Islam / Mideast Numismatic Literature: Reviews    (556)

Following in no particular order are informal commentaries and reviews of numismatic works which do not appear in public domain web pages. Often they originated as postings in duscussion groups or private emails, and are not as rigorous as a scholarly review might be, but still contain useful insights on the works covered. If you know of any additional online reviews of these works, please CONTACT ME.

Andrew V. Liddle, Coinage of Akbar

Published by the Kapoori Devi Charitable Trust, Gurgaon (India), 2005. In English. Harbound with dust jacket, 89 pages plus 34 color plates.

This is not a comprehensive catalogue of mint/date combinations, but looks like it will be an invaluable aid in identifying the myriad types of Akbar in all three metals. The book contains the following:

Military Campaigns and Conquests (1 Page)
Akbar as Administrator (1 Page)
Religious Policy (1 Page)
Akbar as Patron of Art and Architecture (1 Page)

Coins of Akbar - A list of all mints known on gold, silver and copper, respectively, followed by an alphabetical list of all mints with an approximate location and other pertinent information.

Symbols and Ornaments on Akbar's Coins - Line drawings of 67 symbols found on Akbar's coins along with a list of mints and metals on which the symbols are found. (A very important contribution!) There are notes about the origin and meaning of some of the symbols.

The bulk of the work is a description of different types in all three metals. There is a good written description of each type along with a list of the mints that produced the type and the range of known dates. There are 42 Gold types, 77 Silver types, and 67 Copper types. There are also notations about errors, two pages of Controversies, and three pages on additional notes on eight new mints.

Then there is a map showing all of Akbar's mint towns, a bibliography and several appendices.

Appendix 1 - Hijri and CE date conversions and Persian word dates
Appendix 2 - Ilahi and Hijri date conversions and Ilahi months written in Persian
Appendix 3 - Mints of Akbar written in Arabic script
Appendix 4 - Mint epithets written in Arabic with a transliteration and translation and mints that used the epithet.
Appendix 5 - Phrases and pious wishes on Akbar's coins. Written in Arabic, transliterated and translated.
Appendix 6 - Couplets on Akbar's coins. Written in Arabic, transliterated and translated.

Finally, the color plates with color photographs of each type, some types showing multiple mints. The photos of gold and silver coins are mostly readable, those of copper coins are often too dark to make out everything. However, the photos are more useful when used in conjunction with the written descriptions of the types and with available museum catalogues.

I can recommend this book to anyone interested in the coins of Akbar or Mughal coins in general. It is not of the caliber of Aman ur Rahman's recent exceptional book on Babur (subject of an earlier email from me), but it is better than anything else I have seen on the coins of Akbar.

Jim Farr from posting to 10/02/05

Lowick, Nicholas   Early 'Abbasid Coinage: A Type Corpus 132-218H

The Lowick/Savage Abbasid corpus was actually begun by John Walker in the late 1930s; in fact, the obverse and reverse type numbers come from his charts, later modified to include types not known to him back then. Walker subsquently turned to Arab-Sasanian and Arab-Byzantine, published in 1941 and later to his remarkable, though now outdated, corpus of Umayyad coins. He then resumed work on the Abbasid project, though without the intensity previously devoted to the Umayyad work.

Lowick acquired Walker's charts and reference cards when he became curator at the BM in 1965, but it was not until the late 1970s that he decided to regenerate the project. Lowick examined material published after Walker's last research, as well as public and private collections. In about 1983 he visited me here in Santa Rosa to study my collection (now at Tuebingen). He decided to split the work into two parts, one covering the period AH 132-218, the second AH 218-334 plus the relatively small number of subsequent issues (until the death of al-Musta'sim in AH 656). Unfortunately, Lowick's health began to decline by the end of 1984, leading to his pre-mature death in 1986.

The project was than passed along to Judy Kolbas, then living in London. She reorganized the material based on 1987/88 software, at first on an old computer no longer produced, then on a Mac. She continued to examine new material, especially in auction catalogues, as well as dealers' stock and private collections. In particular, Muhammad Limbada of London was especially helpful to Kolbas, in part because of his own extensive interest in and broad collection of Abbasid silver and copper coinage. Kolbas's principal effort was to transfer Lowick's handwritten information into computer software that could produce a publishable text. She was also intent on expanding the number of listings by dividings mint/date types into subvarieties that extended beyond Walker's type definitions.

