New reference: Paper Money of Scotland

18 September 2018

By Neil Shafer

Paper Money of Scotland, by Jonathan Callaway and Dave Murphy. Two volumes, hardcover, large octavo, 1,140 pages (both books), illustrations in colour. Available from the publisher, Pam West, P.O. Box 257, Sutton Surrey, SM3 9WW, England; email pam@britishnotes.co.uk.  Cost is 50 pounds ($100) plus shipping.

An author named James Douglas compiled a very fine catalogue on the bank notes of Scotland in 1975. (Coincidently, that is the same year the first edition of the Pick catalogue of world paper money was published.) That work immediately became the standard reference for Scottish notes; either a particular issue was included or else was “not listed in Douglas.”

1975 was also a time when the gathering of the kind of information needed for such a book was far more complex than it is today, with the tools for detailed research so much more available. A veritable flood of new books on all phases of numismatics has appeared in recent years. Many of them show the effects of deep research, and quite often the resulting volumes are really high achievements.

None is more so than the just-released double volume history and catalogue of Scottish bank notes by co-authors Jonathan Callaway and Dave Murphy. While acknowledging the Douglas catalogue as “a remarkable achievement and a very useful handbook,” they have pursued the data found in this pair of volumes as exhaustively as humanly possible. Their sources included archives, published literature and the notes themselves; also essays, trial pieces, artwork and proofs, some only recently discovered. Bank archives were consulted to help solve various problem areas. Also examined were bank records of all types during reconstruction of amounts made and issue dates. Of substantial help were auction catalogs and dealers’ stocks, and of course any significant collections they may have been able to access.

As with any effort involving such a tremendous amount of detailed information, the authors expect additional facts to emerge. Frankly, I doubt that much more will be found; with the high level of carefully prepared research these authors have achieved, it is nearly impossible to even think that more can be found. Without doubt, this triumph now represents the pinnacle of modern numismatic research and should be acknowledged as the new standard for scholarship in this field.