The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 1, January 6, 2019, Article 12


While looking for other things this week I came across a 1913 book titled A Catalog of the Collection of Books Relating to the Coinage of the East Presented to the Essex Institute Salem, Massachusetts by John Robinson. It's in the public domain and digital copies are available online. Here's an excerpt. -Editor

Essex Institute Cabinet of Oriental Coins


The collection of coins was begun in 1857-a boy's fancy - and became in later years a recreation from other pursuits. It has so continued, being taken up and dropped again many times; all save the oriental coins having been disposed of long ago. The foundation of the present collection was a number of coins found in a desk belonging to the collector's father, who brought them home from Batavia and Canton - not very many in all, but bringing with them the sentimental interest which all old-time-connected Salemites have for the Far East. The collection as it has taken form is intended to fully represent China and, fairly so, the countries immediately surrounding it; to illustrate the coinage of all countries where oriental inscriptions are found upon the coins, and, incidentally, the places and isles of the sea where Salem ships touched on their eastern voyages and which were familiar names in the counting rooms of the Salem merchants and in so many Salem homes.

Within this scope it is hoped to improve and enlarge the collection as opportunity offers. Just at present important additions are being made to the ancient coins of China. Many parts of the collection are thought already to be sufficiently full for the purpose intended and these groups will not be enlarged, only those of the Far East being much increased. The cabinet containing the collection is so planned that any drawer from among the one hundred and fifty which the base contains may be placed in the upright and sloping, glazed, top sections and changed from time to time at pleasure, without disturbing the coins themselves, and thus vary the portion of the collection publicly exhibited as desired. A number of oriental coins in the Essex Institute collection, including those received from the Salem East India Marine Society, have been incorporated in this collection. The arrangement of the coins in this list necessarily differs somewhat from the catalog of the books, being much more subdivided.


This collection of books and papers has been gathered gradually during the past thirty years, a few have been owned longer, but the larger portion has been obtained within fifteen years. While the chief desire has been to make the series relating to the Far East the most complete, as many books and papers as possible dealing with oriental numismatics in a wider sense have been secured, omitting those relating to the Greek Asiatic rulers. It may appear to some that the Mohammedan countries are unduly represented in this collection, but this has been done purposely to supplement the collection of coins which only includes a comparatively small number from the countries represented by the books in this group.

Besides the books and papers of this collection, there have been added to the catalog the titles of articles on the subject in the books of the China library of the Essex Institute. This special library, now including some three thousand titles, was begun by the gift of a collection of eight hundred volumes on China by the late Thomas Franklin Hunt, and has been greatly augmented from the income of a fund bequeathed in memory of General Frederick Townsend Ward by his sister. This library contains sets of the Journal and Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society and its China and North China Branches, the China Review and the Chinese Repository, besides many other serial publications printed in or treating of the Far East. It will be noted that from this collection many titles have been obtained.

This catalog is not a bibliography of oriental numismatics. It enumerates only such books and papers as are actually available in the Ward Memorial Room of the Essex Institute, where the cabinet of oriental coins is also kept. The collection of books now seems sufficiently large to make it desirable to print a catalog so that those who are interested in the subject may avail themselves of such assistance as it may supply and which the Essex Institute will gladly extend.

Acknowledgments are due to George Francis Dow, the secretary of the Essex Institute, for his valuable suggestions in regard to the form in which this catalog should be prepared and his constant aid in its preparation ; to Miss Alice G. Waters, the librarian of the Institute, and her assistants, for their many helpful courtesies to an inexperienced catalog-maker; to Henry A. Ramsden, Esq., of Yokohama, for his advice and great help in securing the important numismatic works in the Chinese and Japanese languages and for his valuable letters on the ancient coins of China; and to Mr. Rowland Wood, secretary of the American Numismatic Society, the compiler is greatly indebted for his advice in classifying the books and his assistance in preparing the notes, especially in the Mohammedan series, and for his constant interest.

I never visited the Essex Institute. It merged into the Peabody Essex Museum in 1992. Is anyone aware of what became of the Robinson collection and library? -Editor

To read the complete book, see:
Oriental numismatics : a catalog of the collection of books ... Robinson, John, -approximately 1829. (;view=1up;seq=9)

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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