As her interest and research on Mongolian culture developed, Kolbas gave up the project after about 2 or 3 years. The work passed along to Elizabeth Savage, who continued to assemble the corpus in the inherited software. Much to her dismay, the software proved to be increasingly complicated. For example, the text had to be divided into two separate documents, one for the left hand (even-numbered) pages, the other for the right (odd-numbered) pages, with the result that any change in one document had to be balanced by an equivalent adjustment in the second document, an unbelievably annoying nuisance. This was complicated by the fact that each coin descriptions extended from the left to the right page. By the mid-1990s the text was utterly unwieldy, but conversion to something like Microsoft Word would have required at least a month or two or rather boring transcription.

As for the multitude of errors and misattributions, I don't know how they developed into massive quantities. I had used Lowick's index cards (many inherited from Walker) for identifying some of my own coins, and don't recall so many mistakes at that time.

When in London in about 1999 or 2000, I had a long discussion with Savage, trying to persuade her to return to the project, if sufficient financing could be located. She understood that the original software was essentially useless, and had been discontinued so long ago that it would not operate on modern computers. The thought of spending several months retyping the entire text into modern formats was too discouraging. The existing text was then printed out in something like 20 or 30 copies for distribution to academic sources, and there have been many photocopies printed out since then.

Stephen Album, posting to 10/06/05

Here is my cetero censeo:

For basic information I would refer to the discussion in the ICG archive between 5th and 21st December 2000. The question of editing and publishing the Abbasid corpus by Lowick and Savage remains a responsibility shared between the the Keeper of the Department of Coins and Medals of the British Museum and British Museum Press.

Andrew Burnett's decision not to go on with the publication was based on expert opinions which by themselves were entirely based on a 1996 version of the corpus. Elizabeth Savage had continued to work on the edition and the version of 1999 which was distributed to fifteen libraries together with the decision not to proceed was much improved. Many of the statements on the state of the work, like Stephen Album's in ICG of 4th December 2000 cannot be verified in the 1999 version.

There was also some misinformation concerning my role in it. First of all I had never been in the board of advisors, which was composed entirely of anglophone numismatists. Nevertheless there were some discussions in the mid 1990s between Andrew Burnett and me about what to do. My suggestion in a letter dated 4th October 1996 was that one person with a lot of experience in Abbasid numismatics could do this in three month of concentrated work. But in the same letter I wrote to him that I could not do this because our metallurgical project had just started. Apparently this latter phrase was not perceived by Andrew Burnett and I was very puzzled when a year later alongside the Berlin International Numismatic Congress he asked me when I could start with this task. It can be gathered from Elizabeth Savage's message to Tawfiq Ibrahim in the quoted string of ICG communications of 2000 that Andrew Burnett must have told her and also Samir Shamma that I had first accepted and a year later denied to do a final editing. This is simply wrong and could be checked any time in the archive of the Coins and Medals Dept. Perhaps I should add that I had returned a rough proof reading of the manuscript (unfortunately excluding the bibliography) around 1996 which was fully used for the 1999 version.

From this follows that the decision in 1999 not to follow the publication plan was based on wrong assumptions regarding (a) expert opinions on the value of the 1999 version and (b) on finding an expert for final editing. As stated initially the BM people can put a continuation on their agenda whenever they like. The present state with the manuscript available but somewhere in limbo has already clearly lead to a decline in Abbasid numismatic studies during the last ten years and this cannot go on forever.

And Ralph and Steve: the corpus is very clearly copyrighted. Andrew Burnett's accompanying letter with the copies sent to libraries of 28 May 1999 states explicitly: "... it is still covered by copyright, and should not be reproduced without permission." In other words, you have to write to Joe Cribb to ask for permission to copy it, e.g. at the ANS library. Unfortunately for layout reasons it would not be possible to use it for an online version.

