This year has been a strange one. The Coronavirus pandemic meant our AGM had to be postponed, and, for a while, it looked like the annual Presidential Address might not go ahead.
Thankfully, it was possible to host the Address online via the video conferencing service Zoom. One positive result of this is that many members of the society who wouldn’t ordinarily make it to meetings in London were able to log in and hear our President, Roger Bland, speak on ‘single finds versus hoards’. We were also able to record the presentation, complete with slides, for everyone to enjoy.
Abstract: The study of numismatics in recent years has been dominated by the study of coin finds and these are normally divided into hoards and single (or stray) finds. The two categories have often been studied in isolation from each other. This paper will look at the blurring at the edges of these two categories and will consider the different sorts of information that can be gained from them, drawing on the work of a recent research project on Iron Age and Roman coin hoards from Britain and the database of the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
For the first half of the Society’s year, our business was able to proceed pretty much as usual. Down to February we were able to have our regular ordinary and council meetings and then, in March, the Coronavirus crisis changed everything. We have been unable to have meetings in March, April and May, nor can we hold our AGM in June, but we will be experimenting by having the Presidential address online via Zoom. If that is successful it seems probable we will be holding meetings via Zoom for this autumn at least. We have held our April and June Council meetings on Zoom.
The RNS, like the rest of society, has had to adapt to completely new ways of working at short notice. I’m confident that we can continue to carry out many of our core activities in these very difficult circumstances, even while some things, such as holding physical meetings, are not possible at present. One casualty of the emergency has been our AGM, which we would normally have held in June. As this is not something than can be switched to a digital platform, we are postponing it until such time as we are able to hold meetings again. I’m very grateful to our Officers and Council who have agreed to stay on in post for the time being.
As ever I would like to thank 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.
Peter Knapton has continued to look after our financial affairs with his usual efficiency and we are very grateful to him for that. He has, however, decided he needs to focus on his other voluntary and charitable commitments and is stepping down in June. Our thanks for all he has achieved for the Society over the last three years. Thanks too to Stefano Mazzola for continuing to act as the independent examiner of the accounts and to Tristram Hillgarth for his wise advice on the Finance Committee. We are delighted that Paul Hill, of CNG coins, has agreed to step into Peter’s shoes and Council will be invited to co-opt Paul as our Treasurer at its June meeting.
Brad Shepherd is Joint Librarian of both our Society and the British Numismatic Society, and has continued to worked very hard on getting the Library into shape for the Warburg Institute. We are delighted that the agreement between our Society and the British Numismatic Society and the Warburg Institute was finally signed in November 2019, thanks to the efforts of Brad and our Honorary Vice-President, Andrew Burnett. The Warburg Institute has been closed since March, but library cataloguing continues with the aim of ensuring that all the Society’s books are visible on the University of London’s online catalogue.
Your Vice Presidents Martin Allen and Helen Wang and our Hon. Vice President Andrew Burnett have all played an invaluable role in advising Council on medallists and honorary members and other matters.
I would also like to thank the other members of the Council this year: Claire Rowan, Matt Ball, Simon Glenn, Abigail Kenvyn, Stanley Ireland and Jenny Adam. Richard Morel, who gave us really valuable advice on our archives last year, was re-elected in June 2019, but had to step down from Council in the autumn because of ill health.
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 Phillips and Sue Tyler-Smith have edited the Chronicle very efficiently for many years now (Richard since 1998, Marcus since 2002 and Sue since 2014) and we continue to owe them a huge debt. Council has nominated Marcus and Sue as Honorary Fellows in recognition of the debt we owe them (Richard is already an Honorary Fellow).
The Society’s Special Publications also have a high reputation and, under Sue Tyler-Smith’s editorship, H M Malek’s Arab-Sasanian Numismatics and History during the early Islamic period in Iran and Iraq, SP 55 (in 2 volumes) was published in December, followed shortly after by Antonino Crisà, Mairi Gkikaki and Clare Rowan (eds). Tokens: Cultures, Connections, Communities (SP 57).
