US Coins

Rare Crosby reference offered lot in numismatic literature auction

Crosby’s key 1875 book “The Early Coins of America” was originally published as 11 individual booklets. Kolbe & Fanning will offer one in a gorgeous modern binding at its July 13 auction.

Image courtesy of Kolbe & Fanning

Two lots that are sure to interest aficionados of early American numismatics are among the highlights of Kolbe & Fanning’s July 13 auction, Important Numismatic Books Sale 153. 

Sylvester S. Crosby’s book The Early Coins of America was initially published by the New England Numismatic and Archaeological Society between 1873 and 1875 before being published in book form by the author in 1875. Kolbe & Fanning will offer an original subscription set as originally issued, in 11 booklets, with a revised title and introduction lade into booklet 11–12, with an estimate of $7,500. 

The description explains, “The unusual unbound state of the present lot attests to the incredible difficulties Crosby experienced during the production of the book,” which was originally to be the work of a six-person committee appointed by the New England Numismatic and Archeological Society to publish a work on early American coinage. Adverse circumstances including a financial panic, the death of Crosby’s wife in 1874 and the challenge of corralling research resources in the 1870s led the cataloger to write, “That the book was completed at all is remarkable; that it was completed so well is nothing short of incredible.”

The parts were published separately and sent to subscribers in printed covers, leaving subscribers on their own to bind their sets. 

As described, using the nomenclature of a bookseller, this set is “housed in a recent custom-made brown quarter morocco clamshell book box; spine with four raised bands, ruled and decorated in gilt; black leather spine label lettered horizontally in gilt to accommodate flat display.” 

Crosby’s work has been called “the masterpiece of nineteenth century numismatic literature,” and this set’s provenance includes the library of Eric P. Newman. 

Another impressive volume from Newman’s library is a compendium of Massachusetts laws published in Boston in 1726, housed in a contemporary full leather binding. The catalog notes, “This rare volume is of remarkable historical importance, being a contemporary printing of the Charter under which the Massachusetts Bay province operated and the legal code promulgated for its government.” 

Of interest to numismatists is the inclusion of the Massachusetts Bay colony’s printing of the 1708 Act of Parliament enforcing Queen Anne’s 1704 Proclamation to regulate the value of coins being used in the American colonies. Sections related to the status of the early Massachusetts silver coinage and laws addressing contemporary counterfeits reflect the issues of the day, and as laws were revised, these volumes would grow in their page count. Of broader interest is the “scarlet letter” law, made famous by author Nathaniel Hawthorne, which punished adultery by forcing offenders to wear a capital A on their clothing. The book carries an estimate of $5,000.

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