Lutz Ilisch, posting to 7/14/09

Ömer Diler. Islamic Mints: Islam darp yerleri. 3 vols. Istanbul, 2009. ISBN 978-975-8428-2.
   Ömer Diler died rather prematurely in 2005. His widow Emine Nur Diler saw his second book, Ilhanlar: Iran Mogollarini Sikkeleri, to the press in 2006, and has now brought out Diler's magnum opus with the help of two of Ömer's friends, J. C. Hinrichs and Gero Kurkman. The book is in three huge volumes (217 x 305 mm., a total of 1793 numbered pages plus front matter and 8 maps; 5.8 kilograms!) with very attractive card covers. Although the book is privately published (no publisher is named), it is distributed by Spink and has their logo on the back cover. At this time, there is no indication that it is available for public sale, but obviously it will be. This is a major new work for Islamic numismatics.
    Diler began work on the book in the 1970's, but left it unfinished. His wife and friends have finished it as they think he would have wished, using "common sense, numismatic knowledge, and his notes." The production reflects enormous credit on Diler, his wife Emina Nur, and his friends. The book is pretty much bilingual, in English and Turkish, throughout. The English, by Emina Nur, seems to be impeccable.
   Volume I begins with a foreword and acknowledgments; and then a list of abbreviations used in the book with their English and Turkish equivalents; a glossary of terms used; a table of the transcription (actually, transliteration) of Arabic; an English-Turkish dictionary of common terms; a list of Hijri month names and their abbreviations; a table of the diwani numerals; a second table of the Arabic alphabet with the transliteration and name of each letter; a description of the dating systems, Hijri and others, used on Islamic coins; and a "Guide to the Book" explaining the elements of each mint entry. All these lists and tables are reprinted on an eight-page removable pullout in the first volume.
   The listing of mints then begins, with Abarquh. Actually, the first entry, in a different format, is for a mint, Abadan min al-Ahwaz, that has been listed before, by Zambaur in his MŸnzprŠgungen, but is now known not ever to have existed. Such entries are preceded with an asterisk instead of a large-type headline, with a prose explanation of the name, the error, and the correct reading. An important difference between this listing and Zambaur's, and a major improvement, is the inclusion of Islamic mints in South and Southeast Asia.
    The entry for each actual mint gives the mint name in large bold type with full transliteration (macrons and dots), followed by the Turkish name in smaller type, the name in Arabic script, and a map citation (more later on the maps). All of this is in one line. Mints that have had honorific or explanatory additions to the fundamental name have a citation to Diler's book Titles and Epithets of Islamic Towns (Istanbul, 2001) below the heading line. Cross-references, if any, to other names for the same place come next. Below that, for each mint, is a table with five columns. Column one names the dynasties of the rulers whose names appear on the mint's coins, in chronological order; column two lists the known dates; and three columns, one each for gold, silver, and copper, give bibliographical citations of the coins known for each date. Some citations have superscript numbers linking to footnotes that follow the table. All of this is certainly inspired by Zambaur's predecessor work, but is much more elegantly organized, intellectually and visually. The citations give a number for the work cited and the number of the coin or page number. The footnotes usually begin with the name and dates of the ruler who is named on the coin, and may add comments, always in English first and then in Turkish. The citations are not intended to be completethere are only one or two for each date mint combination.
   The citation of the works by number follows Zambaur's practice (but not using his same numbers). These reference numbers in boldface type with parentheses are also used for references to the works in the footnotes and the discussions of each dynasty. The key to the numbers is in volume 3, pages 1695-1744. It begins with some 38 references identified by name; these seem to be copied directly from Diler's book on the Ilkhans, judging by the predominance of rare books on that dynasty and the use of the abbreviation "BMC" to refer only to Lane-Poole's sixth volume, Coins of the Mongols. There are then 1,623 numbered references, including books, articles, and dealer's catalogues, followed by a few hundred other references, pp. 1745-55, that are used rarely in the body of Islamic Mints. The numbered references seem to document a numismatist's career, listing sources in the order they were found and used by Diler. The first number is 0, for "private collection;" when this citation is used in the mint tables, it is usually explained more precisely. The number 1 is missing, but the subsequent low numbers are those of Turkish collections and publications of the sixties and seventies that would have been the first books and articles available to Diler, then moving on to, for example, Stephen Album's price lists, which are listed in batches, item numbers 23-28, 245-55, 289-93, and so on as Diler received and worked on them. Many other auction catalogues and fixed price lists are included. The volumes of