The Lord Stewartby Collection of Scottish Coins at the Hunterian, University of Glasgow: Part II, Robert III – James III, 1390-1488 by William MacKay
Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, October 2023.
Covering the period 1390-1488, MacKay publishes the second portion of the Lord Stewartby Collection, the most important collection of Scottish coins ever put together by a private individual. Shortly before his death in March 2018, the collection was gifted to The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow. Comprising 5,000 coins, the collection was formed between c. 1950 and c. 2010 by Ian Stewart, a banker and later a politician, initially as a Member of Parliament 1974-92 and from 1992 sitting in the House of Lords as Lord Stewartby. He was a highly regarded numismatist and the foremost scholar of Scottish coins in his generation. This exceptional collection has a depth and range across all metals and denominations which make it an important academic resource for researchers, whether numismatists or historians, or as a reference point for collectors.
356 Pages | 65 plates
With 1083 coins (including six non-contemporary copies) this provides by far the largest published corpus of the fifteenth-century coinage of Scotland. Publication offers access to very extensive holdings of the heavy and light coinage groats issued by Robert III as well as the lis coinage groats of James I and II. These are followed by the ‘crown’ groats of James II. The coinage of James III is complex and the various issues are covered ranging across the light coinage issues, including many examples of the base silver groat and the later heavy coinage groat with the innovative realistic half-left facing bust of a monarch. Smaller denominations in silver, billon and copper are well-represented as is the rare gold coinage and the mints in operation in this period. Very few types and denominations are absent making this book an invaluable record of the fifteenth-century Scottish coinage. All coins are illustrated and described using the format long established in the British Academy’s Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles series.
In addition to the catalogue, the coinage of each king is considered in the accompanying commentary. This draws on typescripts for a revision of Lord Stewartby’s Scottish Coinage book, last updated in 1967, on which he was working in the last years of his life. In this he aimed to provide his final views on the fifteenth-century Scottish coinage, including in this the work done by him and Joan Murray (d. 1997), the leading scholar of fifteenth-century Scottish coinage, on the silver coinages of Robert III and James I. The allows the catalogue to offer a more detailed classification of these coinages than has previously been possible. The commentary also sets out the complex history of the fifteenth-century Scottish coinage with the introduction of new denominations and metals, the appreciation in its face value and the periodic reforms with changes in weight standards, sometime aligned to English standards and sometimes not. The commentary also sets out the sources from which he acquired the coins and offers a feel for how the collection came to be formed, along with the provenances represented which provide a roll call of Scottish collectors, hoards and finds of this period.
This new book is an important addition to understanding and appreciating the fifteenth-century Scottish coinage. As such the publication of Part II of the Lord Stewartby Collection is a must have book for both collectors and scholars of this series.