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Some years since a gold piece bearing the stamp of the very common pennies of Edward the Confessor was shown in London. Some of our best numismatists were satisfied of its authenticity, but admitting this to be established beyond a doubt, it affords of itself no evidence of an Anglo-Saxon coinage in gold. Pieces, however, assimilating in weight to that of the Merovingian gold triens and of rude fabric, have been discovered in England, and there is also a coin in the national collection at Paris, on the reverse of which DOROVERNIS occurs. This piece is assigned by French numismatists to England. It is of much neater fabric than the great majority of the Merovingian gold coins. Besides these, there are some coins adjusted to the same weight, having a bare head, evidently not a regal portrait, and the legend LVND. These pieces have never been discovered on the continent, while examples have been found in and near London. The remarkable find of Merovingian coins on Bagshot heath included some of these pieces, and if it cannot be actually proved that they are of Anglo-Saxon mintage, it will be exceedingly difficult to assign to them any other origin.
Whether the pieces called sceattas, of which examples are given in Ruding's 1st and 2nd plate, are the earliest attempts of the AngloSaxons to coin money, may perhaps be questioned, but there appears no reason for doubting that these may be reckoned among their first efforts at a regular coinage; several are without the Christian symbol, but, as many appear with it, it is probable that they are almost coeval with each other. As the word sceat signifies in Anglo-Saxon a part or portion, and as scatt in the Gospels of Ulphilas is used indifferently for a pound, a penny, or money generally, it was probably applied to those pieces which are by numismatists called sceattas, as the chief national coin then in general use by the Anglo-Saxons, the Roman copper money, doubtless still in circulation, supplying the smaller denominations; yet at the end of the seventh century it appears to have been the smallest coin in actual currency, as we may infer from the proverb NE SCEAT NE SCILLING i. e. “ from the least to the greatest.”
The penny is first mentioned in the laws of Ina. The derivation of the name is still open to the investigations of the etymologist. Some have derived it from the Celtic pen, a head; and although
(5) Numismatic Chronicle, vol. ii, p. 204; and vol. iv, p. 120. (6) Ibid. vol. vi, p. 171.
this may be questioned, since the Saxon coins do not always bear the regal head, we have the example in later times of the testoon, a name given to the first English shilling, notwithstanding most of the English coins from the Conquest to that period, bore the royal portrait. Examples of the Saxon penny and the half penny, have come down to us, though, as already observed, but very few of the latter. Of the farthing, no specimens exist in the cabinets of our collectors, a remarkable fact when the value of the penny in Saxon times is considered. In the laws of Canute the half penny is stated to be the value of the wax charged on every hide of land for LEÓHT-GESCEOT church sceat, or church lights.
The styca, a small copper coin about the size of the sceatta, appears to have been struck solely by the princes of Northumbria and the arch-bishops of York. Its value occurs incidentally in the gospel of Saint Mark, where the “ two mites” are termed stycas.
Some of our numismatic antiquaries have maintained that the pound, the mancus, the mark, the ora, the thrymsa and the shilling, were current coin and not merely money of account. There cannot be a doubt that the shilling was the division of the pound, and that the term is derivable from SCYLAN, to divide. With the exception of the mancus, these denominations appear not to designate coined money, but we frequently meet with mancusses of gold and mancusses of silver in Anglo-Saxon wills and charters, and a piece of money first noticed by M. de Longpérier throws evident light on the subject. On the 24th of March, 1842, this gentleman communicated to the Numismatie Society of London an account of a gold coin of king Offa in the cabinet of the Duc de Blacas, of the weight and size of the gold Arabic Dinar. It is, as usual with these coins, nearly covered with oriental characters, but in the centre are the words OFFA. REX. M. de Longpérier thinks with reason, that this is a specimen of the often mentioned but long sought for mancus, and he founds his opinion upon the fact that the Arabic word nakasha is rendered in Freytag's Dictionary, cudit nummos, while the passive participle, mancush, is very often used by Arabic writers, and signifies a coin whether of gold or silver. The piece in question is doubtless a copy by
(7) Healf-penig-werf wexes æt ælcere híde. C. 12.
an Anglo-Saxon moneyer of an Arabic dinar with the name of Offa interpolated; and as the discovery of Arabic coins in hoards of Saxon money shews that they circulated in Europe at this period, there seems every reason to believe that this remarkable and unique example was adjusted to the weight of the gold Arabic dinar.
In the Numismatic Chronicle, vol. v, p. 123, will be found our remarks confirming the opinion entertained by M. de Longpérier which are as follows :“Ruding, after observing that the word Mancus, is variously written Mancos, Mancs, and Mancuse, supposes the term to be derived from Italy, and noticing the conjectures of other writers, who suppose it to be formed from manu cusum, concludes that the term cusus could not have reference to simple weight. It is singular that he goes on to remark on the probability of the coin, as well as the name, being imported, without suspecting their Arabic origin. The mancus, according to Archbishop Aelfric, was equal in value to thirty pennies, and in the laws of Henry the Ist we find it so estimated.' Now the weight of the gold penny of Henry the third is a little more than forty five grains, and it was current for twenty pence, its value being subsequently raised to twenty four pence or two shillings. The weight of the gold Arabic dinars of this period is about 66 grains, or one third more than that of the gold penny, a fact which seems to set at rest all doubt as to the correctness of M. de Longpérier's conjecture that the coin with the name of Offa is really a specimen of the long sought for mancus. That Arabic coins were occasionally current in England during the Anglo-Saxon period we may believe from the circumstance of their forming a part of the treasure discovered recently at Cuerdale. It is true that these coins are silver, but it may be safely conjectured that they represent the mancus of silver, mancusses of gold and silver being mentioned in the writings of this period.” —
The money of our Anglo-Saxon princes generally bears the
(9) Libra on Leyden is Pund on Englisc. fif penegas gemacigað anne scillinge and þrittig penega anne mancs. Saxon Gram.
by Aelfric. (1) Overseunesse regis est, in causis communibus, xx manc. quæ facient 50. sol. Leg. Hen. I, xxxv, § 1.
(2) Since this was written, a work has been published by the Royal Academy of Sweden, entitled “ Numi Cufici Regii Numophylacii Holmiensis, quos omnes in terra Suecia repertos.” Upsalæ, 1848, to which the reader is referred for evidence of the circulation of these coins in Europe.
title REX, but on some of Anlaf's pennies we find CYNYNC. Those of the sole monarchs do not differ materially from the coins of the Heptarchy. Ecgbeorht's and Ethelwulf's bear SAXONIORUM and the latter OCCIDENTALIUM.
Among the many varieties of the types of Edward the Confessor, there is one which differs from any in the Anglo-Saxon series : it represents the king seated in a chair of state, crowned and holding the septre and the globe, a mode of representation revived on the gold penny of Henry the Third.
It is a fact worthy of notice, that the pennies of William the Conquorer were struck on the model of those of the last AngloSaxon monarch ; indeed many can only be distinguished by the legend, which is given in the Anglo-Saxon character and language, a striking proof of the policy of this tyrant, who, while rigorously upholding his authority, prudently forbore to meddle with the coinage of his newly acquired territory.