Review: Coins of the Crusader States

Alexander G. Malloy, Irene Fraley Preston and Arthur J. Seltman. Coins of the Crusader States, Second Edition. Allen G. Berman, ed. Allen G. Berman Publications: Fairfield, Connecticut, 2004. 533 pp., line drawings throughout, 11 pls. Hb. ISBN 0-9708242-9-7. $85.00.

The announcement that an expanded second edition of the very popular Coins of the Crusader States, first published in 1994, was planned for 2004 sparked much excitement among students of Crusader coinages. The excitement was further heightened by the relatively recent memory of D.M. Metcalf’s masterfully revised second edition of Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East (London, 1995), which has become a standard work on the subject. When the new edition of Malloy, Preston and Seltman’s opus came out, anticipation was increased even more by the dust jacket, which touted it as, “updated to reflect the discoveries of the past decade and expanded to include the Crusader Coinages of Chios, Corfu and Rhodes.” Unfortunately, the contents do not quite live up to the expectation and close inspection soon reveals to those familiar with the first edition that the updating and expansion found here is not of the same caliber as that undertaken for the second edition of Metcalf’s book.

Although the section on the Knights of St. John at Rhodes, written by A. Berman (pp. 522-533), responds to a longstanding request from readers of the first edition, its peculiar placement following the index, the statement that, “neither time nor space permits an in depth treatment of this series,” (p. 522) and the absence of any new plates to illustrate these coins makes it appear as an afterthought. Still, the catalogue is extensive, bringing together in one place types and variants from Metcalf’s catalogue of the Ashmolean collection, J.J. Slocum’s manuscript of A Checklist of the Coins of Medieval Cyprus (1192-1570), G. Schlumberger’s Numismatique de l’Orient latin (Paris, 1878) and an important sale of Crusader coins by A.H. Baldwin & Sons in 2000. Anyone interested in the coinage of the Hospitallers during their long sojourn on Rhodes will no doubt find Berman’s supplement very useful. Readers should be warned, however, that in this section the abbreviation “Met. Ash.” actually refers to the second edition of Metcalf’s Coinage of the Crusades, despite its use everywhere else in the book to refer to the first edition (p. 508).

The treatment of the coinages struck by the Genoese Lords of Chios (1304 – c.1380s) and Corfu under Philip of Taranto (1304-1314) also looks like an afterthought, squeezed as it is onto page 411, following the issues of the Catalan Duchy of Athens or uncertain issues of Frankish Greece, thanks to the use of a smaller type face. Here readers are left entirely on there own, for unlike in the section on Rhodes, neither the expected historical and numismatic introduction, nor even type drawings for any of the fifteen coins listed in the catalogue, have been included. Those desirous of illustrations must have access to the works of Metcalf or Schlumberger. It is also necessary to search out E. Oberländer-Tarnoveanu, “Les Hyperperes du Type Jean III Vatatzes—Classification, Chronologie et Evolution dut Titre,” in Istro-Pontica: Muzeul Tulcean à la 50-a Anniversaire 1950-2000 (Tulcea, 2000) if one would like to see an imitation hyperpyron of John III of Nicea inserted into the catalogue of uncertain pseudo-Byzantine issues as no. A32.

Luckily, two imitative copper deniers tournoises (nos. 144-145) of Frankish Greece are illustrated, but no attempt has been made to transcribe their badly blundered legends. The flanking annulets on the reverse of no. 145 suggest that it might have been made to imitate a denier of the Glarentza mint under Philip of Savoy (1301-1306), Ferdinand of Majorca (1315-1316), Maud of Hainaut (1316-1318), or perhaps most likely, John of Gravina (1318-1333). The regular billon coins of the latter (see nos. 54, 56, 58-59) are themselves noticeably poorer in execution than those of preceding Princes of Achaea. A star placed to the right of the castle tournois on no. 145 may perhaps suggest that a denier (no. 122) of John II Orsini as Despot of Epirus (1323-1335) served as a model. However, if a second star or a crescent secret mark was originally placed on the left (it is unclear from the line drawing), the typological model might have been deniers of William of Villeharduin (1245-1278) struck at Glarentza (see nos. 8a-10a with varieties GV 131-134, 202-211).

On page 140 appears one further unassuming, yet interesting, addition to the catalogue in the form of a list of muled Christian Arabic dirhams and half-dirhams struck at Acre in 1251. These coins, all drawn from the 1997 Sotheby’s sale of the John J. Slocum collection, reveal die sharing between issues bearing crosses without circular border (nos. 15-16) and issues lacking crosses entirely (nos. 17-18). The fact that cross obverses are paired with reverses of the series without crosses may tend to undermine the notion (p. 131) that the crosses were dropped from Crusader dirhams in an effort to mollify Muslim trading partners who may have found the symbol offensive. If the crossless series was consciously introduced to appeal to the Islamic audience it would make little sense to share dies with the cross issues. Thus, it may be that the order of the series should be inverted to place the coins without crosses at the beginning of the Christian Arabic dirhams, with the mules representing the introduction of the cross type. If the crosses had been so problematic for the acceptance of the dirhams of 1251, it is difficult to understand why the Arabic Christian dinars bearing a cross continued to be produced as late as 1258 (see p. 119, no. 6)

