Joseph Eckhel (1737‒1798) and his numismatic network


Project leader: PD Dr. Bernhard Woytek

Researcher: Dr. Daniela Williams

Fig. 1: Portrait of Joseph Hilarius Eckhel, from A. Steinbüchel, Addenda ad Eckhelii Doctrinam numorum veterum, Vienna 1826.

Joseph Eckhel, professor of classics at the University of Vienna and director of the ancient coin cabinet of the Imperial collections, is one of the founding fathers of numismatics as a scholarly discipline. His main work, the Doctrina numorum veterum (8 vols, Vienna 1792‒1798), revolutionised research on ancient coins. Some of its parts have never been superseded and retain their value to date.

The archives of the Coin Cabinet of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna treasure a most important group of 162 unpublished scholarly letters addressed to Eckhel by 38 numismatists and classicists from all over Europe. Together with Eckhel’s letters to his correspondents, these documents are currently being studied in a research project, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF: project no. P25282) from 2013 to 2015 and directed by Bernhard Woytek.

In addition to a print edition, a digital edition of the letter corpus is being prepared in close cooperation with the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (ACDH), which provides the technological expertise and infrastructure needed to create a valuable resource for interdisciplinary research in its own right. In particular, the digital edition will allow to connect the project’s results to current international research initiatives on epistolary communication, hence significantly expanding the project’s context both in terms of primary data, interdisciplinary reusability and visibility by exploiting the methodological inventory of up-to-date digital humanities.

This project is carried out in the framework of the larger initiative Fontes Inediti Numismaticae Antiquae (FINA), under the aegis of the Union Académique Internationale (UAI), which aims at publishing numismatic manuscripts and letters up to the end of the 18th century.

Fig. 2: Letters sent to Eckhel, as bound into a single volume, probably in the 19th century. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Münzkabinett.
Fig. 3: One of the letters. Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Münzkabinett