American Numismatic Society
American Numismatic Society

Exhibit 1: 2008 - 2009

"The American Numismatic Society Library: 150 Years of Learning."

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Introduction: The history of the ANS Library can be traced back to the history of the Society as a whole. From the first acquisition in 1859, the Library collection has grown exponentially into the widely important resource that it is today. This exhibit takes a glimpse at this history by examining the changing physical space of the Library, to the 20 individuals who have worked to oversee the care of the collections, and finally to the growth of the collections.

First Acquisition Record Book

When the ANS Library first began to acquire items for the collections, they were documented in these large, 9.5”x 14” volumes. This volume contains the first 40 years of entries, which list the “title”, “author”, “style” (i.e. publisher), “donors etc.”, and “when” the item was acquired. The first line of the book lists the Library’s first acquisition from 1859, which can be viewed in a photo of the first Acquisition Record Book

Librarian's Report

Dated: March 16, 1880. Written by Richard Hoe Lawrence, ANS Librarian from 1880-1886. New York: ANS Archives.

This three-page report was generated by Mr. Richard Hoe Lawrence, who served as the Librarian of the American Numismatic Society from 1880-1886. In his report, (transcribed) he laments the resignation of the previous librarian, Mr. Isaac F. Wood, who had served as the Society‘s Librarian since 1869, and stresses the need for a catalog of the collections. Three years after this report was generated, there appeared the first catalog of books in the collections of the ANS, which was published in 1883. In the third paragraph, Mr. Lawrence stresses this need for a Library catalog: ..."Our books are not catalogued, and a library without a cataloguer is, as Carlyle says, a Polyphemus without an eye in his head. It is hoped that our infant Cyclops will soon have this important member placed in his forehead."

First Acquisition

Humphreys, Henry Noel, (1810 - 1879) The coin collector's manual, or Guide to the numismatic student in the formation of a cabinet of coins : comprising an historical and critical account of the origin and progress of coinage, from the earliest period to the fall of the Roman Empire : with some account of the coinages of modern Europe, more especially of Great Britain. London: H.G. Bohn, 1853.

The two-volume set of Humphreys Coin Collector’s Manual (Title Page) is a first edition bound in the original red cloth with design in blind tooling on the upper cover and lettering in gilt on the spine. The ANS Library also possesses other editions of the work from 1876, 1880, 1883, and 1887. A modern facsimile, printed in 1971, is available for browsing on the exhibition shelf of the Library’s reading room.

Early U.S. Acquisitions

Loubat, Joseph Florimond, duc de, (1831 – 1927) The Medallic History of the United States of America. New York: The Author, 1878.

Another important early acquisition came in 1879 with the purchase of Loubat's well-known two-volume publication that uses medals given away by congress in order to discuss the history of the United States during it's first 100 years. The first medal is that for George Washington and his siege of Boston, engraved in Paris under the direction of Benjamin Franklin. The 86 plates contained within volume II were etched by Jules Jacquemart (1837 – 1880), a professional French printmaker. The two-volume work contains descriptions, biographical sketches and documentation related to the medals, and has been praised as much for its detailed content as for its physical attractiveness. A New York Times book review, published on June 20, 1878, praised the author for not only having “compiled a work of accurate research absolutely perfect and thorough of its kind, but he has undertaken the exceedingly difficult task of having his volumes printed and illustrated under his own immediate supervision, lavishing on paper type, and etchings all that the most exacting good taste and judgment could desire.”

Both volumes of this work are signed by the subscribers mentioned in the 1880 Librarian‘s Report. Many of the medals that are illustrated in this work can be found in the collections of the ANS. The illustration above is from Plate XXIV of Loubat's work and is also found in a search of the ANS collection database.


ANS Librarians