Featured Fitz's Medieval Book Review

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Nov 13, 2016.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Agreed - I have been wanting to dip into Medieval German Coins for a while, but other areas have caught my attention and focus. There are some beautiful coins that have come from there though.
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  3. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    I agree with you guys @alde and @FitzNigel medieval German coins are a fascinating area and one I would love to be able to research and collect. I seem to recall a really nice Austrian coin in the style of an English short cross penny showing up on these boards from time to time

    I recently purchased the Svensson book on the bracteates after the recent threads on this board and will be due to post a review.

    There is one other book on German coinage that I have seen that covers the years 1501 to the present, but it is usually around $150 on Amazon which is more than I can afford right now.
  4. alde

    alde Always Learning

    @TheRed, I have seen that book to but can't part with that much money for a book that doesn't at least go back at least another couple of hundred years. I imagine it would be a foot thick at any rate.
  5. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    It wouldn’t be this by chance, would it?
    Med-02-GOsn-1236-Konrad I-Pf-1837v.jpg
    German States, Osnabrück
    Bishop Konrad I von Velber, r. 1227-1239 (1236-39)
    AR Pfenning, 17.71 mm x 1 gram
    Obv.: SANCT' PE[T']. Head of St. Peter facing holding key
    Rev.: +CON[RAD]VS EPC'. Voided short cross with quatrefoil in each angle
    Note: Imitation of Short Cross Sterling. Supposedly of Henry III
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  6. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Me neither. Unfortunately and mostly due to the very high number of different medieval German mints and coin types, there isn't even a comprehensive catalogue in German.

    Yet, Berger's excellent and extensive 1993 catalogue of medieval German bracteates can be downloaded for free here. It's a truly useful book, but requires at least a little numismatic German. Unfortunately, it doesn't cover any non-bracteate medieval German coins.

    For Austria and some border regions, there is Koch's Corpus Nummorum Austriacorum, vol. 1. It is hard to get and written in German, but constitutes a comprehensive catalogue of Austrian medieval coins.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
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  7. alde

    alde Always Learning

    @Orielensis, I have downloaded the PDF. I really appreciate the link. Thank you.

    It seems that it's a requirement of those of us who collect Medieval coins to become at least a little familiar with a few languages. I wish I had paid more attention when my mother tried to teach me Italian. I can usually figure out some Italian, Spanish and a wee bit of French in numismatic books but German is a bit more of a challenge for me. It's still fun to try though and with the online translation ability it's not all that bad.
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  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    If you understand a bit of any of the important European languages you can usually handle a catalog to reference your coins. But if you want to really study medieval numismatics and understand the historical context and the means used to date the coins you need to be at least upper-intermediate in these languages. Otherwise you are missing a lot, perhaps the best of what medieval numismatics has to offer.
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  9. Oldhoopster

    Oldhoopster It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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  10. alde

    alde Always Learning

    I totally agree. I envy the people of Europe who can speak several languages. While visiting Sweden we had a tour that was given by a young lady who asked what languages we would like the tour in in 6 languages including German and French. Her English was perfect too. Very impressive.
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  11. Oldhoopster

    Oldhoopster It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    30 years ago, I spent a semester in Germany studying engineering. All the lectures were in German. I am ashamed to admit that the only things I can still say is "Ein bier, bitte" and "Wo ist die Bahnhof".
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  12. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Lhotka, John F. Introduction to Medieval Bractates. New York: Sanford J. Durst, 1989.
    ISBN: 0942666526
    Cost: $14.00
    Grade: D


    Lhotka begins his very short tract (of 65 pages) saying that he wrote this because no guide to bracteates existed in English. The text was originally published in 1958 in the Numismatist, (Sept. 1958, pgs. 1027-1060; Oct. 1958, pgs. 1189-1200) which is available for free through the Numismatist Archive App (provided you have a membership to the ANA). Lhotka opted to reprint his text in 1989, because no one had yet written a better guide in the ensuing 30 years. It has now been another 30 years since the reprint, and only one other English language book on bracteates has been published (to my knowledge: Renovatio Monetae by R. Svensson, originally written in Swedish, but translated into English and published by Spink). I cannot compare Svensson’s book to Lhotka as I have yet to read Svensson, but I suspect the two are meant to serve different functions: Svensson to give a history of bracteates, and Lhotka an identification guide.

