Review: Novci dalmatinskih i sjevernoalbanskih gradova u srednjem vijeku

Julijan Dobrinić, Novci dalmatinskih i sjevernoalbanskih gradova u srednjem vijeku. Numizmaticki studio Dobrinic: Rijeka, 2003. 133 pp., line drawings throughout. Pb. ISBN 953-6603-04-7. 20 Euro.

The title, translated into English as Coinage of the Dalmatian and North Albanian Towns in the Middle Ages (here Albania refers to the medieval region by that name, rather than the modern state), immediately identifies Julijan Dobrinić’s new book as a specialist work, narrowly focused on the coins produced by the various medieval towns along the northern coast of the Adriatic Sea. However, Novci dalmatinskih i sjevernoalbanskih gradova should be appreciated also by the larger community of numismatists devoted to the coinage of the northern Balkans and northeastern Italy. The present catalogue includes not only the autonomous civic issues, but also the coins struck under the influence of Venetian, Hungarian, Bosnian, and Serbian rulers, who at various times claimed authority over the towns. Students of Venetian coinage are likely to find the catalogue to be an especially useful supplement to works like the Corpus nummorum Italicorum VI (Roma, 1922) and R. Paolucci’s La zecca di Venezia (Padova, 1991), since all of the towns except for Drivast (Drivasto), Svač (Sovacia), and Ulcinj (Dulcinum), produced coins as Venetian protectorates beginning in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Likewise, Ulcinj (2.1.1-2.1.4) and Kotor (Cattaro) (2.1.1-3.1.2) produced issues in the names of the Serbian tsars Stefan Uroš IV (Dušan) and Stefan Uroš V. Later, Kotor (5.1.1-5.4.1) and Zadar (Zara) (1.1.1-1.2.1) issued coins naming the Hungarian king Ludwig I. The former also struck coinage for the Bosnian king Stjepan Tvrtko I (6.1.1-6.2.2). Bar (Antivari) (2.1.1-3.1.3) and Skadar (Scutari) (2.1.1-4.1.2) produced money for the rulers of Zeta (Montenegro), while Split (Spalato) (5.1.1-5.4.2) did the same for the Bosnian duke Hrvoje Vukičić Hrvatini acting as a vassal of Hungary. In short, the coins catalogued by Dobrinić serve not only as material evidence for the prosperity of the individual towns, but also document the larger and extremely colorful pollitical history of the region in the middle ages.

It is somewhat unfortunate that the text is written entirely in Croatian without the addition of a translation or summary in English or another western European language, as is now often standard practice for works on Balkan numismatics. Since the volume is dedicated to the memory of Karl Stockert, the Austrian pioneer of medieval Dalmatian and Albanian numismatics, some commentary in German or Italian might have been appropriate, as these were the languages in which his important studies were originally published in the early twentieth century. While the decision to use a solely Croatian text is likely to limit the potential audience for Novci dalmatinskih i sjevernoalbanskih gradova, those without a working knowledge of Croatian should not despair of making use of the book. The actual discussion of the towns and their coinage is extremely brief, usually limited to a paragraph or two at the beginning of each catalogue section, while the organization of the catalogue is self explanatory and user-friendly regardless of one’s native tongue.

Students of the coinages produced in the medieval territories of Dalmatia and Albania will instantly appreciate Dobrinić’s work in producing the present catalogue, for he has brought together in one place material that previously would have required the consultation of numerous books and articles for proper study. Although all of the towns listed in the catalogue were interconnected by their sharing of the same coastal plain, their competition for trade with the interior, and their struggles for autonomy against the encroachments of larger states, they have traditionally been divided into two separate groups. The issues of towns like Kotor, Bar, Ulcinj, Skadar, Drivast, and Svaš, which often found themselves under the authority of the rulers of Zeta or Serbian tsars are normally included in works devoted to the numismatics of medieval Serbia, while those of Zadar, Šibenik (Sibenico), Trogir (Trau), Split, and Hvar (Lesina) are usually detailed in discussions of the coinages of medieval Croatia. Meanwhile, the coins struck by all of these towns as protectorates of Venice are also treated in catalogues of Venetian coins. In his seminal study of the coinage of Kotor, Stockert even found himself dealing with the issues of the Venetian protectorate in a separate article (“Die prägung der Gemeinde von Cattaro unter Venezianischen Protektorat,” NZ 9 (1916), 1-76) from those in which he covered the earlier periods. Thus Novci dalmatinskih i sjevernoalbanskih gradova represents a great step forward for the regional study of the coinages of medieval Dalmatia and Albania.

