Margolis research library offered in Kolbe & Fanning sale
- Published: Feb 23, 2021, 9 AM
A leading library on numismatics of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era will be offered as Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers presents the collection of researcher Richard E. Margolis at its March 6 mail-bid and live online auction.
Margolis is perhaps best remembered for his 2015 book, Benjamin Franklin in Terra Cotta: Portrait Medallions By Jean-Baptiste Nini at the Chateau of Chaumont, but as David Fanning writes in the catalog’s introduction, “What is also obvious is that he was voracious in his reading and deeply intellectually curious,” concluding, “The Margolis Library captures the spirit of this pivotal time period in a unique fashion.”
Offered is Margolis’ own presentation copy of his work, number one of just six copies bound, none of which were offered for sale. It is beautifully bound in original terra cotta quarter morocco with marbled sides, a spine with five raised bands and lettered in gilt, with marbled endpapers and all page edges gilt. Housed in its original terra cotta cloth slipcase, the folio-sized 13- by 10-inch book was reserved for presentation to the author and those involved in the book’s production. It carries an estimate of $600.
The catalog reprints a 1992 essay from Margolis where he reflects on his origins in the hobby, writing, “I caught the collecting bug early, one look at a friend’s numismatic collection on a day in 1943 that I can still clearly remember, and I was hooked.” His research took him to Europe including the Archives Nationales and Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the British Library and Public Record Office in London.
He recalled, “Without exception the curators, librarians, and archivists I have met have been exceedingly courteous and cooperative and have helped make my research a real pleasure.”
He was one of the founders of the venerable New York International Numismatic Convention and ran it with the help of his wife from 1972 to 1986.
He said on his attraction to medals, “Their infinite variety, their clear artistic superiority to coins of a comparable period, their reasonable price, the calibre of the people who collected them, all appealed to me.”
The 1819 book Medallic History of Napoleon continued Chevalier Aubin Louis Millin’s work on French revolutionary medals that went from 1796 to 1809, extending coverage to Napoleon’s exile from France in 1815. It is the only English edition of this important text, featuring 60 engraved plates of medals and comes with an original supplement.
The Margolis example is especially noteworthy as it came from the library of dealer Wayte Raymond, with his custom bookplate that depicts a Pine Tree shilling, a Heraldic Eagle reverse type and an ancient Greek coin design.
The original French text was translated for the 1819 edition by James Millingen, and as one researcher noted in 1985, “The accuracy of most of the engravings leaves much to be desired but the notes are important... The translation is done so well that it’s impossible to separate Millin’s words from Millingen’s.” It carries an estimate of $300.
Perfect for a numismatist’s study is an original sketch for a proposed French numismatic design by Jean-Pierre Droz, prepared for a monetary competition of 1791 that was ultimately won by Augustin Dupré. The victor is known to American numismatists as the designer of the Libertas Americana medal, which influenced the earliest coin designs from the U.S. Mint.
The unsigned rectangular sheet depicts within a round form “a winged Genius inscribing the Constitution on a tablet, surrounded by symbols enigmatic of Liberty,” the cataloger observes, adding, “Droz, who was Swiss by birth, had little support among the judges, having worked for the past few years for Matthew Boulton in England.”
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