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Category Icon Feb 8, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Guide to the Principal Gold and Silver Coins of the Ancients From Circa BC 700 to AD 1, Barclay Head, Kessinger reprint (2003)

Kessinger, a publishing house known for "Rare Mystical Reprints," entered the numismatic book business last year with a "print-on-demand" edition of Barclay Head's famous book on Greek coins.

They should have stuck to Astrology and Numerology.

The plates are atrocious--worse than a cheap photocopy. It's sad, because the value of this book is the plates. The 19th century editions had 70 beautiful Autotype plates (cheaper copies were also available with only 7 plates in those days.) George Hill updated the work and revised the plates in 1932. Hill's version, called <i>Principal Coins of the Greeks 700 BC to 270 AD</i>, includes 50 (later 52) plates, but his plates are larger, illustrating more coins.

Many of the coins in illustrated in this book were sold by the British Museum as electrotypes. Peter Rosa and forgers often made false coins using B.M. electotypes as models. An inexpensive new edition would be most welcome if the plates were of sufficient quality to see the coins. Kessinger's reprint is so poor that it is difficult to read the numbers accompanying each coin!

The British Museum reprints of Hill's version (1959 and 1965) are the superior inexpensive editions. If that cannot be obtained the Argonaut reprint from 1968 of Hill's 1881 version is acceptable.

Head's famous 1881 edition is the 2nd, but significant changes to the text were made in 1895, especially regarding attribution. (The plates remained unchanged until Hill.) I wondered why Kessinger chose to reprint the 1881 edition instead of 1895 or 1909?

I believe Kessinger didn't go to the trouble of locating an original 19th century edition to scan. The plates are poor not because the source had deteriorated, but because they scanned Argonaut's mediocre 1968 edition!

Kessinger didn't scan the 1895 or 1909 editions because they copied Argonaut edition which reprinted 1881. The proof of my accusation is the little box preceeding Kessinger's plates. Contained within is the note 'A Select Bibliography appears on p. xv ff.' The bibliography was added in the Argonaut reprint. There was no bibliography in 1881, and there is no bibliography in this volume.


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