E-Sylum Feature Writer and
American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this
article on author Leonard Forrer. Thank you.
This week I looked at my bookshelf to see if there was an author worthy of some promotion. I
strayed from my normal course and went outside American numismatics.
Leonard S. Forrer (1869-1953)
Forrer produced a great reference on numismatic artists. It was an expensive reference when I
acquired it. The current value is a fraction of that original cost.
He was born at Winterthur, Switzerland, on November 7, 1869. He was the son of Abraham
Leonard Forrer (1840-1920) and Gabrielle Tapernoux (1846-1877). He was described as an
extremely delicate child with a short expectation of life. He went to study in England in 1887,
and two years later in 1889 he began work for London art dealer Spink and Son and continued
until retirement in 1952. With his contributions, the firm grew into a major European dealership.
He catalogued his first collection in 1889 in French as he was still learning English. He was co-
founder and editor of Numismatic Circular which began publication in December 1892. The
Numismatic Circular carried articles that included biographies of medalists. These were later
included in his Dictionary of Medalists.
On March 24, 1894, he married Alice Hermenence Rohler (1870-1919) in Cernier, Switzerland.
They had two sons and a daughter. Both sons continued in the coin business. After the death of
his first wife, he married Edith Frieda Woodman (1892-1975) in 1921.
In the 1901 Census, he was living in Chislehurst, Kent, England and working as a numismatist.
In 1911, he was in Bromley, Kent.
Leonard Forrer of Bromley, Kent, England, joined the American Numismatic Association on
April 1, 1922, as member 2354. He did not attend the 1927 convention but submitted a paper
read by S. H. Chapman.
He was a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society in 1898 and elected an Honorary Fellow in
1939. He was a founding member of the British Numismatic Society and given honorary
membership in 1950.
He was a founding member and first president of the International Association of Professional
Numismatists, (IAPN) founded in 1951.
His major publication was Biographical Dictionary of Medalists, Coin, Gem, and Seal
Engravers. Mint-Masters, &c. Ancient and Modern With References to their Works. B. C. 500 –
A. D. 1900. This included biographies but also listings of the medals produced by each artist.
This was initially six volumes with the first covering A-D published in 1904. This was followed
by E-H in 1904, I-MAX in 1907, M-Q in 1909, and R-S in 1912. The series was completed with
T-Z published in 1916. These were published by Spink & Son Ltd, in London.
Once something is published, omissions are noted. Supplemental Volume VII covering A-L was
published in 1923 and Vol VIII covering M-Z was published in 1930 to complete the
One criticism of the series was the lack of a subject index. The Royal Numismatic Society
produced an index, compiled by Joan S. Martin and published in 1987 after her death. She
worked for the British Museum Department of Coins and Medals.
The eight-volume series was reprinted by Spink in 1960, followed by a 1970 reprint by Bert
Franklin. It was later reprinted by Baldwin & Sons Ltd. Of London and A. G. van der Dussen
b.v. of the Netherlands. These reprints are not dated but attributed to 1980.
In 1987 The Numismatist carried an ad from A. G. van der Dussen b.v. offering the Baldwin
reprint and 1987 Index at $70 per volume or $485 for the set off eight volumes.
Forrer died at home in Bromley, England, on November 17, 1953. He is buried at Plaistow
Cemetery. Bromley, with his second wife, Frieda. His obituary in The London Daily Telegraph
of November 18. 1953, was brief.
His obituary in the British Numismatic Journal was more extensive. C. H. V. Sutherland wrote:
He was the tranquil possessor of qualities of gentleness, kindness, courtesy, and personal
modesty to an extent which could never fail to effect and mould all those who were in contact
with him. His character was fine and rare: he was a man who could as little reproach others as he
His library was sold at auction by Spink & Son in 1954.
The Art of Collecting Coins: A Practical Guide to Numismatics by Leonard Steyning Forrer was
published by Arco in 1955. That was the son (1895-1968) of the subject of this article.
A pioneering work still of great use today.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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