Item #7218 DESCRIPTION OF A CABINET OF COINS AND MEDALS ANCIENT AND MODERN. John C. Kunze.
DESCRIPTION OF A CABINET OF COINS AND MEDALS ANCIENT AND MODERN.
DESCRIPTION OF A CABINET OF COINS AND MEDALS ANCIENT AND MODERN.

DESCRIPTION OF A CABINET OF COINS AND MEDALS ANCIENT AND MODERN.

The Medical Repository. Volume III (New York: Printed by T. & J. Swords, 1800). Conducted by Samuel L. Mitchill and Edward Miller. 8vo, modern full brown speckled calf; spine with five raised bands, ruled in gilt; red morocco spine label, gilt. 7, (1), 428 pages [Kunze’s article is on pages 351–359]. Some spotting. Near fine in a fine binding. Item #7218

John C. Kunze’s 1800 description of his coin collection, possibly the only 18th-century account of a coin cabinet formed by an American collector. Kunze’s little-known article, written in the form of a letter to Dr. Samuel Mitchill though intended for publication, is one of the very few detailed portrayals of coin collecting in the early days of the Republic. Kunze (1744–1807) was a Lutheran minister and professor. Having studied at the University of Leipzig, he moved to Philadelphia in 1770, married, and established the Lutheran Theological Seminary. The pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, he served as a member of the Board of trustees of the University of the State of Pennsylvania, where he also served as a professor of languages and philology. He later moved to New York, where he served the Trinity and Christ Church and taught Oriental languages at Columbia. In addition to his religious and scholarly activities, Kunze studied medicine and astronomy, and was the official translator for Congress in 1785. He begins his letter to Mitchill: “With pleasure I comply with your request, to give you a short description of the little cabinet of coins in my possession. It would be the extravagance of curiosity, bordering on the lust of the eyes, had I made this collection only for my own two eyes. I can therefore have nothing against its publication, provided it is well remembered, that I do not attach any idea of greatness to it.” He does admit that for New York it is a large collection and “at any rate, the foundation for a good one is laid.” Kunze’s collection was heavily comprised of modern (i.e., post-Renaissance) European coins and medals, though some ancient coins and American pieces were included. Given the collection’s contents, it seems reasonable to surmise that he collected in both Europe and America during the late colonial period through his death in 1807. Among the American items in his cabinet were a 1757 Quaker Treaty of Easton Indian Peace Medal (Betts 401), four 1652-dated Massachusetts silver pieces “all of different sizes,” a St. Patrick farthing, Boscawen, Pitt and Vernon medals, a Rosa Americana piece, and a Voce Populi. “My duplicates I have in a particular chest, from which every spectator is permitted to take what he pleases, by replacing each with a coin, of any value, which is not yet in the collection.” On Kunze’s death, the New-York Historical Society contacted his widow and heirs to inquire about the disposal of the collection. At its meeting of July 14, 1818, the Society’s Vice President, Dr. Kosack, read a letter from Mrs. Kunze dated June 30, 1818, in which she donated the collection to the Society. The collection was well-regarded at the time; the 1821 volume of the Collections of the New-York Historical Society contains David Hosack’s inaugural address as president of the Society (pages 269 to 280), in which he comments on the Society’s coin collection, much of it received from Rev. Dr. Kunze. The circumstances of the donation were retold in the Proceedings of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1843. While virtually unknown today, Kunze’s epistolary article has not always been forgotten, with Daniel Parish publishing “A New York Collection of Ancient and Modern Coins as Described in the Year 1800, by the Owner, the Rev. Dr. John C. Kunze” in the 1907 volume of the Proceedings of the American Numismatic and Archæological Society. More recently, John N. Lupia III has made note of the 1805 printing of the article on his website. Joel J. Orosz, in his monograph on Pierre Eugène du Simitière, cites Robert Hendre Kelby’s 1905 history of the New-York Historical Society, which states that the Kunze collection was eventually stolen from that institution, “nothing remaining but the cabinet which held the coins and medals.” The Medical Repository was more specialized in title than in actual scope of coverage, reviewing “publications on physic, surgery, chemistry, natural history, civil history, politics, topography, voyages & travels, more particularly those that relate to America.” Frank Luther Mott’s A History of American Magazines (1930) considered it to be the first scientific journal published in the United States. Our 2014 fixed price catalogue included the first offering of this title in a numismatic context; the recent acquisition of another copy is exciting. Not in Attinelli. Evans 37947. Ex Library of the New York State Medical Association, with their ink stamp on opening pages.

Price: $3,500.00

See all items by