Reading an e-book will probably come as a new experience for many, as it did for me. I approached the prospect with some trepidation fearing the loss of a comfortable feeling one gets from curling up with a book in hand, and perhaps a warm fireplace and glass of Port. Sitting in front of a cold computer screen seems an unlikely exchange for that relaxing old easy chair.
Yet the new experience was not nearly as taxing as I had anticipated. Navigating through the well-constructed pages of this book was easy and pleasant. It is possible to get an overview of the contents by scrolling ahead or using an index that allows one to jump immediately to any section of the book. That feature is also a handy tool for flipping back and forth to re-read or compare various parts of the text. It was no chore to turn pages in the usual fashion by a simple mouse click.
The page layout, formatting and quality of illustrations is also far better than I had anticipated. It is equal to any finely published book and a pleasure to use. The technology of this type of book construction has developed into a form that makes even a confirmed bibliophile take notice of what may well be the future of book publishing.
Douglas Mudd, the principle author of "Money and Sovereignty as Expressed in Gold Coinage", is a well-known numismatist who has a decided flair for history, and understand how the two studies blend together to make interesting stories. His work was also enhanced with suggestions from Michael Fagin. The substance of this book is easy to follow because it is arranged chronologically to cover a representative group of different cultures with stories that shows how the designs on their coins are a meaningful expression of their art, religion, economic status and growth. All are elements that reflect the candid nature of their society and status in a way that other documents often fail to demonstrate.
The opening chapter discusses The Origins of Money, and is an excellent condensation of how the world began using this ubiquitous tool. A clear explanation is given about how the use of money was developed not as a unique experiment, but almost simultaneously in three quite separate regions of the world. One could only ask that a few more illustrations were added to this section to show the diversity of these interesting early monetary items to supplement their brief word descriptions. An expansion of this chapter would set the stage for showing how the development of coins as money and propaganda tools spread throughout the world.
A chapter called The Future of Money is perhaps the most significant part of this study. It is well worth reading and rereading. It is particularly significant in light of today's world economic troubles. In this dissertation is a lucid account of how the creation of 'money' through credit causes inflation and eventual chaos. It foretells exactly the problems that are now facing nations around the globe. Will commerce somehow flourish using credit cards instead of coins as currency? Probably not if as this study shows circulating coins continue in their role as a reflection of national ideals and standards.
The balance of this book is taken up with short essays on selected coins from various cultures, with comments on the historical aspects of how a nation's sovereignty is often shown through their coinage. Each of the coins in the text is beautifully illustrated with enlarged full-color actual pictures of some of the rarest and finest known specimens. The book adequately fulfills its promise of covering such pieces, but leaves one wishing that more coins could be included to demonstrate that many other pieces in silver and even copper served the same role, and were more widely dispersed to spread their stories.
The items covered in this work seem all too limited to show the broad extent of how coinage expresses national pride. A scant 27 items are examined and explained. Even so, the reader will finish with a fresh outlook about the designs on coins, and will likely have a new appreciation for, and interpretation of, the images seen on coins in everyday commerce as well as those from around the world and of all ages.