The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 11, Number 31, August 3, 2008, Article 9


John M. Kleeberg wrote a great article on the American Numismatic Association library and its recently-retired librarian Frank Campbell. It was published in the August 2008 issue of The Colonial Newsletter. The seven-page article is a must-read for numismatic researchers everywhere. Here are some excerpts. -Editor.
As the ANS library grew and grew in the old building, its holdings were crammed into all sorts of odd spaces. The projection room behind the old seminar room had a set of Michauds Biographie Universelle. The old seminar room itself held the Internationale Bibliographie der Zeitschriftenliteratur, the Bolshaia Sovetskaia Entsiklopedia (with the article on L. P Beriia intact) and Ogam, a journal on Celtic archaeology. The Reilly room held the Ersch-Gruber Lexicon, a Spanish encyclopedia, and the papers of Alexander Hamilton. The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum was right outside the upstairs toilet, so if one were suffering from indigestion ones knowledge of Roman epigraphy could become quite advanced.

What is the best way to get the most out of the ANS library? The best way is to go there and read absolutely everything. This strategy may not be possible, but even if one cannot do that, at least try to read more, and read more widely. A researcher who is interested in United States coins should not restrict research to the United States area of the bookshelves.

A researcher interested in United States coins would better spend the time reading through the Periodicals area the American Journal of Numismatics, the Numismatist, Frossards Numisma, the two series of the Coin Collectors Journal. (There is an excellent overview of United States numismatic periodicals by the late Ken Lowe published in Out on a Limb.)

But there is always something new to learn. I recently did some research in Mehls Numismatic Monthly. I had assumed that it would be worthless, as the Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia is said to be. To my surprise it is better than the Numismatist, partly because the Numismatist reflects the party line of Farran Zerbe, and thus is censored when discussing the disputes surrounding the 1909 ANA election, whereas Mehls Numismatic Monthly reports both sides.

Because of the lack of space in the old ANS library, periodicals were stored in a regular series then in a separate series for unbound periodicals and then in an exception to the exception. The Numismatist was in fat bound red volumes on the compact shelving upstairs; the Colonial News-Letter was unbound, in boxes in the periodicals room down a flight of stairs and through a door; and Coins magazine was stored in a third, locked, room, opposite the periodicals room and housing all sorts of remarkable objects, including a birdcage (but no birds). The birdcage may have been a remnant of when Frank raised homing pigeons; according to Witschonke, when North was running the library, Frank was able to keep his homing pigeons in the library. Thats one way to deliver interlibrary loans!

This system, with its many exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions could only be fully navigated with the help of a skilled pilot and this skill is what Frank provided. When the ANS moved to the building at Fulton and William Streets, the added space for the library enabled Frank and his assistant, Normand Ppin, to re-arrange the numismatic periodicals in one continuous series. This was tremendously helpful a number of periodicals that had been misshelved turned up again. I was overjoyed the day I came across a complete set of the Philippine Numismatic Monographs, with the fine hoard reports about Spanish American coins found in the Philippines, written by Dr. P. I. de Jesus.

Frank also had a locked room on the second floor of the old building that contained his ammunition duplicate volumes that he judiciously sold from time to time into the book trade, thereby increasing the librarys funds. For many years this locked room had a large supply of Clapp-Newcomb on the cents of 1795, 1796, 1797 and 1800 (which had been published by the ANS in 1947).

Even if you have read a book a million times, it is always useful to look at the ANS library copy. Why? Because people write in books. In a book published by Jos Torribio Medina about coins of the Americas I found a comment next to the description of the 10 reales of Santo Domingo Have seen in copper RIN. RIN are the initials of Robert I. Nesmith.

In the copy of Abe Kosoff Remembers, Kosoff commented that when he was trying to figure out whether the $20 gold piece with the Paquet reverse was a pattern or not, Wayte Raymond told him of a researcher that Raymond hired to look up things in the National Archives, and although Raymond did not tell Kosoff the name of the researcher, Kosoff could probably guess who it was. Next to this remark by Kosoff is a comment in purple ink, Yes, thanks Abe, WB. WB are the initials of Walter Breen. Thomas Hall wrote useful comments in his copy of Crosby on the cents of 1793.

At the farewell lunch for Frank Campbell, John W. Adams said that we might miss Frank now that he was leaving, but we would really miss him in five years, or even ten years time, when we remembered what we had lost and how much he had done for the library. The same sentiments were expressed to me in almost the same words a few weeks later by an advanced scholar of Roman imperial coins. Such was Franks influence, on the most diverse areas of numismatics.

John Kleeberg adds:
When Frank was leaving, he noted that there were special holdings in the library that were known to him and to a few users who make deep use of the library, but he was concerned that they weren't known to his successor, and he wanted to make sure there was some sort of record of that. (He mentioned the Ray Williamson correspondence, which was transferred under a deed of gift that says it can only be made accessible to the public after a certain number of years have passed - I don't remember specifically how many.)

Frank named as users who knew the holdings very well myself and Eric P. Newman. Gary Trudgen then asked me to write an appreciation of Frank for the CNL, and since Rick Witschonke's ANS Magazine article pre-empted a biographical approach, I decided to get down on paper an overview of the collection, to encourage people to make more use of it.

There are a lot of manuscripts in the ANS library that should be transcribed and published. Examples are the bid books from the Chapman estate; Breen's card index to the auction catalogs; the purchasers at the New Netherlands sales; Homer K. Downing's notes of his conversations with Henry C. Hines; and the George Cogan correspondence scrapbook. I also love Henry Chapman's book of "Men Reported Bad" (collectors who bounced checks or paid slowly).

Wayne Homren, Editor

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