Catalogue of the coin collection of James Sutherland

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James Sutherland, Edinburgh, 1702

Catalogue of the coin collection of James Sutherland
FINA IDUnique ID of the page  14422
TitleTitel of the book. Catalogue of the coin collection of James Sutherland
InstitutionName of Institution. Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland
PlacePlace of publication of the book, composition of the document or institution. Edinburgh 55° 57' 12.04" N, 3° 11' 18.15" W
InventoryInventory number.
AuthorAuthor of the document. James Sutherland
CollectorCollector. James Sutherland
Catalogue dateDate when the catalogue was issued: day - month - year . 1702
LanguageLanguage of the correspondence English, Latin
Associated personsNames of Persons who are mentioned in the annotation.
LiteratureReference to literature. Patin 16631, Burnett 2020b, pp. 1534-6, 661-2, 798-92
External LinkLink to external information, e.g. Wikpedia 
KeywordNumismatic Keywords  Roman , Roman Republican , Roman Imperial , Juba , Didius Julianus , Orbiana , Hoards , Silver , Bronze , Greek , Roman Provincial , Carausius , Allectus , London , Trier , Domitius Domitianus , Gordian Iii , Istrus , Perinthus , Antinous , Otho , Nero , Egypt , Julius Caesar , Forgeries , Local Finds , Gold , English , British Coins , Scottish , Modern Coins , Medieval Coins , Byzantine
Grand documentOriginal passage from the "Grand document".

The manuscript catalogue of the collection of James Sutherland still survives in the National Museum of Scotland. It is in a very fragmentary state, and not all the details are clear. It consists of two volumes, with closely written coin descriptions. The two volumes reflect the original arrangement of the collection. Each includes a series of numerals, the principal ones being Roman I–XIX in the first volume, and I–IX in the second volume. Each volume probably refers to a cabinet, divided then into 19 and 9 tray numbers, respectively. The numbers for each tray (a ‘broad’), are then followed by two series of other numbers, presumably representing a row (a ‘line’), and then individual coin spaces (‘holes’). The number of rows varies according to the size of the coins: silver denarii were kept in trays with 11 rows to each tray, each row with 13 coins, this making large trays with 143 coins. The later, larger silver or radiates, were kept in trays with 11 rows; the bronzes in trays with 8 rows; and other sizes also occur for the British coins (9 rows of 9 coins, or 12 rows of 12 coins).

The catalogue is not dated. The reference to Patin’s book of 1683 [recte 1663] for the Republican coins gives a formal terminus post quem; that Sutherland did not use J. Foy-Vaillant, Nummi antiqui familiarum romanarum, perpetuis interpretationibus illustrati (Amsterdam, 1703) suggests a terminus ante quem of 1703. One of the British gold coins is dated 1701, and there is a Dutch coin dated HOLLANDIA 1702, so the catalogue was probably written in c. 1702.

Volume 1

The catalogue starts with a list of Roman Republican silver coins: ‘Familiae Romanae a Nummis quos vulgo Consulares vocant, secundum Patinis Editionem Fulvij Ursini’ [Roman families from coins which they commonly call consular, according to Patin’s edition of Fulvio Orsini]. These comprise trays I–II (part), and occupy 11.5 pages. Although the catalogue is in poor condition, we can be confident that it is all there since the first page has the title, and the first family is the same (Accoleia) as would appear in the abbreviated version of the catalogue of the Republican coins which Alexander Gordon published in 1726. There are 218 Republican coins, plus a denarius of Juba.

The Republican coins are followed by 26 pages devoted to ‘Numismata Argentea Imperatorum Romanorum’ [silver coins of the Roman emperors], from Caesar to the mid-third century, and they comprise trays II (part) to VII.5 [fn: These divisions are mine, not Sutherland’s, are intended to convey the shape of his collection. In what follows, the numbers should be regarded as approximate, as it is not always easy to tell exactly how many coins are listed]

138 Caesar to Domitian
285 Nerva to Commodus
138 Julianus to Volusian
46 Valerian to Carausius
27 Constantine to Justinian: mostly western mint marks (20).

The list of 634 coins includes some rarities, such as Didius Julianus and Orbiana, but it is not a complete listing of emperors and their families (e.g., no Balbinus or Aemilian). The large number of late first and early second century coins is suggestive of a hoard, and the same conclusion could be drawn from the predominantly western mint marks on the late Roman siliquae, indicative of a British hoard. Selection has clearly been at work, however, since there are only nine coins of Elagabalus compared with seven for the various women of his family. One curiosity is a coin of ‘Horace’, listed under Augustus, a modern piece.

The next section starts with tray VIII, and continues to XIV, catalogued over 18 pages. The trays have rows of 8 coins, reflecting the generally larger size of the coins. There is no heading, but its contents show that it concerns ancient bronze coins, as one would expect next in the sequence. It starts with a few Greek (only eight pieces); then a single Republican bronze coin, followed by a forgery of Caesar, before the main imperial sequence starts:

8 Greek
1 Roman Republican
1 Julius Caesar, false
64 Augustus to Domitian, including one Nero from Alexandria, and three false Othos
90 Nerva to Commodus, including one Greek
46 Severus to Volusian, including two provincial coins of Gordian III (Istrus, Perinthus)
48 Gallienus to Numerian, including a supposed Domitius Domitian.
117 Diocletian to Julian, including three Carausius and three Allectus. Mostly western mint marks (London, Trier)
16 Valentinian I to Theodosius
6 Byzantine

Many of these 271 coins were worn, and Sutherland was unable to read the legends fully; on one occasion he wrote ‘sequuntur sex Antonin Pij Nummi adeo detriti ut explicari nequeant’ [six coins of Antoninus Pius follow, so worn that they cannot be explained]. Their poor condition suggests site finds, no doubt British. Some were clearly from further away (the Greek, Roman provincial and Byzantine coins).

