The project aims at publishing the scholarly correspondence of Joseph Eckhel (1737–1798), one of the founding fathers of ancient numismatics as a scholarly discipline. In addition to the letters addressed to Eckhel, kept in the archive of the Coin Cabinet of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, letters written by Eckhel have been located in other archives, for a total of 267 documents.

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 parts of the >Doctrina< have never been superseded and retain their value to date.

The letters in the Kunsthistorisches Museum

The archives of the Coin Cabinet of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna treasure a most important group of 162 unpublished scholarly letters addressed to Eckhel by 38 numismatists and classicists from all over Europe. Two additional documents, which pertain to the correspondence but cannot be considered true and proper letters, are bound together with Eckhel’s passive correspondence, for a total of 164 documents.

Documents in other archives

During the project, no fewer than 103 letters by Eckhel have been tracked down in archives in Austria and abroad, or discovered in 19th-century publications. They partly complete and at the same time expand the information contained in the core material in Vienna.

General information

All in all, the letters cover the years from 1773 to 1798, that is from Eckhel’s formative travel to Italy, before his appointment as director of the Imperial coin cabinet and professor of Classics at the University of Vienna, to his demise. They are written in six different languages (Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Latin) and provide information on his network, consisting of (at least) 45 correspondents. It is a strictly scholarly correspondence, mostly addressing numismatic issues, such as find evidence, newly discovered coin types and rare coins, mint attributions, early modern forgeries, or acquisitions accessioned at the Imperial coin cabinet. In addition, the correspondents discussed archaeological discoveries and newly published books. Much of the information gathered through his network was later critically summarized and reviewed by Eckhel in his seminal >Doctrina Numorum Veterum< (1792‒1798). From an interdisciplinary perspective, Eckhel’s correspondence also provides valuable insight into European social and intellectual history of the Early Modern Period as a whole.

The print edition

For the print edition, a numismatic and historical commentary is being prepared for each letter. Every coin, inscription and archaeological artifact mentioned or discussed in the letters is being catalogued according to modern references. A general index of people and books mentioned in the correspondence provides an additional tool for the reader. A Microsoft Access database specifically designed for the project serves as a repository for information and as a basis for the commentary.

The digital edition

In addition to the print edition, a digital edition of the letter corpus is being prepared. It will allow connecting the project’s findings 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.

The 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)<. FINA aims at publishing numismatic manuscripts and letters up to the end of the 18th century.