Anthony Portner submitted these thoughts on the late Simon Bendall. Thank you. -Editor
While not close as a fellow Byzantine numismatist I was acquainted with Simon Bendall for forty years.I always found him willing to discuss matters
patiently with a fellow enthusiast and would describe him in Italo Vecchi’s words as a true gentleman and scholar.
When my copper collection was stolen in 1980 he kindly provided the necessary certificate of value for the insurance company without payment.
When I was on the committee of the Royal Numismatic Society I persuaded the committee to make him an honorary fellow in view of his extensive work on the
Palaeologan series. Indeed Philip Grierson in his introduction to volume V of the Dumbarton Oaks Catalogue of Byzantine coins describes his contribution to the
study of the Palaeologan coinage to have been without parallel.
In December of last year I and my partner and other dealers dined with him. At that time he was clearly far from well but was still hoping to retire to the
West Country.I last briefly saw him in early June at the coin fair at the Holiday Inn.
On Tuesday 6th August there was a service of commemoration at St Stephen’s Church Rochester Row which was extremely well attended.
Peter Clayton the well known egyptologist read the eulogy.
Afterwards we all adjourned to Simon’s favourite pub The Queen’s Arms Warwick Way where as Italo Vecchi has said “I am sure Simon was watching us from Coin
Anthony also passed along Peter Clayton's eulogy - Simon the Numismatist. -Editor
SIMON THE NUMISMATIST
Simon the Numismatist – a difficult word for many, but not for a large proportion of the congregation here present for Simon – numismatics means “the study
Simon was pre-eminent as a collector and scholar of Late Byzantine coins, the Byzantine Empire that continued in the East after the fall of the Western
Roman Empire in AD 476 until its own fall to the Ottoman Turks at Constantinople on Tuesday, 23 October 1453.
I am a little older than Simon yet, curiously, our archaeological and numismatic lives ran on parallel lines over the years, and we had several friends in
Simon’s interest in coins was sparked when he was a pupil at Cheltenham College and he found a Roman coin in a local field (my first schoolboy purchases
were two late Roman coins of Valens and Gratian at 6p each, a shilling the two (5p) from Woodiwiss, then in Victoria Street not far from here). After that one
might say for Simon, “and the rest is history”. He became a collector, especially frequenting the antique shops in Cheltenham with their bowls of unidentified
Roman coins: his interest lay in Imperial Roman coins, not the Republican series, noting in his autobiography that: “I have never been able to raise any
enthusiasm” [for them].
After his two years National Service in the Royal Artillery he was in need of a job and joined H. J. Heinz in London, 1959-65. At the suggestion of John
Casey (an old friend of us both from his days as an assistant librarian in the Institute of Bankers, and later FSA in 1976), he enrolled at the Institute of
Archaeology, London University, for the four-year part-time course on archaeology, 1961-65. I had similarly enrolled in 1958 as one of the first students when
the Institute moved from St John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park to Gordon Square. After the first three years, respectively on Prehistory, the Ancient Near East, and
Bronze and Iron Age Europe, there were options for the fourth year – Simon chose Roman Britain and I Ancient Egypt, my first love since the age of eight. Simon
went on to his numismatic career and I to mine as an Egyptologist, lecturer and author, and a career in publishing as an archaeological editor. We were both
volunteering on various archaeological digs but never actually met but our parallel lines were to come together later. Simon’s interest in coins led to him
being elected a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society (FRNS) in 1961, the requirement being an evident interest in ancient coins and the support of two
existing Fellows. Subsequently he was elected an Honorary Fellow in 2010.
Seeking a job in numismatics, being very unhappy at H.J. Heinz, he and John Casey discussed Simon making an application to one of the big three prominent
London coin dealers: Baldwins, Seaby and Spink. Simon was well known to all three as a collector with prominent numismatic knowledge. Baldwins he ruled out as
at that time it was essentially a family-staffed firm; Seaby was dismissed as the head of ancient coins, Colonel Kozolubsky, a retired Polish cavalry officer,
had recently died and a numismatist, David Sear, younger than Simon, had been appointed in his place, so Simon saw no chance of promotion. I well remember the
Seaby advert in their Monthly Bulletin for a young man with an interest in ancient coins and who had completed his National Service. I fulfilled their
requirements and had been tempted to apply. Fortunately for numismatics neither of us joined Seaby as David Sear went on to produce for Seaby the incredible
series of books on individual coin series and their values – still in print in revised editions. They are now published under the Spink imprint since Seaby’s
publications were sold - and that is where Simon and I were later to come together professionally after being friends for many years.
So, for Simon, Spink it was; interviewed by George Muller he was offered a job and became assistant in the ancient coin department. In 1967 Simon moved to
Baldwins and was to remain there for 20 years, 1967-87. It was in those years that his interest and study of the later Byzantine coinage really took root,
enrolling for a four- year evening class course on the series under Dr John Kent at Goldsmiths’ College, New Cross, London. It was in those years that Simon
really began his extensive research and publications, he wrote over 200 articles published in major journals such as The Antiquaries Journal, The
Numismatic Chronicle (journal of the Royal Numismatic Society); Revue Numismatique: Schweitzer Münzblätter, etc, together with several major books.
Amongst them was The Billon Trachea of Michael VIII Palaeologos 1258-1453 (1974), and The Later Palaeologon Coinage 1282-1453 (both with Peter
Donald, 1974). His book An Introduction to the Coinage of the Empire of Trebizond (also with Peter Donald, 1979) was the first book in over 100 years on
the subject since the British Museum catalogues by Wroth and Retowski in 1908 and 1911.
