The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 4, January 27, 2019, Article 16


Gerry Tebben writes:

Coins are everywhere. There's an article in Monday morning's Washington Post with a numismatic connection. The Smithsonian recently acquired an American slave narrative written in Arabic that was once owned by "prominent numismatist Howland Wood, an authority on Islamic coins." I know him mostly from the ANA's Best of Show award.

Numismatists are many-talented people, their interests and activities wide-ranging and interconnected in ways not readily apparent to others. Here's an excerpt from the article. -Editor

Page from The Life of Omar ibn Said manuscript A dignified man in his 60s, he was small in stature, unfit for hard work and had been enslaved for almost a quarter-century. He spoke limited English.

But his real name was Omar ibn Said. He had been a Muslim scholar in West Africa, where he was abducted in 1807. And in 1831, when few enslaved people in the United States could read or write, he wrote what is thought to be the only surviving slave narrative of its kind, in Arabic.

“It is very important ... for many reasons,” Deeb said. “First ... it’s an autobiography written by a slave while he was still a slave. He’s not a freed man. He dies a slave.” (Ibn Said died in 1864 in his 90s, in the midst of the Civil War, before slavery’s demise.)

The narrative and the collection passed through various hands and dropped out of sight for most of the 20th century, Deeb said.

According to journalist Jonathan Curiel, the collection resurfaced in Alexandria in a trunk found by descendants of prominent numismatist Howland Wood, an authority on Islamic coins, who had owned it.

To read the complete article, see:
When few enslaved people in the United States could write, one man wrote his memoir in Arabic (

For more about Howland Wood, here are excerpts from the web sites of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), American Numismatic Society (ANS), and Pete Smith's American Numismatic Biographies on the Newman Numismatic Portal. -Editor

American Numismatic Biographies
Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Received A.B. from Brown University in 1900. Married Elizabeth Eliot Marvin June 18, 1913. They had two daughters. She was the daughter of William T. R. Marvin, one time editor of AJN. He was in the photo engraving business in Boston. He moved to New York City in 1913 to work at the ANS.

Wood served as general secretary of the ANA 1905 to 1909; governor and chairman of the board of ANA 1909 to 1912. Secretary of the Boston Numismatic Society 1908 to 1913. Associate editor of The Numismatist 1909 to 1910. Associate editor and editor of the American Journal of Numismatics 1910 to 1920. He had been an assistant editor under William Marvin. Editor of Numismatic Notes and Monographs after 1920. Curator of the ANS museum January 25, 1913, to January 14, 1938. He received the Archer M. Huntington Award in 1920.

He served as president of the New York Numismatic Club 1930 through 1933. They honored him with one of their presidential medals. The design was by J. M. Swanson. It was the first club medal struck in nickel. Twenty pieces were struck in nickel with 11 more in silver and 42 in bronze.

He was a member of many numismatic organizations. He died at home in Flushing, Queens, New York. In 1969 he was elected to the ANA Numismatic Hall of Fame.

Author of Catalogue of United States and Colonial Coins in 1914. Author of The Gold Dollars of 1858 with Notes of the Other Issues in 1922 as ANS monograph 12; The Commemorative Coinage of the United States in 1922 as ANS monograph 16.

To read the complete article, see:
Howland Wood Biography (

Howland Wood Howland Wood was born in New Bedford Massachusetts in 1877 and graduated from Brown University in 1900. Wood became a member of the American Numismatic Society in 1909. By 1913 he had been appointed Curator, remaining in this position until his death in 1938. At that time, the Society only maintained a single curator, with two assistants. Despite the limited size of the staff, during Wood's tenure the Society's collections increased significantly, from 50,000 to almost 200,000 specimens.

In addition to his curatorial duties, Wood also served as editor of the American Journal of Numismatics from 1910 to 1920. In 1920, Wood became only the third recipient of the Society's Archer M. Huntington Medal Award. Outside of the ANS, Wood also served as secretary to the American Numismatic Association from 1905 to 1909 and then as governor and chairman of the ANA's board from 1909 to 1912.

After Wood's death, Edward T. Newell (ANS President, 1916-1941) eulogized Wood as "the ideal Curator," noting that "Howland Wood was one of those rare geniuses who combined an inherited urge to collect, an insatiable curiosity as to the 'why' and the 'wherefore,' and an orderly mind which could not brook obvious gaps or disorderly arrangement."

To read the complete articles, see:
Wood, Howland, 1877-1938 (
Howland Wood curator correspondence and other material, 1913-1937 (

The Howland Wood Memorial Award for Best in Show Exhibit was first presented in 1952. It is named for one of the ANA’s longtime and dedicated numismatists. During Howland Wood’s lifetime he served the ANA as its general secretary, a member of the board of governors, and both editor of i>he Numismatist and curator of the collections. The Howland Wood award is the most prestigious award given to exhibitors by the ANA.

To read the complete article, see:
Howland Wood Memorial Award for Best in Show Exhibit (

What an amazing numismatic career and legacy! -Editor


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