Two more SPs are now in proof and will be published this summer: Ken Sheedy and Gil Davis (eds), Metallurgy in Numismatics 6 (SP 56) and Andrew Burnett’s ‘The Hidden Treasures of this happy Island.’ A history of numismatics in Britain from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (SP 58), a monumental three-volume work which we are publishing with the British Numismatic Society. I have edited these two works. Jack Nurpetlian’s Coinage in late Hellenistic and Roman Syria: the Orontes Valleyis being edited by Clare Rowan and should be out later this year. The Society had large stocks of old Special Publications in Spink’s warehouse which were about to incur storage charges and we sold 805 volumes to Chris Martin Ltd.
Thanks to the energy of Matt Ball, the Society’s monthly E-newsletter has continued to come out regularly (with a break in the summer), and is proving to be an excellent way of keeping the Society’s members in touch with our activities. We now have e-mail addresses for most Fellows, but there are still some for whom we don’t have an e-mail; please send your address to the Secretary if you didn’t receive this. We also continue to send out the biannual Money and Medals Newsletter to all members for whom we have email addresses. Thanks also to Matt and Megan for looking after the Society’s Twitter account and to Matt for keeping the website up to date.
As usual, until February members have continued to enjoy a monthly programme of meetings, organised by our secretary Megan Gooch and many thanks to our speakers Susan Eberhard,Alexandra Magub, our medallistSam Moorhead, Panagiotis Iossif, Laura Burnett and Ylva Haidenthaller for their papers. We are sorry to have cancelled out meetings in March, April and May and we hope that those speakers will be able to come next year. Laura and Ylva gave their papers in the early-career lecturers’ slot in February, which we advertise through an open call. We have received so many applications for this, that in April Clare Rowan invited early-career researchers in numismatics to give papers at a conference organised in conjunction with Warwick University. This had to be switched to Zoom at short notice, but it was a successful event and our thanks to Clare for organising it.
We have now found a satisfactory alternative venue to the Warburg institute for our meetings, in the Council room of the Institute for Advanced Legal Study, on Russell Square. However, as the IALS isn’t suitable for parties, we have been going to either the Swedenborg Institute or the Institute of Archaeology for the December and June meetings.
The main changes are intended to reflect the current way in which new fellows are elected and to give the Council greater flexibility in the when and how often we hold council and ordinary meetings, while also giving the Society’s membership a greater opportunity to be involved in electing officers and council members at the AGM, bringing them into line with best practice as laid down by the Charity Commission.
In particular, the new bye-laws:
• simplify the method for recruiting new Fellows and bring it into line with current practice, as formal elections are no longer held; • bring in simplified way for recruiting young and student Fellows at a reduced subscription; • mean that Council will not need to meet ten times a year and will give Council flexibility over the frequency of these meetings; • give Council flexibility over the frequency and timing of Ordinary meetings; • bring the procedure for examining the Society’s accounts into line with Charity Commission guidelines; • give greater flexibility over the roles of the Society’s officers; • modify the procedures for electing Council at the AGM in line with the Charity Commission’s best practice.
Last year Council decided to it was time to commission a new medal and we are very grateful to Council officers Abigail Kenvyn, of the Royal Mint Museum, and Henry Flynn for helping us through this process. Council agreed to invite Natasha Ratcliffe and Robert Elderton to produce drawings for a medal. We look forward to choosing a design from their submissions in the coming year.
The Society has also given grants from the Casey, Lowick and CNG funds totalling £10,100 to Andrew Burnett, Vesta Curtis, Sam Moorhead, Victoria StoparandConnor Sweetwood.
We also awarded the Shamma prize to Dorota Malarczyk for her contributions to the Islamic sections of the Polish 5 part Inventory of EarlyMedieval Coin Hoardsand the Parkes Weber prize to Sophie Hemmings for her essay, ‘Imperial identity and the production of gold coinage in the Carolingian world’.
Congratulations to Keith Rutter on receiving our Society’s medal for this year; we look forward to hearing him speak in 2021.
Lastly, I am sad to report the loss of six Fellows who have died over the last year:
Simon Bendall (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Bendall), who died in June 2019 at the age of 81 was an Honorary Fellow of our Society and well-known to many, having had a career in coins at Spink’s and Baldwin’s. He was an expert in the coinage of the later Byzantine Empire and published important books on the Later Palaeologan Coinage and the Coinage of the Empire of Trebizond.
Peter Gaspar (https://www.coinbooks.org/v22/esylum_v22n33a07.html), who died at the age of 84 in July 2019, was professor emeritus of chemistry in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He combined his profession as a research chemist with a passion for medieval English coins and was an expert in the technical aspects of metallurgy and coin production. He was a regular visitor to London and served on the Council of the American Numismatic Society.