In 1977 Simon married his American wife, they had met when she was studying archaeology in London. Her homesickness for the USA led him to seek a numismatic
job there, which he obtained and joined Numismatic Fine Arts (NFA) in Los Angeles in November 1987. It was shortly after he had gone to NFA that he published
A Private Collection of Palaeogon Coinage (actually the coins in his own collection). The book was dedicated to Dr F. A. Linville, a private collector
who had financed it and it was marketed through NFA.
Simon was always generous in sharing his knowledge and expertise with others. In Vol. V. of the Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks
Collection and in the Whittemore Collection. Michael VIII to Constantine XI, 1258-1453 (published in 2006), Professor Phillip Grierson recorded how Simon
had spent August 1980 with him in Dumbarton Oaks, when, “my work was checked and where necessary corrected by Simon Bendall whose knowledge of the series is
unrivalled” – there can be no higher accolade than that!
Recognised as an acknowledged authority on late Byzantine coins Simon was proposed as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London (FSA, founded 1707)
in November 1985. This was no straight forward election as with the RNS. The initial sponsoring Fellow had to acquire a “Blue Paper” from the General Secretary
and submit it with full details and qualifications of the proposed candidate for approval by the Council. That hurdle passed, it was then required that at
least eight Fellows should sign as sponsors from “Personal Knowledge.” Simon’s initial sponsor gathered 11 other signatories, many of them prominent
numismatists including Professor Phillip Grierson (medieval coins); Christopher Blunt (Anglo-Saxon coins); Ian Stewart (later Lord Stewartby, Scottish hammered
coins); Dr John Kent (Roman coins) and others. Then the candidate’s name and details were circulated to Fellows and then went to a secret ballot at a Society
meeting, voting in 18th century ballot boxes casting a small cork ball for “Yea” or “Nay”. Every “Nay” vote cast cancelled out four “Yeas” – this meant that a
75% overall vote was necessary for election. Simon was successfully elected and remained a Fellow for 34 years until his death. Of the original 12 signatories
from “Personal Knowledge”, only two of them are still alive: Robin Porteous whom I saw a few months ago, and me.
Simon’s wife’s homesickness for her East Coast origins grew – NFA was on the West Coast, and a return was made to London. Simon decided to become
self-employed as a numismatic consultant, cataloguer of collections and auctions, and writer. Although he nominally retired in 2010 he continued publishing
It was in 1980 that I left the British Museum as its Managing Editor and was invited to join Seaby, Numismatists to HM The Queen, as an Associate Director
to set up an antiquities department and take their publications list further, publishing revised editions of older books, editing and commissioning new titles.
Thus it was that Simon’s career as a professional numismatist and mine as a publisher and archaeological editor, came together. Gavin Manton was now head of
the Ancient Department at Seaby and David Sear had gone to NFA.
The first edition of Byzantine Coins & Their Values had been published in 1974 and it was decided to produce a second revised and enlarged
edition by David Sear in 1987, and Simon agreed to assist as the co-author. Michael O’Hara had been working on identifying fake Byzantine coins and I suggested
to David and Simon that I should ask him to contribute that work as an Appendix. They were both in agreement, as was Michael, and Simon carefully checked the
text. After the detailed Introduction, 2645 coins are listed and described: the book still stands as the immediate vade mecum to the series even after
all these years.
In February 2018 Simon suffered a grievous loss when burglars knocked down the front door of his house in Chelsea and stole his huge major reference
collection of late Byzantine coins, plus medals, tokens and antiquities. The police opinion was that it was a “targeted” burglary, particularly by the nature
of the items stolen. Such a large collection of Late Byzantine coins would be a problem in the market. I recall a similar burglary many years ago, that of the
Anglo-Saxon coin collection of F. Elmore Jones. The coins disappeared and several years later when the strong box of a murdered East London gangster was opened
there was the Elmore Jones collection, complete. If Simon’s coins have not been spirited abroad there are hopes perhaps that one day history may repeat itself
and they will reappear.
Simon had been taking an interest in bronze and glass Byzantine weights and wrote a text: Byzantine Weights: An Introduction. I edited and produced
it and it was privately printed. Although only 68pp it illustrated 207 weights and has a valuable Appendix of drawings of the monograms that appeared on the
glass weights. It is a seminal work of enormous value, but often missed in the list of Simon’s publications.
But, finally, to return to Simon’s love of bright colours and my taking the Institute’s fourth year on Ancient Egypt and a career as an Egyptologist and
archaeological editor - hence my tie featuring the Egyptian falcon god Horus. On many large stele inscribed with the details of the deceased’s life, the
hieroglyphic text often opens with the prayer: “Speak my name that I may live”. Simon’s name will be spoken with love in the family but in the world of the
study of Late Byzantine coins when a query is raised the immediate reply is going to be: “Check it out in Bendall”, both now and by future collectors and
students. The prayer will be answered: Simon’s name will be mentioned and he will live on.
An eulogy delivered on Tuesday 6th August 2019 at St Stephen’s Church, Rochester Row, Westminster, London, by Peter A. Clayton, FSA, FRNS.
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
SIMON BENDALL (1937-2019) (https://www.coinbooks.org/v22/esylum_v22n30a10.html)
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: AUGUST 4, 2019 : Remembering Simon Bendall
Wayne Homren, Editor
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