What the eye does not see

Table of contents

1709 Cob ounce of Lima


Jobs and difficulties in the elaboration of a printing stamp

We know, with more or less accuracy, how monetary coinage works, but in this case we are going to refer to the coinage made with hammer or cobs. I do not want to extend much on this subject, it is enough to say that it is not difficult to imagine the effort required to “engrave” a stamp on iron or steel, incuse in bas-relief and… the other way around! Made with the optical and material means of the time (crude and rudimentary burins and magnifying lenses of doubtful effectiveness). Before going into detail, I would like to acknowledge these master engravers, authentic master craftsmen who were capable of faithfully reproducing everything that the royal ordinances demanded.

We see an example  of a piece of 8 escudos coined in Lima in 1709.

And now let’s see how the “Incisor or Engraver” has to see it:

Let’s make an effort to imagine that what we see in relief is incuse.

In this way we can appreciate anomalies that go almost unnoticed by examining the piece from its natural side.

First: let us study, on the obverse, the N of HISPANIA:

It does not seem to be a worked letter like the others, for example the P or the A. This N is engraved in three different strokes, first one / and then two I on the sides. Curious… isn’t it? Let’s let our imagination run wild…

Second: let’s see, on the reverse, the E of ET INDIARVM:

It seems that it is closed, on its left, with a vertical bar. Could it be that it was begun to be written (engraved) on its natural side and, later, it had to be rectified?

Third: Where is the Y for YNDIARVM? Is it a V?

And, going back to the obverse, what has happened to the two I of HISPANY? they have their space… but where are they? because the previous and subsequent letters are well defined. So, we can deduce that it is not a coinage vain, but rather a very weak incision in the engraving. It seems that all the strength of the two “N” sticks ended up with the engraver’s desire to coin “I”…

Let’s take into account that we have studied a piece of 8 escudos, quite a big piece, about 34 mm. in diameter, so the difficulties that the incisors should find in smaller pieces, for example one of 2 escudos, which carried the same information as the big piece, with a diameter of only 20 mm.

2 escudos, Lima 1709.

In short, the art of coinage, in the periods when modern techniques did not exist (pantographs and others and, more recently, computer methods), turned these hammered coins (with a die above and another below) into true jewels of art… and let’s think that this has been the case from the remote Greek coins of the 6th century BC until the invention of the millstone machines and later artifacts, more than twenty centuries later.

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