Monday, July 31, 2006

Early book on Jewish numismatics

Google Print brings Die Unächtheit der jüdischen Münzen mit Hebräischen und samaritanischen Buchstaben by Oluf Gerhard Tychsen. Published in 1779! Not in ANS library.

I had never heard of the book or the author. He has a Wikipedia entry.

I know almost nothing on numismatic books before the 19th century. I've been considering the purchase of Bassoli's Antiquarian Books on Coins and Medals to correct this deficiency. Has anyone actually seen/read Bassoli?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Connecticut Coppers at ANS

Yesterday I attended the first Numismatic Conversations lecture series at the American Numismatic Association. The topic was Connecticut Coppers.

There was a live web-cast of the event. Remote participants were on a conference call and could view the coins through a web site. As far as I know the remote option wasn't pre-announced — I certainly didn't know about it — but at least six folks were on the call, from as far away as California. I don't have any details on the software used. The next Numismatic Conversation is September 13th, the speaker is Geoff Giglierano and the topic is US Military decorations from Civil War to WWII.

Robert Hoge gave the lecture, which was held in the library. A down-facing video camera captured the coins and images were projected on a screen. The video tech worked flawlessly. I was in the back row and could clearly see the screen.

Although the coppers were in the room and being handled by Hoge's assistant they didn't 'feel' close. The lecture felt like a slide-show. (One participant was surprised at the end when informed the coins were present.) The slide-show feel is prehaps caused by the high quality of the projection system. Perhaps presentations such as these would benefit a locked display case holding the trays not currently under the camera?

Attendence seemed good for a numismatic event, about 35-40 folks including ANS staff were present. A much smaller Bronx Coin Club meeting followed the Connecticut presentation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Amazing bookplates

A collection of attractive bookplates was featured on BiblioOdyssey yesterday. Although none of them are coin-related, the first one featured was an amazing American Indian-themed bookplate used by ANS fellow Murray Gell-Mann.

BiblioOdyssey is a blog of books and historical/scientific illustrations.

(via BoingBoing)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Third Side of the Coin

Yaakov Meshorer's new (Hebrew-language) book, The Third Side of the Coin, is described by Danny Rubinstein in Haaretz online.

The mini-review is a launching pad for Rubinstein's personal reminescences of Meshorer, who was a childhood and army friend.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay

Regina Hackett's story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer covers early crimes by eBay art forger Ken Fetterman.

AuctionBytes reviews a book by Fetterman's shill-bidding partner Ken Walton.

Ken Walton has a blog which links to his website and provides an excerpt from the book.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Would you like some help?

A few years ago I added a 'beg message' to the Historia Numorum web site asking for help illustrating the book with plates from the 19th century works cited by Head when he wrote the book. I need volunteers to scan, or sell me cheap books, or let me borrow a few titles from their library.

I figured it would be easy to get 25-50 people each donating a couple of hours, and I'd get the plates to 50 or 100 books online.

That hasn't happened. I got a few BMC volume plates. The biggest contributor has been 'Google Books', although they don't know it.

Let's turn it around.

Maybe rather than you helping me, I can help you. Do you need anything for your web site? I have a decent library and I'm a good researcher. I know HTML and can write Javascript. I can spare a few hours to help a fellow ancient coin webmaster or blogger. Is there anything you'd like for your site, but don't know how to get? Email me or post a comment below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Counterfeit Coin Newsletter #6 up

Number six of Robert Matthews' Counterfeit Coin Newsletter went online today.

Some good stuff there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Repatriation in CS Monitor

An editorial in today's Christian Science Monitor discusses the 1970 UNESCO treaty and the rightful ownership of ancient artifacts. (Via Rogue Classicism, where the Rogue Classicist David Meadows expresses fear that trends towards repatriating antiquities and the smuggling crackdown leads to NOTHING being offered to museums and academics never seeing it.) He calls for a “portable antiquities scheme” — what we used to call “Treasure Trove”.

Even without a scheme a lot of coins get turned in. Turkish Daily News recently reported that museums house 1,658,275 coins.

Lack of portable antiquities does incent smugglers. But a lot of coins remain for academics. Richard Ashton has published 1,600 of these Turkish coins — 0.1%. (Studies in Ancient Coinage from Turkey) That leaves 99.9% unpublished.

