The foundation of the study of numismatics at Oxford is usually dated to 1636, when Archbishop Laud sent a number of coins cabinets to the Bodleian Library. The Christ Church cabinet began to be formed a little later. The earliest donation recorded is one from Charles Brent received in 1718. Archbishop William Wake's bequest arrived in 1737. This collection, comprising thousands of coins, was put together with a view to make it available for study. In Wake's own words, the collection was 'intended for the use of the public when I myself must have done with it.'
Wake was one of the major 18th century collectors of Classical and English coins. His aim was to gather a teaching collection for his Oxford College, Christ Church, to complement his growing corpus of academic volumes. Wake’s set of Greek and Roman coins not only illuminates the purchases of passionate ecclesiastic antiquarian, but also gives an overview of classical coins and their iconography, from the Greek period, Republican and Imperial Rome, and finally shows the Roman Empire in crisis in the 3rd century. Wake's English coin collection ranged from William the Conqueror to George II. He assembled examples of rulers and denominations. In particular Charles I and his connection to Christ Church inspired the Archbishop. Thus, his acquisitions of the siege money of the English Civil Wars are extensive and a wide selection is on display.
This exhibition presents selected works of William Wake’s extensive numismatic library, 18th and 19th century casts of coins, electrotypes, and, in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum, original coins from Wake's collection. The exhibition is curated by Dr Claudia Wagner, Dr Thomas Mannack and Dr Cristina Neagu, with the collaboration of the Ashmolean Museum. Special thanks also to Maria Franchini.
The Ecclesiastic Antiquarian: Ancient and Modern Coins in the Collection of Archbishop Wake will be open from 15 October 2014 to 9 February 2015.
Visiting hours Monday - Friday: 9.30 am - 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm (provided there is a member of staff available in the Upper Library).