    Lhotka’s book functions as an identification guide, but one without many images: just descriptions of the coins. Unfortunately, I have no bracteates to test the value of this guide, so I decided to use an example from the de Witt catalogue (which gives more history of bracteates in half a page than Lhotka’s entire book). Randomly turning to a page, I found an image of a bracteate with enough detail that I thought I might be able to attribute it. The coin had a coat of arms, which seems to be a topic Lhotka did not cover (although I now have a vague memory of him suggesting a different book in English to look up German coats of arms... which is hardly useful). So I tried another coin. This coin had two hens facing one another, and while Lhotka had a description that came close (two facing long-neck birds), the attribution did not fit the more recent catalogue. The author did warn about the vast number of bracteates, and that his text would only help with roughly 75% of attributions, so I guess my random experiment may have fallen outside the book’s usefulness.

    I am sure Lhotka’s book was useful in the time it was published, but sixty years on it may no longer be of much use. It can’t hurt as a first-stop guide in attributing an unknown bracteate, but it isn’t required reading for the medieval numismatist. The free version available from Numismatist Archives is sufficient enough, as the 1989 reprint does not add much (8 pages of poorly printed pictures of coins and their attribution with no connecting them to the text - however, the table of contents is useful). While I was aware of the age of what I was reading, I found Lhotka’s other work on French Feudal coins to still have worth, and was hoping for something similar with this book.
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  13. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    That sounds like an incredibly frustrating book @FitzNigel .I recently picked up a copy of Svensson's book and have been reading it in the evenings. As you noted, it is a history more than anything else. It Is also a beautiful book and I will post a review once I'm done reading it.

    More importantly, do you have the four De Wit catalogs? It was such an amazing collection of coins, I've always wanted to go through physical copies of the catalog and marvel at the coins. With each passing month I find myself slipping from a Plantagenet specialist to a pan medieval European generalist. Thanks to your influence Fitz I just picked up this little guy.
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  14. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    @TheRed do you have an attribution for that? It looks like an interesting coin.
  15. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I do not have a physical copy of the De Witt catalogues. I did manage to find the first three online after much frustrated searching, but the fourth one was not available for free since it was specifically sold to highlight the Anglo-Saxon coins acquired by the FitzWilliam museum.

    And then I found the issuu app on iPad, and all four catalogues are available there for free. The only drawbacks to this is that it can be difficult to flip through, and the images are not to scale. At some point I will review those catalogues as they deserve, as they are probably the most encompassing source for medieval coins available (that I can think of anyway...)

    (And I would love to read your review of Svensson - I would like to read it at some point, but I currently have about 5-6 books in the queue...)
  16. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I’ll add that I saw the catalogues for sale at an auction once, specially hard bound. I don’t recall what they sold for, but remember thinking it was a ridiculously large sum
  17. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    I bought the four De Witt catalogs shortly after they came out directly from Kunker, even though I don't collect medieval coins. I bought them because I collect theme catalogs as reference works. Shipped to the US they were about $150. I have enjoyed looking through them again and again. They have good photos, but unlike most catalogs, they have very extensive commentary on each minting region even if there are only a few inexpensive coins from that region in the collection. I recommend them highly.
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  18. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Let me know if you ever decide to part with them Warren! I’m glad someone here has a physical copy. Someday I may track them down, but the online version will suffice.
  19. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    The coin is a denier of Provins and was minted in the name of Count Theobald II of Champagne. It was minted during the period of 1125 to 1152. @FitzNigel had an awesome post on the medieval fairs held in Champagne and it inspired me to look for one of these coins. It can be found here

    I purchased the coin from CGB as they had a very nice selection of coins of Theobald II.
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  20. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

  21. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    The de Witt catalogs, although very useful for analogies and the quality of the print and the images, they often have mistakes in the presentations and descriptions of the realms and historical discrepancies.
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