Lane-Poole's British Museum catalogue are listed in the order 9-10, and then 1-8, with the key numbers 61-70, but unfortunately, one would think, a series of subnumbers like 6/1 and 6/8, all referring to books by Tšzen, have been inserted here in numerical order ignoring the slash, 6/1 after 61, 6/2 after 62, instead of putting them after item 5 as was no doubt intended. In sum, the references are listed in numerical order as Diler encountered them, not alphabetically, or according to any systematic classification of the bibliography. Naturally, this makes no difference in the process of looking up a number reference, but it makes it harder to attach some meaning to the numbers with practice so that one need not look up every reference. It seems that with Islamic Mints one will always have to have the third volume open for reference as well as one of the other two.
   Leaving aside peculiarities of the listing, future compilers of any kind of coin index are strongly urged to avoid the numerical reference system entirely. It is very user-unfriendly: the reader is forced, in this case, to juggle two heavy volumes to understand the citations. The use of numeric references invites typographic errors in the preparation of the work: if a number is typed 978 when it should be 987, what proofreader will notice the mistake? Not even the author. Indeed, since the numbers evidently were used by Diler in compiling his reference cards, how often did it happen at the end of a long day that he himself wrote down the wrong number for a reference? For this preliminary notice of the book, no attempt has been made to verify the references; the frequency of error will emerge only with long use of the index. Nevertheless, and surely, it would be better to use mnemonic abbreviations instead of numbers in any kind of index of Islamic coins. BM I, BM II, etc., are just as simple and certainly more human than 63, 64, and so on; Mitchiner's classic The World of Islam is easy to recognize as WI or MWI instead of 20; Album's fixed price lists as SA FPL 43, etc. (or even APL 43). Some abbreviations will necessarily be longer than a four-digit numberin many cases, the modern system "author (year)" will be the best form--but the enormous gain in ease of compilation, use, and immediate clarity for the reader will compensate for the compiler's extra pen- or keystrokes and make it possible for the reader to turn and pull the relevant book off the shelf, or to judge the relevance and reliability of the reference intuitively, instead of first writing down the reference and searching the bibliography list.
   The mints are listed in Arabic alphabetical order, as is traditional. It is not certain that this is the best order, if the sort key word is the Roman alphabet transcription of the mint name; it may impress Arabists, but the rest of the world would probably find the English alphabetical order easier to use. Zambaur used the Arabic form of the mint name as the sort key word, which deals better than the English alphabet with uncertain names, and evades the sometimes problematic question of vowelling (is it Arminiyya or Irminiyya?), but computers still discriminate against Arabic (and to a lesser extent against any language other than English), and many users of a list of mints will find English alphabetical order more instinctive.
   Volume I, pages 1-641, has the mints from alif to za', the first eleven letters of the 29-letter Arabic alphabet as well as the letters pe (three dots under ba') and chim, used in other languages. Volume II, pages 642-1333, has entries for the remaining Arabic letters shin-ya' as well as the Malay form of p (three dots over fa') and the letter ga' used in Turkish and Urdu.
   Volume III has the ancillary matter. First comes a listing of "States" (translated Devletler), which are actually dynasties, in transliteration or common name in English alphabetical order with the Turkish name of each one and, in most cases, the item number in the listing "Dynasties." "States/Devletler" is immediately followed by "Devletler/States" which gives the same information but with the Turkish names first, in Turkish alphabetical order, and the standard transliterated name. In both lists, for some reason, the Spanish dynasties are mostly called by their traditional Spanish names, such as "Algarbe, Taifas of (Reyes Taifas)" instead of their Arabic names, in this case Muluk al-Gharb or Banu Bakr. It is strange that the medieval Spanish names of Muslim polities are still considered to be the "real names" by many writers, and especially strange that a Turkish author would accept this assumption. Why then are the successors of the Fatimid governors in Palermo not listed as "Normanni di Sicilia" (nos. 1737-44)?
   The next listing is the very important tabulation of "Dynasties / Hanedanlar," which has a tabular entry for every separate ruler of each dynasty with five rows:
   1. The number of the entry, the English or transliterated dynasty name, the dates of the dynasty, and the Turkish dynasty name (this row is repeated for every ruler!).
   2. The short form of ruler's name, transliterated, his Hijra dates, and the ordinary Turkish form of the name.
   3. Additional elements of the ruler's name, his CE dates, and the Turkish form of the additional elements.
   4. The ruler's father's name, briefly.