The bibliographical addenda on page 508 seem somewhat smaller than one might expect for an entire decade of study. It consists only of two sale catalogues, the second edition of Coinage of the Crusades, and one article each by D.M. Metcalf, and E. Oberländer-Tarnoveanu. A cursory review of the ANS Library holdings and entries published in Numismatic Literature between 1997 and 2003 expands the number of new items by some 22 articles and 2 books, several of which would have added to the catalogue of hoards and expanded the coverage of secret marks for gold bezants of Jerusalem (D.M. Metcalf, “Crusader Gold Bezants of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem: Two Additional Sources of Information,” NC 160 (2000), 203-218) and of the early issues of Lusignan Cyprus (W. Schulze, “De Cipro, Spekulationen über einen seltenen zyprischen Kreuzfahrer-Denier,” Geldgeschichtliche Nachrichten 35 (2000), 57-62). Our review of the recent literature should not be considered at all exhaustive and therefore the number of additional works is likely to be greater still.

Nevertheless, despite some disappointment at the form and quality of the additions that appear in the second edition of Coins of the Crusader States, it is very good to see the book again easily available. The historical background and the introductions to the various mints of the Crusader States provided by the authors are still just as detailed and readable as they were in the 1994 edition. Likewise, the important metrological and metallurgical essay by A.A. Gordus and D.M. Metcalf on the “Gold Coinages of the Crusader States,” (pp. 90-114) still precedes the catalogue of imitative gold dinars and Christian Arabic dinars and half-dinars of the twelfth century, while Michael Bates and Irene F. Preston provide a valuable historical and numismatic introduction to the, “Crusader Imitations of Ayyubid Dirhams,” (pp. 127-133) struck in the thirteenth century. With the several new additions the catalogue now covers almost 800 types and variants, ranging from obscure series like the twelfth century cut gold coin and bar fragments of the Kingdom of Jerusalem to more well known issues like the helmeted head deniers of the Principality of Antioch and including just about everything in between.

A notable feature, which continues to make the volume of interest to financial and economic historians, as well as to numismatists, is the section on sources (pp. 412-425) documenting the use of coinage and rates of exchange in the Crusader States. To get the most out of these documents, readers generally require some familiarity with Medieval Latin, French and Italian, for only documents 1-3, 6 and 8 are provided with modern English translations. The final document (24) is in Middle English. Each is provided with commentary and remarks on various editions.

Coins of the Crusader States concludes with a list of 101 major hoards of Crusader coins (pp. 426-462) supplemented by five additional hoards (Antioch Subak I and II, Havardjian, and Paphos (ca. 1980)) drawn from Metcalf’s articles in the Fourth Oxford Symposium on Coinage and Monetary History (London, 1980) and the Numismatic Chronicle (142 (1982), pp. 84-100 and 143 (1983), pp. 177-201). Unfortunately, the addenda do not include any of the hoards published in the late 1980s and 90s, such as “Syria” 1993, Athlit (Pilgrim’s Castle) 1930-3, Mount Carmel 1895, “Tripoli” 1992, Lefkara 1990, etc. For a more extensive list of hoards up to the mid 1990s, readers should consult the “Check-List of Hoards” on pp. 308-355 of the second edition of Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East, which provides data on some 216 hoards. However, part of this number is made up of hoards of medieval European coins brought east during the Crusader period and therefore fall outside the parameters of the present list.

Plentiful and high quality line drawn coin illustrations appear throughout the text, taken from earlier catalogues or in many cases newly drawn by Malloy, Preston and Berman. While these are all quite good, the drawing of the famous copper follis or medallion struck by Baldwin I (1100-1118) as King of Jerusalem (no. 1) is a little peculiar in that it does not seem to represent the same unique coin as that illustrated and described by Metcalf (Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East (1995), p. 41) or Y. Meshorer (in J. Prawer and H. Ben-Shammai, eds., The History of Jerusalem: Crusaders and Ayyubids (1099-1250) (Jerusalem, 1991), pp. 395-396). The piece is illustrated and described in the present volume as having the reverse type of an expanding cross surrounded by the inscription +HIERVSALEM, but the other references agree that the type is the Dome of the Rock. Some clarification of the reasons for these differences would be most welcome.

In addition to the drawings, eleven photographic plates are also included, covering the issues of the main Crusader States. For the most part, the plates are taken from coin casts and in some cases appear rather dark, but are all still useful. Plates II and III, illustrating the development of Crusader imitations of Islamic gold dinars and silver dirhams, however, are taken from the coins themselves and are extremely well executed.

A separate 32 page price guide keyed to the type catalogue is expected to be available in the spring of this year.

The rather limited and somewhat quirky execution of the updates included in the second edition of Coins of the Crusader States make it unlikely that owners of the previous edition will immediately set their old copies aside and stampede to the nearest numismatic bookseller in order to replace them, unless perhaps they have a special interest in Hospitaller Rhodes. However, for those new to the history and coinages of the Crusader States it is difficult to recommend any other work as a more suitable and accessible introduction. A decade after its original publication, Coins of the Crusader States still stands up as an essential reference for anyone interested in the coinages produced by the Latin states in the Holy Land, Greece and Cyprus from the early twelfth to the early sixteenth centuries.

—Oliver D. Hoover