Monday, May 28, 2007

The most impressive numismatic book?

I recently saw E. J. Haeberlin's Aes Grave (1910) at the ANS library. The plate volume is the most impressive numismatic publication I've seen.

First, it's huge. The pages are folio size. I wish I had measured them. My recollocation is that each page was 3'x2', although that seems impossibly large. It is probably about half that.

Second, the printing. The book was printed with a collotype process. This makes each page near photographic in quality. No masking or pixelization. The paper may have changed color but the ink doesn't look faded at all. The black and white printing gives them a dreamlike quality.

Third, the 'coins'. Very large Roman cast coins. Coins weighing half a pound. The designs aren't complex or especially lifelike. The primitive casting technology forced the Romans to use very simple designs. Simplification gives the coins a powerful and primitive appearance. The coin's large size gives them an alien appearance.

Finally, the surfaces. I don't know if the rough surface represents a patina or the casting technology. The collotype process seems to have captured it perfectly. Lacking the coins, I can't be sure, perhaps the collotype process improved the texture making it look more like grainy art photography. Any, it looked cool.

Forni is offering a reprint for 460 euros. An Italian bookseller website says it's an 'anastatic reprint'. I don't know what anastatic means. I assume the quality will be much lower than collotype.

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