$$$

Included among the thousands of ephemeral items in our Harris Collection on the Civil War & Slavery (recently organized by Robin Alario—finding aid available as a pdf) is a folder with dozens of samples of Confederate currency. Some are issued by the Confederate States of America:

Some by individual states:

&

Some, like the first image and the one below, include cancellation marks:

According to The International Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Numismatics, a cancelled bill is a "note rendered worthless as money by having been officially overprinted, perforated, slit, or in some other way invalidated." In this case, the triangular and circular cuts indicate that the bill has been cancelled.

But what about counterfeit bills? Fortunately our collection includes a copy of Heath's Infallible Counterfeit Detector at Sight (Boston: Laban Heath, 1864 -- 864.16 H437h SpecColl). Published contemporaneously with the bills above, Heath's manual outlines various methods used to prevent counterfeits, including the designs produced with the "Geometrical Lathe," which "Cannot be Successfully Imitated." The fine engraved lines like those produced by this "wonderful and beautiful engine" were one of the foremost tools of the anti-counterfeit trade. Here's an example from the reverse of a ten dollar note:

and a closeup detail:

Heath's manual is well-illustrated, including, most dramatically, a print from a plate taken from actual counterfeiters:

"For the purpose of more fully illustrating the difference between genuine and counterfeit engraving, we have at great trouble and expense obtained a counterfeit plate engraved by counterfeiters and taken from them at the time of their arrest. This plate is in the hands of the American Bank Note Company, from which these specimens are printed..."

For more information, the Numismatic Bibliomania Society's website includes a bibliography and other helpful resources.

(View the original post and subscribe to future posts at the Notes for Bibliophiles blog)

 
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Jordan Goffin

Special Collections Librarian Jordan Goffin has been mining the wonders in the Library’s Special Collections since early 2011. If you’d like to stop in and spend some time with the historic and noteworthy books, manuscripts and ephemera at PPL, contact him by email at jgoffin@provlib.org or by phone at 401.455.8021. Also, visit the Notes for Bibliophiles blog (http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com/) to read more about the exciting materials in Special Collections and to keep up with events and announcements.


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