Why am I writing this review? You will have to purchase the new RIC anyway because this catalogue is a standard reference work for any coin dealer and any serious collector when it comes to identifying coins. Therefore, the task of revising the RIC carries with it important responsibilities: the scholar who assumes this task does not only have to write a catalogue that reflects the current state of research, he also has to create a reference work that can be used by non-scholars without extensive training. And that is anything but easy.
A New Layout
The first volume of the RIC series was published in 1923, almost a century ago. The fact that the original layout continued to be used until 2007 is an incredible achievement of the RIC’s founding fathers. In that year, the last volume (for the time being) was published. It was the first revision of the second volume published in 1926, which covered the rule of the emperors from Vespasian to Hadrian and was – limited to the Flavian dynasty – still printed in the original layout. For the next volume, however, the team of editors – Michel Amandry, Andrew Burnett, Roger Bland and Chris Howgego – faced a difficult decision. Even if they had divided the remaining parts of the volume into two additional volumes – as they did – both volumes would have become so comprehensive that it would have been impossible to limited the number of pages to an amount that would fit into one volume printed in the old layout. Therefore, they decided to switch to the layout of the RPC series (= Roman Provincial Coinage) in order to prevent that the already high number of 608 pages with more than 3,500 coin illustrations would increase even further.
Thus, even if many people will be annoyed by the fact that they cannot simply take the old RIC off their bookshelf and replace it with the new one, the change in layout was absolutely necessary and well worth it.
Far More Than 3,000 Entries and Solid Dating
The new catalogue provides its users with far more than 3,000 entries of all coins minted under the rule of Hadrian, including all coins for Sabina, Aelius and Antoninus Caesar. Furthermore, it (finally) gives solid and way more detailed information on the dating of the pieces and their attribution to mints than the old RIC did.
Richard Abdy and Peter Franz Mittag – both of them are well-known to anyone interested in Roman numismatics – are responsible for the extensive numismatic introduction of about 75 pages and the enormous catalogue. Richard Abdy is the curator for Roman coins at the British Museum. He is especially interested in middle and late imperial times and wrote a catalogue of the coin finds discovered along the Antonine Wall in Scotland. While doing so, he was dissatisfied with the imprecision of the old RIC. It turned out to be a productive dissatisfaction that resulted in an updated catalogue of Hadrian’s coins.
He was supported by Peter Franz Mittag, a specialist for Roman medallions, who complemented the catalogues he had already written in German and made them available in English.
This is the first time that a RIC contains medallions as well. In contrast, the authors dispensed with Cistophoric coinage because these pieces are included in the volume of the RPC series published in 2015.
The most important thing of a RIC volume are its indexes. They determine how quickly an experienced user is able to assign a RIC number to every coin. The authors knew that and did a good job. Every number can be found by means of the legend or the index of subjects. Thus: everything as usual. Especially the index of subjects is very helpful because it does not only list the depictions but also the way a coin features them. In other words, if you spot the depiction of Salus on a coin, the index offers several options: standing on the left, standing in the middle resting on the Rod of Asclepius, standing on the right in the front of an altar and much more. That makes looking something up much easier and prevents you from browsing through a lot of pages!
It becomes obvious to what extent the authors cared for the needs of the catalogue’s users. Therefore, I would like to express a wish that may prove useful for the next edition. Most users know that finding a coin in the RIC requires significantly less time if one looks up the legend – obviously, with the exception of emperor Hadrian’s pieces showing COS III on the reverse; well, in fact Trajan and his everlasting OPTIMVS PRINCEPS was even worse! Those who want to search a coin by means of its legend have to go through six rows with different numbers to choose from. Things would be much quicker if the coin’s motif was briefly mentioned right behind the number. However, we know that this would not be possible for every inscription – and exceptions to a fixed scheme are something that scholarly authors do not like at all. Nevertheless, many users would probably be grateful for such an inconsistency.
Compared to the 127 illustrations of old RIC, the new one could only do better. However, numismatists spoiled by excellent pictures won’t be happy with the printing quality of the charts.
One thing first: the authors took full advantage of all the pictures that one can easily access apparently free of charge on the different image archives on the Internet. The list of cited auction houses comprises three and a half columns! Regarding the charts this means that images (and coins) of different qualities were used, which resulted in serious printing problems. Therefore, the charts containing black-and-white photos are quite contourless and the depictions are blurry. Details of the pieces are almost invisible. Especially regarding the bronzes there are several pieces whose depiction and inscription have to be interpreted with the help of imagination instead of by means of your eyes.
This can definitely be improved. Furthermore – at least regarding German auction houses – according to German law not only the auction house but also the photographer should be asked for permission and mentioned unless the photo was taken by an employee of the auction house. Just to avoid any legal trouble.
And that’s enough because, actually, there is no need to write anything about the new RIC. Most of you probably already have it in your library anyway.
If that isn’t the case, you can order the book via this link.