Sunday, September 07, 2008

BMC Catalogues of Galatia and Caria


Yesterday I received two Elibron reprints of 19th century catalogs, Wroth's 1899 catalog of Galatia and Head's 1897 catalog of Caria.

I was surprised to find these catalogs on Amazon because they aren't on Elibron's website with the other BMC catalogs.

The British Museum catalogs, issued between 1873 and 1927, are the best catalog of Greek coins ever issued. There are 29 volumes including 10,688 pages and 952 plates. Somewhere I read that there are about 29,000 coins described (not all are illustrated.) There are a few flaws. Most bronze coins don't have their weight recorded. The sizes and weights are given in inches and grains rather than mm and grams. For some series the best-guess dates have changed.

The benefit of these books is that your coin is likely to be in them especially if it is rare and nowhere else. There is also text that often explains the dating.

Originals have Autotype plates. These are amazing. Autotype was a photographic printing process. The plates look like photographs. It was very laborious and I read somewhere that the exact formula for doing it was lost during WWII. Originals tend cost about $200 for problem copies. Most people know of the Forni reprints which are still available from the publisher but expensive with the high Euro.

Elibron has reprinted about half of the catalogs in paperback. The print quality is as good as the Forni reprints. The problem is the size. No one told the Elibron people to keep the plates the original size. They've been reduced about 10%. The two volumes I received yesterday even included the maps (in color!) but they were reduced from a fold-out to a tiny half page and illegible.

The benefit to the Elibron editions is the price: about $25 each versus about $100 for the Forni hardcovers. I highly recommend Elibron's reprints. The Forni reprints are worth the $100, but with 29 volumes it adds up quickly. A library with 29 new-looking Fornis looks a lot more dignified than my motley assortment of broken-spined originals, '60s Fornis, and Elibron paperbacks with various covers.

Many but not all of the volumes are also available on Google Books.

Readers looking for cheap BMC reprints will encounter paperbacks with a yellow border printed by Kessinger. I have not seen these but I would avoid them because Kessinger's reprints are often miserable. Their Guide to the Principal Gold and Silver Coins of the Ancients From Circa BC 700 to AD 1 is the worst numismatic reprint I've seen. It's even worse than my Indian reprint of the BM catalogue Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India.

1 comment:

Alfred said...

Have you received any additional information from the "publisher" of the reprints? It seems that only four volumes are currently available. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!