The next section is entitled ‘Gold Medals’ and covers three pages. It starts again at tray I, continuing to III, and describes large gold coins. The coins are at first numbered in a sequence from 1 to 81, starting with a forgery of Nero, the medal of John, Duke of Albany, and then a further 79 English and Scottish pieces down to Charles I; they are followed by a miscellaneous group of 17 coins: Charles II (3); William III, dated 1701; Anglo-Gallic (1), Papal (1), ‘the three next small Pieces are Russia coyn with Sclavonian characters’; ‘the seven pieces following are East India Coyn’; and Henry, King of France (1).

The large gold coins are followed by a page devoted to 22 smaller Roman and Byzantine gold coins, still in tray III. There are 14 aurei from Augustus to Hadrian; six solidi from Valentinian I to Honorius; and finally two solidi, one each of Majorian and Anastasius.

After the gold coins come three pages for the Scottish silver, continuing tray [XVI], and including XVII–XVIII, and describing 149 coins, down to Francis and Mary, dated 1559.

The remaining ten pages of the first volume of the catalogue start the English coins. Four pages, beginning with tray XV, describe coins from Coenwulf to Henry I (81 coins: 9 rows of 9 coins), and XVI, Henry I to Edward (144 coins: 12 rows of 12 coins). The next two pages have no tray or row numbers, and describe a curious mixture of about 106 poorly preserved British and continental coins, followed by a mention of another 28 coins.

The numbering then has XVIII, 9, resuming the sequence from a few pages before, after the interruption of the gold and Scottish coins. Four pages cover the rest of XVIII and XIX, listing 127 coins down to William and Mary, followed by a few miscellaneous pieces including a ‘Cedar Tree’ shilling of New England.

80 English and Scottish gold
149 Scottish silver
352 English
106 Miscellaneous medieval

Volume 2

The second volume is in rather better condition than the first, and describes fewer coins, over 17 pages. However, they are not well-ordered and it is hard to follow. One gets the sense of a large number of unsorted coins, roughly put into groups, but not properly sorted like the coins in the Volume 1.

The coins are listed in trays I to IX. They begin with Henry VIII to the Commonwealth (35), New England (3), French (43); and then 482 miscellaneous coins and medals from Germany, Poland, Venice, Papal (22), Scottish, ‘Exotick’, and elsewhere, not well sorted.

These include:

"The Three next Pieces are filled wth Arabick and other Strange Characters
The nineteen Pieces following, of different sizes and weight, are the Mogul’s Coyn with his country characters on both sides
The five next Rude thick round Pieces belong to Japan
The eighteen small oval Pieces in the two holes following are Muscovia Coyn. A figure on horseback, on one side, and Sclavonian Characters on the other. The seven following unshapely pieces I suppose to be Polish Coyn
The next twenty Pieces are Turkysh Coyn wth Arabic Characters
The seven next Pieces, all in one hole, are Exotick Pieces very Rude and course, hard to be known.
Three Pieces of China, of a Kind of Pewter, wth strange Characters. The currant Money of that Place, brought me from that Country
The ten following are very Exotick, wth Arabick and other strange Characters, of Copper."

The volume ends with a number of loose sheets which represent another version of the catalogue, starting with the English Anglo-Saxon coins (four pages). Then there are two pages, on either side of a piece of paper in very poor condition of Greek coins, not included earlier. The first has 15 pieces; the second starts with ‘Nummi Judaici’, and then lists out an uncertain number (perhaps 10–20). They are followed by another six pages, listing many continental coins and medals (and a group of seals and rings), some of which seem to repeat earlier entries. The status of this last group of pages is not clear.

The total number of coins is 2397 (not including the final group, described in the previous paragraph):

Vol. I

8 Greek, all bronze
219 Roman Republican
906 Roman imperial, including 23 gold (of which two were false)
14 Byzantine
80 English and Scottish gold
149 Scottish silver
352 English
106 Miscellaneous medieval

Vol. 2

563 Miscellaneous British and European (and ‘exotick’) coins and medals.'

(Burnett 2020b, pp. 1534-6)


  1. ^  Patin, Charles (1663), Familiae Romanae in antiquis numismatibus, ab urbe condita ad tempora Divi Augusti ex bibliotheca Fulvii Ursini cum adjunctis Antonii Augustini, episc. Llerdensis, Jean du Bray, Pierre Variquet e Rober de Ninville, Paris.
  2. ^  Burnett, Andrew M. (2020), The Hidden Treasures of this Happy Land. A History of Numismatics in Britain from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, BNS Special Publ. No 14 = RNS Special Publ. No 58, London, Spink & Son.