Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Search of the First Glasgow Square

I am contemplating B2822. It is dated 1714. Is this the first Glasgow square?
     I have the third one dated 1725 (B2826). This relatively small (at 19mm), single-sided square was stamped with a hand-crafted die on crudely rolled or hammered stock.
The Glasgow Series in Brook.
     Brook shows the series starting with one dated 1716. However, the earliest one with a date of 1714 was not cataloged (or pictured) until Kerr & Lockie published a short article (aptly titled: Further Unpublished Scottish Communion Tokens) in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1952-53. They had apparently missed it in their original Unpublished Tokens monograph published a decade earlier in the same journal. As such, it came to light rather late. Burzinski gathered up all this info and included it in his catalog, but he did not have an illustration of the earliest piece in the series. As such, it can be easily missed by collectors.
The first one in the series as
pictured in Kerr & Lockie.
It is cataloged as B2822.
     I was happy with my 1725 piece until I spied the older one in the catalog. I'm still happy, but wanting. Isn't this the way of collectors: the focus is always on the next one! After all, it is the acquisition fantasies that keeps the fire burning. A collection to which no new pieces are sought is dead.
     On my piece, the seal of Glasgow is placed in the center of two concentric circles that form a band that includes the parish name at top, and the date at bottom. A simple  leaf or point, flanked by two pearls, adorn each corner -- perhaps representing the trinity. A subtle beaded border completes the design. It is the same design used in 1714 and 1716 with only minor variations.
     As mentioned in an earlier analysis, a bell hangs on a limb, a bird is perched atop the crown, and a fish rests below at the root. The 1714 piece is the earliest CT to show the Glasgow City Arms.
     It is also the first CT to show this arrangement of concentric circles on a square flan. Or is it? The design elements are certainly not new when it comes to the world of tokens. In fact, many round merchant tokens, plus church tokens for the poor, show a circular pattern wherein the legend follows the outer rim with a circle (lined or beaded) in the center. Within this inner circle, we often see either a tradesman design, initials, or in some cases, a legend or date.
Here is my ruddy Glasgow Square.
It is the third one in the series with
an attractive design that begat
a popular regional subtype. This
one is a bit worn out, but all there.
     These round tokens were commonplace during the late 1600s and early 1700s. Hence, the design format is an old one. Plus, it seems quite natural that a round token would utilize an inner ring to organize the data. What is interesting to me is that the design was not universally adopted for CTs.
     But wait! There is a 1714 Glasgow CT that is round and has the City Arms placed within an inner circle. Unfortunately, the piece is not pictured anywhere. It, too, was first cataloged by Kerr & Lockie in the above-mentioned 1952-53 article. But the round one was not made again. It seems that the square was preferred as if to identify it as a CT. Hence, Glasgow-styled squares are distinctive (but with a familiarity that token collectors ought to recognize).
     So, back to my question, is B2822 the first Glasgow square?
     And, in a related vein, when was the last Glasgow-styled CT made? "Glasgow" squares appear to have been made until 1819. But many parishes were producing similar squares well into the 1830s. But the last one? And don't mention B2895 from Glasserton in Wigtown! That one is a retrospective piece meant to look like the 1771 token!
     In the meantime, if you have a 1714 (or 1716) Glasgow piece you want to sell me, let me know. I want the first one (and the second one).

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