Thursday, January 18, 2007

The famous catalogue of the Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of Ancient Greek Art

Alan Walker of LHS Numismatik gave a fascinating talk on “Famous Collectors of Greek Coins” last Saturday at NYINC on behalf of the ACCG.

Walker told personal anecdotes about several 'name' collectors and described the auctions and catalogs of their coins.

The collectors were Photiades, Rhousopoulos, (Arthur John) Evans, Jameson, Pozzi, Clarence S. Bement, and Charles Gillet & Marion Schuster. Except for the Schusters I had heard all the names before but knew next to nothing about them. I vaguely knew that Evans had excavated linear-B tablets on Knossos and that Pozzi was a doctor who was murdered by a patient. The others were just names.

Walker's research into the people behind the names illuminated the collecting scene in the 19th and early 20th century. I was surprised that a lecture on coin collecting could be as interesting as the coins.

Although these collectors were not or have lost universal fame they are famous enough in numismatics to have only 'one name', justifying the 'Famous' in the title.

Describing Evans's coins, Walker says “... 211 of Evans's coins, all from Magna Graecia and Sicily save for nine from Crete, were published by G. Hill in the famous catalogue of the Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition of Ancient Greek Art held in 1904.” [emphasis mine].

Walker might have used 'famous' in jest, but I suspect he believes Hill's catalog is truely famous. Perhaps to the people who were in the room the catalog is famous.

(Walker makes an error; I believe the exhibition was held in 1903 and published in 1904. The Historia Numorum (1911) bibliography gives 1903 as the publication date. The ANS library catalogue entry holds both dates. Clain-Stefanelli's bibliography doesn't have an entry for the catalog.)

I've never seen a copy. The ANS library has one but it must be in the rare book room — I've never seen it in the regular Greek coinage stacks. I've never seen it offered for sale at a coin show. I don't recall it listed in any auctions of numismatic literature. Google hasn't scanned it. Clain-Stefanelli's bibliography doesn't list it and neither does Kroh's. 'Obscure' is a better description for the catalog.

I only know of the catalog because Historia Numorum cites it twice for tetradrachms of Sicily. For years I've fantasized annotating my Historia Numorum web site with photos, including the two from Hill's Burlington catalog.

If there is a community of numismatic bibliophiles for whom this catalog is famous I need to meet these people and hang out with them.

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