Numismatic literature was among the most elegant and fascinating expressions of the printer's art during the European Renaissance. A wide selection of these works, as well as Renaissance medals and the Greek and Roman coins which inspired them, will be on view at the Grolier Club September 25 through November 17, 2001.
The sixteenth century heralded a "Golden Age of Numismatics," when the collection and study of ancient coins was a must for any serious Renaissance artist or humanist. More than archaeological remains, ancient coins (and later, books about them) provided the best means of diffusing images from antiquity throughout Europe, to scholars and collectors hungry for such knowledge. In fact, Jean Grolier, the famous French book collector for whom the Club is named, was recognized by contemporaries for his collection of ancient coins as well as for his numismatic books, which formed a significant portion of his library. Items from Grolier's collection will be on view in the forthcoming show.
Among the highlights are many "firsts:"
o The first numismatic book -- the 1514 Paris edition of Budé's De Asse et partibus, published by Josse Badius.
o Andrea Fulvio's Illustrium Imagines (Rome, 1517), the first illustrated numismatic book in its possibly unique first issue
o An unfinished 1565 manuscript of Enea Vico will be displayed for the first time, along with all his published works. Vico is generally considered the first scientific numismatist
o Grolier's copy of Vico's first book, published in 1548.
Among the other extraordinary examples of numismatic literature are Hubertus Goltzius's chiaroscuro portrait book, Les Images presque de tous les empereurs depuis C. Iulius Caesar iusques a Charles V (Antwerp, 1559), and his privately printed survey of ancient numismatics printed in Bruges, 1563 - 1579, represented by association copies from his patron. Jacopo Strada, a major sixteenth century numismatic figure immortalized by Titian, will be represented by the work he published himself, together with Thomas Guarin and Jean de Tournes, in Lyon in 1553. Among Strada's works on display will be the Gessner elephant folio edition of 1559, one of the most remarkable examples of his printing. The show includes much other work published in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands.
During the Golden Age, numismatics and printing intersected, not only between the covers but also on the covers. Coins, medal's or images thereof appear prominently on several bindings of the period. On exhibit, for example, will be a French binding inspired by a medal of Henry II, and a 1523 Paduan binding with a medallion head of Alexander the Great impressed on a "grid" pattern, reminiscent of a drawer in a collector's coin cabinet.
The show will be curated by Professor John Cunnally of Iowa State University, the author of Images of the Illustrious: The Numismatic Presence in the Renaissance (Princeton University Press, 1999), and Grolier Club member Jonathan Kagan. The display of Renaissance Medals will be selected and guest-curated by Dr. Stephen Scher, author of Currency of Fame (New York, 1994).
NUMISMATICS IN THE AGE OF GROLIER will be on view at The Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York, New York. The exhibition is open to the public without charge, Monday - Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm, 25 September - 17 November 2001, except 8 October, when the Club is closed.
A checklist of the exhibition is available.