Regarding an item in my Numismatic Diary last week, Gary Beals writes:
You got the spelling right — the Society of Medallists got it wrong.
According to my amigo and technical editor, Dick Johnson, a medalist (with one L) is the winner of a medal and a medallist (with two Ls) is a
designer of medals. I believe him and I listed the two words this way in Numiscadero, my Spanish to English Numismatic Dictionary (sorry for
So how did the organization itself get this wrong in large type of the cover of its own piece?
This submitted by me, one of the poorest spellers who still claims to be a journalist.
Well, the publication was produced by Tom Uram to accompany his exhibit. I hadn't noticed the spelling, and wasn't actually consciously
using two L's or I would have mentioned it- that's just how it came off my fingertips. There are plenty of people in the hobby who would use
the one and two L spellings interchangeably. Here's Dick's dictionary entry. -Editor
Medalist, Medallist. A designer, engraver, maker or collector of medals; one knowledgeable in medals; also a recipient of a medal. As a
creator of medallic art, the medalist must not only be a highly creative artist but also know the many techniques in the field. This talented person
must be proficient in producing the patterns required for any medallic item and the working knowledge must include design, relief, the capabilities
and limitations of die striking and art casting, and, certainly, patina finishes.
The first medalist was Pisanello, who in 1438 created the first sculpture of what was to be called a pendant medal, a portrait of John
Palaeologus. Early medalists had to prepare the entire production of a medal, from pattern to casting the final item, and to patina it. They had to
know – and do – every step themselves.
With the introduction of the screw presses for striking coins, in 1530, medals were also struck, but the diameter was necessarily small. Few
medalists existed at this time. Those that did had to do their own engraving, by hand, and have some mint strike their creations. Thus medalists were
concentrated at the national mints of Italy, France and England. One enterprising medalist from Belgium (a doctor!), Joseph Pierre Braemt (1796-1864)
in 1824 even developed his own reducing machine, where he could model oversize and cut a medal die on his machine.
Medalists since then have increased in number, as the appeal and demand for medallic art spread. It should be noted however, medalists have always
been resourceful. This is lessened somewhat today with the ease of having private mints and medal makers produce what the medalist creates in his own
Famous medalists. In addition to Pisanello, famous early medalists include Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Benvenuto Cellini, Leone Leoni,
all Italians, and somewhat later, the German artist Albert Durer. In England Benedetto Pistrucci and the Wyon family of engravers were most noted.
French medalists of note is quite lengthy, but mention should be made of David d'Angers, Augustin Dupré, Charpenter, Louis Roty, others. In America:
Augustus St-Gaudens, Daniel Chester French, Guston Borglum, Herbert Adams, Laua Gardin and James Earle Fraser, Paul Manship, Frederick Macmonnies,
Victor David Brenner, Anna Hyatt Huntington, many others, were famed for their medallic work.
For other meanings of medalist see MEDAL COLLECTING and RECIPIENT. The word is spelled with one or two lls – both are correct.
The bolding on the last sentence is mine. So while Dick may prefer to use one or two L's himself depending on the meaning intended, his
Encyclopedia does state that the two versions are both correct and interchangeable.
But how did the society itself spell it? That would be the definitive spelling for any reference to the organization or its medals. -Editor
To read the complete article on the Newman Numismatic Portal, see:
Medalist, Medallist (https://nnp.wustl.edu/library/dictionarydetail/516291)
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
WAYNE'S NUMISMATIC DIARY: JUNE 16, 2019
Wayne Homren, Editor
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