The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 21, Number 17, April 29, 2018, Article 22


An email exchange this week led to some great background information on the publications of Q. David Bowers. -Editor

Joel Orosz writes:

I recently had the opportunity to do some original research at the Newberry Library, Chicago's answer to Ann Arbor's Clements Library, LA's Huntington, and New York's Morgan--the repositories that have grown from the seed of the great library of a nineteenth century collector of Americana.

On a whim, I looked up my name, and found that none of my books, whether on numismatics or on philanthropy, are in the Newberry's collection. Then I tried Q. David Bowers. This produced six hits:

1. History of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire (1996)
2. Postcards of Alphonse Mucha in the Art Nouveau Style (1980)
3. Postcards of Alphonse Mucha of the Art Nouveau Period (2016)
4. Put Another Nickel In: A History of Coin-Operated Pianos and Orchestrions (1996)
5. Robert Robinson's American Illustrations (1981)
6. Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, Nothing Finer: To Commemorate Wolfeboro's 250th Anniversary, 1759-2009 (2010).

From this list, if we had nothing else to go on, we might reach the following conclusions:

1. This author is productive, but not prolific.
2. This author is mainly interested in writing about local history and art nouveau illustrators.
3. This author has only a peripheral interest in numismatics, but only through the subject of automated musical instruments.
4. This author had long fallow periods from 1982 to 1995 and again from 1997 to 2009.

I think that this is also a pretty good example of how incomplete data can lead us to misleading conclusions!

Len Augsburger writes:

Quite true. We often read too much into random evidence, only because it is the only information that has managed to survive.

Indeed. Dave Bowers is the the most prolific author in American numismatics with scores of great books to his credit. -Editor

The Waterford Water Cure book cover The History of United sttes Coinage book cover

Dave Bowers writes:

John J. Ford, Jr. said his favorite of all my books was The Waterford Water Cure.

I wrote a book about Ford and have the manuscript, but then I and many others were shocked when the great counterfeiting scandal broke with Karl Moulton’s book (rumors were numerous earlier, but his friends hoped they were not true). I have the manuscript which, if ever published, needs a new ending (the same could be said today for so many figures in politics and entertainment!).

When I did The History of United States Coinage as Illustrated by the Garrett Collection, for the Johns Hopkins University, I met with JHU Press. They liked the book, but had to “think about it” as, probably, it would take 10 years to sell 1,000 copies. So, we decided to publish it ourselves. In the summer of 1979 we ordered 4,000 copies and put out a pre-publication offer. All were sold before the books were printed, We than ordered again, and I think about 15,000 copies were sold. Someone said “reading the book is like taking a university course in numismatics,” a comment I liked and have seen used since then.

Coins and Collectors book cover My first book, Coins and Collectors, 1964, was picked up by Crown Publishers who printed 100,000 copies and sold them at discount prices in airports, train stations, and bus stations.

The Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments, 1972, which is still in print at, I think $99, by the company that took over the Vestal Press, has sold over 20,000 copies and is used worldwide. When it first came out the American Library Association recommended it on a list of “16 books every library should buy this year.” Right away, 4,000 copies were sold. Akio Morita, former chairman of Sony, asked permission to translate it into Japanese for his personal use, which I said was fine. He had two people spend two years doing that.

For Harvard University, 1996, I about 90% completed a definitive study of pallasites (a type of meteorite) under the aegis of Dr. Carl Francis of the Mineralogical Department. One way or another it lapsed, but I still have the manuscript. Partly at my suggestion, after seeing a stuffed bird that George Washington presented to someone, Harvard without my involvement printed The Rarest of the Rare, featuring items from their collection, including a meteorite from the gallery that our family presented to Harvard.

My 1,064-page book on the S.S. Central America, 2001, sold about 4,600 copies. Today on used copies sell for more than they did originally!.

My favorite thing to do is explore something interesting that has not been covered extensively or not at all with a reference book. I give a nod to my many wonderful research helpers over the years and to the several people who have been co-authors.

I recall ordering and eagerly reading The Waterford Water Cure when it first came out. It's a great book about the history behind the counterstamped coins of "DR SHATTUCK'S WATER CURE WATERFORD ME".

Dave's books are a delight, particularly when they take on an obscure topic in depth. Thanks for the background on the publishers and print runs. I once met Akio Morita when he spoke at Carnegie-Mellon University in the mid-1980s. I had no idea we had a mutual acquaintance, but I'm not surprised to learn it was Dave. -Editor
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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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