The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 45, November 8, 2009, Article 10


Renee Shomaker submitted the following notes on the progress of the new Coin Motto/Inscription Translation web site. What a wonderful resource this could be! -Editor

This project has proven to be MUCH larger than I thought it would be - however, I am having a lot of fun with it. I'm getting quite the education in Greek Epigraphy!

My main focus has been with the technical portion - the easiest way to collect and store all this data. In continuing to research the data collection/storage issues, I thought it was funny the other day when I ran across a blog entry citing an E-Sylum article from exactly 2 years ago, talking about the DNID system that was then being tested by the ANS site (original E-Sylum article:

The DNID system - "Domain Name ID" - has been put into practice by the ANS and a few other sites to make it easy to identify and link to sites and their specific items through their ascension number.) That will be very useful when citing items in the ANS database, but also could potentially be used throughout *this* site. So... there are a lot of choices.

I've received numerous gracious and affirmative replies to requests for permission to use other site owner's photographs and/or translation data for this project.

I have yet to hear back from the ANA regarding the use of "The Numismatist" translation articles by Stuart Mosher. I did locate a copy of the full text, and although I will be able to translate many of the inscriptions by another method, it sure would make my life easier to have permission to copy these verbatim, then correct and/or add information from there. So if anyone has any ideas on who to contact, I'd appreciate a name or two.

In about three months, I'm hoping to open the site to a "Beta" test. At that point, all coding will be done and the beginning data will be entered. Contributors will be able to create an account and start entering their coin/token/medal data - whether it is simply a picture of the item with the partial or full inscription specified, just an inscription & translation, or a full picture/inscription/translation.

Items entered will have the option of being placed in a "needs-to-be-translated" section, for other contributors to add information to or fill out completely.

Tentative available data fields planned for Beta:

  • Motto/Inscription
  • Expanded Inscription (ie., D.G. would be expanded to DEI GRATIA)
  • Translation
  • Inscription language
  • Coin(s)/Token(s)/Medal(s) inscription found on (as in the case of DEI GRATIA, these lists could grow rather large)
  • Photo(s) or line drawing(s) of said coin(s)/token(s)/medal(s)
  • Photo license (public domain, Creative Commons Share-Alike, Permission granted for site use only with Contact Name and/or Site of Photo Owner)
  • Translation source
  • Country of origin

Other pertinent information such as type of metal used and composition, size, edge type, designer name if applicable, and other attributions such as KM, Spink, Eimer or Eisler numbers, etc

For later, I'm hoping to add the ability to link to all items in a set, such as if a person has looked up an inscription and it ends up being one of the "Kings and Queens of England" medals by J Dassier, there would be a link to see the rest of the medals. Also want to add "additional information", and this can be anything from a history of the item and/or its designer to the meaning of the objects contained on it, to the last known auction hammer price for it.

For much later: An attribution engine. Basically, pick a size, shape, outstanding characteristics like an animal or a male/female bust, place letters or words in the places you see them on the coin, or literally draw with your mouse on the coin shape, and it will attempt to attribute the coin based on the information given. (I say much later but this is in the works already). Coupled with the ability to search on foreign characters with a simple click and partial inscription searches, I'm hoping this will be a tremendous help as well. But first... we have to get a lot of data entered!

If anyone would like to send pictures, mottos, inscriptions or translations ahead of the beta, you can send them to me at translations [at]

Dick Johnson adds:

Kudos to Renee for stepping up to the plate! Renee, you will earn the everlasting praise of numismatic writers forever in the future for the contribution you are creating. You are giving birth to a tool for numismatic writers, catalogers, curators, numismatists and just plain curiosity seekers who wonder -- and those who need to know! -- just what does that inscription, motto, or all those abbreviated letters, mean?

I see it in my mind. One place to turn to for transcriptions of any wording, any lettering, on any numismatic item. Keypunch in the lettering, hit the GO button and there is the English translation and meaning of what at first appears totally obscure. For those of us who know only one language this web site will be a Godsend. We can learn the meaning of what our coins, medals and other fond numismatic items bear on their surface.

We can now appreciate far more the items in our collections! This raises the curtain of mystery and obscurity to reveal so much more of our coveted glyptic objects.

Again, Renee, thank you! May you long continue to have fun in compiling your web site! Keep it up. There are thousands of us who will appreciate your efforts.

Now, if we can have someone else step up, like Renee has, to compile ANIE -- an index of numismatic articles in non-numismatic periodicals (as mentioned in The E-Sylum last September 27th vol 12., no 39, art 11). This would be a very rare person who would have access to a great quantity of periodicals in a large library, who likes to read and index a lot plus has an interest in numismatics. Does such a person exist?


Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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