by Ursula Kampmann
31 July, 2014 – Yes, I know that the term ‘picture book’ is usually not linked to science, but due to the splendor of illustrations of the extraordinarily well preserved and carefully selected coins from the Roman Republic, spanning the time from the 4th cent. B. C. until the Battle of Actium, compiled in this volume it is the eye that prevails over the intellect. Before reading even one line, you will get lost in the plates, looking at denarii, quinarii, gold coins and, most of all, coins made of bronze some which you did not even know to exist.
Roberto Russo, The RBW Collection of Roman Republican Coins. Numismatica Ars Classica AG, 2013. 30.5 x 21.6 cm, 435 p., images in colour. Hardcover. ISBN: 978-88-7794-835-9. $150.
It took the collector more than 50 years to assemble this collection which, with its 1,860 numbers, probably is the most comprehensive collection of coins from the Roman Republic that came on the market, in the era of fully illustrated auction sale catalogs. Upon doing so, he has become one of the leading experts in this era. The catalog presented here, therefore, is a magnificent synopsis of knowledge we currently possess on this field.
Like a Sylloge volume, the text is located on the left-hand side while on the right the pictures are given, superb pictures. Equally superb is the written text that not only provides a description and quotations from the literature, but additionally provenance, starting price and results achieved. Distinguished numismatists had already taken account of the then most recent scholarly findings in the first publication of the auction sale catalogs; after the catalogs had been published, a number of corrections were made according to current academic research since numerous numismatists had raised their hand to call attention to one or another new insight. This is why the dates, mint attributions and interpretation of figural depictions are up to date scientifically and make a valuable addition to the standard works of reference.
What is more, well-known numismatic author David Vagi has written elaborate numismatic commentaries on some outstanding coins, therewith classifying interesting illustrations and historical relationships.
There is, however, one thing one might ask for in regard to this genuinely important publication: detailed indices of coin legends, images on coins, and mint masters. If such indices were given, chances would be good for this catalog on the RBW Collection to replace the old Crawford as the most favorite reference work of all catalog writers because it can instantly be checked with the illustrations if the coin found is in fact the correct one.
It is a pity that this opportunity was overlooked when the catalog was published, but perhaps somebody will get round to compile the indices as a separate supplement after all. Every collector of coins from the Roman Republic will be indebted to him.
A copy of the catalog can be ordered for $150 at Numismatica Ars Classica. Please send an email.