Numismatic News: The Winchester Cabinet (Leeds)

by R. Darley

We hope that you are enjoying the new RNS blog, including:

  • How RNS grants have been used to further numismatic study
  • Up-coming RNS public lectures and events
  • Updates concerning the Society and our website
  • New and forthcoming publications by the RNS, by RNS members or related to academic study more widely

If you would like to offer content for a blog post, to advertise events or publications or to draw attention to talks, exhibitions or collections near you, please contact Rebecca Darley (

Especially as we enter the Spring and summer period, when grants are being spent but reports have not yet come in and applications for the following year are being assessed, and when our lecture schedule enters its final furlong for the year, we would also like to use the Society blog to draw your attention to other numismatic stories on the web. These will, of course, be interspersed with notices more directly connected to the Society. For a wider selection of other numismatic stories from the UK and beyond, please also visit the RNS Facebook page.

The Winchester Cabinet, in the strongroom of the Brotherton Library, linked from ‘A corner of tenth century Europe‘.

This week’s numismatic news comes from the University of Leeds, which over the last three years has been working to make its extensive numismatic collection more widely known and better integrated into teaching in the university. Some of the English material was published as long ago as 1975 by Elizabeth Pirie in the Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles 21 and a short summary of the collection, of around 15,000 items can be found here. Nevertheless, the collection is not yet a part of the Money and Medals database and had not in recent decades been subject to much use. The story of how that has begun to change can be found here and here on the blog A Corner of Tenth Century Europe.

With the help of a Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship one particular section of this collection, an eighteenth-century collector’s cabinet, ultimately received by the University of Leeds in almost pristine condition, has been the subject of a lengthy study by an undergraduate scholar, Emma Herbert-Davies. The results of this investigation can be explored via the project website, Unlocking the Winchester Cabinet and a virtual exhibition. There is also currently a display of coins from the collection on view in the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds.

Emma Herbet-Davies presenting on the Winchester Cabinet, linked from ‘A corner of tenth century Europe‘.

To any numismatist, coins and medals are probably inherently interesting. None of us began that way, though, and whatever our various routes into numismatics, there must have been a moment when we encountered the thrill – of a connection to the past, of the joy of collecting, of the beauty of the object, of the sense of community this interest can provide. As somebody who has been loosely connected to this project (Emma presented with me at a conference panel on coin collecting, at which I was talking about R. E. Hart, one of the most substantial donors to the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery Collection), it has been exciting to see how coins and their study have reached out to somebody with no prior experience of the subject, and who is now a passionate and charismatic spokesperson for the subject.

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