   5. Citations and remarks. The citations are usually to work no. 1006, listed as Album's Checklist of Popular Islamic Coins, 2nd edition (which does not have the word "Popular" in the title), and work no. 480, Yilmaz Öztuna's Islam Devletleri, and sometimes other specialized references. The cross-reference to the Checklist is very useful and ought to be in any index listing, but one is very surprised not also to find here C. E. Bosworth's New Islamic Dynasties, which ought to be the standard Islamic dynasty reference for everyone, or Zambaur's original Manuel de Genealogie which is still useful. This row also sometimes gives additional information about the person, which is repeated in Turkish. The amount of information varies greatly: most of the Abbasid caliphs just have the two citations, while al-Muhtadi rates the notice "dismissed from office," which is a mild way of saying that he was hunted down and killed by the Turkish soldiers of Samarraand is hardly relevant to numismatics. On the other hand, the Rum Seljuq sultans have long paragraphs of information.
   Remarkably, the rulers are listed in alphabetical order within each dynasty, not in order of succession. One notices further erroneous listings: "Abbasid Revolution" is listed as a dynasty, with three rulers (nos. 40-42): Abd Allah b. Mu`awiya, Abu Muslim, and al-Kirmani; but the first and third of these had nothing to do with the Abbasids or their revolution. Another "dynasty" is "`Arab-Sasani" which is not a dynasty at all, or even a historical reality, but merely a modern classification term invented by Walker. As part of that "dynasty," Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr is identified as a "rival Umayyad caliph," but he was not an Umayyad (the Umayyad caliphs, incidentally, are not listed at all among the dynasties, although most of them are named on coins). There is, fortunately, no dynastic listing for Arab-Byzantine. However, despite some historical inaccuracies, there is a lot of useful information in this ample listing of dynasties (pp. 1358-1690), especially for dynasties of Turkey and some others. One thing one would expect is sadly missing: there is no cross-index from each dynasty or each ruler to the mints each one used.
   Next in volume 3 is the bibliography, which has already been described. The bibliography is followed by the mint index, an indispensable part of the work (pp. 1758-93), which lists all the mint names, both the transliterated and the Turkish forms, in a single English alphabetical order: for example, Acmir under Ac and Ajmir (the same place) under Aj. In the latter instance it makes great sense to list both forms; it's less obvious why Abaran (Turkish without macrons) and Abaran (transliteration with macrons) need to be listed one after the other.
   The third volume and the set are finished off with eight maps, some of which fold out: Anatolia & The Middle East (Anatolia, the Caucasus, and Jazira in detail) Near East (Khurasan and Eastern Iran), North Africa & Spain (apparently exhaustively complete) Balkans, Near East, Yaman, Filastin (a foldout, from Ifriqiyah to Afghanistan, with extremely detailed treatment of the Fertile Crescent and detailed insets for Yemen and Bilad al-Sham [the inset is labeled Filastin, but in fact runs from Qurus to Ghazza]), Caucasia, Near East & Asia (a foldout, from Bagche-Sarai and Ghazza to Yarqand and Lahore, with detailed treatment of western Iran, the Volga, northern Caucasus, and Crimean mints, and Ma wara' al-nahr or Transoxiana), Asia, Baghdad (a foldout, with extremely detailed coverage of everything from the Jazira to Balasaghun, from Tiflis down to Hurmuz; with insets for Iraq, Baghdad, and Samarra; more Iranian mints than any of the other maps; but including many placenames that were not mints), India (a foldout, with South Asia from Farwan to Colombo, with detailed insets for Bengal and the Deccan), United Provinces (the actual territory of the former British government unit, showing the territorial subdivisions but not mints)
   Despite a certain redundance, these taken one by one are the best Islamic mint maps ever produced, both as to appearance and content. Fatih Taspinar is recorded as responsible for the maps: top honors!
   The volumes have card covers, with inside flyleaves front and back almost as deep as the cover itself, effectively doubling the cover; the flyleaves will be useful as bookmarks. The front cover of each volume is different, showing a pile of silver coins of, respectively, the early, middle, and late Islamic periods; the back cover has an attractive photo of the late author and a description of the work. Although the covers are practical and handsome, they unfortunately do not allow the volumes to lie open and flat; a paperweight and a spring clamp will be helpful to keep a volume open to consult it, and plenty of desk space because the numeric reference system requires two volumes to be open simultaneously.
   This is a quick overview, not a careful analysis: I apologize for any errors. For those with a serious commitment to Islamic coin collecting or numismatics, with money to spare for the price, and a sturdy bookshelf with at least one foot vertical clearance, this set is essential. I'm glad to have a copy and expect to use it often.
SOURCE: Michael L. Bates, Curator Emeritus of Islamic Coins, American Numismatic Society, from posting in Islamic Numismatics Group, 2/11/09

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