Ulla Westermark (https://coinsweekly.com/ulla-westermark-1927-2020/) died in February 2020 at the age of 92 received our Society’s medal in 2001 and was co-author, with Kenneth Jenkins, of The Coinage of Kamarina, our Special Publication no. 9 (1980). She was an authority on ancient Greek coins, especially those of Sicily, publishing a monograph on the coinage of Akragas, and co-ordinated the series Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum from 1976 to 1986. Her career was at the Royal Coin Cabinet in Stockholm, where she was Director from 1979 to 1983.
Currently the Warburg Institute, where the RNS/BNS Library is located, is closed in response to the government guidelines during this COVID-19 event. No date has been given for when it will reopen.
But work on re-cataloguing our library continues.
The RNS/BNS Numismatic Library holds over 19,000 items – and items are being added all the time. Our current electronic library catalogue is only accessible using an old computer in the RNS/BNS Library.
Over the past year all the books have been re-catalogued to provide more bibliographical information about each title held.Off-prints are now catalogued. New shelf marks have also been added, which are clearly labelled on the spine of each book – making it easier for you to find items on the shelves.
The next step, when the library re-opens, is to get our new catalogue added to an online academic library website (jisc.ac.uk). This will allow our library collection to be easily searched from the internet at any time.
As jisc.ac.uk also holds the catalogues of many UK academic institutions, if we don’t hold an item you are looking for, you will be able to see who does.
The process to add our information on to jisc.ac.uk is complex and will take time, so there will be an update once this has been completed.
In the meantime, a searchable spreadsheet of all the books held in the RNS/BNS Library is now available on the BNS website. Please note: It does not include the periodicals or sales catalogues, which still need re-cataloguing
Finally, for anyone interested in looking for archived auction catalogues from the comfort of home, there are several excellent online resources:
The Newman Portal at Washington University in St. Louis, has thousands of scanned auction and sales catalogues from the U.K. and U.S.A.
Issuu has hundreds of more recent auction catalogues from the U.K. around the world
And, most auction houses now have archived catalogues that can be searched online from their own websites
by Roger Bland, Adrian Chadwick, Eleanor Ghey, Colin Haselgrove, David Mattingly, and Adam Rogers
Publication date: 30 April. Available from Oxbow Books at a pre-publication offer of £48.75 (normal price: £65).
More coin hoards have been recorded from Roman Britain than from any other province of the Empire. This comprehensive and lavishly illustrated volume provides a survey of over 3260 hoards of Iron Age and Roman coins found in England and Wales with a detailed analysis and discussion. Theories of hoarding and deposition and examined, national and regional patterns in the landscape settings of coin hoards presented, together with an analysis of those hoards whose findspots were surveyed and of those hoards found in archaeological excavations. It also includes an unprecedented examination of the containers in which coin hoards were buried and the objects found with them. The patterns of hoarding in Britain from the late 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD are discussed. The volume also provides a survey of Britain in the 3rd century AD, as a peak of over 700 hoards are known from the period from AD 253–296. This has been a particular focus of the project which has been a collaborative research project between the University of Leicester and the British Museum funded by the AHRC. The aim has been to understand the reasons behind the burial and non-recovery of these finds. A comprehensive online database (https://finds.org.uk/database) underpins the project, which also undertook a comprehensive GIS analysis of all the hoards and field surveys of a sample of them.
Overview and analysis of the dataset
Theories of Hoarding and Deposition
National and regional patterns in the landscape settings of coin hoards
Analysis of excavated hoards
Coin hoards as archaeological objects: material and context
Coin hoards and society: chronological syntheses
Coin hoards and society: debating the third century: crisis or continuity?
New research into Byzantine and Early Islamic coinage in Syria, Palestine and Egypt, plus their archaeological and historical background. Articles on additional themes include Umayyad weight standards, and the significance of die axes for medieval mints.
Well over 250 coins are illustrated, many of them for the first time. The book is published by Archetype for the Seventh Century Syrian Numismatic Round Table and contains the papers presented at the Round Table conference held in Worcester in April 2019. The Round Table organises informal conferences for numismatists, archaeologists and historians with an interest in Late Antiquity/Early Islam in Syria/Palestine and the surrounding area.