Carolingian Trade: a Critique of the Evidence," Speculum 38 (1963), pp.403-432.].

Thinking about Andrews and Morrison has made me wonder about what other great numismatic literary disasters may be out there. I am not talking about articles or pamphlets - I mean lengthy works which were pilloried soon after they hit the street and which caused trouble and embarrassment for either their author(s) and/or publishers. I am not interested in works which were only shown to be incompetent years after they appeared. The published scorn must have been poured on them within a year or two after they were printed and the critics must be right.

Since my own interests are Medieval European I am particularly interested in any works dealing with modern and American coins. Please send all submissions to me at

Wayne Homren, Editor

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