Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Heart-shaped Communion Tokens

Have a heart!
     That is what they say when compassion is called for.
     It is the most humanly shaped CT. After all, squares are purely of the mind, whereas spheres reflect our cosmos (large and small). But nowhere in geometry do we find hearts, except within ourselves -- and maybe in a few seeds and leaves.
     No wonder that heart-shaped CTs are coveted. The Rev. Burns noted in 1892 (Old Scottish Communion Plate): "The symbol of a heart was no doubt meant to convey the idea of Christ's love for sinners, or the dedication of the communicant's heart to God." In his seminal catalog, Rev. Burns pictured nine hearts among the 186 CTs illustrated (across five plates).
Three different varieties of Kirkton hearts. Note the relative
position of the upper diagonal of the first K where it points
to the edge. Other differences are noticeable too; plus, the
dates are different on the reverse.
     Brook listed 22 hearts in 1907. The Rev. Whitelaw did not add any to the list, but he was able to rattle off ten different parishes that produced hearts. Kerr & Lockie added three (maybe four) new hearts and two more varieties in 1940, plus one more of each after that (1949 & 1952). Rev. Dick identified a variety early on, and Burzinski, two more, later on.
     So how many is that?
     Hopefully, your sum came to 33. Yes, only 33 hearts from Scotland are listed in Burzinski. He has described them all -- unless I missed one [or he missed one] from Rev. Dick or Cresswell.
     These 33 hearts can be reduced to 24 hearts once you consider that the remainder is composed of varieties (intentional or not). For example, we remember from the Market Watch in the first full week of January that Airth hearts come in two varieties that differ in the types of lettering used. Another example (this time due to a die-sinker's error) is found among Kirkton hearts dated 1734: one of these has a blundered date that is upside-down and backwards. Hey, those 7s, 3s, and 4s are hard to get right (opps, I meant left) -- 1s are not so difficult! Note also that some varieties are too minor to be listed (see photo).
     The earliest heart that is dated comes from Rerrick in Kirkcudbright: 1698. The last heart is a commemorative issue from Strath on Skye Island: 1900. The remaining dates are in-between as such: 1709, 1710, 1716, 1731, 1734, 1753, 1761, 1762, 1769, 1769, 1777, 1792. That's all: none date in the 1800s (unless you consider English pieces, like 1801 from Falstone).
     Why no hearts later on? Here, some have speculated that hearts were not staid enough. It is a shape that elicits idolatry. A pretty CT, versus a practical one, tempts use as an ornament.
     I will explore the heart shape further and tabulate the Scottish heart CTs in the next posting.

1 comment:

  1. Dear mister, madam,

    I were surfing on the internet till I saw your article. I recognized the coins because I have four of them at home. On one side of the coin is the number 1777 and on the other side are the initials K.B. Are this four of the 33 coins?
    Kind regards,
    Marte (The Netherlands)