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English translation of book on first coinage

Reid Goldsborough

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Lisa Weidauer's 1975 book Probleme der frühen Elektronprägung (Problems in Early Electrum Coinage) is one of the standard references, frequently used in coin attributions, for what are arguably the world's first coins. Many of us know enough German to understand auction catalogs but not books such as this one.


The project to translate Dr. Weidauer's book is now complete. If you're interested in obtaining for $20 a copy of the translation, read on (this same announcement was posted elsewhere as well).


This past April I asked about a half dozen European auction houses if they knew of Dr. Weidauer and how to contact her, and if so to forward to her my email inquiry about having her book translated into English. I received a cooperative response from Münzen & Medaillen, which graciously indicated they would write her a letter and enclose a print-out of my email. Dr. Weidauer responded to me via email in May.


I had asked Dr. Weidauer's permission for a group of us to have her 114-page book, still important 34 years later, translated into English so we could better understand her thinking about this fascinating subject. She replied, in part, "I am glad to hear that my book is used and of course a translation into English will be much easier for you. I'm quite willing to give the permission." An effort to contact the publisher went unanswered, with the publisher perhaps wondering, understandably, why we were bothering them about a book that has been out of print for more than a quarter of a century.


The next step was finding a translator. To make a long story shorter, Dane Kurth, widely known online as the current administrator of the online auction archive service Wildwinds.com, agreed to take on the task (thanks to Bruce Nesset for the suggestion). Dane did a marvelous job, truly outstanding, not only handling the translation, including the numismatic terms, but also retaining the same pagination of the original (she placed some of the shorter footnotes into the body of the text and others at the end of the particular page) and even incorporating into the text small scans of the Lydian script of coin legends. I did some copyediting/proofreading afterward. I don't expect Dane to be terribly eager to do another project like this as she said when finished that she was glad it was over! Kudos again to Dane for her efforts.


We have two versions of the translation, one in an early Microsoft Word (1.x) format so it will be widely accessible, the other a PDF version for anybody who can't read or import the Word file (all you need for PDF files is Adobe Reader, which is a free download). The Word and PDF files, which contain the same information, are of the text and the catalog (descriptions of coins illustrated in plates) of the book. Not included are scans of the 29 plates of coin and other photos.


This effort was never intended as a republication of this book, just a translation aimed at people who have already bought it and want to better understand it. That's what I asked permission for, and that's what I received. The translation therefore will primarily be useful to people who already have Probleme der frühen Elektronprägung. If you don't have the book, you should be able to find a copy from an ancient numismatic bookseller.


The way Dane and I decided to set this up was for me to handle responding to inquiries, receiving payments, and emailing out her translation. This is not a for-profit effort but an expense-sharing effort. I don't know exactly how many people will want this translation, though after putting out feelers earlier this year it appears that it will be relatively few. So we decided to set a fee of $20 for anybody who wants a copy of the translation emailed to them. This is an email-only project. I won't be able to mail out printed pages. For payment PayPal is preferred, and payment must be in American dollars.


If you'd like to purchase a copy, for payment details, send an email to:




For early electrum buffs, you'll likely find some material in Dr. Weidauer's book you agree with and some you disagree with. I did.


Perhaps others might consider similar efforts to translate other key books in their specialty areas. Like putting up numismatic Web sites, I look at translation projects as a good way of spreading numismatic knowledge and enjoyment.

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Congrats to you and the others on your successful effort! I am not an Ancient collector but I appreciate the hard work everyone put in! It helps all aspects of our hobby.

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