Coins and typography-- suggestions?

jlg4104's picture

The thread about the stressless zero got me thinking of the wee little zero on the (American) Lincoln cent. Then when I checked the reverse of this coin (pre-1959, aka "wheat" cent), I noticed the arts-and-crafts style of "United States of America." Which leads me to ask if people could suggest some good resources specifically on typography and coins. I'm particularly interested in machine-age and forward, but anything could be interesting. Thanks!

bieler's picture

As far as I can tell the relationship between print typography and stamping (coins, medallions) has never been adequately explored. Though it would likely reveal a great deal. Especially, pre-Machine Age. Or specifically, the initial development of Western typography. It may have been a social/cultural thing, but repeatible images were practiced for stamping in ancient times; it just never seemed to have successfully caught on for print media until the mid 15th century.

dan_reynolds's picture

Gutenberg's father was a member of the currency-production operation in Mainz. Gutenberg's father was a noble, but he was not, so I don't think he could have ever risen to whatever position his father might have had. But some scholars believe that young Gutenberg may have worked producing Mainz's coinage before leaving the city for Strasbourg. The lettering on coins were struck with punches, just like the punches Gutenberg would later develop in order to produce the matrices he would later need to found metal type! They speculate that had Gutenberg not had this knowledge, he never would have invented his printing method. Of course, there is a large dose of speculation here, because none of Gutenberg's punches or matrices or even type have survived, just the finished products he sold… the books.

Alessandro Segalini's picture

Here are some images of ancient Greek coins I put together:

kegler's picture

"Numismatic for the people"

bieler's picture


Gutenberg was associated with the guild but he was never a member. The assumption that he worked in this capacity is tenuous. That punching was established is clear. The trick though was not merely punching but to set up a system that would allow for a mechanical method of setting that would yield a printed page as good as or better than the written page produced by a scribe or copyist. I suspect Gutenberg worked out the mechanics of it but more likely Schoffer, a trained copyist, worked out the typography.

But by the way.... Gutenberg never sold the books. The contract for producing "the work of the books" (the Bible) was annulled (the Helmasperger Instrument). Fust sold and reaped the profits. Gutenberg got paid for supplies and equipment furnished and asked for nothing further.

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