|Roman Republican Coins and Books by Andrew McCabe
Books about Roman Republican Struck Bronzes 215BC to 150BC
Books and auction catalogues which include Republican struck bronzes are discussed in many places on this site andrewmccabe.ancients.info however if you have a specific interest in bronzes it is not easy to find the relevant references. So I highlight here the most important books and catalogues, the majority, save for Bahrfeldt, being obtainable without too much difficulty, with additional commentary specific to the bronzes content.
In addition to the books mentioned below, of course I should not forget to mention the coins featured on my own website and the related Flickr photo sets. The photo sets, showing some 3,000 pictures, can be accessed through Clicking Here or on the layout picture below; within each collection is a series of sets with lots of coin photos generally arranged according to Crawford's RRC.
The text area of the site, which you are browsing at the moment, can of course be accessed at http://andrewmccabe.ancients.info/ and a particularly important page for students of struck bronzes is the Rarity Scale for Bronze Coins of the Roman Republic. With that plug for my own site done, on to the work of others.
The photographic plates in RRC, specially in the original 1974 edition whose pictures are of the highest quality, represent a particularly valuable source for rare bronze coin types that can hardly be found in online sources or most other printed catalogues. For the less rare coin types the photos are essential definitions of what an official struck bronze of a given issue looks like, specially as the text of the catalogue does not mention stylistic features of prow design, not even distinctive features such as fighting platform or whether the prow is decorated with a dolphin or a star or such-like, or whether there are mariners on deck and if so how many. So you need good quality pictures. However RRC provides much more than that. There are descriptions of all the rare varieties, and also of varieties which other authors have described but which Michael Crawford has looked at and rejected as being altered, mis-read, ancient imitations or modern fakes. Almost all the bronze series have a brief commentary on weights. The number of specimens of each type in Paris - the worlds largest collection - is noted which gives an indication of rarity. And there is a wealth of discussion material, about dating, geographical provenance, weight standards and so on. Furthermore all later publications referring to new varieties require RRC in hand as the baseline! So it is essential.
When RRC was published, Michael Crawford expected that readers would have two further books to hand, the British Museum Catalogue of Coins of the Roman Republic (BMCRR) by Herbert Grueber, and Roman Republican Coin Hoards (RRCH) by Michael Crawford. BMCRR contains additional illustrated coins and commentary but adds nothing essential to what is in RRC. RRCH is interesting for seeing coins in the context of hoards but there exist few hoards of struck bronzes so could be a disappointment for those seeking detailed sequencing tables as are common in the silver series. Not essential.
Unpublished Roman Republican bronze coins, R.Russo, in Essays Hersh, Coins of Macedonia and Rome, 1998
This is a significant additional corpus of bronzes not listed in Crawford, in many cases completing series that missed only one or two denominations. For two types Spearhead (RRC 80) and Bird and TOD (RRC 141) he splits the series into different issues, RRC 80 being clearly distinguished by different prow styles, fabrics, spearhead position and design, and RRC 141 being split into an Eagle and Wreath series (relatively common) and a Bird and TOD series (extremely rare). In the discussion on anonymous bronzes of RRC 41 and 56, Russo publishes a struck bronze As RRC 41, and illustrates the various dies used for the struck bronze As with many examples. He reaches a profound conclusion that weight is of little value in distinguishing between the various RRC 41 and 56 types, but circle diameter is very important. My above discussion on these types reflects this. An updated list of RR bronzes including Russo"s additions is on my subsidiary webpage Roman Republic Bronze Rarities.
I illustrate as an example above two classes of spearhead As, RRC 80; the stylistic difference in the prows is clear and this carries through all denominations, and below a couple of other examples, an eagle and wreath Triens where there's no doubt that's a leafy wreath, and a dolabella Cn.Co Triens, not in Crawford. Russo's essay is rich in such examples.
