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Ancient Animals/Ancient Coins

cover-animal-coins-blogAnimals were perceived quite differently in the ancient Greco-Roman world than is usual in the modern West. They were not considered fundamentally different from  human beings, possessing immortal souls. Humans and gods were often transformed into animals and vice versa in legend and mythology. There was a widespread belief in reincarnation, and the followers of men like Pythagoras and Apollonius of Tyana refrained from eating meat, partly because they believed that animals could be the reincarnations of ancestors or gods in animal form.

Partly because of this veneration and respect, as well as because of the close association the ancients had with animals, as food, transportation, entertainment, and a wide variety of household pets, their coinages featured sensitive and realistic portrayals of many different types. This is in contrast with most modern coinages, where few animals besides eagles and lions appear on the money issued for commercial purposes.

Ancient Animals and Their Coins presents a discussion of the place animals occupied in the ancient Greco-Roman world as well as a portfolio of 200 coins, illustrated with enlarged black and white photographs and full attributions.


Irish Hammered Pennies – Take Five!

5th-blogcoverThe fifth edition of my guide to the Irish hammered pennies of the English Kings Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry VII has just been published. I consider the understanding of this series to have really come of age with this edition, thanks largely to the brilliant work of Mr. Oisín MacConamhna. His findings, published in the current edition of the British Numismatic Journal, have used the existing evidence, including information in previous editions of my book, to construct a detailed chronology of the series, attributing specific issues to specific moneyers with a high degree of certainty. This is ground-breaking work, and I am honored to have been able to contribute to it.

The new edition also unveils a previously unreported issue of Richard III and a new Suns and Roses coinage of Edward V, the latter based on Mr. MacConamhna’s research.  This Irish medieval coinage has always been problematic. Now it is much better understood and can be a powerful tool for archeologists and historians and a much more rational and attractive series for collectors.

The ‘Archaic Smile’ on Coins

cover-smile-blogWell, I wasn’t sure if new book ideas would join me in retirement, but now one has. I’ve long been interested in the so-called “archaic smile” of ancient Greek art. It figured prominently in my novel Bulla Felix: The Roman Robin Hood.  Now I’ve taken a closer look at “the smile” and the coins on which it appears.

My new book, entitled “The ‘Archaic Smile’ and Greek Coins”, presents the historical and cultural background and possible significance of the famous smile. It includes a fully annotated catalog of 84 spectacular coin types displaying “the smile,” maps showing the distribution of mints, and a basic chronology of the Archaic Period. There are more than 100 illustrations, including enlarged photographs of all coin specimens.

My Last Book?

auto-blogMy 65th birthday is next March and I’ve run out of book ideas. I plan to retire soon and may not be able to afford my book publishing software subscription or maybe even high speed internet.  So, I decided to write my literary autobiography now. In addition to reflections on most of my published works, Auto-BOOKS-ography includes some background about my life and influences.

Many of the chapters in this book are expanded versions of my blog entries here, but there is a lot of new material and I thought it would be nice to have everything in one place – for me to reminisce and for anyone who is interested to review my body of work. Available as a Kindle book and full-color paperback..

Irish Pennies – Fourth Edition!

irish-4Once again, I have published a new edition of my guide to the hammered pennies minted under the English kings of 15th century Ireland sooner than expected. As with the third edition, this was prompted by the tentative discovery of a new coinage. This time, it is an unrecorded early portrait coinage of Henry VII minted soon after the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 using crown and portrait punches that had been used for both Edward V and Richard himself. This proposed coinage seems to have been extremely short-lived as only two examples bearing Henry’s name are known to me.

Seems like a good opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed ideas, new discoveries, and words of encouragement, as well as those dealers and others who have chosen to cite my work in their coin attributions. I have noticed a great increase in interest in these coins since the first edition was published ten years ago, as well as a significant increase in prices. Few medieval coinages offer as much variety of types and opportunities for new discoveries as the Anglo-Irish pennies of Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III, and Henry VII.

Animal Lives Matter

OBITS-cover3Are human lives more “important”, valuable, or fulfilling than animal lives?  Are animals less conscious or aware than humans? I don’t think so. I don’t see how anyone who has really gotten close to an animal and seen things from his or her perspective can believe that.

But how do we measure the worth and value of an animal life? It occurred to me that a crude method might be the same one we apply (inadequately) to human lives – the obituary.  Rather than generalize about animal behavior and experience, why not consider the life stories of individual animals?

So here it is: a collection of fact-based obituaries for thirty animals of various kinds, with portrait drawings for most.

The Necessary Nerd

e-types-COVER2Way back in 1974, when I wasn’t all that far removed from high school (class of ’70), I picked up a copy of the brilliant publication “National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody”, by P. J. O’Rourke, Doug Kenney, and David Kaestle. This hilarious spoof inspired the movie “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and serves as a tongue-in-cheek time capsule for baby boomers, filled with cultural references and satire that still bring back memories, cringe-worthy and otherwise.

The parody, in typical 1960s’ yearbook format, begins with photographs of actors representing stereotypical teachers and students. The familiar teenage icons are all there – the nerd, the quarterback, the cheerleader, the dreamy artist, the bully, the criminal, and so on. I laughed at the exaggerated biographical details and portrait poses, but what struck me most indelibly was that I knew these people! I recognized personality types that were very familiar from my own high school experiences

During the past forty years, I have witnessed a succession of younger generations come along. Though each has its distinctive style and forms of expression, I see the same general types that I knew in my youth. Indeed, most of the stereotypes in the National Lampoon yearbook are still instantly recognizable, demonstrating their continuing relevance. It occurred to me that, transcending cultural change, there are basic human stereotypes that exist in every human society – and which must have adaptive value for the species or they would not be so persistent and widespread.

This realization inspired me to consider what the basic human stereotypes and their adaptive value might be to the basic human group, which is postulated to consist of approximately 150 individuals. My musings have now been published in the form of a book, entitled “The Necessary Nerd: Essential Stereotypes in the Basic Human Group”.

The Necessary Nerd is not a scientific treatise. Rather, it is essay by an amateur who argues for a greater acceptance and understanding of personality diversity as an adaptive feature of the human species.