However, readers should be warned that while the catalogue is comprehensive for the eleven towns listed therein, the extensive coinage of Dubrovnik (Ragusa) has been omitted because of its great size. Likewise the late DALMATIA ET ALBANIA series normally attributed to Zadar under the Venetians from 1626-1797 is not treated in the catalogue, but the earlier MONETA DALMATIE soldi of 1410-1414 (2.1.1-2.1.7) do appear.

In addition to collecting material from disparate sources to create a unified type catalogue, the author also includes a few recent discoveries, such as a grosso of Balša III of Zeta attributed to Bar (3.1.3.1), on which the name of St. George is written in Cyrillic, rather than in the Latin characters normally employed on coins of the Dalmatian and Albanian towns. Unfortunately, this interesting coin, as well as a new grosso of Balsa II struck at Skadar (2.1.1.1) is only listed, but not illustrated by Dobrinić (see V. Ivanišević, Novcarsto srednjovekovne Srbije (Beograd, 2001), nos. 27.1 and 29.3). Several additional secret marks on the grossi of Kotor under Tsar Stefan Uros V of Serbia (2.1.3.28-29) and the Venetian protectorate (8.1.1.10-11), all unknown to Stockert, are also listed among the issues of Kotor. It is worth noting that Dobrinić is not dogmatic about identifying the Venetian provedores, whose names appear only as initials on the coins. When variant identifications are possible (i.e. A-D, which could represent Arsenio Duodo (1457-1459) or Antonio Dona (1459-1462) at Kotor) the author presents both interpretations.

As is traditional for most medieval coin catalogues, main types are illustrated by line drawings taken from publications of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some of the drawings used here have not reproduced as well as they might, but for the most part they are functional. Their usefulness would have been increased if they were accompanied by full type descriptions, but these have not been included. Only legend variants and secret marks are given in detail. The addition of a few photographic plates to supplement the line drawings might have been helpful as well, although they would no doubt have affected the surprisingly reasonable price of this specialist book.

A regional map indicating the locations of the various towns would have been welcome also, especially for readers who might be new to the medieval coinages of the northern Adriatic coast and the places that produced them. Full appreciation of the “large G” obverse type shared by the towns of Bar (1.1.1-1.1.5) and Skadar (1.3.1) in the fourteenth century, and the episcopal types of Split (5.1.1-5.4.2) under Hrvoje Vuki (1403-1413) can only be had when one is aware that the first two towns were located close to one another on the opposite shores of Lake Skadar, and that Split was relatively near to the emporium of Dubrovnik (Ragusa), which produced an important silver coinage featuring the fourth century bishop St. Blaise. The latter had been imitated previously by Stefan II Kotromanić as Ban of Bosnia from 1322-1353 (see B. Mimica, Numizmatika na provijesnom tlu Hrvatske (Rijeka, 1994), nos. 56-76) and still influenced the typology of Bosnian coinage under King Stjepan Tomačević from 1461-1463 (see M. Jovanović Serbien [sic!] Medieval Coins (Belgrade, 2002), nos. 62.2-4)

The volume is completed by two indices of denominations and personal/geographical names, numismatic bibliography for each town, and a valuable set of concordances between Dobrinić catalogue numbers and other major references. In most cases, this means the works of Stockert, but also includes important earlier treatments of the nineteenth century, the Corpus nummorum Italicorum and Corpus nummorum Hungariae, and the somewhat more recent studies of I. Rengjeo, R. Paolucci, and V. Ivanisvić.

There can be little question that Novci dalmatinskih i sjevernoalbanskih gradova will be of great value to students of the coins of medieval Dalmatia and Albania, as well as the coinages of the surrounding states. It is hoped that problems of language inaccessibility will not prevent the book from finding its proper place on the shelves of western numismatists interested in Balkan coinage of the middle ages.

—Oliver D. Hoover