The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 4, January 23, 2022, Article 19

FERNAND DAVID (1861-1927)

Monaco auction house Editions Victor Gadoury is offering the collection of Fernand David in a March 2022 sale. The catalogue contains a profile of the collector (in French) by Alain Weil. Here's a Google-translated version (with some minor additional edits). It's rough, but provides an interesting portrait of an important collector. It's remarkable that so much of his collection remained intact until today. -Editor

  Fernand DAVID
1861 - 1927

Revealing a collection

Fernand David The collection that I have the honor to present, in collaboration with my friends and colleagues Pastrone, is one of the finest entrusted to me in my long career. It is also one of the most mysterious. It belongs to two sisters who are, on the maternal side, the granddaughters of a famous collector in his time, Fernand David. Unfortunately, very little information about the life of this numismatist has come down to us.

Curiously, this collection leaves an impression of being unfinished despite the quality and rarity of its coins. It seems to have the ambition to tackle a very large number of areas (ancient coins, French, foreign, tokens, badges, medals, etc…) but leaving inexplicable gaps in many of them. Thus, in ancient coins, Greece is almost absent and Gaul is represented by only two coins whereas the Roman coinage impresses with its long series of rare and superb aurei. For feudal coinage, Lorraine shines with more than twenty gold coins while other provinces are very poorly represented or even completely absent, such as Brittany. We find such oddities for French and foreign gold coins as well as for silver coins.

In short, we can wonder if Fernand David did not find himself short of means by wanting to expand his collection too much. It is unlikely because he was one of the owners of A. David Frères, a factory extremely prosperous in trimmings, lace and embroidery. The medals of international or universal exhibition awards attributed to this company testify to its importance and its notoriety: silver medal in Paris in 1889, out of competition in Chicago in 1893, gold medals in Amsterdam in 1895, in Brussels in 1897 and at the Great Universal Exhibition of 1900 in Paris (group 13, class 84: Lace, Embroidery, Trimmings).

Moreover, his collection was known both in France and abroad. The precious Gnecchi brothers Guida Numismatica Universale cites him (p. 145) alongside Prince Napoleon or the Comte de Castellane as a collector with a "very rich collection of Roman coins, Gallic and French. In our country, Fernand David does not seem to have practiced a policy of secrecy as many collectors do. On the contrary, as an active member of the Société Française de Numismatique (SFN), he often shared his findings and research there by entrusting directly to Paul Bordeaux the task of presenting them.

The pages of the Revue Numismatique bear traces of about twenty communications. In one of them, is described a unicum: the shield of Dauphiné with insignia struck in 1702. Not having found this coin in the collection, I opened up about it to Christian Charlet with the hope that his encyclopedic knowledge would help me find a clue. I was not disappointed because he traced for me, after a few days, the complex journey of this piece that Paul Bordeaux had presented to the S.F.N. in 1900. After more than half a century, the shield is found in London in the sale of the collection of Wayte Raymond (1963) where it was acquired by Jean Vinchon on behalf of Montalent, whose collection was sold by the same expert in December 1977. The 1702 shield was then purchased by the Banque de France for its collection where it resides currently.

Esteemed by his fellow collectors, Fernand David was also respected by scholarly numismatists. A charming testimony to this is the witty letter that Adrien Blanchet wrote to him, beginning his letter with the words My dear Confère et ami. When the president of the S.F.N. will make account of his death, he will underline "the greatest modesty and the inexhaustible kindness" of one of the foremost members of the Society.

As for the mystery of the composition of the collection, it was lifted thanks to family explanations reporting a theft of a large part of the coins during the last war. This information finally reveals the true nature of the current collection: Fernand David has, if I dare say, done in the lace to constitute the original collection, he surely bought with attention and refinement the best copies to seek universality, beauty, rarity. And, despite its shortcomings, the set offered today is the perfect reflection of this numismatic ideal that I invite you to share.

  Fernand David cataloge font cover Fernand David cataloge back cover

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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