e-Books are fine, but let's not forget about the other kind.
On April 30 numismatic author and researcher Dave Bowers published an essay on "On the Usefulness of Real (printed) Numismatic Books". Here are some excerpts.
Time was when there was a huge numismatic appetite for hardcover books. My History of the California Gold Rush
book, 2002, was printed to the extent of over 4,000 copies and retailed for $150 or more and is now sold out. In
1979 my History of American Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection, a deluxe hardbound book, sold
its first printing of 4,000 copies almost overnight, and all told 20,000 or more were sold. In 2012 I don't think
that would happen, given equivalent books.
I can readily appreciate why the Encyclopedia Britannica folded its wings-for instead of spending $1,000
(or whatever) for a set of bound volumes, a reader can find much of the same information for free on the Internet.
Years ago when I was writing an article and wanted to learn about Gulian Verplanck or Alexandre Vattemare, I needed
to go to my reference library, take out a few volumes, look through them, and then pick out what I wanted to include
in my research. Today in 2012 a few keystrokes will do it. Amazing.
And yet there is still something comfy about owning a real book. The new 2013 edition of the Guide Book of United
States Coins (known as the 'Red Book') is on sale everywhere, backed by a print run in the hundreds of thousands
of copies. It is one of the top-selling non-fiction titles ever published in the United States.
My advice: By all means use the Internet for information on poll statistics, the latest news, encyclopedic
information, or what the world was like in 1890. But, when it comes to enjoying numismatics, build a library-a shelf full of interesting, useful, and inspiring books. They are something inspiring to hold on to, to have in your hand, and a world of enjoyment is at your fingertips. The list of Whitman titles is a good starting place.
Do you know when the first truly numismatically useful reference book was published in America? Here is the answer:
The year was 1839.
The initial volume of note was Joseph Barlow Felt's opus published this year, An Historical Account of Massachusetts Currency, an impressive 248 pages in length (first edition), the first book with an American imprint to treat in detail a numismatic subject. The work was not intended for collectors but, as the title indicates, dealt with the history of money and media of exchange of the Massachusetts colony.
Nevertheless, it was highly valuable and informative to numismatists. Legislation details and information about the well-known silver coins minted beginning in 1652, and of various paper money issues, were presented in a time-line sequence. A later edition of the book was 259 pages in length and included three plates (one of which illustrated the curious 1652-dated Good Samaritan shilling) and an index.
Nearly all of the information presented by Felt in 1839 is relevant and highly useful today. Imagine that!
To read the complete article, see:
On the Usefulness of Real (printed) Numismatic Books
Wayne Homren, Editor
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