The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 12, March 21, 2010, Article 14


Dr K.A. Rodgers submitted these thoughts on the background of the Sydney Cove medallion featured here last week. My choice of the medallion was inspired by the release of the new silver dollar, pictured below alongside the original. -Editor

1789_Sydney_cove_medallion wedgwood  dollar reverse

Further, to the featured web page in the last E-Sylum, and leaving aside the recent release of a high-relief silver dollar by Perth Mint that recreates the Sydney Cove medallion design, a number of matters concerning that original are worthy of note.

1. Wedgwood commissioned his good friend Erasmus Darwin to compose some verse to celebrate the new medallion. The opening lines are inscribed on the new Wedgwood plate packaged with the new dollar by Perth Mint:

Visit of Hope to Sydney Cove, near Botany Bay

Where Sydney Cove her lucid bosom swells,
And with wide arms the indignant storm repels;
High on a rock amid the troubled air
Hope stood sublime, and waved her golden hair;
Calmed with her rosy smile the tossing deep,
And with sweet accents charmed the winds to sleep;
To each wild plain she stretched her snowy hand,
High-waving wood, and sea-encircled strand.
"Hear me," she cried, "ye rising realms! record
Time's opening scenes, and Truth's prophetic word.
There shall broad streets their stately walls extend,
The circus widen, and the crescent bend;
There, rayed from cities o'er the cultured land,
Shall bright canals, and solid roads expand.
There the proud arch, colossus-like, bestride
Yon glittering streams, and bound the chasing tide;
Embellished villas crown the landscape-scene,
Farms wave with gold, and orchards blush between.
There shall tall spires, and dome-capped towers ascend,
And piers and quays their massy structures blend;
While with each breeze approaching vessels glide,
And northern treasures dance on every tide!"
Then ceased the nymph - tumultuous echoes roar,
And Joy's loud voice was heard from shore to shore -
Her graceful steps descending pressed the plain,
And Peace, and Art, and Labour, joined her train.

      Erasmus Darwin

wedgwood plate

2. Wedgwood and Darwin were both Lunaticks, members of Birmingham's Lunar Society that met in the homes of both Erasmus Darwin and Matthew Boulton of Soho Mint fame.

3. Wedgwood's son Robert married Darwin's daughter Emma. One of their children was Charles Darwin. Wedgwood's money helped bankroll Charles' studies of natural history.

4. Wedgwood did not make the medallions with his own hands. He simply ordered staff to. The design is by Henry Webber, Wedgwood's chief sculptor, with the final mould finishing done by William Hackwood, Wedgwood's principal modeler. The Wedgwood Museum site describes the medallions as having a caneware ceramic body with an ornamented and sprigged decoration.

5. Three different clay types were sent to Sir Joseph Banks from Sydney. All were passed to Wedgwood. The Mitchell library reports that the medallions were produced in three distinct colors: pale cream, brown and black depending on the clay used.

6. Replicas exist. The originals Sydney were impressed on the reverse with a backstamp "MADE BY IOSIAH WEDGWOOD OF CLAY FROM SYDNEY COVE." This stamp does not appear on later issues.

7. Measurements of surviving medallions vary. Three in the Mitchell collection are catalogued as 56 mm across and two as 67 mm. It is unclear if these measurements are of external diameters or of that of the internal bounding rim

8. While Wedgwood entitled the medallion, "Hope encouraging Art and Labour under the influence of Peace to pursue the employments necessary to give security and happiness to an infant settlement", his family referred to it simply as by the "The Botany Bay Medal", showing they were geographically-challenged.

9. Below the neo-classical figures is the legend ETRURIA 1789. Etruria was the name given by Josiah Wedgwood to his factory in 1769 in honour of the ancient Etruscans whose ceramic art had so inspired him. At the time polite society regarded the Etruscans as the ultimate Noble Savages.

10. Webber's design provided the inspiration for first Great Seal of New South Wales, as approved by King George III in 1790. The design can be seen today in the 1892 door panel in the Chief Secretary's Building in Sydney. A more recent used was for a commemorative plaque marking the opening of the Opera House in Sydney in 1986. And it has long been the symbol of The Wedgwood Society of New South Wales.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: FEATURED WEB PAGE: THE SYDNEY COVE MEDALLION (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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