The copyright status of old numismatic books

When a book is published the author gets a copyright: free legal protection from those who would copy his or her work. In exchange for this protection the author agrees that after a limited time the work with enter the Public Domain where it can be freely shared by all.

The Historia Numorum, one of the greatest works on ancient Greek and Roman Provincial coins, has entered the public domain. In a very real sense you now own the book. Until now you've had no way to read it unless you were lucky enough to own a copy or your local library kept it.

That's why the Digital H.N. project was founded. The project page is The Historia Numorum has been converted to HTML and made available free of charge to all. We've tried to preserve the text and layout as they appeared in 1911. Hyperlinks have been placed as suggested by the original text.

In the United States, books published in 1922 and earlier are public domain.

A new project to collect photos

The 1911 edition of the Historia Numorum includes 399 photographs of Greek coins. To keep the price down in 1911 a single-volume work was necessary. This required merciless editing, thus the small number of photographs. Dr. Head also cut text from the original (1887) edition. The 2nd edition was published with 1066 pages, at a price of 2 pounds and 2 shillings.

In his preface, Dr. Head points out the references to illustrated works give the Historia practical value. The Historia includes thousands of references to late 19th and early 20th century illustrated works. These works would have been available to the numismatic scholar 100 years ago, but few remain in print today. Few libraries have them, and by necessity those that do lock them in the rare book section.

Last year the Digital H.N. project scanned the photographic plates to three of Dr. Head's other works: his Principal Coins of the Ancients and the Attica and Caria volumes of the British Museum Catalog.

The Digital Historia Numorum hyperlinks to over 350 additional coin images from those catalogs. The coins pictured aren't merely of the same types as those described by Dr. Head, but are actual photographs of the coins described.

I believe students and numismatic scholars will benefit from easy access to the important works on Greek coinage of the early 20th century. I'd like to help make those works available, free of charge, to increase awareness of 19th century numismatic achievements.

The next phase of this project is scanning every plate cited by Dr. Head.

I will continue buying and scanning books, periodicals, and auction catalogs. (I prefer inexpensive, damaged, brittle, disbound and ex-libris titles.). Unfortunately, the books are expensive when they are even obtainable.

Thus I appeal to the numismatic community to help. I don't need, or have a vault to store, original books. What I need are scans. Please consult the list of Titles needed.

If you (or your institution) have any of the books listed, in editions published in 1922 or earlier, please contact me. Scan yourself or send, insured, to me (at my expense). (For books which are extremely brittle special overhead scanning equipment will be found.) Persons or businesses loaning books/scans may request credit or banner advertising on the H.N. website. I can also arrange to have books scanned at your location, either by myself or trusted volunteers.

I need the support of a few motivated individuals that have the furtherance of numismatics at heart. Many books I need are rare and valuable. I'm willing to sweeten the pot by paying to rent the numismatic titles I need. (I am not sure what a fair price is; suggestions welcomed.) I'm also willing to repay in kind, presenting libraries and private collectors laser-printed or CD-R copies of their own fragile originals and all the other numismatic titles I've obtained. I'll also help web-masters, numismatic publishers, CD-ROM manufacturers, and coin-software makers incorporate their own materials, as well as the rest of the library, into their own products, royalty-free.

To report typos, suggest enhancements, linking to/from other sites, or discuss digitizing other numismatic books email

Thanks to the following volunteers who have OCRed or keyed chapters!

Sections being worked on:

Digital Historia Numorum.