Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why Alexander Brook is essential reading

The Brook catalog of CTs was published in 1907. His monograph was entitled: Communion Tokens of the Established Church of Scotland: Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. His work was originally published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: 1906-1907. 
     It is an old work, but it is nigh complete, nicely illustrated, and now widely available since his monograph is in the public domain. Go to Amazon or Ebay to get one: it will cost you less than $20 (about the cost of a nice oval or cut rectangle).
     As I have said before, the images are worth your dollars. You can see many tokens at a glance, allowing you to survey the collecting field and determine what you like. Brook listed 1436 tokens, and he showed 1161 of them (that is 80%). His illustrations are line drawings of the correct size, so that the CTs can be compared.
A page from Brook.
     His catalog includes CTs produced before 1800. So obviously, most of the collecting field is not included -- but hey, let us not complain, as many of us gravitate to the old pieces at some point. Besides, the old CTs are charming. Most of them were handcrafted and come from turbulent times. I like tokens with some drama attached to them. They can be found in Brook.
     Each listing is brief. It includes the name of the parish, and sometimes, the shire. Plus he keenly describes the appearance of each token. Brook provides the minister's name and tenure dates when his initials are included on the token.
     Most of his attributions have stood the test of time, as Kerr & Lockie provided only 52 corrections in a subsequent monograph published in 1941 (also in the Proceedings: 1940-1941). They attributed 11 out of 26 CTs that Brook illustrated but was unable to identify. Finally, Kerr & Lockie added 442 tokens to the catalog of pre-1800 pieces. They illustrated 300 of them, plus added 19 drawings of unattributed CTs. Of course, you will need to find the K&L reference to supplement your copy of Brook -- the ANA library has one that can be borrowed.
This small square from Kemnay has
the minister's initials placed on it.
Minister Francis Dauney served this
parish in from 1719 to 1745.
     Brook organized his catalog alphabetically by parish name. This can make finding a token difficult at times, as the token may only have the initials of the minister on its face. For example, a token with the inscription M/FD is attributed to Kemnay in Aberdeen. The initials stand for: Minister Francis Dauney. Hence, this CT is found with the listings starting with the letter K (for the parish name). Since this CT is not illustrated, you would have to read through 36 pages (with 18 to 20 listings per page) to find it. This task is sort of like looking up a word in the dictionary in order to spell it, and your spelling is whorewrendous (I mean horrendous). Fortunately, most early CTs had the first letter of the parish placed on the token, so you can look up the letter and find the listing most of the time -- but remember that K often stands for "Kirk" (not the starship commander, but the Established Church of Scotland).
     There is another curious aspect to the Brook catalog. It is this: Only the illustrations are numbered. So when you see Brook numbers, they refer to illustrated tokens only. However, in the catalog listings you will find CTs that are placed (alphabetically as described above) before and after the illustrated ones. What some folks have done is add an A, B, C and so on to designate these invisible CTs. Using our example above, the CT from Kemnay is placed two listings after an illustrated CT from Kemback, whose illustration is numbered 564. So, the Kemnay piece is sometimes referred to Brook 564B (or BK564B). Strange? You bet! Hey, you gotta love these old references for what they are!
     This is where Captain M. B. Orr comes to our rescue. Who is he? For those who do not know, I'll tell you all about him in a future post. For now, get Brook. Then go to the library for K&L.

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