Academics in the US won't see these coins, but Turkish ones will. I doubt either will publish. Only numismatists — mostly amateur — seem interested in the low-grade bronze. And low-grade bronze is the majority of ancient coins.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Book Fold Correction

Fragile books can't handle being pushed onto glass for photocopying or scanning. These should be photographed as they lie open, without pressure. However, without pressure the pages won't lie flat, so scans look like figure 1. The camera used is sometimes called a 'planetary' camera. They are expensive.

Warped text is fine for reading, but isn't suitable for reprinting or OCR. Some scanning outfits (such as Archive CD Books can correct for book fold warping in software. (I don't know of any software that can do this.)

Google Book Search does this, but often gets it wrong. Google tries to make lines vertical, horizontal, or at a 45° angle. For example, BMC Parthia plate 7 introduces a bizarre 45 degree angle at the bottom right.

Sometimes a few pixels get radically stretched to make a line straight, as BMC Corinth plate 10. That plate is also missing a large rectangle including coins 10 through 13. I don't know if they were removed as part of fold correcting or as part of white space determination. Google also tries to figure out what is text (versus pictures) and replace grey scales with black and white, removing spots in the process. In the case of plate 10 they got it wrong.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

28 Years Sought for Suspects in Usak Museum Theft

Zaman Online brings an update on the Uşak Museum theft. Three suspects remain at large.

(Via PhDiva, which copies the short article in its entirety.)

The identity of the missing ancient coin is still unknown. Interpol's list of stolen art doesn't include the Uşak pieces. There have been many pictures in the Western press of the seahorse, but nothing on the coin. It is possible that the coin is the one that illustrated a 2003 article on the treasure, long before the theft.

I would like to see the coin because 1) it's news and 2) I'd like to spot it for sale in an auction somewhere. Non-specialists think coins are anonymous and there is a chance the thieves will pass the coin to raise money to smuggle out the broach. A specialist will spot the coin if he is looking for it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

BMC Macedonia Etc

BMC Macedonia, Etc (1879, by Barclay Head) has arrived on Google Print:

Preface, Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes

This was the last volume without plates. Coins were illustrated with engravings in line with the text. For the next volume, Ptolemies, Kings of Egypt, plates would be used for the first time.

BMC Corinth and Colonies is back.

Preface, Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes, Plates

Previously we reported on this volume appearing on Google Print, then going away. It's back. It appears to be a re-scan — I'd saved a copy of the plates the first time and today's plates look different. Both scans are from Stanford University library. I'm working on the reverse-index. The scanner did a horrible job — not only are there black dropouts as seen in the Parthia scan there are also white dropouts, duplicate pages, and out-of-order pages.

On a personal note, three BMC volumes — physical volumes, on dead trees — showed up at my doorstep yesterday. Forni reprints. I've been coveting an entire set for some time, and at the price I couldn't resist acquiring these volumes towards that end. I didn't really need them — the volumes are Pontus, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. I already have SNG Black Sea which re-does the Pontus coins, and I don't collect much from Palestine nor Mesopotamia.

I've often wondered how Forni got to reprint these. Do they have an arrangement with the British Museum? Or did they merely take advantage of the then-short Italian copyright law.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

... the theft may precede sanctions and war

Recent editorials have discussed David J. Strachman’s attempt to seize Iranian antiquities from University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

An article by Safa Haeri provides background. The basic story is that a US court found the government of Iran liable for damages to bombing victims, Iran didn't pay, Strachman is attempting to force the U of Chigago into a 'judicial sale', but now the US Attorney is arguing that foreign nations are immune from this procedure.

An article by Niki Akhavan’s in (left-leaning) Z Magazine calls the court's actions “theft,” implying the judge loots Iran's culture by allowing antiquities to be used to settle debts of the current government.

Wayne Sayles argues the judges actions were correct in a recent blog posting. In Wayne's blog comments I argue that although antiquities are OK for settling debts it is surprising that we US citizens can sue foreign powers in US courts at all — even bizarro governments.

Even when Iran was holding US citizens as hostages then-President Carter didn't attempt to nationalize museum exhibits on tour in the US — we just froze bank accounts.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Sevso Silver

This story is five years old, but still worth reading.

A picture of the silver can be seen on Martin Vickers' web site.