Fundamental research on early Roman coinage on which all later books rely. It lays out exhaustive proofs for the dating of coinage pre 200 BC, which still hold good except for corrections that have resulted from more recent hoard evidence. So far as bronzes are concerned it contains a great deal of data and discussion on weights of coin issues and weight standards, although the focus is on weight reductions only as far as the early denarius period to 200 BC or so. His assessments support the conventional story of a reduction process ending with a coinage of sextantal standard - 54.5 gram As - coincident with the introduction of the denarius. Once you have read Part One on Anonymous Bronzes, it will be clear that the actual picture of the so-called 'sextantal' bronzes is more complex with apparently earlier coins of lighter weight and apparently later coins of both heavier and also of much lighter weight. But as a scence-setting up to the Second Punic War period it is unrivalled in its clarity so that all the references in Crawford to "see Thomsen ERC" will make sense, and the abundance of raw data allows readers to pursue other lines of enquiry. As well as addressing dating and weight standards, it contains a lot of material evidencing mint-locations in the 2nd Punic war, which greatly enhances interest in the otherwise similar looking coins of this period.
Berger's Hannover catalogue illustrates 4000 coins, mostly rare bronzes that are not easily found in other published source (perhaps with the exception of the Goodman and RBW collections noted below). The Kestner museum in Hannover contains the collection Max von Bahrfeldt, who ranks alongside Baron d'Ailly and Roberto Russo today as the foremost experts of Republican bronzes. Quite good quality photos facing their description on the opposite page, in the manner of an SNG volume, thus the catalogue is very easy to use. This layout allows you to understand stylistic matches and differences within a given coin series better than perhaps any other catalogue. The plates are not of the same quality as RRC, but this is compensated for by the sheer number of different types illustrated. It is catalogued according to Crawford. Richard Schaefer in the American Journal of Numismatics 1995 reviews the book and corrects numerous cataloguing or attribution errors, but in a book of 4000 coins and in an error-prone field such as Republican bronzes where many coins are in poor condition this is perhaps understandable. A significant number of later bronzes in the collection are classified as unattributed local types falling outside the stylistic boundaries of Crawford's RRC, which highlights an important area for future study. Quite difficult to find although not really "rare" as books go - several examples come up for sale each year. It's worth a significant premium to acquire.
The title of Bahrfeldt's 'Nachträge', which translates as "Additions and corrections to the numismatics of the Roman Republic: after Babelon's catalogue of consular coins" explains exactly what this three part study addresses. In each of the volumes Bahrfeldt goes from Aburia to Volteia and comments on coins he has come across. Sometimes the discussion is about new varieties which if undisputed have been generally taken up by Crawford in RRC. Sometimes it relates to the reading of a worn coin, or the authenticity - or not - of another. Crawford often in turn comments again on such pieces in his section on altered and misread coins. In quite a few cases, the view of Bahrfeldt has proven right in the longer term, for example his acceptance of the S.FVRI As in the British Museum, later condemned by Crawford, has been vindicated by the recent appearance of another clear example from the same die pair:
These volumes were published in two formats, firstly within the journal Numismatische Zeitschrift and later in individual volumes numbered and signed by Bahrfeldt. Both formats are rarely offered for sale and are very expensive when they are. However fortunately all the volumes are now out of copyright and the texts can be found in various internet locations by searching on the full title and author name. Whilst the German text may seem inaccessible, it is well illustrated with good quality photo plates and in-text line drawings. Together with the simple arrangement by family name it is quite easy to determine the subjects under discussion. The discussion around coin types, which Crawford may reject or accept without comment, makes it specially valuable. The tiniest varieties are noted, actual specimens cited, and reasons given for attributions and acceptance. Bahrfeldt is especially strong in relation to bronzes, a subject given much less attention by later authors. A browse of his commentary on bronzes sometimes reveals subjects not discussed in RRC. One is left wondering whether they were overlooked in RRC or, more likely, the ever-efficient Crawford rejected a type without commentary based on his own viewing of the coins as well as Bahrfeldt's commentary. In either event, serious students will want to have access to the original views of Bahrfedlt.
