WIth permission, here is the description of James Mease's Picture of Philadelphia from the May 2016 Kolbe & Fanning
Fixed Price List (item no. 17). -Editor
A foundational work of local history, generally regarded as including the first useful description of U.S. Mint operations.
James Mease, M.D. (1771–1846) was a polymath who published on a number of different subjects, including medicine, geology and history.
He was well known as the editor of the Domestic Encyclopedia (1803–04) and the Archives of Useful Knowledge (1811–12)
and as the author of A Geological Account of the United States (1807).
In addition, he is considered to be the first writer to publish on the subject of U.S. numismatics. In a groundbreaking series of three
articles, Mease examined U.S. medals and coins from the perspective of the numismatist, writing as a student in that discipline for others
who shared this interest.
While a number of American publications of numismatic relevance antedate Mease's 1821 article “Description of Some of the Medals Struck
in Relation to Important Events in North America,” these early publications either focus on foreign or ancient coins (the article by Rev.
John Christopher Kunze, for instance) or were written for merchants, bankers, lawyers, politicians and other people who dealt with monetary
issues on a daily basis. In his Picture of Philadelphia, he is more concerned with the Mint as a local establishment and
public office than in discussing its products.
Mease begins his summary of the Mint and coinage on page 154, starting with an overview of the system existing before the establishment
of a federal institution, then turning to the coinage itself, and its legal specifications regarding weight, fineness and design.
A brief but interesting discussion of technical matters follows, in which Mease admits that “at the first establishment of the mint,
great difficulties and embarrassments were experienced from a variety of causes.” He continues by stating that “time has overcome them all,
and it is understood, that in some respects the process of striking is more complete than in most other countries, England excepted.” He
notes that “the mode of hardening the dies is peculiar to the mint, and is the discovery of the present assistant coiner, Mr.
The assay commission, total mintage to date and officers are subsequently discussed. Mease's work is the earliest to give such a
detailed description of the workings of the nascent Mint, and this is the first edition of that work (a second edition was published in
1824, with a supplemented edition published by Thomas Porter in 1831). Joel Orosz discusses the Picture of Philadelphia in the Fall
2001 issue of The Asylum. Scarce.
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Wayne Homren, Editor
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