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The Princeton University Numismatic Collection


Exhibit on Numismatics in the Renaissance
at Princeton Library, Nov. 9, 2007 to July 20, 2008

A major exhibit on "Numismatics in the Renaissance" will be on view in the main exhibit gallery of the Firestone Library of Princeton University from November 9, 2007, through July 20, 2008. The exhibit will include rare fifteenth and sixteenth century books from the Princeton collection that discuss and illustrate ancient coins and a display of some of the treasures of the University's numismatic collection, featuring gold, silver and bronze coins of Greece and Rome as well as coins and medals of the Renaissance that were inspired by them. The exhibit will also include manuscripts and prints and drawings from Princeton University collections and a print of Pirro Ligorio's monumental map of ancient Rome, made in 1561.

While ancient coins were found throughout the Mediterranean region in the millennium following the end of the Roman Empire, it was only in Renaissance Europe that they began to be systematically studied and were reproduced in the earliest printed books to carry engraved illustrations. The Princeton collection is particularly rich in these impressive examples of early printing, ranging from the 1517 edition of Andrea Fulvio's Images of the Illustrious with its highly decorated settings of each coin image, through Hubert Goltzius's large-scale chiaroscuro reproductions of imperial portraits of the 1550s, to Antonio Augustín's systematic classification of ancient coinage and guidelines for detecting counterfeits from the end of the sixteenth century.

The role that the study of ancient coins played in renaissance culture will be illustrated through the display of art works of the period that depict objects of classical antiquity, most notably a drawing by Parmigianino in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum with an image of the goddess Minerva apparently derived from one on Roman coins. Renaissance coins and medals will be used to illustrate the efforts of rulers of the period to present themselves in the guise of ancient leaders. Tudor coins will be displayed to illustrate the use of coin imagery in Renaissance literature, accompanied by early editions of Shakespeare's history plays, which are particularly rich in puns on coin names and imagery.
A daylong symposium entitled “The rebirth of antiquity: numismatics, archaeology and classical studies in the culture of the Renaissance,” will be held on Friday, November 9, to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. The symposium will be open to the public; those who wish to attend should pre-register by contacting Alan Stahl, Curator of Numismatics, Princeton University at astahl@princeton.edu. The exhibit, on the ground floor of Firestone Memorial Library, on the Princeton campus at Nassau Street and Washington Road, will be open free to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus Wednesday evenings until 7:45 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Exhibition tours will be offered to the public at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays: November 18, 2007, and March 16 and June 1, 2008.

Alan Stahl
Curator of Numismatics
(609) 258-9127

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 Last modified September 6, 2006