Medicine and Medals

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by Ursula Kampmann

March 20, 2014 – Hubert Emmerig has published online a bibliography of ‘Medicina in Nummis’ running to incredible 86 pages. In these 86 pages he already included the most recent reference work by Harald Nilsson, an impressive and comprehensive catalogue of the Erik Waller (1875-1955) collection which was published in late 2013. The catalogue comprises 735 medals, all of them related to medical-historical aspects.


Harald Nilsson, Erik Wallers samling av medicinhistoriska medaljer, Studia Numismatica Upsaliensia 8. Uppsala University, Uppsala, 2013. 517 p., images in colour, hardcover, 25.8 x 20 cm. ISBN: 978-91-554-8701-0. 425 SEK (= 48 euros) + postal charges.

Harald Nilsson stands in a tradition which goes back many centuries. In 1893 Adolph Weyl published the catalogue of a collection owned by Sanitätsrath (Austrian title; a sort of “medical consultant”) Dr med. Carl Ludwig from Duisburg. Ever afterwards physicians have collected medals with medical-historical subjects and scholars have published catalogues of these collections. Just think of the famous Dr Joseph Brettauer and his author Eduard Holzmaier, or today Erik Waller, a Swedish surgeon, collector of books and creator of an important collection of medals related to medical-historical subjects now presented in a catalogue by Harald Nilsson.

For many years Harald Nilsson has been responsible of the edition of the Greek Sylloge volumes. And certainly this has had bearing on the way he has chosen for presenting the material – one page description, one page pictures. One chapter is dedicated to medals on persons (652 items) where you will find mostly physicians but also a couple of other interesting people; academies and institutions (41 items); congresses (21 items); exhibitions (3 items); and varia comprising a small selection of medals by Karl Goetz and of astrological medals.
The description of every item starts with its number and subject. Then follows a detailed description of obverse and reverse. You will quickly learn that little bit of Swedish needed to use the catalogue. ‘Präglingsår’ means ‘year of issue’, ‘Konstnär’ is the ‘artist’, and ‘Diameter’ the ‘diameter’.

Actually, in the end the language is not so relevant as every single object is photographed. The quality of the photographs is excellent, a result which was certainly hard to achieve since many pieces are made of bronze and have acquired in the meantime a chocolate-brown patina. Extensive indices of artists and other persons complement this useful book. It is a wonderful stimulation to collectors of what could be missing in one’s own collection and it will be an indispensable tool to all those who compile a catalogue. Eventually there are still many physicians and chemists dedicated to collecting medical-historical medals …

You can buy this book at 425 SEK (= 48 euros) + postal charges on the internet.

Oh, and the bibliography ‘Medicina in Nummis’ is available here.

The author is well-known to the readers of CoinsWeekly. We congratulated him when he was awarded an honorary doctorate. In our article you can read more about his achievements for numismatics and the Coin Cabinet of Uppsala.