Recherches sur la Monnaie Romaine Depuis son Origine Jusqu a la Mort d'Auguste, Baron d'Ailly, 1864-1969
In the absence of a catalogue of the massive Paris collection this is as good as you can get. The title is rather deceptive as the main focus is on struck bronzes, as might be expected given the interests of d'Ailly mentioned above, and not much is to be found regarding the silver coinage of the late Republic. Perhaps more volumes were intended but not written. There are excellent and stylistically accurate line illustrations in each of the four volumes. The line drawings include wear, offstrikes, flan cracks and such like. These fingerprints allow the plate coins to be matched up with actual coins in the trays. I have photographed many Paris coins and compared them with d'Ailly plates. I had no trouble matching every coin. There are some cases where he chooses the obverse and reverse of two different coins to better illustrate one coin type. There are also cases where a coin was mis-read. For example the Canusium As below has a faint horizontal value mark but also a vertical corrosion/wear ridge to the left of the prowstem. The engraver incorrectly noted a vertical and overlooked the horizontal value mark.
I mention this mis-read coin as an example of how even a diligent engraver made errors, much as I occasionally mis-read coins from photos. Having noted this possibility of occasional errors, you can in general rely on the d'Ailly plates as being as accurate representations as was possible before modern photography. Much of the analysis (French) is still valuable 140 years after publication, with careful consideration of stylistic matters - an aspect generally missing from RRC - and a great deal of data on weights. All significant varieties are illustrated. The Forni reprint is of perfectly adequate quality for a line-drawing-illustrated book - though some plates appear a little faded - and is a very useful tool for anyone really interested in bronzes. Some parts are also available for internet download.
The RBW collection of Roman Republican coins being sold in two parts by NAC late 2011 and early 2012 will prove to be one of the key collections of Republican coins, comprising about 1,900 coin types, all different, and all to be illustrated in a two volume catalogue arranged by Crawford RRC number. This can be compared with the Benz, Nicolas, Haeberlin and Martini collections each with about 1,000 illustrated coins, and the Goodman collection with about 2,100 illustrated coins (although split over five catalogues, not arranged by Crawford number and including multiple duplicates). RBW is well balanced in silver and struck bronze, with some gold and a good selection of Aes Grave. Although the bronzes are numerically fewer than in Goodman (1175 in Goodman; 720 in the first RBW catalogue with more to come in the 2012 second catalogue which deals with the semuncial reduction of 90BC and later), the number of different types represented is similar, and the quality of the bronzes is high - at least insofar as high quality Republican bronzes can be found! RBW includes a number of unpublished struck bronzes and many other types known in only a few specimens and/or missing from Paris or from RRC. However the single greatest attraction of this catalogue is its Crawford order layout which will allow it to be used as a standard catalogue illustrating the main varieties of struck bronzes, in order, and alongside the silver. RBW also contains many important catalogue notes written by either Roberto Russo or by RBW, and some of the views within are also reflected on these web-pages on struck bronzes.
As a sample of the quality of bronzes to be expected in RBW, the four coins illustrated here are all in the catalogue, a splendid As of Cn.Cornelius Dolabella RRC 81/1 together with its related Dolabella Semis (not in RRC), a wonderful Dextans of Luceria RRC 97/16 and a C As RRC 63/2. All are my photographs; those in NAC62 are of course of better quality.
Goodman is the the largest published collection of struck bronzes outside the Hannover catalogue. The bronzes collection runs through CNG43, Triton I, CNG45 and CNG47. CNG46 has just silver. It numbers 1175 bronzes and has a similar breadth and depth of coverage of types and varieties as RBW. However it is less easy to use as each of the four catalogues restarts RRC numbering from scratch so one must flick back and forward between the catalogues if looking for a specific coin. There is no overall type index. So I disassembled my CNG43-47 copies and rebound the pages in approximate Crawford order. Goodman lists many types not elsewhere catalogued as well as commenting on previously misunderstood types (there is no commentary in Kestner). New Roman Republican coins published by the Goodman collection are listed on my Handbooks page. The coverage of Goodman is shown in my Roman Republic Bronze Rarities page. The commentary in Goodman, from notes supplied by Richard Schaefer, is a useful addition to the Russo's list of unpublished bronzes in Essays Hersh and does not overlap with the commentary in RBW - i.e. for complete coverage it is good to have both catalogues. Its numerically larger coverage than RBW, including duplicates, allows comparison of multiple examples of types such as RRC 56 which is useful for the serious student. Whilst Goodman is noted for its bronzes, the silver on its own would also form an impressive collection. Not at all difficult to find, CNG43-47 sometimes command a moderate price premium because of Goodman. There are 920 coins in other metals or Aes Grave between the five catalogues, totalling near 2100 Roman Republican.
