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Coins of Anglo-Saxon Britain

2014 October 30

Here are drawings I made of four coins from Anglo-Saxon Britain, which formed part of the collection of Sir Robert Cotton and are now in the British Museum. (Read about Cotton, his collection and the BM’s history in my book Cotton’s Library!) The image below, as well as this high-resolution version, is absolutely free for you to use however you want!

Drawings of four Dark Age pennies

All four from Britain, not necessarily “British,” though that’s complicated

This post explains more about why I made these drawings and why they’re here.

Otherwise, hm, these coins were really the easiest of the drawings I made for my book. The difficult part, here, was finding reference material.

I was at the British Museum in 2013, and stood right in front of these coins. But I didn’t think about wanting images of them for Cotton’s Library until afterward, and nipping back to London would put this project way over budget.

The relevant curator at the BM was actually quite helpful in my research, here; the BM does maintain a fee-based policy on images, but in this case the problem was more that they didn’t have images to give me. Their collection includes about a zillion objects, and even among those on display (like the above coins) not everything has been photographed. They might photograph some things if you request it, but that’s even more expensive‚Ķ

As it turned out, though, they had in fact photographed these coins, and much of their coin collection. A long, long time ago. Long enough ago that the catalogs in which those photos were published have managed to escape into public domain. Hooray.

It was also long enough ago, however, that the photographic plates in those catalogs are not especially clear or detailed. Automated scans of those plates are even muddier.

So, in this case, I made my own drawings for clarity rather than to make an end-run around copyright. But I think it came out fine.

For those interested, all of these coins appear in this or this catalog. The system for identifying and finding them is complex, and I don’t feel the energy to explain it at this moment; if you’re really interested, post a comment.

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