The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 40, September 23, 2012, Article 4


The September 2012 issue of the American Numismatic Society eNews announced the publication of a new book on Ophthalmology in numismatics. Neat topic! Here's the text and a link to the ordering page. -Editor

Ophthalmology in Nummismatics Ophthalmologia Optica et Visio in Nummis (Ophthalmology, Optics and Vision in Numismatics)

Hirschberg History of Ophthalmology Supplement Series 13

by Jay M. Galst and Peter G. van Alfen (2013)

Hardcover, 574 pp. full color illustrations throughout ISBN-13: 978 089722 323 2 List Price: US $285.00 Pre-publication Price: US $180.00 no other discounts available.

This is a pre-order publication that is expected to ship in March 2013.

Published jointly by J.-P. Wayenborgh Verlag and the ANS, Ophthalmologia, Optica et Viso in Nummis catalogues roughly 1,700 objects in 14 chapters each of which focuses on a discrete topic, e.g., ophthalmologists, ophthalmological congresses, the blind (and their rehabilitation), optical instruments (including spectacles), and the eye as a symbol. Appearing as volume 13 in the supplemental series to Julius Hirschberg’s History of Ophthalmology, the book also serves to situate the objects within the larger historical context of the ophthalmological and optical disciplines.

To order, see:

At my request Jay Galst kindly forwarded text from the book's introduction and several images. I've included an excerpt from the text below with a few of the images. Click the link that follows to view a slideshow of all of the image on our Flickr archive. -Editor

OIN I.46 re 57 x 77 mm bronze Inspired in part by Frederick C. Blodi’s (1986) volume in the Hirschberg history of ophthalmology series dealing with postage stamps depicting ophthalmologists, related scientists, medical researchers, and the eye in general, we have sought to create a work that will be of use not only to those with interest in the medical and optical fields, but also to numismatists. In general, we have followed Blodi’s arrangement and topics, so that users of both volumes will be able to readily compare similar subjects across the two media.

Like Blodi, we have been broad in our selection of topics, hoping to incorporate as much of the wide range of material relating to ophthalmology, its history, organizations and practitioners, including scientists whose impact on ophthalmology and optics was significant; optical firms and opticians; those who have lost total or partial sight and their rehabilitation; and, of course, the eye in its many symbolic and mythical uses. Casting the net wide in this way, we have captured a sizeable body of numismatic material. Generally, we have tried to be as inclusive and complete as possible, so that, for example, our first chapter I on ophthalmologists includes every object on this subject that we are aware of having searched private and public collections, and a range of publications. This same level of inclusiveness holds true for chapters III, V, VIII, IX, X, XI and XII as well.

Where the subject matter itself is vast, such as in the case of celebrity scientists, like Benjamin Franklin (inventor of the bifocal lens) as in chapter IV, or in objects pertaining to the eye as a symbol as in chapter XIII, we have exercised judicial exclusion, selecting items that best represent the subject or that are numismatically important. Likewise in chapters II, VI, VII, and XIV.

Within each chapter the subjects are arranged chronologically, unless otherwise noted. Each subject has a brief biography or description, followed by a catalogue of items. The catalogue information includes the issuer and/or mint, physical features, and detailed descriptions of what appears on the obverse and reverse of the object. With only a few exceptions (as noted), all the catalogued items are illustrated at or approximately 1:1 scale. Because a number of the individuals and organizations discussed here appear on multiple items appearing in different chapters, we have adopted a numbering system for each item that allows for easy (cross-) referencing.

Because of this general abundance of medicina in nummis (i.e., numismatic items pertaining broadly to medicine), there have been a number of important collections put together by physicians or surgeons that have sought out all medical related numismatic items or portions thereof. The most notable of these are the collections of Dr. Horatio Robinson Storer, now held at Harvard University, Dr. Josef Brettauer, now held at the University of Vienna, and Dr. Henry Barton Jacobs now held at the Evergreen House (Johns Hopkins University).

As part of his numismatic pursuits, Storer produced a catalogue of his collections, which was edited and published by his son Malcom (1931). Brettauer’s collection was catalogued by E. Holzmair (1937), while the Jacobs’ collections, along with that of several other medically related numismatic items donated to Johns Hopkins, was catalogued by S.E. Freeman (1964). However, due to the costs of photography and printing comprehensive reproductions of numismatic items was prohibitive until relatively recently. For this reason, these important catalogues illustrated only a small fraction of the items listed or discussed, which sometimes has led to confusion. Since the ability to see the object is often as important as a description of what appears on it, we have, with only a few exceptions, illustrated all items we list, including many not illustrated in the catalogues of the Storer, Brettauer, and Jacobs collections.

OIN V.71 ob 79 mm bronze DSCN1321 OIN V.71 re 79 mm bronze DSCN1322

Regardless of illustrations, together these catalogues represent the core of important references for medicina in nummis, which has been greatly augmented by other catalogues and studies to the point that a comprehensive bibliography for the subject, compiled by Hubert Emmerig (University of Vienna, Institut für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte), runs over 60 pages.

To view all of the images on Flickr, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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