A specialised collection of 650 struck bronzes, which prior to RBW was the best single volume auction catalogue for the series. Handy, easy to find and inexpensive. The coins are not of the same quality as the Goodman, RBW, Martini or Sydenham collections but it still has extensive coverage. There are unfortunately quite a few attribution errors. I am generally tolerant of errors in reading Republican struck bronzes, recognising that RRC's incomplete photographic coverage often requires you to infer what a coin should look like from a different denonomination, in a different but related issue. Still, Vecchi 3 has too many snafus. So, this provides an excellent opportunity for the keen student to work through an attribution check of all 650 types thus gaining valuable experience!
I provide an overall commentary on Sear's Roman Coins and their Values on a separate page. In that review I expressed some dissatisfaction that his story of the coinage is unclear due to the separation of silver from bronze, the lack of coverage of early silver, and the sorting of the bronze coins by denomination rather than issuer. That said, from the perspective of bronzes alone, Sear's RCV has serious merits. It is comprehensive, listing every Crawford RRC bronze type (much more than it does for silver) and it is a very correct summary of what RRC says about each type. For example, in cases where there are two similar RRC types, he notes both in his listing where they cannot be separated by the power of words alone, and if there is a distinguishing factor such as weight he correctly notes it. Nothing is missing (except, oddly, Pompey's RRC 471 and RRC 478 Asses slipped between his coverage of bronzes and his coverage of Imperatorial coins). There are very few illustrations, but if combined with e.g. RBW and/or Goodman, you have in Sear RCV a comprehensive listing of struck bronze coinage types with RRC as well as Sydenham references. Good!
Good text, maps, some color photos, and a catalogue of about 900 main coin types with 70 pages of plates. This is a perfectly acceptable shorter alternative to Crawford and is better than other handbooks in terms of efficient layout. It brings all the coins from an issue into a single paragraph and cites key information from BMCRR and Crawford in that paragraph. However one area of information that would have been better omitted is the outdated BMCRR dating which he quotes alongside RRC dating. All the bronzes from an issue are listed under a single catalogue number, somewhat like in Sydenham. The abbreviated listings do not leave room for varieties, for example he lumps all the complex Luceria types under a single number that covers Crawford 97/3 through 97/28 inclusive. But it is clear and accurate within its own rule set, and the efficient layout leaves lots of room for discussion. A further bonus is quite a few original essays scattered throughout the text discussing magistrates, dating of issues, the origin of Roman coinage, various theories on the introduction of the denarius etc. Really this is an outstanding book and I see no reason why this might not be used as your main handbook if you can read some Italian. The one significant downside is the lack of detailed listings if you are trying to positively ID a coin you are not familiar with. The plates are excellent quality and based on some key auctions in the late 1990s. A great handbook!
When Rainer Albert's handbook was first issued in 2003, I showed benign tolerance for the errors within because of the balancing benefit that the handbook was very well illustrated and in approximate Crawford order, silver and bronzes together. Somehow I assumed that any errors would be corrected in a second issue. Not at all. The number of wrongly attributed coins and modern altered fakes has leapt to a catastrophically serious level with the re-issue of this handbook with extra illustrations in 2011. On a quick run through I counted 11 obvious forgeries or grossly altered coins in the illustrations, and a further 50 or so photos that do not match the text. He introduces 'varieties' with photos that never existed and are obviously modern. In one example case he replaced a perfectly nice illustrated As of CINA in the 2003 edition with a grossly altered object supposed to be the same type in the 2011 edition. A Semis which was clearly altered from a type of 140BC to 120BC is described as a new and non-existent variety of L.Mamilia 190BC. And so on. This is a very bad book indeed, with the casual carelessness of the first edition replaced by gross incompetence and a demonstrated inability to distinguish real from fake. Even if German is your first language please don't buy this book!
All content copyright © 2004-2013 Andrew McCabe unless otherwise noted. If you've any questions or comments please contact me on the Yahoo Group RROME: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RROME.
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