President’s Report 2019

By Roger Bland, President

I would like to start by thanking the officers of our Society, as without all their very hard work, the Society’s affairs would not run as smoothly as they do. Our Honorary Secretaries Megan Gooch and Henry Flynn not only organise the meetings but also look after the membership, meetings, grants and many other things.

In any organisation the role of Treasurer is of absolutely key importance and I am extremely grateful to Peter Knapton for all the hard work he has put in in getting the Society’s financial affairs in order and sorting out the Society’s many ring-fenced funds. As you will have seen from the accounts for 2018 the Society is in a healthy position financially and we are also very grateful to Stefano Mazzola for acting as the independent examiner of the accounts.

Brad Shepherd is Joint Librarian of both our Society and the British Numismatic Society has worked very hard in getting the Library into shape so that the management of it can be transferred to the Warburg Institute. Your Vice Presidents Martin Allen and Helen Wang have played an invaluable role in advising Council on medallists and honorary members and other matters. Last, but not least are our editors whom I will say more about shortly.

I would also like to thank the other members of the Council this year: Rebecca Darley, Tristan Hillgarth, Claire Rowan, Matthew Ball, Simon Glenn, Abigail Kenvyn and Richard Morel. To these were added Andrew Burnett whom we elected as Honorary Vice-President in November and I’m very grateful to Andrew to his continued advice as I took on the role of President.

For the majority of our members, especially those overseas, the Society’s main publication, the Numismatic Chronicle, is probably the most important benefit of membership. This continues to come out with great regularity early in the New Year and it always contains excellent peer-reviewed articles on a wide range of subjects; it has the reputation of being one of the premier numismatic journals in the world. Richard Ashton, Marcus Philips and Susan Tyler-Smith have edited the Chronicle very efficiently for many years now and we continue to owe them a huge debt.

The Society’s Special Publications also have a high reputation and, under Susan Tyler-Smith’s editorship, H M Malek’s Arab-Sasanian Numismatics and History during the early Islamic period in Iran and Iraq, is now in proof (in 2 volumes) and will be out soon. A further three volumes are in active preparation under the editorship of Kris Lockyear and Clare Rowan: Jack Nurpetlian, Coinage in late Hellenistic and Roman Syria: the Orontes Valley; Ken Sheedy and Gil Davis (eds), Metallurgy in Numismatics 6 and Clare Rowan et al. (eds). Tokens: Cultures, Connections, Communities.

At a Publications Committee meeting this year we agreed on a new system for approving proposals for new SPs and have broadened the panel of editors so that hopefully we will be able to increase our output in future.

At the end of April the Society produced its first e-newsletter, packed with useful information, and this is thanks to the initiative of our Council member Matthew Ball – please send your e-mail address to the Secretary if you didn’t receive this. Another issue came out last month. We also continue to send out the biannual Money and Medals Newsletter to all members for whom we have email addresses. Thanks to Matt for looking after the Society’s Twitter account and to Rebecca Darley for maintaining our website, which plays a key role as the public face of the Society.

As usual members have continued to enjoy a monthly programme of meetings, organised by our secretary Megan Gooch and many thanks to our speakers Mark Stocker, Lucy Moore, Johan van Heesch, Julian Bowsher and Robert Kenyon, David Swan and Johannes Hartmann, Andrew Burnett, Richard Kelleher and Jane Kershaw for their papers.

We are, however, having difficulties finding a venue in central London for our meetings, and we were unable to book the Warburg for two meetings in the last session and went to the Swedenborg Institute instead. The Warburg is due to be refurbished at some point in the future and so we do need to look for somewhere else. A small subcommittee of Council has been looking for alternative venues. Meanwhile we continue to be grateful to Spink’s for allowing us to hold our June and December meetings here.

The stock of the Society’s medal is running low and Council has decided to commission a new one. This work is now in progress and we very are grateful to our Council member, Abigail Kenvyn, of the Royal Mint Museum, for helping us through this process.

John Casey, who died in 2016, left the Society a generous bequest in his will. The final payment of this has recently been made and it amounts to £111,665. John generously put no conditions on his gift and the Society decided to use John Casey’s bequest to fund numismatic research, with grants of up to £2500 each, to a total of £8000 a year. I am glad to say that the first three grants have been awarded to Richard Abdy, to help him publish the Roman Imperial Coinage volume on Hadrian, to Nicoletta Rozza to enable her to produce a critical edition of de Pandoni’s book De Talento, published in 1456 and one of the earliest works on numismatics, and to Christopher Whittell, who is carrying out research on crimes relating to the coinage during the English Commonwealth.

The Society has also given grants from the Martin Price fund to Vesta Curtis for a conference on Parthian coinage and from the Nicholas Lowick fund to Karan Singh for research on the coinage of the Shahi kingdom. The total amount offered in grants this year amounts to some £10,825.

Marion Archibald also left a bequest of £40,000 to promote research in the coinage and monetary history of the British Isles, 410-1662 and we hope to make the first awards from that next year.

Congratulations to Sam Moorhead on receiving our Society’s medal for this year; we look forward to hearing him speak at a future meeting. We also awarded the Lhotka prize for the best book for a beginner in numismatics to Clare Rowan for her book From Caesar to Augustus (c. 49 BC–AD 14): Using Coins as Sources and the Gilljam prize for the best book or article on numismatics of the 3rd century AD to Antony Hostein and Jerome Mairat, Roman Provincial Coinage IX.

Because of the Warburg’s planned refurbishment, a reorganisation of the joint library that we run with the BNS is necessary. After lengthy discussions my predecessor, Andrew Burnett, finalised an agreement to transfer the management of the library to the Warburg (while we retain ownership of the books) with the Warburg’s librarian just before he left office. Under this agreement the Societies will pay to have the books catalogued on the University’s online library system and our librarian, Brad Shepherd, has been working hard to get them ready for this. We have recently received a revised version of the Agreement from the University of London’s lawyers and we hope to be able to finalise it this year.

Our Council member Richard Morel has been carrying out a review of the Society’s archives: it would be fair to say that they could be better organised and we are very grateful to him for carrying this forward.

Council has known for some time that our By-laws, last revised in 2007, are due for an update. The present By-laws are unnecessarily prescriptive in many respects: for example, they require us to hold ten monthly Council meetings, whereas we have found that half that number is enough, and also specify the exact months when meetings shall be held, while the process of electing new members also does not reflect current practice. Council has agreed a new draft which has been approved by the lawyers of the Privy Council (this is because we are a Royal Society), and that is why we are asking this meeting to approve a revised set of By-laws, after which they will return to the Privy Council for final approval.

Lastly, I am sad to report the loss of three Fellows this year. Derek Aldred died in January and was elected in 1970: his interest was Roman coins. The other two Fellows were both medallists. Michael Metcalf died in October 2018 at the age of 85. He received our medal in 1987 and was a former President of this Society and Keeper of the Heberden Coin Room at the Ashmolean Museum. His area of expertise was medieval coinage and among his many publications were 3 vols in our SP series on Thrymsas and Sceattas in the Ashmolean. An obituary of him by Nick Mayhew appeared in The Guardian on 19 November.

Professor Peter Franke died in December at the age of 92. He received our medal in 1988. He was professor of ancient history and numismatics and head of the Institute for Ancient History at the University of Saarbrücken and was mentor to a generation of numismatists in Germany. His first major publication was a monograph on the coinage of Epirus. His collection of over 4,000 ancient coins is now in Yale.

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