Monday, July 10, 2006

BMC Parthia Online II

Last week we noticed that Google has placed Wroth's BMC Parthia online. Unfortunately, Google blocks users outside the USA from using this work, and their navigation is cumbersome, especially for the plates.

So I've uploaded the plates to my extended Digital Historia Numorum.

Several years ago I decided to upload the plates cited by Head in the Historia Numorum, as a complement to that volume. Everywhere Head cites BMC, I made the citation a hyperlink. This style of remixing can still be seen on Head's Caria chapter.

Adding Google to the mix has allowed me to do things a bit differently. Rather than hyperlinking the references, I am now adding 'BMC' to the navigation bar for each city or ruler. I suspect researchers would rather jump to the first BMC plate and flip through it (although I could do both.) I did this first for the Egypt chapter.

It's too time consuming to type in or OCR the text, but since Google has already provide it I can link each BMC plate to the descriptions of the coins on that page. This doesn't take much work, and looks nice. For example, see BMC Egypt plate I.

One of the complaints I've gotten about scanning Head and the BMC is that the references are old, and often wrong. So I've added cross references to Sear's Greek Coins and their Values and Greek Imperial Coins. If Sear (writing in the 1970s) disagreed with the British Museum (writing 100 years ago) I include the attribution in Sear. This doesn't take long. It is tedious, though. Morten Eske Mortensen once claimed no one would cross-reference numismatic works for free, and I wish I hadn't proved him wrong!

For this most recent volume, Parthia, I've also taken the weights and sizes from BMC and converted them from English to metric. So weights are in grams and sizes are in millimeters.

I'll eventually add the cross-references, plate-to-BMC-number, and unit conversions to the older pages. I'd also like to upgrade the image quality on the Google-derived plates, but that is expensive because the only way to get quality plates is to scan first editions, and once I acquire a first edition of BMC I can't bear to sell it!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Another kind of copyright issue

PdnOnline reports on the struggle of photographer Kelly Fajack. Mr. Fajack did pro bono photography work for a non-profit in Burundi. An engraver used a photo from Mr. Fajack's web site as the basis for a vingette on the Burundi 10,000 franc note.

Mr. Fajack wishes to sue the engraving company but has not been able to find out who does the engraving for Burundian currency.

(via boingboing. I am using the composite photo/engraving from the PdnOnline website without permission.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Google Book Search blocks most 19th century Numismatic Chronicle volumes for non-US web users.

Google Book Search blocks most 19th century Numismatic Chronicle volumes for non-US web users. For example, my site, which allows readers in the US to browse many issues, only lets Canadians browse the 1844 volume.

Searching seems unaffected. For example, searching for "notes on Ilion, numismatic and historical" returns the same hit in both countries but in Canada the link only takes the user to a 'snippet' view, while US users get full access.

In many countries copyright extends 70 years past the death of the author. Each article in Numismatic Chronicle has a different author, but Google doesn't have per-article copyright control, nor does it know when each author died. For this reason, most Numismatic Chronicle volumes are unreadable outside the U.S.

I've added a link allowing readers to view my site via 'proxyguy' to appear to Google as a US web user. Feel free to try it and reply with the results for your country with and without the proxy. Note that using the proxy may cause you to violate local laws. To ensure compliance with your countries' copyright law, please consult Wikipedia's list of countries' copyright durations to find the length of copyright in your country. Look up the death year of the authors whose works you desire in Clain-Stefanelli's Numismatic Bibliography. For example, if you live in Australia it is legal for you to read the works of George Hill (died 1948), but not if you live in Ireland.

There is a similar problem for the book I reported last weekend, BMC Parthia. The full text is available in the US, but not in the rest of the world. I'm creating a web site out of the plates and annotating it with metric weights and reverse-indexes to BMC and Sear. The reverse-index will take the user from the plate to Google's description of the coin — provider the user is in the United States. It is unfortunate citizens of Mr. Wroth's own country will have to spoof American IP addresses to read this important work. (Wroth died in 1911, his work is in the public domain worldwide).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

BMC Parthia Online

Warwick Wroth's 1903 catalog of Parthian coins in the British Museum has been put online by Google Books.

Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes, Plates.

I don't understand why Google and the University of Michigan are bringing these volumes to us. Why not the British Museum? Maybe they believe an online version will undercut sales of the Forni reprints?